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ClassicsOnline Home » Guitar Recital: Park, Kyuhee - SCARLATTI, D. / DIABELLI, A. / BERKELEY, L. / MALATS, J. / BARRIOS MANGORÉ, A. / LÓPEZ LÓPEZ, J.M.
The brilliant young guitarist Kyuhee Park, winner of the 2010 Agustín Barrios and 2012 Alhambra International Guitar competitions, has crafted a recital that focuses on a sequence of sonatas and a quartet of evocative character pieces. The three Scarlatti sonatas exude dance, lyricism and virtuosity respectively, whilst Anton Diabelli’s engaging Sonata in A, heard in Julian Bream’s arrangement, is one of the relatively few extended guitar works of the Classical period. Lennox Berkeley’s Sonatina is both elegant and complex. After Malats’ popular encore piece Serenata Española and Barrios’ sublime Un Sueño en la Floresta and Chopin-inspired Vals, the recital concludes with Lopez’s richly varied Impresiones y paisajes, inspired by Lorca’s first book.
Kyuhee Park: Guitar Recital
Domenico Scarlatti • Anton Diabelli • Lennox Berkeley • Joaquín Malats • Agustín Barrios Mangoré • José Manuel López López
The wide range of music performed on the guitar encompasses many genres, styles and nationalities, especially if transcriptions from other instrumental music are taken into consideration. In this recital the heart of the programme features the formal structure of the sonata, in the binary form used by Scarlatti, and the later extended works familiar from Haydn and Mozart to the present day. Many Scarlatti sonatas have been arranged for the guitar over recent years by many leading performers, but original guitar sonatas are fewer in number and therefore of unique value in the repertoire. Thus the sonatas of Diabelli and Berkeley played here provide fascinating points of comparison and contrast.
More common in guitar compositions of the early twentieth century onwards are the impressionistic pieces, which create a romantic and poetic atmosphere with seductive melodies and sensuous harmonies. Malats and Barrios were masters of this aspect, but also performed in this context is a modern work celebrating the inspirational first book of a great poet and combining progressive technique with profound expressiveness. Such immense paradoxical variety is indeed characteristic of the concert guitar in this century.
Domenico Scarlatti (1685–1757), born in Naples, spent nearly thirty years of his professional life in the Iberian peninsula. In about 1719 he was appointed as mestre to the Portuguese royal chapel of John V. Among his many duties was responsibility for teaching Princess María Barbara. In 1729, when the princess married Prince Ferdinand, son of Philip V of Spain, Scarlatti moved with his pupil to the Spanish court. In 1738 Scarlatti’s fame was enhanced throughout Europe by the publication of thirty of his Essercizi for harpsichord, dedicated to John V, who forthwith appointed him as a Knight of the Order of Santiago. The Essercizi were not merely ‘exercises’ but expressive and brilliant sonatas in binary form that would constitute Scarlatti’s greatest legacy.
Scarlatti continued writing them for the rest of his life, ultimately completing a total of 555 such works, an extraordinary achievement. The great Scarlatti scholar Ralph Kirkpatrick saw him as ‘influenced not only by Spanish music but also by the guitar. Though Scarlatti probably never played the guitar…surely no composer ever fell more deeply under its spell’. It is therefore appropriate that the playing of Scarlatti’s sonatas is increasingly popular among guitarists. During recent years guitar arrangements of over 200 sonatas have been published.
The Scarlatti sonatas with the early Kirkpatrick numbers, K 1–K 30, were originally known under the title of Essercizi per gravicembalo, and their publication was supervised, unlike the others, by the composer himself. The harpsichordist Scott Ross described these as ‘the jewels of Scarlatti’s oeuvre’, and ‘certainly the most played’, with ‘a successful blend of classical tradition and Spanish folk song and dance in the collection’.
Sonata in G major, K 14, marked Presto, is a lively dance beginning with dazzling downward arpeggios, continuing with brilliant scale passages, and vivid two part writing with lively bass and treble parts.
K 31–K 42 was a collection of twelve sonatas first published in England by Thomas Roseingrave in a kind of pirate edition. Sonata in D minor, K 32, a great favourite among guitarists, is marked Aria, indicating its stately, lyrical qualities.
Sonata in D major, K 178, a short but virtuosic work, has, after its short opening statement, several distinct textural sections, with energetic semiquavers, a short burst of melodic inventiveness over chords, and rapid arpeggio figurations, all of which are well suited idiomatically to the guitar.
Anton Diabelli (1781–1858), the Austrian publisher and composer, has a unique but enduring place in the history of nineteenth-century music. As a publisher he worked on behalf of Schubert and Beethoven, the latter’s Diabelli Variations, Op 120, affording him a kind of eternal fame, having composed the waltz theme for these variations.
The firm of Cappi & Diabelli was founded in 1818, but the great Italian guitarist Mauro Giuliani described the partners of this firm in a letter to Artaria as ‘these two super-braggarts who pride themselves on having the best music store in Vienna’ and as ‘false businessmen’ who ‘deserve not only my disdain but celestial revenge’. The reason for this anger was that Diabelli and Cappi were notorious for offering composers derisory amounts for their works, thus taking unfair advantage of the poverty of such musicians as Schubert, Giuliani, and others.
As a musician, Diabelli was not only a skilled pianist but also a competent guitarist. In terms of music for the guitar he wrote many works for amateur players, a lucrative market at the time. He also wrote many songs with guitar accompaniment, pieces for guitar and piano, and a number of compositions for guitar duos, trios, etc, his opus numbers extending to some 150 separate items.
Diabelli’s more ambitious works included three large-scale sonatas. Julian Bream’s edition of the Sonata in A presented here makes the following observations: ‘While the guitar writing is extremely good, the musical quality of the sonatas is not uniformly high throughout their four movements, so I have edited and coupled together two specially fine pairs of movements from different sonatas— the first two movements of the F major (transposed to A) and the last two from the A major sonata. This creates a work showing Diabelli at his very best, which will be a welcome addition to the small number of extended guitar works of the classical period.’
Julian Bream once commented that the music of Sir Lennox Berkeley (1903–1989) evoked ‘natural and pleasing things about life’. Berkeley’s immense range spanned vocal and instrumental compositions, chamber and orchestral works (including four symphonies and eight concertos), five operas, an oratorio, film music and many pieces for keyboard. His other guitar works were Quatre Pieces pour la guitare (written probably between 1927 and 1932 for Segovia but only recently discovered by Angelo Gilardino), Songs of the Half Light (1964), Theme and Variations (1970), and the Guitar Concerto (1974).
Sonatina, Op 52, No 1 (1957), dedicated to Julian Bream, is a work that beneath its elegance imposes strenuous technical demands on the performer. The first movement displays the guitar’s cantabile potential while the development’s rapid scales and vibrant climactic strumming momentarily conjure up images of the traditional Spanish guitar. The second movement creates fragments of melody on the lower strings contrasted with expressive chords, its harmonies growing ever more complex but ending poignantly and peacefully. The Rondo has tremendous verve and uses many effects, including tremolo, arpeggios, cantabile, and (in the coda) pedal notes on open strings and a final vigorous strumming.
Joaquín Malats (1872–1912), Catalan composer and virtuoso pianist, studied in Barcelona and Paris, and made many international tours, sometimes appearing in concerts with Granados and Albéniz. His Serenata Espanola, originally for piano in the key of F minor, finds its way naturally to E minor when played on plucked strings and was first transcribed by Francisco Tárrega, and then by Andrés Segovia. It became a perennially popular encore item among recitalists in the early twentieth century. Its ebullient melodies, energetic rhythms and Spanish atmosphere are ideally suited to the guitar, though the work has regrettably remained somewhat neglected by concert pianists.
The vividly romantic compositions of the Paraguayan guitarist Agustín Barrios Mangoré (1885–1944) 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 Sueno 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’. Vals Op 8, No 4, was composed in Paraguay in 1923. Inspired by Chopin’s great waltzes for piano, this is Barrios in a quasi-Viennese mood, using the guitar in his own individual way to create an atmosphere of enchantment and romance.
José Manuel López López, born in Madrid in 1956, studied piano, composition and orchestral conducting there in the Upper Conservatoire of Music. He moved to France in 1986 to further his studies of computer-related composition at Paris University and has taught there since 1992. In 1996, with the aid of a French government scholarship, he lived for a while in Kyoto, an experience which had a profound influence on his ways of thinking about timbre and musical time. José Manuel López López was awarded the Spanish Ministry of Culture’s National Music Prize in 2000. In 2004, his opera La Noche y la Palabra (The Night and the Word), received its first performance. He has taught composition since 2005 at Zaragoza Conservatoire and between 2008 and 2010 was Artistic Director of the National Auditorium of Music, Madrid. In 2011 he became Composer in Residence at the Summer Academy Mozarteum, Salzburg.
Impresiones y paisajes (Impressions and Landscapes) was the title of the first book published by the great Spanish poet, Federico García Lorca. It is a series of essays based on four sight-seeing tours of various regions of Spain organised by Professor Berueta, who taught Lorca on an art history course. The book was published in 1918, when Lorca was nineteen, his father having provided the money for its printing. One of Lorca’s biographers, Leslie Stanton, described the narrator of Impressions and Landscapes as ‘a melodramatic figure, a modern-day Quixote in search of the impossible. Oppressed by society and by the needs of his flesh, enamoured of nature and beauty, haunted by the past, he seeks a spiritual and aesthetic absolute that persists in eluding him’.
The composition by José Manuel López López was written for the XI International Competition of Guitar Alhambra, Valencia, which took place in June 2012. The composer, in an introduction to the published work, commented that ‘the impressions and landscapes evoked in the course of this piece are intended to convey my emotions and sensations through contrasts in tone quality and time’. The opening is intended as a harmonic statement in which the bass string of the guitar, E, ‘deploys its natural harmonics on this and other strings and displays the instrument’s tone quality and range of harmonics’. Also significant throughout is ‘the circulation and manipulation of time’, the use of right and left hands in partnership in physical and musical synthesis being an important aspect. Some passages are treated polyphonically, creating ‘sound landscapes of particular tonal beauty’ by the use of ‘textures which generate colours around a small set of pitches’, a process augmented by the ‘extended resonance of natural harmonics’. The piece concludes ‘with a section in constant glissando consisting of various types of pizzicato’, as well as further use of natural harmonics. The delicate balance between rhythmic precision and temporal flexibility gives the work ‘an outward form and a series of impressions and landscapes in sound that develop between control of structure and freedom of movement’.
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