Guitar Recital: Denis Azabagic (Denis Azabagic) (Naxos: 8.554555)
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Guitar Recital - DenisAzabagic
Federico Moreno Torroba was the first composer to respond to Segovia'sappeal for new, original repertory for the guitar, something he wisely regardedas essential to the instrument's revival in the twentieth century. This was tohave long-range effect: One day when I (the present writer) was with Segovia inhis hotel room he showed me a pile of scores on which he was to work; holdingthe manuscript of Torroba's Castles of Spain, he said that though he hadjust received it he was giving it priority: "He put me first allthose years ago and I will always put him first" and so he did forthe rest of his life. The Sonatina was first performed by Segovia inParis (1925) to an invited audience that included Maurice Ravel, who was muchimpressed by it. A seductively lyrical Andante is framed by two quickermovements with lively Spanish dance rhythms. In Spain Torroba is famous for hismany zarzuelas but in the outside world he is best known for his manyworks for the guitar, an instrument he did not play.
The Paraguayan guitarist Agustin Barrios Mangore had great respect forthe music of Johann Sebastian Bach; he is said to have been the first guitaristto playa whole suite of Bach in concert. La catedral originallyconsisted of two movements: the Andante religioso was his response tothe experience of hearing Bach's organ music in Montevideo Cathedral; the Allegrosolemne represents the contrasting bustle of activity in the streetsoutside the Cathedral. The Preludio was added in El Salvador aboutnineteen years later, subtitled Saudade (yearning). The work as a wholerepresents an amalgam of Barrios' Chopinesque romanticism, his veneration ofBach's music and, in the Allegro solemne, guitar virtuosity. His ownrecording of La Catedral in its two?¡-movement form was made in 1925, buthis first recording pre-dates 1910, nineteen years before Segovia's firstsession with EMI.
Between 1923 and 1932 Manuel Ponce wrote five sonata-form works forAndr?¿s Segovia, of which the Sonatina Meridional (1932) was the last,but none was added in the last sixteen years of his life. Ponce was Mexican butthe Campo (countryside) is that of Spain, as the Copla (couplet)clearly shows in its evocation of the cante hondo of Andalusia. Itsmelody has characteristic melismatic flourishes. It pauses briefly on a'Dorian' dominant before giving way to the Fiesta, a kaleidoscope ofmoods and colours, the perfect complement to the other two movements. As theend approaches a solo 'voice' enters, apasionado, with further echoes ofAndalusia, and is punctuated by a guitar whose chords add another hemiola (3/4versus 6/8 time) to those in the Copla. It is a work that encapsulatesthe three principal elements of Ponce's style: the classical the romantic and,in spirit only, the folkloric.
Antonio Jose was born in Burgos and died in a nearby village, shot byFranco's Falangist militia, by whom he had been captured two months earlier.
During his short life he occupied only two modest posts, as music teacher in aJesuit school and conductor of the city choir in Burgos, but his friendsincluded liberal artists such as Garcia Lorca (who was also shot two monthsearlier) and Salvador Dali, and was championed by the musicologist Jose Subira.
Even this distinguished support was insufficient to keep his music in thepublic consciousness and it was not until 1980 that interest was aroused by amonograph "Antonio Jose, Musician of Castile" by three distinguishedwriters. The Sonata was completed on 23rd August 1933 and though the firstmovement was performed on 23rd November 1934 by Regino Sainz de la Maza itappears to have had few performances in its entirety until after its firstpublication in 1990. The Sonata was originally conceived as a three-movement work, to whichJose later added the Pavana triste, originally written as an independentpiece. It is arguably the most important sonata-form work for the guitar by anySpanish composer of the pre-war years, not least since it is free fromSpanishry.
The virtuoso pianistand composer Antonio Ruiz Pipo was born in Granada. He studied the piano withAlicia de Larrocha and composition with Salvador Bacarisse and others. Thelatter part of his productive life was spent in France where, in addition topursuing his performing career, he taught at the ?ëcole Normale de Musique andthe Conservatoire de Musique in Paris. In his youth he played the guitar alittle and this provided him with a working knowledge of the instrument, forwhich he wrote numerous works. His music is consistently tonal, his treatmentand harmonization of his thematic material (often deceptively simple-sounding)is sophisticated, and he revels in sharp contrasts of mood and colour. Thesecharacteristics of his temperament are also evident in the three Estancias (dwellingplaces or sojourns in South America, ranches). They are dedicated respectivelyto Karl Scheit, Alberto Ponce and Angelo Gilardino.
After the death ofClaude Debussy in 1918 Manuel de Falla was asked to write an article for thememorial issue of Revue musicale. He did so and added apiece of music,the Homenaje, pour le tombeau de Claude Debussy, simultaneouslysatisfying Miguel Llobet's earlier request for a work. It was first printed asa supplement to the December 1920 issue of the Revue musicale. Falla hadno detailed knowledge of the workings of the guitar but he borrowed one and,after two weeks, he produced the Homenaje, a remarkable achievement fora composer who polished and agonized over his works at great length. Thepublished score carried some left-hand fingering (barre positions) whichwere most probably his own. The first commercial edition was published inEngland, together with Falla's immediately-made adaptation for the piano whichis worthy of study, since it contains articulations that are easily possible onthe guitar but which were absent from the guitar edition of Llobet. It is abrief work, an habanera (not a funeral march), which, as Julian Breamhas said, gives the feeling of being much longer than it is, such is the spellit casts. Near the end Falla inserts a quotation from Debussy's Soiree dansGrenade, a memory of his evening meeting with its composer in that city.
Carlos Rafael Riverahas already acquired a substantial reputation as a composer of folkloric-?¡influencedmusic such as his Motet for twelve singers, based on Tibetan Buddhistchants, and his guitar quartet Cumba-Quin with its infectious Afro-Cubanrhythms. His works have been widely performed and recorded, and he has receivedawards from ASCAP (the American royalty-protection society) and the GuitarFoundation of America. He is at present studying for a Masters Degree inComposition as Graduate Assistant at the Thornton Music School, part of theUniversity of Southern California.
Rivera writes: "Whirlerof the dance was inspired by the name given to Terpsichore (the Greco-RomanMuse of Dance) by the Greek poet Hesiod. The Prelude is fanfare-like andreminiscent of Spanish folk-music. The Evocation is of dignifiedcharacter, a solemn, personal prayer. The Dance which closes the work isbased on African tribal rhythms. Through tense contrasts between pizzicato andordinario passages, the familiar harmonic world of the Prelude returns,bringing the work to an exhilarating close". To this should be added that,throughout, it reveals an intimate technical kno