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ClassicsOnline Home » Guitar Recital: Mamedkuliev, Rovshan - ALBENIZ, I. / TURINA, J. / AMIROV, F. / LLOBET SOLES, M. / CASTELNUOVO-TEDESCO, M. / TARREGA, F.
Rovshan Mamedkuliev was first prize-winner at the prestigious Guitar Foundation of America Competition in 2012, and now stands as one of the world’s most exciting young instrumentalists. He has constructed a programme with several themes. Iberian music is represented by Falla, Albéniz and Turina, and by two of the titans of guitar playing, Miguel Llobet and Francisco Tárrega. He also includes music by his Azerbaijani compatriot, Fikret Amirov, whose folkloricinfluenced music is another thematic link. The kaleidoscopic Just How Funky Are You by Andrew York and Leo Brouwer’s An Idea explore the guitar’s contemporary vitality.
By Paul Fowles
Classical Guitar Magazine
Rovshan Mamedkuliev: Guitar Recital
Manuel de FALLA (1876–1946): La vida breve—Danza No 1 (Act II, Scene 1) (arr. Keigo Fujii)
Fikret AMIROV (1922–1984): 12 Miniatures—excerpts (arr. Rovshan Mamedkuliev)
Miguel LLOBET (1878–1938): Variations on a Theme of Sor, Op 15
Sergey RUDNEV (b. 1955): ‘Ivushka’(Russian Folk Song Variations)
Isaac ALBÉNIZ (1860–1909): Suite Española, Op 47—No 3 Sevilla (Sevillanas) (arr. Tárrega)
Joaquín TURINA (1882–1949): Sevillana (Fantasia)
Mario CASTELNUOVO-TEDESCO (1895–1968): Capriccio diabolico (Omaggio a Paganini)
Andrew YORK (b. 1958): Just How Funky Are You
Leo BROUWER (b. 1939): An Idea (Passacaglia for Eli)
Francisco TÁRREGA (1852–1909): Jota
The works in this selection have close affinities with the folk-music traditions of particular cultures. Classical composers through the ages have drawn strength from the legacy of popular music enabling them to create effective distillations from the songs and dances immortalised by generations of musicians. The guitar itself is both an instrument of the people and, at specific times in its history, an instrument of the court. Guitar music is rich in rhythms and melodies of traditional music. The strength of that fusion between contemporary composers and the vigour of folkloric elements is well reflected here.
Manuel de Falla was born in Cádiz. After early piano lessons from his mother, Falla continued his pianistic education under José Tragó and also studied with Felipe Pedrell. In 1907 he went to France where he remained for several years in the circle of Debussy, Dukas, Ravel, and Albéniz. He returned to Spain in 1914, settling in Granada seven years later. After the tragedy of the Civil War Falla went to Argentina and lived in relative seclusion through fragile health till his death in 1946. His music includes stage and orchestral pieces, vocal items, piano solos, and chamber and instrumental compositions. Falla is universally acknowledged as the foremost master of twentieth-century Spanish music. Though he wrote only one solo work for guitar, several of his compositions have been arranged for the instrument by guitarists over the years.
La vida breve, a lyric drama in two acts, was composed in 1904/5 and received its first performance in Nice in 1913. Set in the Albaicín district of Granada, the opera recreates the passion and sadness of gypsy life. Danza, taken from Act II of La vida breve and performed as an orchestral interlude in front of a drop-curtain with a panorama of Granada from the Sacromonte, was originally arranged for two guitars by Emilio Pujol in the 1930s. It is a fiery, vigorous work, quintessentially Spanish in every way, yet with an ultimate refinement characteristic of Falla’s meticulous compositional techniques.
Fikret Amirov was a leading Azerbaijani composer of the Soviet period, strongly influenced by folk-music. He studied at the Azerbaijan State Conservatoire and was wounded while on active service during the Second World War with the Soviet Army against Nazi Germany. Amirov’s output includes symphonic works, ballets, an opera, film scores, and a number of piano pieces. He was the recipient of many honours and state awards including the Stalin Prize (1949) and USSR Peace Prize (1980).
The six pieces from 12 Miniatures, arranged from a piano work, evoke not only typical pastoral scenes, but Azerbaijan’s folkloric traditions. Ballad is a poem telling a serious tale of the past, Ashug’s Song is a catchy, witty song with attractive foot-tapping rhythmic patterns, Lyrical Dance has Chopinesque elements in its light rhythmic movement, while Hunting exploits lively scale passages and lively rhythms to express the excitement of the chase. Nocturne sets a meditative atmosphere with subtle dark melodic lines and an insistent bass line in contrast to the lightly tripping energies of Toccata, presenting an incisive finale to the suite.
Miguel Llobet, born in Barcelona, Catalonia, was one of the most influential guitarists of the early twentieth century. A student of Francisco Tárrega and a profound influence on Andrés Segovia in his formative years, Llobet gave recitals in many countries, made recordings and wrote various original compositions. He also became renowned as both teacher and editor. In recent years Llobet’s compositions have seen a revival but his lasting monument has been his exquisite harmonisations of Catalan folk-songs, arrangements of Granados’s La Maja de Goya and Spanish Dances Nos 5 and 10 and the editing of Manuel de Falla’s guitar work, Homenaje, Le Tombeau de Debussy.
Variations on a Theme of Sor, Op 15, begins with Fernando Sor’s arrangement of La Folia de España and his first two variations. Only in Variation 3 does Llobet first show his hand, beginning with brilliant descending triplet arpeggio patterns. Then comes a variation presenting a different kind of arpeggio where a theme in the bass is complemented by harmonic progressions across treble strings. Variation 5 consists of short semiquaver triplet bursts in minor and major thirds in the treble, contrasting with the next variation—a series of rapid ascending triplets from bass to treble, rhythmically and harmonically similar to Variation 5 but giving a quite different effect. An Intermezzo is introduced, a legato melodic line in the major key, the treble accompanied by chromatic chords reminiscent of the technical figurations in Sor’s Study Op 6, No 2. Variation 7 returns to the key of E minor for a virtuosic exercise in demisemiquaver slurs, supported by subtle chords. Variation 8 is in harmonics, one of the guitar’s most sensitive sonorities. This is succeeded by a section where the guitarist uses only the left hand to pluck and finger the notes, ending with a dramatic downward sweep across the strings. The finale, Variation 10, combines many techniques involving chords, slurs, and harmonics in a dazzling coda.
Sergey Rudnev (b. 1955), was brought up in the small village of Osinovka near the River Volga, and studied music in Tula, Moscow and Sverdlovsk. He is a prolific composer for the guitar and an album of his pieces has been published in The Russian Collection series edited by Matanya Ophee (Editions Orphée). The eminent Russian guitarist and composer, Nikita Koshkin, has commented that ‘some compositions of Rudnev are lyrical in nature, while others carry a more dramatic presence… His direct familiarity with village life enables the artist to produce vivid pictures of Russian life and ritual’.
The theme of Ivushka is a gentle folk-song of plaintive beauty. The variations include arpeggiated embellishments, rapid scale passages, and a thoughtful finale.
Isaac Albéniz was born in Camprodón, in northern Spain, spending much of his childhood in Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia. Yet though Catalan by birth his celebration of the great cities of Andalusia remains a perennial evocation of Iberian romanticism. Albéniz composed mainly for piano, writing nothing directly for the guitar, but ever since Tárrega first transcribed some of his pieces, Albéniz’s music has remained at the very heart of the guitar repertoire.
Sevilla evokes the vigorous flamenco dance, the sevillanas, full of colour and vitality. The slow middle section expresses the plaintiveness of cante jondo (flamenco ‘deep song’) before the dance returns in all its gaiety and virtuosity.
Joaquín Turina was born in Seville, one of the great Andalusian cities where flamenco reigns supreme. In 1905 he went to Paris and studied with d’Indy and Moszkowski, forming friendships with both Falla and Albéniz. On returning to Madrid he spent the rest of his life in the creation of music deeply representative of Spanish culture. Among his prolific compositions, including symphonies, piano pieces, operas, chamber works and incidental theatre music, he wrote several remarkable solos for guitar inspired by the art of Andrés Segovia.
Sevillana, Op 29, (subtitled Fantasía) composed in 1923, evokes the colourful dance from Turina’s native city, the sevillanas. The elements of the form are distilled and integrated with considerable subtlety, involving techniques such as rasgueado (strumming), fast scale passages, rapid arpeggios, and poignant melodies.
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, the great Italian composer from Florence, was forced to leave his native country in 1939 by Mussolini’s anti-Jewish edicts. He ultimately settled in California where he became a prolific writer of film music between 1940 and 1956, in the same period composing more than seventy concert works. As a member of the faculty of the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music, he numbered among his pupils Henry Mancini, André Previn, and the composer, John Williams.
In 1932, Segovia had travelled with Manuel de Falla to the International Festival of Music in Venice. At the Festival, Segovia was introduced to Castelnuovo-Tedesco who became fascinated by the guitar and decided to explore its possibilities. Between 1932 and his death in 1968, he wrote over a hundred works for the instrument, including a sonata, sets of variations, concertos, and impressionistic pieces of various kinds.
Capriccio diabolico (Omaggio a Paganini) was written in 1935 following a suggestion by Segovia that Castelnuovo-Tedesco should compose a homage to Paganini who admired and played the guitar. Thus the opening bars of the piece present the theme of La campanella from Paganini’s Second Violin Concerto. The composition is an extended work, exploring the virtuosic potential of the guitar through the cumulative effect of diverse textures and moods. As well as lyrical moments, chordal passages, and rapid scale runs, a middle section breaks into a tremolo, the technique by which a guitarist can weave the illusion of a continuous line of melody. A vivid coda brings back La campanella in a final dramatic flourish.
Andrew York is a multi-talented guitarist, composer, teacher, and painter whose reputation was first established world-wide by his composition Sunburst, performed and recorded by John Williams. The composer studied at James Madison University and the University of Southern California, where he was the recipient of numerous awards. He joined the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet in 1993, but has also established a solo career as an international recitalist of the first order.
Just How Funky Are You, composed for the Guitar Foundation of America Competition 2012, is composed in modernistic style, exploring multiple sonorities and techniques of the guitar in sensitive fashion. Expanding from a concentrated opening of separate, highly focused notes, the work quickly evolves into a complex kaleidoscope of colour and intensity. The techniques include percussive effects as well as the many varied textures of the guitar’s capabilities. Virtuosic control is required throughout the work.
Leo Brouwer, from Cuba, one of the most innovative and popular contemporary composers, is also a renowned conductor and recitalist. His prolific output ranges from a multitude of guitar pieces to concertos, chamber music, and scores for over a hundred films. His guitar works have evolved over four decades embracing the avant-garde and the experimental as well as neo-romanticism.
An Idea (Passacaglia for Eli), written in 1999, is dedicated to Eli Kassner, the renowned Canadian teacher, founder of the Guitar Society of Toronto and its internationally famous guitar festival. The composition is structured into two eight bar episodes set between a recurrent four bar theme, heard three times at the beginning, middle and ending. The two episodes themselves are related in that the second segment is a form of improvisation on its companion, each being prefaced by a rapid scale run.
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.
Jota, a set of witty and ebullient episodes which bring out the sheer bravura and versatility of the instrument, was arranged by Tárrega from popular themes of the Spanish province of Aragon originally written down by Julián Arcas (1832–1882), 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 wide audience and his re-working of familiar themes endears this piece to the hearts of guitarists and the public everywhere.
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