Guitar Laureate for 2004 GFA Competition (Goran Krivokapic) (Naxos: 8.557809)
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Goran Krivokapić - Guitar Recital
Werthm??ller J.S. Bach D. Scarlatti Bogdanović
Franz Werthm??ller's music sits comfortably betweenJoseph Haydn, 37 years older, and Fernando Sor, nineyears older. Though closer in time to Sor, he seems tohave absorbed more of the older composer's style, atleast in the brisk Allegro that opens his Sonata in Amajor, Op. 17, in a high-spirited fashion, and in theexhilarating momentum of the Presto that concludes it.
Haydn, who liked to finish his symphonies with an uptempomovement, might have approved. The warm andeloquent melody of the Lento, however, is more ofWerthm??ller's time, at the beginning of the Romanticmovement that was to usher in Weber, Schumann andChopin. The sonata was transcribed, presumably from apiano version, by the nineteenth-century Austrianguitarist and composer Franz Pfeifer.
'Good, great and universal music remains the sameno matter what instrument sounds the notes'. Theopinion of Ferruccio Busoni, composer, piano virtuosoand arranger of formidable skill, is almost universallyechoed by modern musicians and musicologists, but theold belief that it is somehow wrong to play violin musicon the guitar still persists in some quarters. Bach himselfwas a habitual transcriber and arranger, and that surelyought to be enough to convince the doubtful. Theadvantages of a guitar transcription include a greatclarity in polyphony while still retaining an essentiallystring sound. Bach himself arranged movements fromhis Violin Sonatas, so guitar arrangers and transcribersare not working in the dark. Nevertheless, decisionshave to be made - when, or if, to arpeggiate chords, asthe violin necessarily must when more than two adjacentstrings are involved; whether to expand a violin's fournotechord with the guitar's two additional strings,whether to acknowledge that it was originally a violinpiece or whether to treat it as a new piece for guitar, andso on. It is known that Bach owned a lute, thoughwhether he could play it with any degree of proficiencyis uncertain: in performance he remained a keyboardplayerpar excellence. Busoni, among whose studentswas Sibelius, was an arch-romantic, as his arrangementfor piano of Bach's D minor Chaconne shows. Ageneration later, Segovia's Chaconne arrangement forguitar was much less romantic, though nowadays itwould not be considered to be in accordance withmodern thinking and beliefs. An arrangement invariablyechoes the perceptions of its own time, not those of theperiod in which the work was originally composed. Thedemanding fugue of the Sonata in C, BWV1005, isknown familiarly among English-speaking guitarists as'London Bridge', the melody of which can berecognised in the opening bars, although obviously Bachhad no knowledge of traditional English song.
Domenico Scarlatti's father Alessandro was asignificant figure in music, the composer of some sixhundred chamber-cantatas. So attractive are the almostequal number of harpsichord sonatas written by his sonDomenico, however, that we tend to ignore his father'sgreat contribution. Graceful, spirited, yet full oftechnical problems for keyboard-players and guitaristsalike, these sonatas by the younger Scarlatti have auniversal appeal that shows no sign of diminishing.
Together with Handel and J.S. Bach, Domenico Scarlattiwas one of the three major composers of the period, allborn in 1685 and all giants in Baroque music. Heactually competed, in a friendly way, with Handel, in anevent organized in Rome, when Handel was judged thebetter organist and Scarlatti the better harpsichordist. Itsaid that the two composers held each other in someesteem. Domenico Scarlatti was employed at the courtof the King of Portugal, where he taught the InfantaMaria Barbara, who became his favourite pupil andwhom he followed to Spain, where he spent the rest ofhis life. Although he wrote operas, cantatas and sacredmusic, the keyboard sonatas remain his most memorablework, evidence of a deep fascination with thepossibilities of a single instrument with its opportunitiesfor melody, counterpoint and polyphony. Bach'ssometimes lengthy working-out of a contrapuntalpattern, as in the fugue of BWV1005, was not forScarlatti, who was more interested in the brilliant effectof rapid articulation, often in thirds and sixths, and manyother technical devices such as hand-crossing, wideleaps and elaborate arpeggiation, though there is poetryand profundity there too. As to his music's suitability forthe guitar, it is sufficient to point to his many years ofresidence in Spain, where exposure to that instrumentmust have been a daily occurrence; there are many'echoes' in his music that support the view that theguitar must have made a deep impression. Some of thesonatas are impossible to play adequately on one guitar,for the simple reason that, while a keyboard player hasten independent digits, a guitarist needs both hands toplay one note. A great many of the sonatas, however,transcribe very well, and the gradual improvement inguitar technique over the last twenty or thirty yearsmeans that more and more of them are falling into thescope of the guitar. Scarlatti's own introduction to thefirst published sonatas warns the player against beingtoo critical, to be aware instead of the humanity andthereby to 'increase by this way your own pleasure'.
Certainly this humanity is an important part of hismusic, and a factor in its continuing popularity. Thethree sonatas played here are fairly representative ofScarlatti's vivid style, slow alternating with fast, thedeceptively simple technique of K. 208 contrasting withthe fireworks of K. 209.
Dušan Bogdanovi??c was born in Belgrade and knowsthe rhythms of his native Serbia very well. It isinteresting, therefore, that his first musical interests wererock, pop, jazz and South American music. His eventualrealisation that Balkan music is generously endowedwith its own unique rhythms has resulted in a steadyflow of compositions that have enriched thecontemporary repertoire. The very opening of SonataNo. 2 seems to breathe a Balkan air, and this underlyingrhythm pervades the entire work, binding themovements together as strongly as any of the moreformal structures of Western music. It is at its mostprominent in the concluding Allegro ritmico, where itsupports some fingerwork of an almost orientalintricacy, a challenge for any guitarist, but a delight forthe listener. The intervening movements, one as slowlyexpressive as its title indicates, the other with theseemingly contradictory title of 'melancholy joke',complete a sonata very much of our time, complex yet asrich in inventiveness as any classical sonata of the past,though perhaps more in terms of rhythm than ofharmonic structure.?® 2005 Colin Cooper