The ductile sound of the guitar has long been a cause of fascination, captivating audiences, interpreters and composers alike. Already Fernando Sor (1778-1839), in his Methode pour la guitare, had emphasized how, with proper technique, the guitar could faithfully evoke the timbre and modes of attack of many instruments in the orchestra. In the early twentieth century, as the impressionist trends came to be established also in music, the guitar stood out not so much, or not only, because of its innate ability to reproduce the sounds of other instruments, rather for the sombre poetic fullness of its sound, imbued with a sense of mystery and magic: it is no wonder that Federico García Lorca (1898-1936) was inspired to declare in his Poema de la siguiriya gitana, that «La guitarra hace llorar a los sueños».
Regardless of the aesthetic orientations of the individual pieces of the repertoire, it is undeniable that the direct contact between the finger and the string, which is the true reason for the guitar’s richness of tone, establishes a direct relationship between the instrument and the interpreter. […] (Translation by Alessandro Tanzi)
Agustin Barrios: (b San Juan Bautista de las Misiones, 5 May 1885; d San Salvador, 7 Aug 1944). Paraguayan guitarist and composer. In his youth in Asunción he studied the guitar with Gustavo Sosa Escalada and composition with Nicolo Pellegrini, and practised his compositional skills by transcribing works by Bach, Beethoven and Chopin. In 1910 he left Paraguay intending to give a week of concerts in Argentina, but such was his success that he was away for 14 years, playing in Brazil, Chile and Uruguay (where he studied with Antonio Giménez Manjón). He found a patron in the diplomat Tomás Salomini, who arranged recitals for him in Mexico and Cuba. His first real successes date from about 1919, when he played for the President of Brazil. In 1930 he adopted the pseudonym Mangoré (after a legendary Guaraní chieftain), and in 1934 he went to Europe with Salomini, living in Berlin and visiting Belgium and Spain. In 1936 he returned to Latin America, and taught at the conservatory in San Salvador from 1939 to 1944. Critics compared Barrios Mangoré with Segovia as an interpreter and with Paganini as a virtuoso. He was the first Latin-American guitarist of stature to be heard in Europe, and made numerous recordings between 1913 and 1929. Although he lacked a formal musical education, Barrios Mangoré wrote guitar music of high quality that combined many of the characteristics of his predecessors, Sor and Tárrega. He reputedly composed about 300 works for solo guitar, of which over a third have been located either in manuscripts or from his recordings. These include La catedral, Danza paraguaya, Un sueño en la floresta, Preludio, op.5 no.1, Julia Florida, Una limosna por el amor de dios, Mazurka apasionata, Vals, op.8 nos.3 and 4, and Variations on a Theme of Tárrega, all of which have become part of the repertory.
Domenico Scarlatti (b Naples, 26 Oct 1685; d Madrid, 23 July 1757). Composer and harpsichordist, sixth child of (1) Alessandro Scarlatti and Antonia Anzaloni. He never used his first Christian name (which could have led to confusion with his nephew Giuseppe): his name is always given in Italy as Domenico (or the familiar Mimo) Scarlatti, and in Portugal and Spain as Domingo Escarlate (Escarlati or Escarlatti).
Federico Biscione seeks in his music to interact with the audience advancing the state-of-the-art: his musical language moves within a free-tonal environment which appeals to contemporaneity and tradition equally. He was born in Tivoli in 1965 and obtained degrees in piano, composition and orchestral conducting at the Conservatory A. Casella in L'Aquila. From 2001 to 2005 he composed music for Turin’s Regio Teatro and Parco della Musica in Rome. He collaborated with the orchestra I Pomeriggi Musicali in Milan (Dalla soffitta for orchestra, Mozart Today 2005 National Competition First Prizes) and Milano Classica Chamber Orchestra. He has also transcribed and adapted several pieces by other composers, including a new version for seven instruments of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, performed at the Turin’s Regio Teatro in 2006, and a version for string orchestra of Dvorák’s Four Popular Songs op. 73 for the I Pomeriggi Musicali in 2005. At the same time, he wrote and performed at Turin’s Regio Teatro the ballet in 1 act Il Pifferaio Magico, published in 2018 by Da Vinci Classics. Between 2005 and 2007, Biscione lived in Leipzig, where he composed various pieces: Verkündigung for soprano and trio performed in the Thomaskirche and Mozart. Eine Biographie, Windmühlen, both commissioned by the Robert Schumann-Philharmonie (Chemnitz) for the celebrations of the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth. The German public radio station Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk (MDR) dedicated an hour-long program to his music, including interviews and highlights from his works. In the same period, he attended the class of composition at the Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy Hochschulein for one year. At the end of 2009, Biscione moved to Milan and became teacher of composition at the Conservatory Niccolò Piccinni in Bari.
Francis Kleynjans: born in Paris on 15 April 1951, Francis Kleynjans began his classical guitar studies at the age of 14. He worked with Alexandre Lagoya at the Conservatoire National de Musique de Paris, and later with the renowned Venezuelan guitarist Alirio Diaz. He received a scholarship from the Yehudi Menuhin Fondation. Not only a talented performer but also a well-known composer, he was granted First Prize at the 22nd Paris Guitar Competition for his piece entitled A l’aube du dernier jour. His output includes more than 700 pieces and they are played everywhere in the world. In Europe, Francis Kleynjans takes part in prestigious festivals broadcast on radio and TV. His three concertos are played in Canada and in the USA. Francis Kleynjans’ discography includes 12 CDs with more than 300 of his works.
Francis Poulenc: (b Paris, 7 Jan 1899; d Paris, 30 Jan 1963). French composer and pianist. During the first half of his career the simplicity and directness of his writing led many critics away from thinking of him as a serious composer. Gradually, since World War II, it has become clear that the absence from his music of linguistic complexity in no way argues a corresponding absence of feeling or technique; and that while, in the field of French religious music, he disputes supremacy with Messiaen, in that of the mélodie he is the most distinguished composer since the death of Fauré.
Francisco Tarrega: (b Villarreal, Castellón, 21 Nov 1852; d Barcelona, 15 Dec 1909). Spanish guitarist and composer. When he began the study of the classical guitar with Julian Arcas in 1862, the instrument was at a low ebb throughout Europe, overshadowed by the piano. Tárrega’s father insisted that the boy study the piano as well, and he became accomplished on both instruments at an early age. In 1869 he had the good fortune to acquire an unusually loud and resonant guitar designed and constructed by Antonio Torres, the famous luthier, then living in Seville. With this superior instrument Tárrega was to prepare the way for the rebirth of the guitar in the 20th century. He entered the Madrid Conservatory in 1874, and received a thorough grounding in theory, harmony and the piano. By 1877 he was earning his living as a music teacher and concert guitarist; he gave recitals in Paris and London in 1880, and was hailed as ‘the Sarasate of the guitar’. He married María Josepha Rizo in 1881 and they settled in Barcelona in 1885. Within a few years he displayed a repertory that included, besides his own compositions in the smaller forms, piano works by Mendelssohn, Gottschalk, Thalberg and others arranged for the guitar. The Spanish ‘nationalist’ composers, Albéniz and Granados, were his friends; many of their works were first transcribed for the guitar by him. He also adapted movements from Beethoven’s piano sonatas (including the Largo of op.7, the Adagio and Allegretto from the ‘Moonlight’ Sonata) and half a dozen preludes of Chopin. During the years 1885–1903, Tárrega gave concerts throughout Spain. He toured Italy in 1903. At the height of his fame, in 1906, he suffered a paralysis of the right side from which he never fully recovered. He did, however, appear publicly, and to loud applause, in 1909. Tárrega’s influence on the 20th century, through pupils who included Emilio Pujol, Maria Rita Brondi and Josefina Robledo, has been tremendous. His compositions for solo guitar, not all of which have been published, comprise approximately 78 original works and 120 transcriptions; he also made 21 transcriptions for two guitars. Among his most famous solos are Recuerdos de la Alhambra (a tremolo study), Capricho árabe and Danza mora.
Caspar Joseph Mertz (baptised Casparus Josephus Mertz) was born in Pressburg, now Bratislava (Slovakia), then the capital of the Kingdom of Hungary and part of the Austrian Empire. He was active in Vienna (c.1840–1856), which had been home to various prominent figures of the guitar, including Anton Diabelli, Mauro Giuliani, Wenceslaus Matiegka and Simon Molitor. A virtuoso, he established a solid reputation as a performer. He toured Moravia, Poland, and Russia, and gave performances in Berlin and Dresden. In 1846 Mertz nearly died of an overdose of strychnine that had been prescribed to him as a treatment for neuralgia. Over the following year he was nursed back to health in the presence his wife, the concert pianist Josephine Plantin whom he married in 1842. Some speculation may lead one to the conclusion that listening to his wife performing the romantic piano pieces of the day during his period of recovery may have had an influence on the sound and unusual right hand technique he adopted for the Bardenklänge (Bardic Sounds) op. 13 (1847). Mertz’s guitar music, unlike that of most of his contemporaries, followed the pianistic models of Chopin, Mendelssohn, Schubert and Schumann, rather than the classical models of Mozart and Haydn (as did Sor and Aguado), or the bel canto style of Rossini (as did Giuliani). Though the date of his birth indicates that that was the logical influence, since Sor was born in 1778, Aguado in 1784 and Giuliani in 1781 while Mertz in 1806, a difference of about 25 years. The Bardenklänge are probably Mertz’s most important contribution to the guitar repertoire – a series of character pieces in the mould of Schumann.
Johann Sebastian Bach: (b Eisenach, 21 March 1685, d Leipzig; 28 July 1750). Composer and organist. The most important member of the family, his genius combined outstanding performing musicianship with supreme creative powers in which forceful and original inventiveness, technical mastery and intellectual control are perfectly balanced. While it was in the former capacity, as a keyboard virtuoso, that in his lifetime he acquired an almost legendary fame, it is the latter virtues and accomplishments, as a composer, that by the end of the 18th century earned him a unique historical position. His musical language was distinctive and extraordinarily varied, drawing together and surmounting the techniques, the styles and the general achievements of his own and earlier generations and leading on to new perspectives which later ages have received and understood in a great variety of ways. The first authentic posthumous account of his life, with a summary catalogue of his works, was put together by his son Carl Philipp Emanuel and his pupil J.F. Agricola soon after his death and certainly before March 1751 (published as Nekrolog, 1754). J.N. Forkel planned a detailed Bach biography in the early 1770s and carefully collected first-hand information on Bach, chiefly from his two eldest sons; the book appeared in 1802, by when the Bach Revival had begun and various projected collected editions of Bach’s works were underway; it continues to serve, together with the 1754 obituary and the other 18th-century documents, as the foundation of Bach biography.
Julia Malischnig: born in Villach, Austria, Julia Malischnig studied classical guitar at the University of Music in Vienna by the renowned artist Konrad Ragossnig and rounded up her studies by masters like Oscar Ghiglia at the Music‐Academy in Basel, Frank Bungarten, Pepe Romero, Alexander Swete and others. Graduating with distinction, a success recognized by the Austrian Ministry of Education and the Arts with an award in 2003, and she has been given other awards since. In 2005 she recorded her first CD Joy in Havana. Regular concert appearances throughout Europe and in countries such as South Africa, Cuba, Argentina, and Korea ensued, and new strands were added to her playing, expanding her artistic focus. As a second instrument her voice and vocal performance became ever more important and her first compositions emerged. Another important element has been her work with other renowned musicians as well as with artists from other genres, from theatre, literature and contemporary dance. Since 2015 Julia Malischnig is responsible as both artist and master mind of the guitar highlight “Una Noche de Guitarra” at the highly acknowledged and renowned ” Tiroler Festspiele Erl”. Being head of the compartment for plucked strings in the upper Austrian music school system, she is also the conductor of Las Guitarras – the guitar orchestra of the upper Austrian music schools. Julia Malischnig’s brand new album Kiss of Life – inspired by her concert tours through Southafrica, Georgia, Aserbaidschan, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Kiew but also by her Carinthian roots – shows Julia’s most touching and engaging compositions. Her poetic pieces, covering a wide range between classic, wolrdmusic and jazzharmonic, are full of spirit and virtuousity. In a very fascinating way, Kiss of Life combines emotion with virtuousity. The album shows a musician who does not swim with the tide but goes her willful and unique way without hesitating to cross borders. Julia Malischnig is a guitarist with voice ‐ an artist following her very own way. “My music is based on the magic of the moment, emotional impressions, encounters and dreams. I am just following my intuition …” (Julia Malischnig)
Chiaramonte, Giuseppe (Guitarist), stands out in the international classical guitar scene for his exceptionally warm and full bodied tone, a quality which along with the emotional intensity and expressive quality of his interpretations, has lead the organizers of his recent European concerts to regard him as the “Poet of the Guitar”. Born in 1985, he made his concert debut at the age of 15. Since that time he has conducted an intense concert schedule which has brought him to perform in prestigious venues across Austria (Vienna), Germany (Berlin, Schweinfurt, Vaihingen an der Enz), Switzerland (Zürich), Spain (Madrid, León), Italy (Milan, Venice, Bologna, and many other cities), consistently achieving a remarkably favourable response both from the public and from the critics. He performed the inedited “Bosco Sacro”, for solo guitar and orchestra, by Federico Biscione in 2015 in Milan (Chiesa dell’Assunta in Vigentino). He has also performed various concerts live on radio programmes dedicated to him. He has been the winner of National and International Guitar Competitions and a growing number of contemporary composers have dedicated solo guitar music to him, which he has premiered during his concerts: “Sarabanda e Giga” (F. Biscione), “Variazioni notturne” (P. Coggiola), “Bacalabra” (F.D. Stumpo). He completed his classical guitar studies with Angelo Capistrano, and further perfected his skills with Pavel Steidl, Giovanni Puddu, Emanuele Segre, Zoran Dukic, Stefano Grondona, Andrea Dieci and, at the International Accademy of Music in Milan, with Aldo Minella, who wrote about him: “Giuseppe Chiaramonte is a refined musician, who combines his innate and highly developed musical sensibility with an impeccable and in many respects innovative technique, in particular with regards to tone production. It is truly a pleasure to listen to him.”