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ClassicsOnline Home » Guitar Recital: Cherouana, Lazhar - RAMEAU, J.-P. / REGONDI, G. / LEGNANI, L. / ASENCIO, V. / MANJON, A.J. / BOGDANOVIC, D.
Lazhar Cherouana, winner of the 2012 coveted Pittaluga Competition, graduated with a gold medal from the conservatory of Lyon under the world famous Peruvian artist Jesús Castro-Balbi, studying further with Eliot Fisk and Marco Tamayo in Austria. Here he demonstrates the guitar’s versatility and capacity to absorb many styles and idioms. Rameau’s mimicry of birdsong is the spectacular opening to a program which unites Dusan Bogdanovic’s Serbian energy with the Basque lyricism of Manjón’s Aire Vasco, and the delicate colors of Asencio’s Collectici íntim to the 19th-century Italianate virtuosity of Legnani and Regondi.
By David Denton
Lazhar Cherouana: Guitar Recital
Most of the music played here was written originally for guitar, with the clear exception of two pieces by Rameau taken from the keyboard repertoire. Yet there is no incongruity, for the guitar’s versatility is capable of absorbing many styles and idioms. The pieces that follow, from various countries, reflect that variety and versatility as Serbian energy unites with lyricism from the Basque region, and Italian virtuosity of the nineteenth century is contrasted with the delicate colours of a Spanish master. The glories of the immense palette available for the classical guitar are often underestimated. Yet here we have music spanning several centuries from the baroque to the contemporary all of which come over as stylistically appropriate as well as fresh and vibrant.
Jean-Philippe Rameau, one of the greatest names in the history of French music, is renowned as a composer of operas, cantatas, motets, and harpsichord music and also as one of the eminent theorists of the eighteenth century. In the early part of his career he was appointed organist for a number of influential posts at cathedrals in Avignon, Clermont, Dijon, and Lyon. In 1722 he moved permanently to Paris where the first of his theoretical works, a 450 page Traité de l’harmonie (Treatise of Harmony), was published, followed four years later by his Nouveau système de musique théorique (New System of Musical Theory).
After 1733, Rameau embarked on the composition of a great amount of dramatic music, operas and opera-ballets, some of which has since been lost. This area of his output amounted to more than a hundred separate acts and include the famous tragédies, Hippolyte et Aricie and Castor et Pollux as well as the opera-ballets Les Indes galantes and Les fêtes d’Hebé. In 1706, 1724 and 1729, he published his first collections of keyboard works. Le rappel de oiseaux (The Call of the Birds), was printed in Pièces de clavecin avec une méthode pour la méchanique des doigts (Pieces for Keyboard with a Method for the Mechanism of the Fingers) (1724). La Dauphine is a late example of Rameau’s harpsichord pieces and was composed in celebration of the marriage of the Dauphin to Maria-Josepha of Saxony in 1747.
Both of these transcriptions from Rameau’s keyboard music represent baroque imagistic or early ‘impressionistic’ writing rather than falling into the category of dance movements within a suite. Le rappel des oiseaux, in two-four time, uses a number of effects to mimic birdsong such as imitative moments between left and right hands on the harpsichord, passages played by both hands together in intervals of sixths, and the subtle use of appropriate ornamentation.
La Dauphine is naturally a more stately composition, based on three beats in the bar. After an initial flourish of embellishment, flowing semiquavers take over in the first section of the work. At times the pealing of wedding bells is strongly implicit. The first half is contrasted against the characteristically French dotted rhythms and intricate ornamentation at the beginning of the second section, until once again the fluent semiquavers return, this time in a lower register. At the end, there is a dignified quasi cadenza to round off the composition.
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.
Luigi Legnani, one of the leading guitarists of the generation following Fernando Sor and Mauro Giuliani, composed over 250 works and gave recitals throughout Europe. His friendship with Paganini has been well publicised though it seems unlikely that they actually performed concerts together. In his final years Legnani became a guitar maker of considerable renown.
Fantasia, Op 19, published by Arturia of Vienna in 1822, is a virtuosic work admirably demonstrating the spirit of the nineteenth guitar. The full panoply of brilliant scale runs, fast chromatic passages, sweeping arpeggio patterns, split octaves, chordal sections, interaction between bass and treble, and so on, are deployed here in profusion. The piece begins with an introductory largo section before the advent of the main Allegro movement with its varied textures and sonata-like structure. Behind the thrust and energy of the music is not only the influence of composers such as Sor but also the piano style of Beethoven at its most extrovert, as Legnani displays the technical fireworks within his characteristic musical vocabulary.
Vicente Asencio, born in the city of Valencia in southeast Spain, studied in Barcelona with the great pianist Frank Marshall, before moving to Paris where his mentors were Turina and Ernesto Halffter. Asencio composed numerous orchestral works and ballets but was particularly attracted to guitar music, his pieces being performed by a variety of instrumentalists including Segovia and Yepes, the latter being his student for several years. He also became a much admired teacher, founding the Castellón de la Plana Conservatory besides teaching for many years at the Valencia Conservatory.
Collectici íntim (Intimate Collection), has been described by Narciso Yepes, the dedicatee of the suite, as ‘something like a collection of separate elements, which before being actually connected already formed a unity of some kind with invisible ties’. This work has been interpreted as a latter day attempt to write according to the Theory of the Affects or the Doctrine of Affections. This was a baroque concept in which the ‘affects’ were rationalised emotional states or passions, covering such conditions of feeling as sadness, anger, hate, joy, love and jealousy. Composers attempted to express in music the intensity of these specific moods or emotions. Asencio’s chosen ‘affects’ feature La Serenor (Serenity), La Joia (Joy), La Calma (Calm), La Gaubança (Delight), and La Frisança (Haste). Thus in La Serenor the melody develops over a pulsing pedal bass, with a central contrasting episode. La Joia, marked Allegretto, is full of vitality and rapid scale passages as well as strummed chords of a very Spanish nature. La Calma uses delightful harmonic effects with chordal patterns in the treble and unobtrusive melodic embellishment. La Gaubança is another energetic Spanish dance of subtle virtuosity. The final movement, La Frisança uses the guitar’s arpeggio capabilities to evoke impressions of tumultuous momentum and frenetic energy.
Antonio Jiménez Manjón, born in Villacarillo, Jaén, in the part of Spain known as Andalusia, became blind when still a young child. Little is known about his early life, though he performed a recital in Paris in 1889. In 1893 he went to South America and settled in Buenos Aires, returning to Europe for a concert tour in 1912–13. He met the great Paraguayan guitarist, Agustín Barrios, in Montevideo in 1912 and gave him some tuition. It is also said that after hearing a concert by Manjón in 1889, the Catalan maestro, Miguel Llobet, decided to make the guitar his lifetime’s occupation.
The Collected Works for Guitar by Manjón (edited Alan Rinehart) were published by Mel Bay and Chanterelle in 1996, dispelling much of the obscurity which had surrounded the composer and his music for many years.
Aire Vasco (Basque Air) is a virtuoso piece beginning with a straightforward harmonised statement of the theme itself, marked dolce e semplice. After a shift from E minor to E major, a traditional Basque dance, the Zortico, in ten-eight time with many dotted rhythms, takes over, also moving from E minor to E major in two distinct sections. A highly intricate series of episodes follows, with brilliant triplets and demisemiquavers, and complex rhythmic groupings of embellishments within the bar, until the return of the original theme concludes the work.
Dusan Bogdanovic, born in Belgrade, formerly Yugoslavia and now Serbia, began playing the guitar at the age of twelve. Later he studied composition with Alberto Ginastera and Pierre Wissner, and guitar with Maria Livia São Marcos at the Geneva Conservatoire. Having won a number of prestigious guitar competitions he made his USA début at Carnegie Hall, New York, in 1977. For some years (1990–2007) he taught at the San Francisco Conservatory and is now teaching at the Geneva Conservatory. He is a prolific composer with over fifty published compositions, often exploring different idioms and combining classical, jazz, and ethnic influences within his music, as well as a highly acclaimed recording artist with over twenty albums to his credit.
Sonata No 2 for solo guitar was written in Santa Monica in 1985 as a commission for the summer concerts of the Church of Saint-Germain, Geneva. This is a complex and ambitious sonata in four movements.
The opening Allegro deciso e appassionato, has a restless, Serbian intensity with shifting time signatures. chromatic harmonies, and a melodic line supported by delicate chords. The next section is dolce espress, poco rubato, providing an introspective contrast until an accelerating movement returns to the original tempo, momentarily interrupted by more dolce espress but now inexorably leading to a fiery cadenza.
The second movement, Adagio molto espressivo, poco rubato, takes us into an inward world of dark sound, progressing to a deeply felt poco tenebroso episode which ultimately resolves into ethereal harmonics, ‘rhythmic and mysterious’. This leads straight to a Scherzo malincolico, cantabile con delicatezza, again with shifting time signatures, and a sweet melody supported by an elegant accompaniment. A middle section, molto ritmico e deciso, evokes the folk rhythms of seven-eight, nine-eight, five-eight, and so on, in rapid succession, until a recitative interlude returns us to the opening theme and the recapitulation of the first section.
The final movement, Allegro ritmico, in five-eight, sets a furious galloping pace which mutates eventually into a dolce chordal section. But the music is never still for long and develops into a quasi-fugal two part episode until breaking into vigorous arpeggios marked con fuoco. Then the first tempo returns in an extended, intricate cadenza of increasing climactic intensity with its final majestic chords vigorously played.
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Guitar Recital: Cherouana, Lazhar - RAMEAU, J.-P. ...