Guitar Recital - Franco Platino
It was through his position as Maestra di cappella atthe Portuguese embassy in Rome that Domenico Scarlatti became music-master tothe Infanta Maria Barbara, daughter of King John V of Portugal. When shemarried the future King of Spain, Ferdinand VI in 1729, Scarlatti went with herand remained there until his death. It was a 'partnership' that was to make musicalhistory. Most of Scarlatti's more than 555 keyboard sonatas were composed forhis pupil, though we do not know exactly where or when they were written,whether in Italy, Portugal or Spain. They form the largest corpus of works inone form (binary - in two sections) by any composer, and each has a specific technicaland/or musical purpose. The spirit and clean texture of many of the sonatas arewell suited to
arrangements for the guitar - another plucked-string instrument,known to Scarlatti in its earlier form. The sonatas are of two broad types,'closed', in which the two sections begin with the same thematic material (K.146
and 178) and 'open', in which they do not (K.208). K.146
and 178 chatter joyously, whilst K.208 takes the form of awonderfully expressive cantilena.
The Chacanne, the final movement of the Second Partita,BWV 1004, for unaccompanied violin, is one of the towering masterpieces ofbaroque instrumental music Bach was an accomplished violinist, but the intimateknowledge of the instrument shown in his solo-violin works probably camethrough his acquaintance with Johann Georg Pisendel (1687-1755), the finest Germanviolinist of the time. The Chaconne was first arranged for the guitar bySegovia, who regarded it with 'religious' awe, and later by others with abetter understanding of baroque music than he could have had. No major changeto the original text is necessary; it is sufficient that the guitar can sustainsome notes on which the bow cannot dwell for their implied duration, and thatsome chords can be either arpeggiated ('spread') or not, a choice that is notopen to the violin. This outpouring of variations on the harmonic sequence ofthe Chaconne, in both minor and major modes, is unrivalled in itsvariety of invention and mood. It remains as great a technical and musicalchallenge to violinists (and guitarists) as it always has been.
The Paraguayan guitarist Agustin Barrios Mangore wasdeeply affected by the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. La catedral
(1921) originally consisted of two movements: the Andante religioso washis response to the experience of hearing Bach's organ music in MontevideoCathedral, the Allegro solemne reflected the contrasting bustle ofactivity in the streets outside the Cathedral. It was about nineteen yearslater that Barrios added the Preludio, subtitled Saudade (yearning),in El Salvador The work as a whole represents a synthesis of Barrios'romanticism (a la Chopin), respect for Bach, and guitar virtuosity. His ownrecording of La catedral in its two-movement form was made in 1925.
Johann Kaspar Mertz was born in Pressburg (now Bratislava)to a poor family. He was a precocious virtuoso of the guitar and flute, thoughwe do not know who taught him, and by 1840 he was ensconced in Vienna, enjoyingroyal patronage. There followed tours in Poland, Moravia, Russia and Germany,during the last of which he met the pianist Josephine Plantin in Dresden. Theytoured together and married in Prague in 1842. It was she who aroused hislove-affair with the music of Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann and others, and hisdetermination to write guitar music of comparable substance to theirs for thepiano There are several varying versions of the Elegie, one of which waspublished in a Siberian journal, Muzyka Gitarista in 1910, with anintroduction that differs completely from those in all other sources. Theversion is this recording is based on that in the collection compiled by C. O. Boije,a mathematician and amateur guitarist (d.1923), held in the library of the KungligaMusicaliske Akademiens in Stockholm. The Elegie is a fine example ofheart-on-sleeve Romanticism, as guitaristic as it is quasi-pianistic.
Joaquin Rodrigo (1901-1999) understood the guitar'scapabilities very well but, being blind, he could not see how difficult many ofhis works for it are to play. Such is the case with Un tiempo fue ltalica famosa(1980). The title recalls the glorious past of Italica, a famous Roman citysituated near Seville, from where tourist excursions are often made to see itsruins. Its geographical situation in the deep south of Spain explains theflorid, stylised flamenco character of the music.
The friendship between Andres Segovia and the Mexicancomposer Manuel Maria Ponce generated many of the guitar's most substantialworks during the first half of the twentieth century. Of the five solo-guitar works Ponce wrote in sonata form, the Sonatina meridional (1932) was,surprisingly, the last; all five were composed within ten years but none wasadded in the last sixteen years of his life. If there be any doubt whether the Campo
(countryside) is that of Mexico or Spain, the Copla (couplet) points firmlyto the latter, an evocation of the cante hondo of Andalusia. Its melody hascharacteristic melismatic flourishes. It pauses briefly on a 'Dorian' dominantbefore giving way to the Fiesta, a kaleidoscope of moods and colours,the perfect complement to the other two movements. As the end approaches a solo'voice' enters, apasionado, with further echoes of Andalusia and ispunctuated by a guitar whose chords add another hemiola (3/4 versus 6/8 time)to those in the Copla. It is a work that encapsulates the threeprincipal elements of Ponce's style: the classical, the romantic and, in spiritonly, the folkloric.
John w. Duarte