Ferdinando Carulli: Chamber Music for Two Guitars


  • Artist(s): Alfonso Baschiera, Marco Nicolé
  • Composer(s): Ferdinando Carulli
  • EAN Code: 7.46160521534
  • Edition: Da Vinci Classics
  • Format: 1 Cd
  • Genre: Chamber
  • Instrumentation: Guitar Duo
  • Period: Classical
SKU: C00209 Category:

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The eighteenth-century Neapolitan school was an extremely lively artistic workshop: one which could extend its influence well beyond the historical moment of its greatest development, reaching the following centuries. Many composers, through the years, earned it its fame. To cite but a few, the names of Nicola Porpora (1686-1766), of his nearly-contemporaneous fellow musician Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757) and of the later Domenico Cimarosa (1749-1801) should be listed. Within this framework a high number of composers received their education so that they would eventually disseminate the so-called opera buffa in the best European theatres. Even though opera dominates their output, they did not neglect instrumental music, developing harmonic and formal structures independent of the foreign models. This was the musical and cultural climate in which Ferdinando Carulli (Naples 1770 – Paris 1841) had his first musical experiences, even though he cannot be numbered strictly as a member of that school: indeed, he was a self-taught musician who had studied privately the cello before focusing on the guitar. As had happened to other Italian musicians, he found abroad the fortune and success which Italy would probably not have granted him. In his early thirties, and also due to family reasons (he had married a French woman), he moved to Paris at the beginning of the nineteenth century; he would spend his remaining years there. In the French capital, Carulli established his fame as a professional musician. On the one hand, he had an intense activity as a teacher for the most exclusive and prestigious families; on the other, he was interested in guitar making: in 1826, in cooperation with luthier Pierre René Lacot, he patented a twelve-stringed guitar, with unfretted basses, for which he would also write a treatise. Thanks to the publisher Carli, he also managed to realize a wide-ranging editorial project, printing a very high number of works. His frenzied compositional activity is demonstrated by a catalogue with some 366 known works and almost a hundred compositions which are hitherto unavailable. His public affirmation came with the success, still continuing to present-day, of his op. 27: a rational and innovative method which, responding to the taste of the educated French audience, became a valid instrument for the education of every young guitarist. If the numbers of his output are huge, the aesthetic and musical level is however not always homogeneous. Frequently, the solo pieces of larger dimensions suffer from a certain verbosity, with a redundancy of predictable technical formulae. By contrast, in some of his chamber music works such as op. 9 (Three Grand Trios for flute, violin and guitar), op. 103 (Trois trios concertants pour violon, alto et guitare), in the pieces for guitar and fortepiano, or in the numerous pedagogical works, many little gems are found, in which the exploration of the strictly technical aspects of his instrument leaves room for a felicitous musical invention. The structure of the programme presented here describes three fundamental aspects of the composer’s style and artistic output. A first tribute is paid to Carulli the pedagogue, with nine lessons excerpted from the Vingt-quatre Leçons à deux guitars. They are made of a generally monodic line to be played by the pupil and of an accompaniment realized by the teacher and prevailingly characterized by thin arpeggios or agile scales; however, they are not always easy to play. They can be interpreted almost as a workshop in which the composer experiments with tunes which will be reused in other works. They are miniatures of an absolute elegance, without repetitive arpeggios or stereotyped chordal formulae: album leaves with a true poetry (Leçon n. 3), short examples of an efficacious polyphonic writing (Leçon n. 14), but also refined minuets (Leçon n. 10). A second aspect is devoted to the brilliant style, well-represented by the Nocturne op. 118, where, poignantly, elegant nineteenth-century virtuoso passages are found, culminating in a “Rossinian” finale worthy of the most important concert halls. Finally, the most developed section is dedicated to his classical style, with the refined op. 62. This is made of three splendid Sonatas, formed each by four movements: this genre is rather unusual in the repertoire for the guitar. Here Carulli, as had already happened in the Three Sonatas op. 21, seems to aim at leaving his signature, organizing the Sonata’s keys by fourths (D major, G major and C major). Even though not all of the pieces reach the same qualitative level, in this collection the composer achieves the acme of his musical thought, and occasionally demonstrates a highly original language. Thus, along with pages with a refined irony, such as the Rondeau of Sonata no. 3, there are the three enchanting Minutes with Trios, where the atmosphere of Haydn’s chamber music can be breathed. Then, we find the broad but intense cantabile of the Largo (Sonata no. 2), whereby the momentum of the two initial intervals of fourth is followed by a tune imbued with pathos – which belies the idea of Carulli as a “frivolous” composer. In the first movements, moreover, Carulli develops a Sonata form sometimes lacking the reprise of the first theme: this aspect can be understood within the framework of the various sonata forms in use at the time. The use of a light, never thick texture, made of inspired melodic lines sustained by monodic basses or thirds in the accompaniment contribute to making op. 62 a true unicum in its genre, able to stand comparison with more celebrated works in the repertoire for two guitars of the early nineteenth century.
Album Notes by Alfonso Baschiera e Alberto Gerard
(Translation by Chiara Bertoglio)


Alfonso Baschiera is an honours graduate of the Venice Conservatory. He studied with Angelo Amato and was a post-graduate student of Ruggero Chiesa. Baschiera has both commissioned and performed numerous solo works and chamber-ensemble pieces by Luca Mosca and Alessandro Solbiati. In 1990, Baschiera edited the educational collection “La chitarra oggi”, featuring works by Bettinelli, Fellegara, Malipiero, Mosca, Morricone, Solbiati and Zanettovich. Baschiera’s chamber music recordings include “Colori e Danze del Novecento”, “Cantares Populares” and the collected guitar works of the Hungarian composer Ferenk Farcas – all critically acclaimed in Italy, the UK, France, Spain and Hungary. Baschiera is the author of “The Easy Guitar” as well as editions of “Niccolò Paganini: 43 Ghiribizzi” and “Ferdinando Carulli: Guitar Works”. In 2015 the Dutch record label Brilliant Classics released a CD of Sauguet’s complete works for guitar. The recording was positively reviewed throughout Europe and was mentioned as “Best Disc of the Month” in the prestigious Italian music magazines “Amadeus” and “Musica”. Da Vinci Editions has recently released a recording of Ferdinando Carulli’s works for two guitars featuring Baschiera and Marco Nicolè.

Marco Nicolé: After graduating with honors cum laude under the supervision of A.Amato, he perfected with R.Chiesa. He performs as a soloist, chamber music and orchestra; his recordings have met excellent reviews and have been attached to national magazines (Fronimo, Amadeus).


Ferdinando Carulli (b Naples, 9 Feb 1770; d Paris, 14 Feb 1841). Italian guitarist and composer. He was born into a well-to-do family and was taught the rudiments of music by his cello teacher, a priest, though around the age of 16 his interest shifted decisively to the guitar. The leading Italian guitarist of his time, he moved to Paris some time after the birth of his son (1801) with his French-born wife Marie-Joséphine Boyer. The first indication of his presence outside Italy dates from around 1803, when Gombart of Augsburg brought out a handful of publications; other works were published in Paris and Vienna in 1806–7, principally by Leduc, Pleyel and Artaria, and in Hamburg (Böhme) and Milan (Monzino). From 1809 Carulli made Paris his permanent home, where he was at the centre of the phenomenon known as guitaromanie, establishing himself as a virtuoso, composer and teacher. According to contemporary music critics, Carulli was the first to reveal to Paris audiences what the guitar was capable of in terms of expressivity, timbre, harmony and virtuosity, and he brought about a change in taste and performing practice. Within a few years he also published dozens of the manuscripts which he had brought with him from Italy. The work which signalled his success more than any other was the Méthode complette op.27 (1810 or 1811), which was soon being reprinted repeatedly both in France and abroad, and for decades was the basic teaching work for entire generations of guitarists. For years he had practically no serious rival, except for his two fellow Italians Matteo Carcassi and Francesco Molino. His privileged position lasted at least until 1823, when Fernando Sor arrived in Paris. In 1826 he built and patented, together with the Paris instrument-maker René Lacote, an unusual, ten-string guitar, which he called a decacordo (popularized by Narciso Yepes in the 20th century), for which he also wrote a Méthode complete, op.293 (1826).

A pioneer in the evolution of the six-string guitar and its use as a solo instrument, Carulli was one of the founders of the guitar’s modern expressive vocabulary. His guitar music displays elements borrowed from contemporary piano and violin writing, with virtuoso passages as unusual as they were technically demanding: rapid arpeggio figurations, rising phrases and scales in single or double lines along the entire length of the fingerboard, rapid passages in 3rds, 6ths and octaves (both broken and together), and the use of left-hand legato technique, glissandos and harmonics. Another important current in Carulli’s work as a composer was his programme music on pastoral, mythological, ‘meteorological’, military and political themes, e.g. the Sonata sentimentale (Napoleone il Grande) (1807), La Paix, pièce historique op.85 (1814), the divertimento La girafe à Paris op.306 (1827) and La prise d’Alger op.327 (1830). But compared with the work of other contemporary guitarist-composers the defining character of Carulli’s output is the strong showing of chamber music, which accounts for more than half of his total of 366 opus numbers. It is written for a variety of instrumental combinations – duos, trios and even quartets – which evoke a clientele very different from the stereotype of the lone amateur. Various songs and arias for soprano and guitar date from this Italian period. Carulli was tireless as a teacher: in addition to his Méthode op.27 and its successors, his most successful educational collections include L’utile et l’agréable op.114 (?1817), which contains the famous 24 Preludes, the Morceaux faciles op.120 (1817 or 1818) and the series entitled Un peu de tout op.276 (1825). Carulli also published a treatise on transcription, called L’harmonie appliquée à la guitare (1825), a unique document in guitar literature.

Gustavo Carulli (b Livorno, 15 June 1801; d Boulogne-sur-mer, 27 Oct 1876), the son of Ferdinando, studied singing and composition with Paër and Isouard. Like his father, he was a guitarist and teacher and published a guitar Méthode, op.4 (Paris, 1825). He taught singing at the Paris Conservatoire, and wrote a Méthode de chant (Paris, 1838) dedicated to his friend Gilbert Duprez. He also made transcriptions and composed vocal and instrumental chamber works and a farsa on a libretto by Gaetano Rossi, I tre mariti (Milan, 1825), which was performed at La Scala on 18 March 1825. After pursuing a career as an opera composer in France with no success, he lived in London from 1845 for a few years and then retired to Boulogne, where he continued to teach singing and harmony until his death. One of his pupils was the organist Alexandre Guilmant.

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