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Legani - Caprices, Op 20; Fantasia, Op 19


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Luigi Legnani(1790-1877)


Fantasia, Op. 19


36 Caprices, Op. 20



In the eighteenth century the "classical" guitar evolved intoits most common modern configuration; the five double courses of the earlycentury were replaced by six single strings. This development extended the bassrange of the instrument, but, more significantly, permitted the sort of rubatoand vibrato associated with the violin or the human voice. Moreexpressive and versatile than its predecessors, the "new" guitar wascapable of clear counterpoint and facilitated dozens of instrumental devicessuch as legati, harmonics, and flamboyant scale passages. Masters of theinstrument emerged throughout Europe, and not surprisingly many of the greatestwere from the Italian peninsula, which still dominated opera and exported itsinstrumentalists to the cultural capitals of Europe. Virtuoso guitarists andcomposers such as Moretti, Giuliani, and Carulli brought their innovations toMadrid, Vienna, and Paris, respectively, and inspired dozens of local imitatorsGuitarists shared prestigious concert programmes with pianists, violinists, andsopranos, and publishers issued hundreds of works to satisfy the thousands ofprofessionals, dilettanti, and parlour musicians now playing the guitar.



Luigi Rinaldo Legnani (1790-1877) was the greatest Italian guitarist ofthe second generation. His predecessors had established the audiences for theguitar and made possible his career as a touring performer; on the other hand,they had also raised the technical standards and the expectations of theseaudiences. Legnani's virtuosity was often compared with that of his friendPaganini, who was himself a competent guitarist and who once stated that heconsidered Legnani "first" among guitarists. Bone quotes a Spanish criticwho wrote of Legnani's "remarkable agility of execution," of his"tone of infinite depth and rare singing beauty," and celebrated hiscantabile on the bass strings. Nothing less was expected from a concert artistin the days of Chopin and Liszt.



Legnani was born in Ferrara in 1790, but his family moved to Ravennawhen he was eight; that ancient city served as his home base throughout hislife, and it was there that he died in 1877. Legnani stodied mosic and theguitar in Ravenna, performed with the local opera company, and made his debutas a guitarist in Milan in 1819. He was an instant success, and his concerttours expanded to include all the western capitals, from Madrid to StPetersburg. For the next thirty years, Legnani became part of the Europeanmusical mainstream. He collaborated with the Viennese pianist and publisher MaxJoseph Leidesdorf in several compositions, and the arias of his good friendRossini formed the bases for many of his fantasies and variations. Legnani notonly performed with the great violinist Paganini, he also stayed with him athis estate near Parma during one of the latter's extended convalescences, andassisted him in preparing a number of works for publication. Like manyguitarists, Legnani became fascinated with guitar construction and sought waysto improve his instrument. He collaborated with the Viennese luthiers GeorgRies and Johann Anton Staufer, both of whom created "Legnani model"guitars; in later life (after 1850), Legnani retired to Ravenna, where hehimself became a renowned builder of violins aud guitars. For this recording,Pavel Steidl performs on a copy of a Staufer made to Legnani's specifications.



Legnani's career as a composer parallel led his solo career. His firstworks were published by Ricordi in Milan about the time of his debut concert in1819. The next group of works were published in Vienna about the time of hisconcerts there, and so on. It is sometimes alleged that Legnani wrote over 250works for the guitar, but this is probably not true. In 1839 the Viennese firmof Artaria, having not published any of Legnani's works for six years and wellaware that he had published some works elsewhere in the interim, apparentlydecided to avoid any conflicting opus numbers by numbering their new series ofhis latest works beginning with Op. 201, thus creating a lacuna of overone hundred opus numbers. Similar lacunae occur in the works of the guitaristCastellacci and a few other musicians.



Both of the works recorded here were first published by Artaria inVienna in 1822. The Fantasia, Op. 19, is a cheerful two movement work (Largoin A minor, Allegro in A major) which eschews the usual theme andvariations formula and celebrates the composer's technical brilliance. The Thirty-SixCaprices for guitar, Op. 20, may have been inspired by Paganini's Twenty-fourCaprices for violin, Op. 1 (composed in about 1805 but first published inMilan in 1820). Both cycles demonstrate a youthful exuberance and flamboyautvirtuosity, and both are didactic showpieces for their respective instruments.

Like Paganini's Capricci, Legnani's are alternately dramatic,expressive, or brilliant as the composer explores most of the textures possibleon his instrument. As an unusual feature, Legnani's Thirty-six capricci alsoinclude pieces in twenty-two different keys; only C# minor and G# minor aremissing. The guitar, like many instruments, "prefers" certain keysover others for physical and organological reasons: ease of playing; the readyavailability of certain open strings, especially in the bass; and the richresonance of sympathetic strings in certain keys. This is why about half of theguitar repertoire seems to be in a half dozen keys, and the other pieces rarelyventure beyond three flats or four sharps. In part because Legnani's Capricciventure into this unexplored territory, they have become classics of guitarpedagogy, constantly in print since their introduction. But the transcendenttechnical difficulties which some or the Capricci consequently presentalso explain why all but a few or these works, in spite of their unquestionablepedagogical and musical value, are rarely recorded or heard in concert.

Facts
Item number 8554198
Barcode 636943419823
Release date 01/01/2000
Category
Label Naxos Records
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Performers
Artists Pavel Steidl
Composers Luigi Legnani
Disc: 1
36 Caprices
1 Fantasia, Op. 19
2 Andante
3 Allegro
4 Moderato
5 Allegretto
6 Allegro molto
7 Maestoso
8 Prestissimo
9 Andante
10 Largo
11 Allegretto con moto
12 Andante
13 Allegro non tanto
14 Allegro moderato
15 Largo assai
16 Presto
17 Andante sostenuto
18 Allegro
19 Maestoso
20 Allegretto grazioso
21 Marziale
22 Allegro giusto
23 Adagio
24 Allegro maestoso
25 Allegro molto
26 Andante grazioso
27 Allegro giusto
28 Allegretto espressivo
29 Largo
30 Prestissimo
31 Maestoso
32 Allegro
33 Largo
34 Pollacca
35 Allegro maestoso
36 Larghetto cantabile
37 Moderato
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