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ClassicsOnline Home » Guitar Recital: Moller, Johannes - BARRIOS MANGORE, A. / CRAEYVAGNER, K.A. / REGONDI, G. / VILLA-LOBOS, H. / GOUGEON, D. / BROUWER, L.
The musical selection on this disc is a fascinating compound of romanticism, modernism and the expressive sensibilities of contemporary composers, including Swedish guitarist Johannes Möller himself. He has captivated audiences throughout the world with charismatic and soulful performances, achieving ‘miracles with his lucid, spacious playing’ (London Evening Standard). His ability to communicate a musical message to listeners of any cultural background, age or level of musical experience has brought him an international career and numerous prestigious prizes.
On what I hope is the first of a series, Johannes Moller has delivered a stellar rendering of Romantic and Modern music for the guitar. The Barrios reading (performed tuned 1/2 step down as did Barrios) is wonderfully expressive and unique. Following are superb versions of Villa-Lobos etudes and Cadenza, all delivered in a highly expressive style consistent with the period. The previously unknown to me Craeyvanger's 'Introduction and Variations on a theme from Der Freischutz' is a beautifully constructed early Romantic work, interpreted in the style but with great clarity of line.
Like a pendulum, the music goes back and forth between the Romantic and Contemporary idioms. The premiere of the very interesting and haunting Lamento-Scherzo by Denis Gougeon (Canada) is followed by the oft performed 'Reverie' by Giulio Regondi. Moller somehow makes the transitions sound quite natural.
The recording closes with possibly the best performance ever of the fascinating Sonata by Cuban composer/guitarist Leo Brouwer. This is a very challenging work that becomes transcendent in Moller's reading.
Moller is also an accomplished composer, so it is appropriate that the recording closes with his own 'Poem to a distant fire', a sublime work that explores the colors possible on the guitar.
Mr. Moller clearly has impeccable tone and technique, but his superb musicianship and artistry makes this recording one of the best I've heard. Highest recommendation.more....
Johannes Möller: Guitar Recital
Agustín Barrios Mangoré (1885–1944): Un Sueño en la Floresta
Karel Arnoldus Craeyvanger (1817–1868): Introduction and Variations on a theme from Der Freischütz
Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887–1959): Etudes Nos. 7, 9 and 12 • Cadenza from Concerto for guitar and small orchestra
Denis Gougeon (b. 1951): Lamento-Scherzo
Giulio Regondi (1822–1872): Rêverie, Op. 19
Leo Brouwer (b. 1939): Sonata
Johannes Möller (b. 1981): Poem to a Distant Fire
The versatility of the classical guitar is indeed one of its outstanding characteristics. The instrument has the capability of integrating the music of many eras and styles within a single recital or recording without incongruity. The result, as represented in this selection, is a fascinating compound of romanticism, modernism, and the expressive sensibilities of contemporary composers in which variety of texture is paramount and yet where freshness of vision and imagination becomes evident in every piece.
The vividly romantic compositions of the Paraguayan guitarist, Agustín Barrios Mangoré, are now an essential part of the repertoire. The revival of interest in his work was achieved in the main by the advocacy of John Williams, whose many performances during the 1970s of the music of this hitherto neglected composer drew wide attention to the sheer beauty of Barrios’s art and stimulated considerable research. Un Sueño en la Floresta (Dream in the Glade), one of the most sublime of the melodic pieces of Barrios, is a virtuosic tremolo study in which a plaintive theme is woven about a superbly imaginative bass accompaniment. As Barrios himself poetically expressed it, “from the depths of the mysterious box there emerges a marvellous symphony of all the virgin voices of our America”.
Karel Arnoldus Craeyvanger, born in Utrecht, Holland, was (according to the guitar historian Philip J. Bone) a virtuoso on both guitar and violin who appeared in concerts with great success in his native land. He became a director of various important music societies and in 1852 was conductor of the musical festival of Cleves and that of Utrecht in the following year. The score of his Introduction and Variations on a theme from the opera, Der Freischütz, Op. 3, is from the Royal Library in the Hague, where there are also manuscripts of his three Nocturnes for guitar, three Cantica for choir and organ, some songs with piano accompaniment, and a march for orchestra. Der Freischütz (The Free-shooter) by Carl Maria von Weber (1786–1826), was first produced at the Schauspielhaus in Berlin in June 1821. The theme used by Craeyvanger is from the Aria, Leise, leise, fromme Weise (Softly sighing, day is dying) sung by Agathe, whose hand in marriage is sought by the hero, Max. In this scene, Agathe opens the window of her room and as the moonlight floods in, she intones this tender prayer. After a recitative, she sees her lover approaching and launches into an ecstatic melody, which is one of the best known tunes of all opera. The variation form was very popular among nineteenth-century guitarists, such as Sor and Giuliani, and here a more unfamiliar composer demonstrates in his own way the variety and expressiveness of the structure in the context of the guitar.
The vast musical output of Heitor Villa-Lobos covers a huge canvas of symphonies, concertos, choral and chamber music, as well as many instrumental works. Through his art the vitality of Brazilian culture found full twentieth-century expression. Yet it is his guitar music which still attracts fervent popularity. His deep understanding of the instrument enabled the composer to write in a truly distinctive personal style creating beautiful melodies as well as the effects of tonal colours of open strings against fretted notes to develop fascinating patterns of shifting chords. Twelve Etudes, written in Paris in the late 1920s and dedicated to Andrés Segovia, are a landmark in twentieth-century guitar development, though they were not published until the 1950s. Segovia commented that these studies ‘consist of formulas of surprising efficiency for the technical development of each hand, and at the same time have a ‘disinterested’ musical beauty, without an educational aim, but with a permanent aesthetic value as concert piece…Villa-Lobos has made a gift to the guitar’s history of the fruits of his talent as vigorous and delightful as that of Scarlatti and Chopin’. Etude No.7 has been described by Turibio Santos, the great Brazilian guitarist, as ‘a study in virtuosity par excellence’. The study has four sections beginning with an episode of rapid descending scale passages, followed by a highly expressive melody and accompanying arpeggio section of poetic intensity. After the reprise of the first section, rhythmic parallel chords concluded by complex trills propel the composition towards a dramatic ending. Etude No. 9 is an exercise in arpeggio patterns and slurs in Brazilian mood, evoking the countryside and the nostalgic atmosphere of the cavaquinho or folk guitar. Heitor Villa-Lobos’s Concerto for guitar and small orchestra was given its first performance on 6 February 1959, in Houston, Texas, conducted by the composer. The concerto, commissioned by Andrés Segovia, was begun in 1951 with the intended title of Fantaisie concertante but disappointed the guitarist because it lacked a cadenza. Segovia refused to play the work for several years, his annoyance coming to a climax when he heard Villa-Lobos’s Harp Concerto, dedicated to Nicanor Zabaleta, complete with a magnificent cadenza. The composer was then compelled, if he wanted his guitar concerto to reach the concert hall, to provide a cadenza between the second and third movements and re-title the work Concerto. John Duarte commented how ‘the cadenza muses at length over the thematic material of the first two movements and raises the curtain on the final, brilliantly orchestrated kaleidoscope’. But despite this, the cadenza makes in itself a satisfying and exciting solo in which many of Villa-Lobos’s most endearing musical characteristics, in particular a full awareness of his Brazilian identity, are foremost. Etude No. 12 is a study of glissando applied throughout the fingerboard to parallel chords. A middle contrasting episode presents an exciting repeated bass effect before the return of the first section. This is acknowledged as one of the most technically challenging of the twelve studies, requiring pinpoint precision and perfect control to achieve the necessary articulation.
Denis Gougeon, composer and teacher, born in Granby, Quebec, has written more than eighty compositions including orchestral works, chamber music, film scores, opera, ballet, and pieces for solo instruments and voice. He learned to play the guitar in his teens, studied composition with André Prévost and Serge Garant, and was awarded higher degrees at the Université de Montréal. From 1984–1988 he taught composition at McGill University. In 1989 he became the first composer-in-residence of the Montréal Symphony Orchestra, holding that post until 1992. Since 2001 Denis Gougeon has been a member of the music faculty at the Université de Montréal, and has won a number of prestigious competition prizes in Canada and internationally. Denis Gougeon has supplied the following note for his Lamento-Scherzo: Commissioned by the late Paul Gerrits as the set piece for the 2010 Guitar Foundation of America Competition, Lamento-Scherzo is in two parts. The Lamento is a simple melody where the musician has to bring much expression into the cantabile. One of the difficulties comes from its very fragile aspect and its denuded accompaniment. The middle section acts like distant memories, a commentary before returning to the main theme slightly varied. The Scherzo is of course more playful in its character with rapid scales, displaced accents, and contrasting sections.
Giulio Regondi was an infant prodigy of the guitar who matured into an eminent artist and esteemed composer of poetic but challenging works. Born in the French city of Lyon, Regondi made his début in Paris by the age of seven, becoming known as ‘The Infant Paganini’. In 1831 he arrived with his father in London, which was to be his home for the rest of his life. Unfortunately, in a somewhat mysterious episode, his father absconded with his son’s earnings, leaving the boy dependent on the good will of strangers. In his mature years, however, Regondi continued triumphantly to give concerts throughout Europe, becoming also a virtuoso of the concertina. He died of cancer in London in 1872 and is buried there in St Mary’s Catholic Cemetery, Kensal. Regondi’s achievements were lost to posterity for decades, but his compositions were eventually rediscovered, edited by Simon Wynberg and published by Chanterelle in 1981. Rêverie, Op. 19, subtitled Nocturne for guitar, is a compendium of guitar techniques fused into a complex exploration of emotion. After an initial Larghetto, in three-four, which acts as a kind of languorous prelude, a short più mosso in six-eight, characterized mainly by rapid arpeggios, leads to the main body of the work, a poignant extended tremolo section featuring one of Regondi’s most plaintive melodies. Immediately afterwards another episode introduces the familiar guitar texture of a bass melody accompanied by chords in the treble, moving on to a climactic grouping of chords high up on the fingerboard. A final tremolo section follows, this time slightly modified from the previous melodic statement. The composition is not only a technical tour de force but also an example of the nineteenth-century guitar at its most intensely expressive.
Leo Brouwer from Cuba is acknowledged as one of the most challenging and innovative of contemporary musicians. His compositions range from solo guitar pieces to symphonic works, including concertos, chamber music, and many film scores. His prolific output for guitar has developed through various styles embracing the avant-garde and the experimental, as well as neo-romanticism. The Sonata, composed in 1990, is dedicated to Julian Bream who gave the première of the work on 27 January 1991, at the Wigmore Hall, London. The following comments are based on Julian Bream’s note about the piece: The three movements take their unity from a thematic idea introduced at the beginning of the composition, a motif of eight notes with the intervals of a major second and minor third. Fandangos y Boleros begins with a short preamble which leads on to the first subject. The second subject is in dotted rhythm accompanied by a double octave pedal. Following the development section, the coda quotes fragments from Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, the Pastoral. The theme from the first movement appears occasionally in the Sarabanda de Scriabin but with different harmonies. By re-tuning the lower string from E to F, contrasting tone colours are achieved. La Toccata de Pasquini offers the opening theme adding several intervals of the second and third. Brilliant figurations and arabesques give way to a brief return to the slow movement before the opening music is heard once more.
Johannes Möller has commented on Poem to a Distant Fire, written in 2010, as follows: Arriving back in my homeland Sweden for my yearly summer visit, I was met by pine-tree forests and meadows wearing a dress of thick fog illuminated by the evening light. The scene was magical, as if from another world. I was reminded of a musical phrase that had come to me about a year earlier, a slow, spacious melody singing intimately above a resonant arpeggio ringing in the background as if in a world of its own.
During the following few weeks, this seed grew. As a natural response, a second phrase emerged, and so one phrase gave way to another, climbing higher and then moving lower. After calming down, the first phrase is heard again but this time slower, like a memory nostalgically dissolving, evaporating in high crisp harmonics. From far away, a resonant drumming in an unknown metre emerges. Obscure feelings evolve from this drumming, suspended between hope and regret, reaching for what is now nothing but a memory. Eventually the drumming gives way to a lucid Nocturne, transformed with an outburst of notes, high to low, as if released from an earlier obscurity. Floating in this unforced, natural beauty, the music ebbs away until it releases itself into the stars. The poem concludes by gently returning to earth with a subtle tambora effect on the lower strings.
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