Miguel LLOBET (1878-1938)
Complete Guitar Music
The opening of the twentieth century ushered in a new erafor the classical guitar. With a new face-lift and some structural changes, aswell as the performances and compositions of Francisco Tarrega, the guitar waslaunched and firmly established on a course that has seen it develop into oneof the most widespread string instruments today. Two guitarists, Miguel Llobetand Andres Segovia (1893-1987), are largely responsible for this increasedpopularity. Segovia did not study with Tarrega; he admits, however, to an indirect influence through Llobet. Llobet took the necessary stepsto continue what Tarrega had started: create new music, make transcriptions ofcontemporary composers, develop and expand pedagogical practices for theguitar. Tarrega never toured outside Western Europe, whereas Llobet moved intothe life of an international concert artist at the opening of the twentiethcentury by travelling to venues on other continents.
Miguel Llobet Soles was born on 18th October 1878, and diedon 22nd February 1938 in Barcelona. In 1889 he began studying the instrumentwith Magin Alegre who in that same year took him to hear the blind Spanishvirtuoso of the guitar Antonio Jimenez Manjon (1866-1919). It was after thisconcert that Llobet decided upon the guitar as his life's ambition; he statedthat Manjon had left an indelible impression upon him. At the age of sixteenLlobet attended the Municipal Conservatory of Music where he continued hisstudies with Tarrega. Some of the students and friends at this music institutewere Pablo Casals, Emilio Pujol, Ricardo Vines, Gaspar Cassado and otherCatalonian notables. Llobet's first public appearance took place in 1901 at theConservatory of Valencia. In 1904 his friend and compatriot Ricardo Vines, thenoted pianist and interpreter of Debussy keyboard works, presented him in hisfirst concert outside Spain, in Paris. While living in Paris from 1905 to 1910Llobet gave concerts throughout continental Europe and the British Isles. Hisfirst concert in South America was given in 1910. In Buenos Aires Llobet made atemporary home, periodically leaving on concert tours that took him norththrough Brazil and into Central America and the Caribbean. By 1912 his tourshad brought him to the United States. At the outbreak of World War I, Llobetreturned to Buenos Aires, where he gave concerts and taught some students. Theconcerts given during the war years continued to reach as far north as theUnited States. After 1930 he settled in Barcelona to teach and give occasionalconcerts. In 1934 he offered concerts in Vienna, Germany and other parts ofWestern Europe. By 1937 he was back in Barcelona during one of the mostdifficult sieges upon his hometown at the time of the Spanish Civil War. JaimePahissa (in his book, Manuel de Falla) says that when he saw Llobet at thistime, \he was wandering through the streets of Barcelona and he seemedabsolutely crushed, overwhelmed by circumstances and completely apathetic".Soon after, his health began to fail,whereupon he contracted pleurisy and diedthe following year.
Llobet's publications number approximately 75. Of thisnumber there are thirteen known original compositions and a group of folk-songsettings. All others are either arrangements of works by noted composers foreither solo or two guitars or revised editions of the repertoire, someoriginally edited by Tarrega.
The earlier original works demonstrate a prejudice towardsChopin, as can be heard in the Mazurka, Romanza and Scherzo-Vals, where eventhe unusual (for the guitar) choice of the keys is somehow "chopinian": B flatmajor and C minor for the Mazurka and the Romanza, whereas the Scherzo-Vals hasa central section in D flat major.
Wagner and Richard Strauss also left their mark on him asheard in the Preludes in E and A, each breathing chromatic freedom (JaimePahissa mentions that Llobet was a travelling companion of not only Falla butalso Strauss and that while travelling much of the conversations focused onvarious modern composers: Wagner, Bizet and Debussy were major topics). Yet he is attuned to the Impressionistsand this is heard in his harmonizations of the Catalonian folk-songs. Whileattending the Municipal Conservatory of Music in Barcelona, Llobet fell underthe influence of Felipe Pedrell (1841-1922), distinguished composer andmusicologist (among Pedrell's pupils were Manuel de Falla, Isaac Albeniz,Enrique Granados and Roberto Gerhard). Pedrell wrote and lectured on thepreservation and use of Spain's National Treasury, the folk-song. The arrangementsby Llobet of Catalan folk-songs are his contribution to the plea made byPedrell, each an impressionistic jewel displaying a fantastic richness ofharmony and tone. Some of these ballads from Catalonia became favourites inEurope through his performances.
With Respuesta, Llobet almost exceeds the technical limitsof the guitar, using a special effect, bariolage, where the right handarpeggiates across lower strings that are sounding higher than the openstrings. This work really pushes the boundary line on idiomatic writing for theinstrument.
A favourite for centuries among European composers, theancient theme of the folia inspired a number of works, including Fernando Sor'sVariations. Op. 15. Borrowing from this theme and the first two variations,Llobet adds eight more variations and a romantic Intermezzo that display aningenuity in modern harmonic technique with devices exploiting severaltechnical aspects of the guitar, including left-hand only variation, harmonicsand quick slurs.
To Miguel Llobet is given the credit for bringing theclassic guitar into the modern musical world of international concert tours,for contributing new works to the repertoire, for presenting to the public inperformance the new works of such composers as Falla, Villa Lobos, Ponce andothers, for teaching, organizing and expanding the pedagogical principles ofTarrega, and, of utmost importance, for having made the first electricrecordings of the classic guitar.