Antonio José Martinez Palacios (1902-1936):
Sonata para Guitarra
Written in 1933, the Sonata para Guitarra by the Castilian composer Antonio José Martinez Palacios remained unpublished for nearly sixty years – and precisely until 1990. In that year, and also due to the intermediation of Spanish guitarists Gabriel Estarellas and Juan José Sáenz Gallego, Angelo Gilardino was entrusted by the composer’s heirs with the task of publishing the work. In the years he spent in Madrid, between 1920 and 1925, Antonio José got acquainted with artists such as Federico García Lorca and Salvador Dalí. He also met the critic Josep Subirà i Puig (1882-1980), who would facilitate the national recognition of his oeuvre. Subirà would also be the only one who, after the composer’s death, would continue to mention the young master from Burgos in his writings. Even though the Catalan musicologist and impresario kept remembering him, however, a blanket of forgetfulness quickly covered the Sonata; today that blanket has been lifted, and the Sonata is now famous and is acknowledged as the most important guitar Sonata written in the Segovian era. The work is structured in four movements. The first is in the classical sonata-form, with two themes and three sections, and it is an evident proof of its composer’s mastery and skill: at no point he indulged in a slavish dependence on popular music, and he established, with his own style, new cultural and aesthetic reference standards. A delicate Minueto and a Pavana triste follow; both are like small watercolours, centered on the intimate features of the guitar’s sound; they seem to increase their already substantial specific weight if they are understood as belonging to a single thought, whereby the restrained enjoyment of the Minueto is followed by the Pavana’s reflective and plaintive pace. The fourth and last movement is a rondeau recalling the first movement’s themes, which are juxtaposed to a thrilling dance-rhythm in which the guitar technique called rasgueado is employed.
Juan Manén (1883 – 1971):
Fantasìa-Sonata Op. A=22
Joan Manén (1883-1971) was a great violinist whose career started at a very early age. His personal concept of musical composition is very far from his own activity as a concert musician: his works are worlds apart from the virtuoso or spectacular style, and they focus on a more intimate and engrossed speculation. Before he met Segovia, Manén got acquainted with the world of the guitar thanks to Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909). Alas, that was not a comforting meeting, as established beyond any reasonable doubt by the following witness: “The third and last time I saw Tárrega was in Barcelona, at his place, when I was probably twenty-two years old. A music publishing company had asked me to write a project for a pedagogical work for the guitar, in cooperation with him. We spoke at length; however, we spoke of everything but of the project which had led me there. His words revealed disillusionment, defeat, bitterness and an unconquerable dejection. He made me listen to an arrangement of a Schumann piece and he detailed a new way of attaching the strings – one which would require even more study, sacrifice, and new efforts. Delusions among so many disillusionments… Idealism among so many cruel realities… After that, I saw him no more”.
Later, the composer met with Andrés Segovia, a decidedly more charismatic figure; in 1930, the Schott publishing house printed his only guitar work, the Fantasia-Sonata. It is a unique example, within the repertoire for the six strings, of a “cyclic Sonata”: this form has its greatest expression in the B-minor Piano Sonata by Franz Liszt (1811-1886). The deep and thoughtful initial chorale – in which all the material which will be elaborated in the entire work is exposed – is followed by three sections. The first begins abruptly with an Allegro, with a rhythmic and marked spirit, where the instrument’s compass is exploited almost in its entirety the elaboration of thematic elements, even of the minimal ones, proceeds seamlessly in a constructions which never forsakes compositional elegance and skill. The second section, an Adagio cantabile, quasi in modo di un recitativo, ma in tempo is a moment of meditation and reflection. The composer proposes once more the main thematic elements, but they are metamorphosed: the warm melodic line is sustained by chords. The third and last section is a fiery Fandango whose melodic suggestions – which are similar to a vocalise – alternate with rhythmically marked sections with plaqué and rasgueados. The piece finishes with a repetition of the initial section, with a variation in the coda, and fading out to a pianissimo. The recording in this CD is based on the handwritten autograph score found by Angelo Gilardino and published in the series “The Andrés Segovia Archive” by the Bérben editions. The differences between this version and that by Segovia are numerous and concern both the melodic and the structural aspects.
Manuel Castillo (1930 – 2005):
Sonata para Guitarra
It is undoubtedly a great fortune that the pianist and composer Manuel Castillo Navarro-Aguilera (1930-2005) from Seville has been attracted by the guitar at some point of his career. His rich catalogue includes choral works, organ pieces, symphonic music and piano works; along with them, there are guitar works such as the Sonata para Guitarra (1986), the Concierto para Guitarra y Orquesta (1990), the Quinteto con guitarra (1975), Glosas del Círculo Mágico (1976), Kasidas del Alcázar (1984, for two guitars), Tres preludios (1987) and the album-leaf Vientecillo de primavera (1996). Castillo’s Sonata is dedicated to his grandfather, Pedro Aguilera: thanks to the scanty biographical information we have about him, we know that he was a guitar player whose concerts met with the critique’s approval, and who was tenderly loved by his grandson. The Sonata refrains from walking on the paths of folk music, and even from alluding to them. The chromatic treatment of the themes (both in the exposition and in the development) and a clear formal structure play beautifully with the guitar’s idiomatic features; in particular, the instrument’s timbral peculiarities are intensely highlighted. It is also easy to draw an ideal simile between this Sonata and the more famous Sonata para Piano (1972): even though the two works were written at different moments, they show evident similarities as concerns the compositional structure and the treatment of the thematic material. The first movement is preceded by an introduction exposing the thematic elements which will be developed in the three movements, as well as the intervallic rules structuring their interplay. The compositional frame is basically the classical one (exposition, development and re-exposition); and even though it does not refer to any specific key or tonal structure, it gravitates entirely around the note E. The indication cantando, added by the composer at the beginning of the second movement, and the juxtaposition of diverse figurations within the individual cells allow the performer to define clearly, from the very beginning, the interpretive principles of this brief and intense page. The thick chordal writing, purposefully designed for highlighting its almost Bartokian rhythmical features, alternates with very short monodic passages, which are mostly built on chromatic intervals. The performer’s arduous task is to balance the control of the sound with that of the timbre, without letting either prevail. The third movement abandons almost entirely the use of all of the instrument’s six strings, letting a liquid monody flow in a Presto whose regularity is occasionally interrupted by accents or changes in the rhythmic figuration. It is easy, in cases such as this, to fall in the trap of the false need for a merely technical virtuosity.
Angelo Gilardino (1941):
Sonata del Guadalquivir
Written in 2004, the Sonata del Guadalquivir is dedicated to the Italian guitarist Gianvito Pulzone. Together with the composer’s first two Sonatas, written in the Eighties, and with his Sonata Mediterranea (written in the same year as the Sonata del Guadalquivir), it represents a true manifesto. Gilardino employs a very evocative style for his first four works in the Sonata form, i.e. in a form which had suffered from an unavoidable historic obsolescence. The guitar, however, being the evocative instrument par excellence, easily manages to recall ghosts from the past, even in this form, though in modes which are obviously markedly different from those which decreed its unrivaled primacy in the classical and romantic period. The Guadalquivir is a Spanish river which crosses Granada, Cordoba and Seville. In the Roman era, it was called Baetis; its magnificence inspired the composition of several musical works, among which Manuel de Falla’s Fantasia Betica. The work is made of three movements: Memorias, Leyendas, Lejanias. The red thread which connects them is represented by topoi of the Roman, Christian, Jewish and Islamic civilizations which, in the course of the centuries, stratified over each other in Andalucia. The operation realized by the composer is not descriptive at all.
Album notes by Cristiano Porqueddu
Translation by Chiara Bertoglio
Andrea Corongiu (1991), a musician devoted to the original repertoire for solo guitar, obtained a degree from the Conservatorio Superior de Música “Rafael Orozco” in Cordoba, Spain, where he studied in the class of Javier Riba. He attended the KASK Conservatorium of Ghent, in Belgium with Johann Fostier, participating in the Erasmus Program. Andrea attended lectures, master classes and courses of interpretation with Luigi Attademo, Angelo Gilardino and Rafael Aguirre, as well as composition courses with Francisco Quintero, Luis Moreno and others. As a soloist, he performed both original repertoire and monographic literature for solo guitar in several festivals and halls, in Italy, Spain and Belgium. He currently cooperates with the specialistic journal Quinte Parallele. The Rafael Orozco Conservatoire of Cordoba gave him a mention of honor for his distinguished results in the course Interpretation of classical guitar with a repertoire of twentieth-century composers, where he obtained the highest score. He won several competitions, among which the Mediterraneo International Competition (first prize), the Lucia Iurleo International Competition (first prize), the 25th Giulio Rospigliosi International Competition (second prize), Mirabello in musica competition (first prize) and Città di Barletta 29th Young Musicians International Competition (first prize).
Angelo Gilardino was born in 1941 in Vercelli (North-West of Italy) where he later studied (guitar, violoncello and composition) in the local music schools. His concert career, which lasted from 1958 to 1981, had a great influence on the development of the guitar as an instrument in the ‘limelight’ in the twentieth century. Indeed, he gave premiere performances of hundreds of new compositions dedicated to him by composers from all over the world. In 1967 Edizioni Musicali Bèrben appointed him to supervise what has become the most important collection of music for guitar of the twentieth century and which bears his name.
In 1981 Gilardino retired from concert work to devote his time to composition, teaching and musicological research.
Since 1982 he has published an extensive collection of his own compositions: Studi di virtuosità e di trascendenza, which John W. Duarte hailed as “milestones in the new repertoire of the classical guitar”, Sonatas, Variations, four concertos for solo guitar and guitar groups, seventeen concertos with orchestra and fifteen works of chamber music. His works are frequently performed and recorded.
His contribution to teaching began with the Liceo Musicale “G.B. Viotti” in Vercelli where he taught from 1965 to 1981 followed by an appointment as professor at the “Antonio Vivaldi” Conservatory in Alessandria from 1981 to 2004. From 1984 to 2003 he held post-graduate courses at the “Lorenzo Perosi” Accademia Superiore Internazionale di Musica in Biella.
He has also held 200 courses, seminars and master classes in various European countries at the invitation of universities, academies, conservatories, music associations and festivals.
As a musicologist he has made a considerable contribution to the guitar repertoire of the first half of the twentieth century with the discovery and publication of important works which were either unknown or considered as lost, such as Ottorino Respighi’s Variazioni per chitarra, the Sonata para guitarra by Antonio José and a large corpus of guitar works written for Andrés Segovia by Spanish, French and British composers during the Twenties and the Thirties. Since 2002 he has edited the publication of these works (32 volumes) in The Andrés Segovia Archive, published by Edizioni Musicali Bèrben. He also reconstructed the concerto for guitar and orchestra by the Russian composer Boris Asafiev, published by Editions Orphée, and he orchestrated the Hommage à Manuel de Falla by the Polish-French composer Alexandre Tansman, left unfinished by its author. The rescue of these works and their subsequent publication has given new substance to the historical repertoire of the twentieth century. Besides, he created new settings for Guitar and Orchestra of famous items of the repertoire for solo guitar.
In 1997 he was appointed as artistic director of the “Andrés Segovia” Foundation of Linares, Spain, a charge which he left at the end of 2005.
In 1998 he was awarded the “Marengo Music” prize of the Conservatory of Alessandria. The Italian Guitar Congress awarded him the prize “Golden Guitar” three times (1997, 1998, 2000), respectively for his compositions, his teaching and his musicological research. In 2009, he was an inductee of the “Artistic Achievement Award – Hall of Fame” of the Guitar Foundation of America. In 2011 the Guitar Festival of Córdoba (Spain) entitled to him the “Jornadas de Estudio” with dedicating concerts and lectures to his works. In 2018, he received career awards from Rome Expo Guitars and from Conservatorio di Musica “Luigi Cherubini” in Florence.
He has written and published biographies of Andrés Segovia and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, and two books dealing with the principles of guitar technique. He has published a handbook for the benefit of those composers wishing to write for the guitar but who are not familiar with the intricacies of this instrument. He has also published a handbook of guitar history, a volume entitled La chitarra and a considerable number of essays and articles.
Antonio José Martinez Palacios (b Burgos, 12 Dec 1902; d Estépar, 8 Oct 1936). Spanish composer and conductor. He studied with the organists Julián García Blanco and José María Beobide Goiburu in Burgos. In 1920 the regional government of Burgos awarded him a scholarship to further his studies at the Madrid Conservatory for four years. He supplemented his income by conducting zarzuelas at the Teatro de la Latina and the Teatro Apolo, and by music copying. He worked as a music teacher at a Jesuit school in Miraflores de El Palo, Málaga (1925–9), and returned to Burgos in 1929 to conduct the revived choral society Orfeón Burgalés.
The final period of his life was dominated by his commitment to Burgos and its people. He was awarded the National Music Prize for his collections of folksongs from Burgos (1932) and was invited to present a paper on this subject at the Third Congress of the IMS (Barcelona, 1936). In the early days of the Civil War he was arrested by Falangists and imprisoned in Burgos. On 8 October 1936 he was driven to the nearby town of Estépar and shot, accused of being a Republican spy and Jewish sympathizer, and of inciting the people to revolt.
Antonio José's love of the folksong of his native region penetrated his entire output, from the series of Danzas burgalesas and the Sonata castellana for piano (which formed the basis for his Sinfonía castellana) to later choral and vocal works such as the Cinco coros castellanos and the Cuatro canciones populares burgalesas, and even his unfinished opera El mozo de mulas. Many of his works are based on literal quotations of popular melodies taken from Federico Olmeda's Cancionero de Burgos (1902) or on folksongs collected by the composer himself. Ravel is said to have referred to him as potentially the greatest Spanish composer of the 20th century.
Joan Manén (b Barcelona, 14 March 1883; d Barcelona, 26 June 1971). Catalan violinist and composer. Precociously gifted, he learnt solfège and piano with his father from the age of three, and at seven played Chopin concertos in public. Meanwhile, at five, he had begun to study the violin with Clemente Ibargueren; he rapidly attained astonishing technical mastery and at the age of nine made his début in Latin America. He made his European début as a violinist in 1898, when he was hailed as a virtuoso of the first rank; he later made five world tours.
Almost entirely self-taught as a composer, Manén had begun to write at 13, and in 1900 he conducted a concert of his own works in Barcelona. His first opera, Juana de Nápoles (produced when he was 19), was well received at the Barcelona Liceu, and he immediately followed this with Acté, for which (as for all his later operas) he wrote his own libretto. He then spent time in Germany, where he acquired an admiration for Wagner and Richard Strauss, which can be observed in his orchestral writing. Strauss’s influence on his harmony can also be particularly heard in his songs. He composed prolifically in many genres, but later destroyed, disowned or radically revised everything he had composed before 1907. This led him, for example, almost completely to rewrite Acté – increasing the complexity of the texture – as Neró i Acté.
Manén made numerous arrangements, both instrumental and vocal, of Spanish and Catalan folk melodies, and traditional dance styles (e.g. the sardana) appear in his works. His music is tonal in idiom and predominantly lyrical, and there are often thematic connections between movements. His writings include many articles in Spanish and French periodicals and a treatise on the violin. In 1927 he became a member of the Spanish Academy of Arts; among many other awards and honours, there has been a plan to name a new concert hall in Barcelona after him.
Manuel Castillo: Spanish composer and pianist. He began his training in piano and composition in Seville with Antonio Pantión and Almandoz. He later moved to Madrid, where he continued studying piano with Antonio Moreno and composition with del Campo. In Paris he was a pupil of Levy and Boulanger. He was appointed in 1956 to a piano professorship at the Seville Conservatory (principal, 1964–78). Among the awards he has won is the national music prize (1959, 1990).
Considered by some critics as the perpetuator of a conservative style faithful to the tradition of Andalusian folk music, his aesthetic position results, rather, from an independent, demanding inner spirit; he is, therefore, as far from a traditional conservatism as he is from the extreme avant garde. Within the logical evolution of his language, he has maintained some constants regarding form, texture and harmonic sense. A pianist of recognised prestige, he has performed the premières of his own works. His piano works especially reflect the Andalusian spirit; also notable are the works for organ, his four symphonies, religious music, concertos and numerous harmonizations of folksongs, hymns, motets and villancicos.