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ClassicsOnline Home » Guitar Recital: Aguirre, Rafael - GIMENEZ, J. / DEBUSSY, C. / ASSAD, S. / ALBENIZ, I. / RODRIGO, J. / TARREGA, F.
Rafael Aguirre is acknowledged as one of today’s most celebrated virtuoso guitarists, having won first prize at 13 of the world’s most prestigious international competitions: a record-breaking achievement for a Spanish musician. Following on from his previous, acclaimed recording (8.572064), this full-blooded recital is of music by Spanish composers or those influenced by Iberia, from the pure flamenco of Paco de Lucía’s Guajiras to Debussy’s impressionistic Soirée dans Grenade, and from Albéniz’s Triana, named after the gypsy quarter in Seville, to the virtuoso fireworks of Tárrega’s Gran Jota.
By Kenneth Keaton
American Record Guide
By Brian Reinhart
Rafael Aguirre: Guitar Recital
This full-blooded recital of works either by Spanish composers or composers influenced by Iberia presents a wide range of colours and inspiration. The truth is that the music of Spain is a complex concept subject to many regional variations and the activities of composers working within a number of diverse contexts. Some of the general public might define ‘Spanish’ culture by stereotypes such as flamenco, the bullfight, the art of Picasso. But when it comes to guitar music the possibilities seem almost infinite, ranging from the indigenous art of Andalusia, which is flamenco in its tripartite forms of song, dance, and guitar, to the distillation by many composers of the essence of Iberian elements in works of a very different nature.
Within this recital, pure flamenco is represented by Guajiras , in the brilliant composition in that style by the great Paco de Lucía. Guajiras is a flamenco form which originated in Cuba, possibly being introduced to Andalusia through the crew of ships which docked at Malaga or Cadiz. Its characteristic rhythmic appeal speaks for itself and the melodic content is entirely distinctive and memorable.
Among other Spanish items performed here which rely on traditional elements is the work of Manuel López-Quiroga (1899–1988) . Born in Seville, Andalusia, he is remembered as a most prolific composer who wrote hundreds of songs as well as 36 zarzuelas (Spanish light operettas), and fifty film scores. Several of his songs were arranged for guitar by Carles Trepat, published by Ediciones Quiroga of Madrid in 1999. At the age of eleven, López-Quiroga became a church organist, and later studied piano, harmony and composition at the Seville Muncipal Conservatoire. He moved to Madrid in 1929 and from 1931 collaborated with the poet Rafael de León in the writing of songs and zarzuelas which became popular throughout Spain.
All lovers of the guitar will be familiar with the poetic compositions of Francisco Tárrega, one of the greatest masters regarded as the founding father of the modern classical guitar movement. The Gran Jota , however, a set of witty and ebullient episodes which bring out the sheer bravura and versatility of the instrument, was also arranged from popular themes by Julián Arcas, an early, potent influence on Tárrega. Hence there is often some discussion about the true authorship of this engaging work. What is clear is that Tárrega’s version has reached a wider audience and his re-working of familiar themes endears this piece to the hearts of guitarists and the public everywhere.
Francisco Tárrega made many transcriptions of popular pieces and one of the most perennial is his superb setting for guitar of Malats’s Serenata española , originally for pianoforte. The thematic liveliness and irresistible rhythmic drive of the composition has made it a valuable encore favourite as well as one of those memorable pieces which once heard will never be forgotten.
Of Claude Debussy’s impressions of Spain, Soirée dans Grenade (Evening in Granada)  from Estampes, the pianist Marguerite Long wrote that ‘the Andalusian night is warm, and a tender, proud habanera grows more insistent in its melancholy and hauteur…This grave, tender syncopation cradles our vague dreams in rhythms at once nonchalant and gracious.’
It was said that La Puerta del vino (The Wine Gate)  from Preludes, Book 2, was inspired by a postcard sent from Andalusia by Manuel de Falla. Debussy at the time had never been to Spain but on receiving the postcard he remarked ‘I will do something with that.’ The result was a composition which Spanish musicians admired as having something profound to say about Spain itself.
Gerónimo Giménez (1854–1923) wrote a number of zarzuelas, or Spanish operettas of which La boda de Luis Alonso (The Wedding of Luis Alonso)  was one of the most popular. This arrangement by Kazuhito Yamashita of the popular Intermedio offers the guitar another fine Spanish solo, this time from an unexpected source.
Triana by Isaac Albéniz  is from Book 2 of his enormous piano work Iberia. The piece is named after the gypsy quarter of Seville. As Albéniz’s biographer, Walter Aaron Clark, comments, Triana ‘resounds with all the clamour of a juerga, the strumming of guitars, clacking of castanets, and percussive taconeo’. This is the first recording of Triana arranged for solo guitar.
Joaquín Rodrigo, one of the great twentieth-century Spanish composers, wrote some twenty pieces for solo guitar, but his Toccata  remained a mystery for many years as it was mentioned in letters but had not been found. It was not until 2005 that a manuscript of the composition was discovered in the Regino Sáinz de la Maza archives. The piece is an ambitious and serious work, extending to some three hundred bars spread over eleven pages demanding considerable virtuosity. Since 2005 it has been recorded on various occasions by foremost guitarists and has become truly integrated into the higher levels of the repertoire.
The Assad brothers, Sergio and Odair from Brazil, are one of the top duos in the world, as well as presenting individually many solo recitals. Thus Sergio Assad’s Spanish Impressions – is written from the perspective of a leading practitioner of the guitarist’s art. His works are both technically complex and colourful, and continue the great traditions of the composer/performer established in the nineteenth century.
‘Alhambra’ International Guitar Competition
The ‘Alhambra’ International Guitar Competition was established in 1990 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Manufactures Alhambra, SL. Following the success of this initiative the management decided to organize the competition every two years in order to promote the classical guitar and support young guitarists in the development of their professional careers. For further information please visit: www.concursoalhambra.com
We would like to thank Alhambra SL for their generous support of this recording, and also for the use of the JM Vilaplana guitar.
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