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ClassicsOnline Home » Guitar Recital: Ceku, Petrit – BACH, J.S. / RODRIGO, J. / ASENCIO, V. / REGONDI, G.
This recital by one of the leading guitarists of the younger generation, the Croatian Petrit Ceku, begins with an ambitious transcription of one of J.S. Bach’s most demanding solo works. Studies from the nineteenth century master, Giulio Regondi, Rodrigo’s In Praise of the Guitar, an extended work of great charm and momentum in three intense movements, and Vicente Asencios’s Suite Valencia, reveal the expressive and technical heights to which the classical guitar nowadays aspires.
By Giv Cornfield
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics
This young Croatian guitarist is an award winning artist with a sweet tone and a great technique and expressive palette. What makes this recording even more enjoyable is the excellent and ambitious adaptation of one of Bach's more demanding solo violin works, and the introduction of virtually unknown repertoire by composers Asencio and Regondi. In this music and even more so in Rodrigo's 'In Praise of the Guitar', Ceku asserts his place among the elite guitarists of the world. The recording (in Ontario, Canada) by Norbert Kraft is a class act in itself!
By David Denton
This is one of those exceedingly rare occasions where I have enjoyed a transcription of music by Bach, the young Kosovo-born guitarist Petrit Ceku a very special newcomer to the international scene.
Twenty-three years old and with a long catalogue of competition successes, Ceku bridges that gap between the lute and the guitar in his account of the second sonata from the Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin. Drying out the sound by removing vibrato, he arrives at that clean-cut lute quality while retaining the intrinsic guitar sound. To this he adds a nice sense of period style, and if the transcription misses the violinist’s required virtuosity, the result is entirely pleasing. We move back to original guitar compositions with two Etudes by the eminent 19th century guitarist, Giulio Regondi, and the Suite Valenciana by a composer little represented on disc, Vincente Asencio. As a sample try the Suite’s second movement, Canconeta (track 8), Ceku’s sense of repose revealing a performer of uncommon musical intellect. When technical adroitness is required in the outer movements of Rodrigo’s Elogio de la guitarra (In Praise of the Guitar), Ceku provides it in abundance. He further pleases me by his avoidance of noisy left hand shifts that I find so annoying and an affectation in too many guitarists. His choice of works is not one that will catch the impulse buyer, but it richly deserves success. The engineering comes from Naxos’s Canadian team who are unsurpassed in this genre.
Petrit Ceku: Guitar Recital
J.S. Bach (1685-1750): Sonata II, BWV 1003,for unaccompanied violin (arr. W. Despalj)
Giulio Regondi (1822-1872): Études Nos. 6 and 4
Vicente Asencio (1908-1979): Suite Valenciana
Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999): Elogio de la Guitarra
The expressive resources of the classical guitar have been considerably extended in the past few decades, whether by transcription, the discovery of works by formerly unknown or neglected composers, or the writing of new pieces. This programme includes all these ingredients, providing not only an ambitious transcription of one of J.S. Bach’s most demanding solo works, but also studies from the nineteenth-century master, Giulio Regondi, and two more recent pieces by Spanish composers, both from the province of Valencia. Concert guitarists of the previous generations yearned for extended works to reveal the full capabilities of the instrument, and this dream has at last been realised in developments over the past fifty years. These four compositions indeed reveal the heights to which the solo guitar nowadays aspires, combining technical mastery with the most elevated musical intensity.
Aspects of J.S. Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin have attracted guitarists since the nineteenth century when Francisco Tárrega made arrangements of the Fugue (Sonata I, BWV 1001) and Bourrée (Partita I, BWV 1002). Andrés Segovia’s transcription of the mighty Chaconne (Partita II, BWV 1004), received worldwide attention following its première in Paris in 1935, but it was not until the 1950s and 1960s that entire suites were adapted for guitar and performed in recitals.
Sonata II, BWV 1003, in A minor, begins with the customary Grave movement which serves as a prelude to the fugue which follows. The piece is characterised by a slow stately rhythm over which rapid scale passages are played on the violin with slurred bow strokes. This kind of articulation calls for different treatment on plucked strings, the example of the baroque lute providing useful precedents. The fugue itself is one of the longest Bach ever composed, 289 bars in duration, offering a unique demonstration of the form’s many possibilities. The logic and drive of the part-writing is varied by means of contrasting episodes which exploit intricate arpeggio patterns and vivid scalic explorations, all idiomatic to the guitar’s contrapuntal nature. The third movement of the suite, Andante, has been described by the violinist, Jaap Schröder, as ‘one of the most remarkable movements in the baroque literature for unaccompanied violin’ and he compares this aria to a duet between a singer and the lute. A straightforward ‘walking’ bass supports the beautiful melody, once again ideally suited to a plucked instrument. The suite concludes with a virtuosic Allegro full of baroque echo techniques and exuberant demisemiquavers which add an element of the unpredictable to the rapid interplay of harmonic progression and linear velocity.
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 Lyons, 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. Some years later the American musicologist, Matanya Ophee, was given a copy of Regondi’s Ten Études in Moscow by Natalia Ivanova- Kramskaia, daughter of the renowned guitarist, Alexander Ivanov-Kramskoi. The ten studies were duly published by Editions Orphée in 1995. Étude No. 6 in D minor (to be played Andante in nine/eight rhythm), is an exercise in articulating a melodic line on the treble strings accompanied by chords. A middle section in B flat major presents a contrasting theme set against a fast moving semiquaver accompaniment. Étude No. 4 in E major, an Adagio, employs the same technical device, melody and accompaniment, but with a somewhat different expressive effect, the chordal aspect being richer and more complex. An extended middle section (in C major), demonstrates further the poignancy and inventiveness of Regondi in elegant interactions between treble and bass parts.
Vicente Asencio, born in the city of Valencia in south-east Spain, studied in Barcelona with the great pianist Frank Marshall, before moving to Paris, where his mentors were Turina and Halffter. Asencio composed numerous orchestral works and ballets but was particularly attracted to guitar music, his pieces being performed by a variety of leading recitalists including Segovia and Yepes. He also became a much admired teacher, founding the Castellón de la Plana Conservatory and teaching for many years at the Valencia Conservatory.
In 1934 Asencio participated in a movement by Valencian composers known as the Grupo de los Jóvenes (Youth Group) to produce a manifesto of artistic ideals: We aspire to the realisation of a vigorous and rich Valencian musical art in the existence of a fertile and pluralist Valencian School which brings psychological subtlety and the emotion of our people and landscape to universal music. Composed in 1971 and dedicated to Angelo Gilardino, Suite Valenciana exemplifies the composer’s life-long advocacy of Valencian music. Preludi, covering the entire range of the guitar’s fingerboard, presents a folk-like melody over a flowing accompaniment, the theme supported by powerful chords punctuating the arpeggiated bass patterns. Cançoneta, marked Tranquillo, is in the style of a barcarole, its gentle theme floating above the rhythm in embellished quasi-improvisatory freedom. A contrasting middle section offers moments of introspection before the main motif is revisited and the little song concludes with a brief wistful coda. Dansa evokes images of traditional Valencian dance but the movement also allows ample scope for instrumental display with rapid scale passages and intricate filigree. The theme returns in a concise recapitulation and the suite ends in a flurry of harp-like arpeggios.
Joaquín Rodrigo’s contribution to the guitar is now appreciated as one of the central pillars of the modern concert repertoire. Though his compositions for the solo instrument comprise no more than some 25 titles, the significance of his output is greater than the sum of its parts because of his extraordinary insight into the nature of the guitar, developed over decades. Moreover, his seminal masterpiece, the Concierto de Aranjuez, has proved to be one of the most popular classical works created in the twentieth century.
Elogio de la Guitarra (In Praise of the Guitar) (1971), is an extended work of great charm and momentum in three intense movements. Rodrigo delighted in writing introductions and his comments on this composition are of particular interest: My intention was to demand a precise and infallible technique of the guitarist, as well as a profound sensitivity to the framework and thematics of the music. I have composed my ‘challenge’ to the guitarist, starting rather comfortably with the ‘sonata’ form. The first movement, Allegro, is made up of two parts: the first is a chordal progression embellished by scale triplets. This leads to a melodic theme which combines at the end of the movement with chordal writing.
The second movement, Andantino, has a more serene character and evokes an ancient Castilian cathedral. The firm resonances of the harmonic chords underline the two themes of a distant Gregorian chant. The first theme of the chant ends in a calm series of chords that lead to the second theme in arpeggios. These chords help reach the essence of the theme. The second movement is based on the harmonic register of the guitar.
The third movement, Allegro, begins with lively triplet figures and is developed in extended passages of scales, such as those previously heard in the first movement. The second part (indicated più allegro) is characterized by rapid patterns requiring great virtuosity and leading to a conclusion of sharp contrasts, with notes executed by the left hand alone that are repeated by the performer as he strikes the guitar’s wood with his right hand.
Rodrigo’s wife, Victoria Kamhi explained that in this work Rodrigo ‘managed to encompass the brilliant possibilities of classical guitar music, as well as the diabolical requirements made of its player, due to the characteristics of this instrument’. Elogio de la guitarra remains one of the most technically demanding works in the contemporary repertoire and a thrilling experience for the listener.
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