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ClassicsOnline Home » Guitar Recital: Larousse, Florian - DOWLAND, J. / REGONDI, G. / JOSE, A. / ANGELO, N. d' / COSTE, N.
Winner of the 2009 Guitar Foundation of America’s International Concert Artist Competition, French guitarist Florian Larousse presents a wide-ranging selection of music encompassing transcriptions of Renaissance lute works by John Dowland, compositions by 19th-century masters Giulio Regondi and Napoléon Coste, Antonio
José’s post-romantic Sonata (1933) and a vividly progressive 20th-century composition, Nuccio D’Angelo’s Due Canzoni Lidie. Praised for the subtlety and clarity of his playing, the Paris Conservatory student is set for an international career.
By Kenneth Keaton
American Record Guide
Florian Larousse: Guitar Recital
John Dowland (1563–1626): A Fancy • Lachrimae Pavan • Fantasia
Giulio Regondi (1822–1872): Introduction et Caprice
Antonio José (1902–1936): Sonata (1933)
Nuccio D’Angelo (b. 1955): Due Canzoni Lidie
Napoléon Coste (1806–1883): Le Départ – Le Retour, Fantaisie Dramatique, Op. 31
The sheer range of the concert guitar’s expressiveness is well represented in this selection, extending from transcriptions of lute works and compositions of nineteenthcentury masters to the post-romanticism of the 1930s and a vividly progressive twentieth-century composition. All this stylistic variety is synthesized within the resources of the guitar’s six strings. Certainly few other instruments could absorb so many epochs with such authenticity within a single programme. But the long traditions of the guitar involve a complex blend of many nationalities and sensibilities, and the repertoire’s diversity remains a constant delight.
John Dowland was both composer and virtuoso lutenist, creating solo lute works, consort writing, and a uniquely inventive output of songs. Dowland travelled extensively in Europe, becoming royal lutenist for Christian IV of Denmark in 1598. In 1612 he was appointed as one of the King’s Lutes at the court of James I.
A Fancy is one of seven fantasies printed in The Varietie of Lute Lessons (1610) and No.6 in the Poulton Collection. Following the opening melody, a second voice enters at the interval of a fifth below the cantus or opening theme. The piece then slowly develops into a formidable instrumental challenge with rapid scale passages, complex contrapuntal effects, rhythmic intricacies and a taxing coda where all the resources of plucked strings are called upon.
Lachrimae Pavan (Tears Pavan) is also known both as lute song, Flow my teares, and as an arrangement for viols and lutes in Lachrimae or Seven Teares. After publication towards the end of the sixteenth century, this piece became famous throughout the continent and was taken up by leading composers such as Byrd, Morley, Farnaby, Sweelinck and Besard, who added their own ‘divisions’ or variations to the theme. The eminent lutenist, Nigel North, has described this as ‘the most popular pavan of its age, a model for all pavans’, and ‘a central piece in the Elizabethan repertoire’.
Fantasia (No. 71 in the Diana Poulton Collection), is based on a descending chromatic scale, repeated 27 times throughout the work. It begins with a contrapuntal section where each voice enters in strict imitation, followed by two episodes with two-part counterpoint, the chromatic theme being reiterated six times in the upper voice. During the last three of these repetitions the rhythm changes to 6/8 before returning to the 4/4 time signature with the melody now in the bass. A final statement comes in threepart counterpoint, the theme moving from voice to voice, with its last manifestation on the treble strings.
Giulio Regondi, an acclaimed infant prodigy of the guitar, matured into an eminent artist and renowned composer. Born in Lyon, France, Regondi made his debut 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 occurrence, his father absconded with his son’s earnings, leaving the boy dependent on the good will of strangers. 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 in St Mary’s Catholic Cemetery, Kensal, London.
Regondi’s achievements were lost to posterity for decades until his compositions were re-discovered, edited by Simon Wynberg and published by Chanterelle in 1981. His works combine virtuosity with touching intensity, pleasing to performers and audiences alike.
Introduction et Caprice, Op. 23, opens with an intricate Adagio in E major, full of stately themes, powerful chords, elaborate embellishment, and miniature cadenzalike bars, as well as rapid scale passages and fast arpeggio sequences. This is contrasted with a scintillating Allegretto scherzando. After the initial thematic statement, various flights of fancy are offered in brilliant episodes, providing a dazzling display of pyrotechnics.
Antonio José was praised by Maurice Ravel as a composer who would ‘become the greatest Spanish musician of our century’. But his arrest and execution by a Falangist firing squad near his home city of Burgos in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War cast his music into a subsequent obscurity which has only recently been remedied. A monograph about his life and work has been published by the municipality of Burgos.
Considerable interest was aroused by the discovery in the late 1980s of the Sonata, which Antonio José had finished on 23 August 1933. It was later established that one movement was given a first performance in Burgos in November 1934 by Regino Sáinz de la Maza.
It can be observed with historical hindsight that José’s Sonata is a remarkably original and inventive work, written in a period of very few precedents for guitar in this genre. By 1933 Moreno Torroba, Ponce and Turina had indeed presented various pieces in sonata form to Andrés Segovia but it is by no means certain that José was acquainted with these compositions.
The first movement contrasts the lively lyricism of the opening statements with meditative slow chords and answering arpeggio patterns. This leads to a passage characterized by urgent pedal notes sustaining a short burst of three-part chords before the return of the opening section and a modified recapitulation. In these final pages, the previous musical substance is taken through various modulations before concluding with a resounding chord of E major.
The Minueto retains the 3/4 metre of its traditional predecessors of the eighteenth century, but otherwise assumes an entirely twentieth-century vocabulary. Though the essence of its opening theme is straightforward, its harmonic basis is complex, leading to a rainbow of modulations through diverse keys and labyrinthine sequences. Similarly Pavana triste, written in 3/2 time, brings a new language to an ancient dance form. At first dotted rhythms suggest a certain lightness of atmosphere but the predominant mood of the movement turns out to be melancholic rather than lyrical. Once again, intricate harmonic progressions lift this dance to new expressive heights reminiscent of Rodrigo’s use of traditional musical structures to create fresh and meaningful vehicles for modern music.
Final begins with strummed chords characteristic of the Spanish guitar. Their function is not to provide Andalusian associations but to establish part of a compelling framework for statements of the first movement presented in modified rondo form. This structure supplies a powerful means of presenting familiar material from new perspectives while achieving a satisfyingly unifying effect between the first and last movements. After much harmonic divagation, the work ends decisively on the chord of E major, one of the most convenient and appropriate keys in keeping with the guitar’s usual tuning.
Nuccio D’Angelo studied composition and guitar at the Florence Conservatory, where he graduated with honours in 1984. He performs internationally as soloist and chamber ensemble player and has given masterclasses in the United States and Europe.
The composer has commented that a primary element in Due Canzoni Lidie (Two Lydian Songs) (1984), is the Lydian scale on E flat, though diverse melodic aspects are also developed. Within the work definite influences of jazz and Indian music can be discerned, as well as D’Angelo’s early passion for improvising on the electric guitar. Unusual and striking timbres are produced by a special scordatura, the guitar’s second and sixth strings being tuned down a semitone to B flat and E flat respectively.
The first song begins with three short sections, espressivo, risoluto, and declamato, leading to the main body of the piece, marked Tranquillo, where subtle melodic nuances appear above or below a two note ostinato accompaniment. The music grows increasingly richer in texture until the return of Tempo I and a reprise of the Tranquillo mood, culminating in ethereal harmonics.
The second song, Agitato, opens with harp-like arpeggios which give way to intermittent rapid slurred scale passages, evoking flamenco techniques. The impression is of an infinitely delicate improvisation, in which the composer’s imagination is given free rein.
The French guitarist/composer, Napoléon Coste, studied in Paris with the great Spanish master, Fernando Sor (1778–1839), being greatly influenced by him. Coste began to publish compositions from 1840 onwards, writing also for the seven-string guitar. His work is characterized by an ambitious expressive range and a profoundly dramatic romanticism.
His Opus 31 actually comprises two pieces, Le Départ (The Departure) and Le Retour (The Return), and was inspired by the events of 29 December 1855, when the French marched into Paris after their siege of Sebastopol.
Le Départ opens with an Andante largo, beginning with grand chords and leading to a melody played over an arpeggiated accompaniment. This progresses to three distinct sections, Allegro assai, an episode of robust octaves with a repetition of the melody and accompaniment style heard previously, Andantino, a short reflective interlude, and a final Agitato presenting an energetic coda.
Le Retour (subtitled ‘Triumphal March’), includes on the score the date mentioned above. Though the guitar is often compared to a miniature orchestra, here it is more akin to a military band. After the martial opening, the texture becomes somewhat ornate, leading to a final extended section which uses some familiar guitaristic devices of the era such as bass melodies accompanied by treble chords, and themes in the treble sustained by powerful chords. A strident coda brings the work to a rousing finale.
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