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ClassicsOnline Home » Guitar Recital: Del Sal, Adriano - SOR, F. / MORENO TORROBA, F. / TARREGA, F. / RODRIGO, J. / MORRICONE, E.
Adriano Del Sal is one of the most significant young guitarists of recent years, whose extraordinary musical talent and total technical control make his performances truly unforgettable, and have earned him no fewer than a dozen first prizes at national and international competitions. For his Naxos recital album he performs a wide-ranging selection of music by much-loved Spanish and Italian composers which showcases his affinity for the Romantic guitar repertoire.
By Kevin Bryan
Adriano Del Sal:
The classical guitar is not only extremely versatile in the styles of music featured among its repertoire, but also has a noble history which over the last few decades has at last been fully researched and evaluated. This selection presents original compositions from four major composers each of whom achieved significant advances in the music available for the concert platform. Finally, as an encore, we hear an unforgettable melody superbly arranged for guitar, reminding us that transcription has been a central element in fretted instrument playing since the sixteenth century.
Francisco Tárrega was a leading personality of immense significance in the guitar’s development over the last two centuries, in terms of technical innovations, compositions, and the art of arrangement. His advocacy of new concepts of guitar construction embodied in the work of Antonio de Torres (1817–1892), the great Spanish luthier, has proved influential right up to the present time. Working with the Torres type of instrument (with its enhanced tonal qualities, fan strutting, and a 650 millimetre string length), Tárrega established teaching methods including the most practical way of holding the guitar (using a footstool to raise the left leg), principles of left and right hand techniques, and studies to develop a player’s skills. Furthermore, Tárrega composed some remarkable music for the instrument, meticulously indicating the precise placing of notes on the fingerboard to produce the most vibrant effects. In many exquisite miniatures, often influenced by Chopin, he established a Spanish romantic voice for the guitar which has enchanted public and players ever since.
Alborada (Dawn) is one of the composer’s lighthearted caprices, in this instance imitating the sound of a musical box with ingenious use of harmonics and slurred notes.
Capricho arabe (Arab Caprice), dedicated to ‘the eminent maestro, D. Tomás Breton’, is a tribute to the Moorish heritage of southern Spain. Its opening recalls the oud, the Arabic lute, while the steady rhythm which follows evokes the sensuous Danza mora, the traditional dance. Segovia in his autobiography observed how during his youth Capricho arabe was ‘the pièce de résistance of my repertoire and one especially suited to reach the sensitive chords of a feminine heart’.
Minueto is possibly influenced by Fernando Sor, Tárrega’s great predecessor, who in true classical manner was inspired to write many such dances for guitar. But Tárrega’s Minueto is more a tribute to the form itself rather than an invitation to the dance. Here the composer captures the spirit of the movement in a colourful piece demanding considerable technical dexterity.
El Columpio (The Swing), marked lento in two-four time, captures the motion of a child’s swing, open strings in the bass rhythmically accompanying a delightful melody. A second section moves into dexterous arabesques, the ornamentation communicating the composer’s sense of humour as quintuplet patterns transform simplicity into ironic embellishment above a pedal note.
Tárrega was fond of depicting his female relatives in concise musical portraits, hence the popularity of pieces such as Adelita, María, Marieta, and Pepita. Thus Rosita refers to María Rosalia, the composer’s second daughter born on 13 September 1885. Here the girl’s characteristic vivaciousness is revealed through a skittish polka, portraying a mercurial individual, constantly on the move.
Fernando Sor, the foremost Spanish guitarist/composer of the early nineteenth century, performed on a smaller guitar than the instrument as we know it today. He emulated the great composers by writing sonatas, fantasias and sets of variations to increase the guitar’s range as well as formulating studies for all levels of ability.
Fantaisie, Op. 7 (dedicated to Ignace Playel and published in 1814), is one of Sor’s finest works. This intricate composition was originally written on two staves, whereas guitar music is usually set out on a single stave. Such an innovation made the score easier to read in terms of its abundant melodic and harmonic complexities but nowadays Sor’s ingenuity in this respect is not usually followed in modern editions.
A writer in The Giulianiad in 1833 commented on the Largo with its ‘heart-thrilling combinations of chords... which abounds with elegance and beauty from beginning to end’, and the ‘tender floating theme in C major and its variations’ whose ‘beauties must be highly relished by the proficient as they must likewise fascinate every sincere admirer of the guitar!’ More recently, Julian Bream has praised the ‘sustained yet deep emotional commitment’ of the Largo non tanto, and ‘the elegance and restraint that can be enormously challenging to the performer’ of the Tema e variazioni.
Federico Moreno Torroba, according to Segovia, became the first composer who ‘was not a guitarist’ to write works dedicated to him. Torroba, famous in Spain for his light operas, known as zarzuelas, achieved international renown through Segovia’s performances of his guitar music. Pièces caractéristiques (Characteristic Pieces), published in 1931, presents a celebration of the sights and sounds of Spanish life. Preambulo (Preamble) introduces the suite, opening with broad arpeggiated chords giving way to single melodic lines and a gentle accompaniment.
Oliveras (Olive Groves), marked Allegretto in three-eight time, is a jocular dance, full of optimism and sunshine. Melodía is more sombre, being at first a soulful tremolo study before a contrasting episode changes the texture but continues the reflective mood.
The title of Los Mayos refers to the annual fiestas associated with the month of May held throughout Spain. The work itself is lyrically joyful, its main theme redolent of folk-song and the traditional spectacle of dance in local costume. Albada is a bright dawn song, evoking the singing of birds through the higher register of the guitar. A short middle section reverts to the intermediate areas of the fingerboard in a minor key before the main theme returns. Finally, Panorama provides an integrated snapshot of the entire suite, offering moments from each in climactic recollection.
Joaquín Rodrigo’s contribution to the guitar is now appreciated as one of the central pillars of the modern concert repertoire. Though his compositions for the solo instrument comprise no more than 25 titles, the significance of his output is greater than the sum of its parts because of his extraordinary understanding of the nature of the guitar, developed over decades. Moreover, his seminal masterpiece, the Concierto de Aranjuez, has proved to be one of the most popular classical works created in the twentieth century.
Invocación y danza (Homenaje a Manuel de Falla) dedicated to the great Venezuelan guitarist, Alirio Diaz, won First Prize in the 1961 Coupe International de Guitare, held in Paris. The French magazine Combat described the work as ‘a page full of song, poetry, Mediterranean finesse, and elegant writing’.
From a subtle opening of harmonics and fragments of arpeggios, the Invocación flowers into a highly intricate pattern of melody and broken chords in which delicacy of effect is matched by clarity and complexity. The Danza is the Andalusian polo, a reminder perhaps of the last of Manuel de Falla’s Seven Popular Spanish Songs. After the rhythmic opening bars, it develops into passages of technically demanding tremolo and brilliant showers of demisemiquavers, the tremolo returning eventually in an extended section. The piece closes with sparse harmonics, a fleeting but expressive reference to a theme from Falla’s ballet with song, El Amor Brujo, and a final murmuring arpeggio. The work, in both structure and shifts of mood, represents a powerful example of Rodrigo’s creative imagination.
Ennio Morricone was a child prodigy who played the trumpet and studied composition with Goffredo Petrassi, becoming one of his favourite pupils. In the 1950s he began writing for radio and films, and made a breakthrough in the 1960s with his dramatic music for Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns, starring Clint Eastwood. Since then Morricone has composed scores for over four hundred films and won many awards. He has also produced a quantity of vocal and instrumental works.
The film, The Mission (1986), is about a Jesuit missionary, Father Gabriel, in eighteenth-century South America, who wishes to convert the Guaraní Indians living in the rain forests. Gabriel, played by Jeremy Irons, penetrates into the jungle at great risk and plays his oboe to the natives hidden in the vegetation. Some of the Indians wish to kill him, but the beautiful melody enchants the majority and for this reason the priest is accepted into their community.
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