Guitar Recital: Jerome Ducharme (Jerome Ducharme/ Norbert Kraft & Bonnie Silver) (Naxos: 8.570189)
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Jérôme Ducharme: Guitar Recital
Matthew Dunne has a distinguished reputation as a guitarist. A pupil of Bruce Holzman at Florida State University and of Aaron Shearer at the North Carolina School of the Arts, he was also awarded a scholarship for the Banff Centre for Fine Arts, combining his skills in classical and jazz performance. He is head of the guitar programme at the University of Texas at San Antonio and holds a doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin in classical and jazz performance. His Appalachian Summer was written for the 2005 Guitar Foundation of America Competition, held at Oberlin. The work makes the expected varied demands on a performer, opening with gentle lyricism, before moving to a section of great rapidity. A slower section, which explores the singing quality of the instrument in the mood of the opening, leads to a final return of the rapid virtuosity heard in the second section of a work that is both challenging to a performer and pleasing to a listener.
Born in Québec in 1938, Jacques Hétu studied piano, harmony and Gregorian chant at the University of Ottawa with Jules Martel before entering the Conservatoire de Montréal in 1956, to study there with Clermont Pépin, Jean Papineau-Couture and Isabelle Delorme. In the summer of 1959 he attended the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood, where he studied with Lukas Foss. Awarded the Prix d'Europe in 1961, he travelled to Paris, studying composition there with Henri Dutilleux and analysis with Olivier Messiaen. Returning to Québec in 1963, he served in various academic positions at the Université Laval and the Université de Montréal, followed, from 1979 to 2000, by the Université du Québec à Montréal, where he was head of the music department from 1980-82 and 1986-88. Awarded various honours, he has been prolific as a composer. His guitar Suite, Op. 41, was written in 1986. In five relatively short movements, it opens with an angular Prélude. This is followed by a gentle Nocturne, with the Ballade undertaking a more dramatic exploration of the material. Rêverie makes use of the characteristic intervals of guitar tuning and the Suite ends with a movement that initially makes a strong contrast, its meditative heart preceded and followed by music of greater rapidity.
A leading figure in the music of Catalonia, Joan (Juan) Manén was born in Barcelona in 1883. From the age of three he studied the piano with his father, making very rapid progress. He started to learn the violin at the age of five and four years later appeared in Latin America, giving his first concert in 1898 in Europe, where he was on occasion accompanied by Granados. His contemporary reputation was primarily as a virtuoso violinist. He showed equal precocity, however, as a composer, an art in which he was largely self-taught. His first opera, Juana de Nápoles, was staged at the Liceu in Barcelona in 1903, with a second opera, Acté, produced at the same theatre towards the end of the year. He made his début in Berlin in 1904, where he settled until 1914. His visit to Germany brought an admiration for Wagner and for Richard Strauss, which had its effect on his compositions. He was instrumental in founding the Sociedad Filarmónica de Barcelona in 1930 and paid for the establishment of a concert hall, the Auditorium Manén, which still awaits completion. He arranged Catalan and Spanish melodic material, which makes an occasional appearance in his other compositions. Manén's Fantasie-Sonata initially draws on the harmonies suggested by the tuning of the guitar, but as the work proceeds Catalan melodic elements become more apparent. Written around 1930, the piece makes no concession to contemporary avant-garde trends.
Joaquín Rodrigo, blind from childhood, established himself as the leading composer in Spain in the second half of the century, a rôle in which he followed Manuel de Falla. Like the latter, he studied in Paris, spending the years of the Civil War there. On his return he made his home largely in Madrid. Prolific as a composer, he wrote concertos for the guitar, works which are widely known and loved. His compositions, tonal and recognisably Spanish in character, are consistent in character. His Tres piezas españolas, written in 1954, start with a lively Fandango, which contains a more plaintive element. The succeeding Passacaglia follows the variation pattern of the traditional form, which is Spanish in origin. The third piece is a Zapateado, suggesting in its cross-rhythms and syncopations the stamping feet of the flamenco dance.
Of Catalan and Italian parentage, Alberto Ginastera occupied a leading position in the music of his native country, Argentina, where he was born in 1916. He won early success even while still a student at the National Conservatory. He held various teaching appointments, his career in this respect interrupted by the political events that brought the Peronists to power, although the first break in his academic life enabled him, in 1945, to make further contacts in the United States, where his works were performed and where he established links with Aaron Copland. The 1950s brought performances in Europe and a wider knowledge of his music, while the recurrent problems during the Peronist era found him increasingly relying on film music as a source of income. From 1963 until 1971 he served as director of the newly established Latin American Centre for Advanced Musical Studies. He spent the last dozen years of his life in Switzerland. His Sonata, Op. 47, written in 1976 and revised in 1981, opens with an introductory movement, Esordio, which initially draws on the intervals of guitar tuning, before exploring the possibilities of percussive resonance provided by striking the bridge with the thumb, and other effects of this kind. The energetic Scherzo introduces varied sonorities, and the third movement, Canto, still dominated by the chord suggested by the guitar tuning, moves into a more lyrical and meditative mood. The last movement offers an immediate contrast in its syncopated rhythms, strummed chords and percussive interruptions.
Manuel de Falla can need little introduction, among the first Spanish composers to win international recognition. He spent time in Paris, where he lived from 1907, after studying in his native Cádiz and in Madrid, but returned to Spain in 1914. His years in France, however, brought acquaintance with Dukas, Debussy and Ravel, and a new understanding of how Spanish music might develop, urged by Isaac Albéniz. Influenced increasingly in Spain by the traditional Andalusian Cante jondo, he settled in Granada, where his friends included the poet Federico García Lorca. In the Civil War his sympathies were inevitably divided, but he pledged loyalty to Franco in 1938. In 1939 he moved to Buenos Aires, where he worked on his ambitious and finally unfinished stage composition Atlántida. He died in 1946. Falla's Homenaje, pièce pour guitare écrite pour 'Le Tombeau de Debussy', was written in 1920. Debussy had died in 1918, and La Revue Musicale published in 1920 a tribute, which included a musical tribute, Le Tombeau de Claude Debussy, with contributions from Bartók, Dukas, Goos