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Classical Guitar Magazine
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Niccolo Paganini (1782 - 1840)
Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809 - 1847)
Franz Schubert (1797 - 1828)
The present programme is pervaded by the
spirit of Franz Liszt although his music is not actually represented. As a
Romantic virtuoso, he took the astonishing Paganini as his model; he knew
Mendelssohn in Paris in the 1830s and arranged six of his songs for solo piano;
as a boy, he was introduced to Schubert and in later life transcribed many of
Schubert's songs. The other figure whose shadowy influence is felt in this
recording is the Bohemian composer and guitar virtuoso, Johann Kaspar Mertz.
Mertz is the epitome of that cliched figure, the Romantic guitarist. He treated
the guitar as a miniature piano and had a rare understanding of its potential
for expression. It is unfortunate that he did not arrange more of the music of
his greater contemporaries.
Like Liszt, Mendelssohn did not have much
contact with the guitarists of his day and did not write for the instrument.
This is a great loss for the guitar, as his cultured, classical approach would
have suited it admirably. I have tried to redress the balance by transcribing
some of his simpler Songs without Words. which, even though they are mere
charming miniatures in comparison with his great chamber works, are musically
more rewarding than most of the guitar music of his day. The great founder of
modern guitar technique, Francisco Tarrega (1852- 1909), was one of the first
to transcribe Mendelssohn in his search for repertoire, and these arrangements
are dedicated to his memory.
Paganini was no stranger to the guitar
and is reported to have said of it, "I love it for its harmony, it is my
constant companion in all my travels". He even stopped playing the violin
for three years, from 1801 until 1804, and studied and performed on the guitar
to great acclaim. This was no doubt due in part to his association at the time
with a certain Tuscan lady of rank, whose favourite instrument it was.
Paganini was also closely associated with
the guitarist Legnani, and travelled and performed with him in 1836 and 1837.
It was probably on one of these occasions that the Grand Sonata was
written, originally for guitar with violin accompaniment. There is a story that
Legnani complained that the guitar was always accompanying the violin and asked
Paganini to write a piece where they would exchange instruments. The result was
the Grand Sonata, and Legnani found that he was accompanist once again.
I have absorbed the violin part into the guitar writing in my transcription and
have also written my own variation No.5 in the Andantino Variato in the
tradition of most guitarists who play this piece. In my arrangements of the two
Caprices from Op. 1 for violin solo, I cast a distant but envious eye in the
direction of Liszt's piano transcription of these pieces.
Franz Schubert is known to have played
the guitar and one was always to be seen hanging over his bed. Many of his
songs were originally written with guitar accompaniments (until he could afford
a piano!) and arrangements of them were made by, amongst others, his
contemporaries Diabelli and Mertz. Liszt also arranged many of Schubert's songs
for piano solo. The transcriptions for solo guitar on this recording,
originally by Mertz, are clearly inspired by those of Liszt, but also show an
original approach to transcription, demanding that the guitar be taken on its
own terms. However Mertz's true aspirations, however, are betrayed by the
titles of some of his own works - "Gondola Song", "Song without
Words" and "Standchen". These are titles used by Mendelssohn,
Schubert and Liszt and their use indicates the general 'piano-envy' of the
Romantic guitarist, both then and now.
G. Garcia 1992
At his 1979 Wigmore Hall debut in London,
one critic hailed Gerald Garcia as a performer of rare quality and he has been
described by John Williams as one of today's foremost guitarists. Garcia has
made many tours of the Far East and Europe and has appeared at the major
international festivals in Great Britain, including the Edinburgh, Aldeburgh
and South Bank Festivals. His concert engagements have included performances
with many leading ensembles and soloists, among them the London Sinfonietta,
John Williams and Friends and Paco Peria. With the flautist Clive Conway he has
toured and broadcast extensively in Britain and has played at the Glastonbury
Pop Festival and on the ocean liner the QE II. Gerald Garcia was born in Hong
Kong and now lives in Oxford, his base for a busy career as recitalist,
composer and conductor.
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