Romantic Guitar Favourites (Gerald Garcia) (Naxos: 8.550296)
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Niccolo Paganini (1782 - 1840)
Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809 - 1847)
Franz Schubert (1797 - 1828)
The present programme is pervaded by thespirit of Franz Liszt although his music is not actually represented. As aRomantic virtuoso, he took the astonishing Paganini as his model; he knewMendelssohn in Paris in the 1830s and arranged six of his songs for solo piano;as a boy, he was introduced to Schubert and in later life transcribed many ofSchubert's songs. The other figure whose shadowy influence is felt in thisrecording is the Bohemian composer and guitar virtuoso, Johann Kaspar Mertz.
Mertz is the epitome of that cliched figure, the Romantic guitarist. He treatedthe guitar as a miniature piano and had a rare understanding of its potentialfor expression. It is unfortunate that he did not arrange more of the music ofhis greater contemporaries.
Like Liszt, Mendelssohn did not have muchcontact with the guitarists of his day and did not write for the instrument.
This is a great loss for the guitar, as his cultured, classical approach wouldhave suited it admirably. I have tried to redress the balance by transcribingsome of his simpler Songs without Words. which, even though they are merecharming miniatures in comparison with his great chamber works, are musicallymore rewarding than most of the guitar music of his day. The great founder ofmodern guitar technique, Francisco Tarrega (1852- 1909), was one of the firstto transcribe Mendelssohn in his search for repertoire, and these arrangementsare dedicated to his memory.
Paganini was no stranger to the guitarand is reported to have said of it, "I love it for its harmony, it is myconstant companion in all my travels". He even stopped playing the violinfor three years, from 1801 until 1804, and studied and performed on the guitarto great acclaim. This was no doubt due in part to his association at the timewith a certain Tuscan lady of rank, whose favourite instrument it was.
Paganini was also closely associated withthe guitarist Legnani, and travelled and performed with him in 1836 and 1837.
It was probably on one of these occasions that the Grand Sonata waswritten, originally for guitar with violin accompaniment. There is a story thatLegnani complained that the guitar was always accompanying the violin and askedPaganini to write a piece where they would exchange instruments. The result wasthe Grand Sonata, and Legnani found that he was accompanist once again.
I have absorbed the violin part into the guitar writing in my transcription andhave also written my own variation No.5 in the Andantino Variato in thetradition of most guitarists who play this piece. In my arrangements of the twoCaprices from Op. 1 for violin solo, I cast a distant but envious eye in thedirection of Liszt's piano transcription of these pieces.
Franz Schubert is known to have playedthe guitar and one was always to be seen hanging over his bed. Many of hissongs were originally written with guitar accompaniments (until he could afforda piano!) and arrangements of them were made by, amongst others, hiscontemporaries Diabelli and Mertz. Liszt also arranged many of Schubert's songsfor piano solo. The transcriptions for solo guitar on this recording,originally by Mertz, are clearly inspired by those of Liszt, but also show anoriginal approach to transcription, demanding that the guitar be taken on itsown terms. However Mertz's true aspirations, however, are betrayed by thetitles of some of his own works - "Gondola Song", "Song withoutWords" and "Standchen". These are titles used by Mendelssohn,Schubert and Liszt and their use indicates the general 'piano-envy' of theRomantic guitarist, both then and now.
G. Garcia 1992
At his 1979 Wigmore Hall debut in London,one critic hailed Gerald Garcia as a performer of rare quality and he has beendescribed by John Williams as one of today's foremost guitarists. Garcia hasmade many tours of the Far East and Europe and has appeared at the majorinternational festivals in Great Britain, including the Edinburgh, Aldeburghand South Bank Festivals. His concert engagements have included performanceswith many leading ensembles and soloists, among them the London Sinfonietta,John Williams and Friends and Paco Peria. With the flautist Clive Conway he hastoured and broadcast extensively in Britain and has played at the GlastonburyPop Festival and on the ocean liner the QE II. Gerald Garcia was born in HongKong and now lives in Oxford, his base for a busy career as recitalist,composer and conductor.