The title of this album, The Guitar and Fortepiano in the Age of Beethoven, frames the historical context of the musical itinerary it offers, but also helps us to notice a potential problem in our perspective. For us, the city of Vienna between eighteenth and nineteenth century was, musically speaking, the Vienna of Beethoven. Yet, if Beethoven’s music is now the most known and played of that time, it is by no means representative of the general musical culture of the era, at least in quantitative terms. Beethoven was the most distinguished, not the typical son of his days. His music was probably the greatest, but probably not the most common of those years. He pushed the boundaries of music to their extremes, opened up new ways for the Romantic generation, explored timbre, form, technique and tonality in a unique and extremely personal fashion, and left the mark of his style and personality over the following decades. However, precisely by virtue of its novel quality and extremely demanding technical and musical requirements, most of his music was beyond the reach of the average amateur, at a time when the European bourgeoisie was falling in love with domestic music-making.
The first decades of the nineteenth century saw the emergence of a new concept of culture as Bildung: education was not confined anymore to the achievement of practical skills, but developed into a framework and goal of life, in which the very “idea of humanity” found its place. Culture became a status symbol, and Germany identified itself as the “culture nation”: the piano was the musical embodiment of that vision.
The guitar, slightly less ubiquitous, was yet another instrument appreciated by music lovers; however, the pairing of these two instruments was rather uncommon, and the repertoire for this duo is limited in scope, though frequently delightful to hear: today’s audiences listen to these works with same pleasure felt by their first performers. Indeed, many of today’s musicians, among whom the piano and the guitar are still the favourite instruments, might find the rediscovery of this repertoire very appealing; however, the replacement of the fortepiano with the modern piano heavily detracts from works such as those recorded here.
Both the piano and the guitar, in fact, have evolved in the last two centuries, but the changes in the piano’s structure were much more radical than in that of the guitar. Thus, both in terms of volume and of sound, these works are best represented in their original version. As concerns dynamics, the range of the fortepiano is much narrower, but also much subtler than that of the modern piano; it possesses delicate gradations of sonority, which are perfectly suited to those of the guitar. Moreover, the fortepiano has less resonance and a reduced possibility to sustain the sound, with respect to its modern counterpart: here too, the balance between the fortepiano’s articulation and the guitar’s plucked strings is ideal.
These qualities are fully exploited by the musicians whose works are recorded here. One of the pioneers of the piano and guitar duo is undoubtedly the Italian Mauro Giuliani, whose career reached its zenith in Vienna, where he arrived around 1806. He was a gifted guitarist, and he contributed to conquering pride of place for his instrument on the concert scene. Beethoven himself was among his admirers, and Giuliani befriended many younger musicians who are today in the Gotha of classical music (from Paganini to Rossini, to name but two). The subtlety of his playing was such that his obituary stated: “His guitar, in his hands, was turned into a harp which could soften men’s hearts”.
In 1813, Giuliani co-wrote with pianist Ignaz Moscheles a Grand Duo Concertant: since both were virtuosi of their instrument, the result is a dazzling work, full of brio and brilliancy, which has been acclaimed as “the longest and most virtuosic work for this medium during the nineteenth century”. On a later occasion, about five years later, Giuliani enlisted once more the cooperation of a colleague, the pianist-composer Hummel, with whom he coauthored a Grand Pot-Pourri National, another shining display of virtuosity (we will meet Hummel again in the last piece of this album). Here Giuliani adopted the Terz Guitar, an instrument tuned a third higher than normal guitars, and which therefore possesses a clearer tone, particularly well-suited for being combined with the piano.
After these two experiences, Giuliani ventured into the composition of an entirely original duo for guitar and piano, the Two Rondos op. 68. The guitar is frequently treated as a singing instrument, with rich melodies and a refined understanding of its full potential: Giuliani intersperses these two works with surprises and charming ideas (such as syncopated rhythms and interesting modulations). The second Rondo is particularly touching with its expressive and almost operatic features.
Several of these traits are found also in Anton Diabelli’s Grande Sonate Brillante pour le Pianoforte et Guitar op. 102. Diabelli was born on the same year as Giuliani, and had an eclectic personality: he had started in life as a choirboy who had intended to join the clergy, but later became one of the shrewdest entrepreneurs in the field of music publishing (the one who, for example, secured the rights for most of Franz Schubert’s works). A gifted musician himself, he had earned his living also by teaching both the piano and the guitar, and wrote numerous works, mostly destined for either of these instruments. The Grande Sonate Brillante is probably one of his highest achievements in the compositional field: it is a masterful and large-scale work, powerfully built and demonstrating the musician’s skillful handling of the two instruments. The opening Adagio is a pathetic and emotional movement, whose beginning is clearly reminiscent of Haydn’s Seven Last Words. It also alludes, more generally, to the solemn style of the French Overtures, setting the scene for the following drama: the composer’s genius is shown, for example, in the daring use of the guitar for trombone-like musical gestures (unexpectedly, the result is entirely convincing). In the Allegro, a felicitous melodic vein seems to overflow, while in the following Scherzo and Trio rhythm acquires a pivotal role. Here Diabelli experiments with interesting timbral combinations and courageous modulations, but, above all, it is the rhythmic drive that rules this movement. The Lied¬-like style of the Adagio non tanto constantly employs the guitar as a melodic instrument; the two instruments intertwine beautifully and interact closely. The concluding Pastorale has a rustic quality, evoked by the allusions to bagpipes and drones; brilliant and virtuoso passages punctuate this Finale, which spectacularly closes the work.
While this piece fully demonstrates Diabelli’s talent as a composer, undoubtedly his name is best remembered as the inspirer of Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations for the piano, one of the summits of piano literature. While these date from his last years, the Adagio for mandolin and harpsichord is a relatively youthful work, composed by Beethoven during a stay in Prague, where he met a fascinating Countess, Josephine von Clary-Aldringen, who was a skilled mandolin player. This Adagio is not the only musical homage paid by Beethoven to “La belle J.”, as the composer wrote on the autograph dedication of this piece; however, this work possesses a particularly emotional tone and rarefied beauty, whose lyrical character is unforgettable.
If Diabelli had inspired Beethoven, Giuliani inspired Carl Maria von Weber, heralded as the father of the German opera, and the creator of enchanted musical landscapes. In 1816, Weber had heard Giuliani playing during a concert organized by Moscheles (with whom, it will be recalled, Giuliani cooperated closely); a few days later, in September, Weber himself conducted a performance of one of Giuliani’s Guitar Concertos in Prague. The soirée was enormously successful, and Weber noted in his journal that Giuliani “abundantly satisfied all of our expectations, and exceeded them largely”. In his Divertimento assai facile op. 38, Weber (who was an amateur guitarist himself) employs the guitar as a solo instrument; indeed, the limited technical demands of the piece never cause it to become trivial or elementary.
The closing work, Hummel’s op. 53, is a typical fruit of its time: a “potpourri”, a creative pastiche where themes excerpted from the operatic favourites are ingeniously elaborated and combined. Today’s listeners will probably recognize the quotations from the operas by Mozart, who had been Hummel’s teacher and held him in high consideration; Hummel had been a child prodigy, whose status as the most gifted Viennese musician was deeply undermined by Beethoven’s arrival. Notwithstanding their rivalry, a sincere friendship and reciprocal admiration blossomed between the two musicians in the following years: yet another example of how creative, enriching and stimulating was the cultural scene of “the Age of Beethoven”.
The musical friendship embodied so aptly by the works recorded here, where two complementary, diverse and integrated instruments express similar musical thoughts through different musical gestures, is also a symbol for a musical society where geniuses and great artists worked side by side, and where love for music contributed to the artistic education of an entire city.
Liner Notes by Chiara Bertoglio
Enrico Maria Polimanti enjoys playing a wide range of solo and chamber music repertoire spanning from Lodovico Giustini to Caroline Shaw.
Enrico Maria Polimanti has performed throughout Europe and in the United States and he has worked with Adrian McDonnel, James Lockhart, Massimo Pradella, Flavio Emilio Scogna, Trio Ludwig, Monesis Ensemble, Francesco Dillon, Andrea Noferini, Giulio Plotino, Claudio Cavalletti, Luciano Giuliani, Mark Kroll, Costantino Mastroprimiano, Marcello Nardis, Lydia Easley, Anna Clementi, Ermanno Veglianti, Sandro Cappelletto.
He has recorded to critical acclaim (Fanfare, Fono Forum, American Record Guide, Klavier.de, Musica) for the labels Naxos, Brilliant Classics and Tactus and his performances have been recorded and broadcasted in Italy (Radio Tre, Radio Vaticana, Radio Classica, Radio Cemat), France, England, USA, Switzerland, Germany, New Zealand, Romania and Austria. Enrico is the first italian musician to have released a recording on Exit Live.
Deeply engaged in the diffusion of musical culture, Enrico Maria Polimanti is regularly invited to give lecture-recitals in public schools, universities and music institutions like “Sapienza” University of Rome, University of Torino, University of Macerata, Italian Federation of Music Therapy, Conservatory of Santa Cecilia and Conservatory Pergolesi of Fermo. He also took part to Law and the Humanities, a cycle of international conferences organized at University of “Roma Tre”, with lesson-concerts on music and law interpretation.
He has edited and translated into Italian Charles Rosen’s Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas and John Daverio’s Robert Schumann and translated Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger’s Chopin vu par ses élèves.
Enrico Maria Polimanti studied at the Conservatory of Santa Cecilia with Carla Giudici and, as a recipient of the Foundation Scholarship, at the Royal College of Music in London under the tutelage of Yonty Solomon. He also participated in masterclasses given by András Schiff, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Irwin Gage, Trio di Trieste, Andrea Coen, Steven Isserlis, Riccardo Brengola, Giuseppe Scotese, Kenneth Gilbert.
Angelo Colone: Interpreter of the most significant repertoire for guitar of the main Italian contemporary composers, soloist appreciated by the major international musical institutions, Angelo Colone graduated and perfected with Alirio and Senio Diaz, Bruno Battisti D’Amario, Angelo Gilardino.
Angelo has been Invited to play for cultural institutions such as the National Academy of Santa Cecilia, the House of Goethe in Rome, the Chigiana Academy of Siena, the Trame Sonore Festival in Mantua. Angelo has been performing since the end of the 1980s in Italian theatres and chambers in Rome, including the Teatro Eliseo, the Teatro Olimpico, the Auditorium Parco della Musica, the Regio theater of Parma, the Metropolitan Theater of Catania, the Magliabechiano Salone in the Uffizi and the Luca Giordano Room in Palazzo Medici Riccardi, Florence.
Abroad he was invited by international cultural institutions in China, Holland, Switzerland, Malta, Belgium.
He has frequently participated in radio broadcasts e.g. RAI, RAI Inter-national and Vatican Radio stations. Also he has participated as a guest in literary events on the occasion of the presentation of new literary works by authors such as Sergio Zavoli and Luis Sepùlveda.
During his concert career Angelo took part in original research projects recorded in significant CDs, including: "Sonetterra" with the Sestetto Moderno (1997), "Sintesi" (2002), "Angelo Angelo" (2004) containing the first absolute recording of the concert for guitar and orchestra Leçons de ténèbres, by Angelo Gilardino, "Goffredo Petrassi - Works for guitar" (2007), a monograph on Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco for the series "The Masters of the guitar" for the magazine Seicorde ( 2008) realised on the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of the disappearance of the Florentine composer and followed by a cycle of direct broadcasts curated by himself for Vatican Radio, ”Angelo Colone Plays Angelo Gilardino" (2012) and the most recent for Brilliant Classics “Federico Moreno Torroba, complete works for solo guitar”.
Anton Diabelli (b Mattsee, nr Salzburg, 5 Sept 1781; d Vienna, 7 April 1858). Austrian publisher and composer. He studied music in Michaelbeuren and Salzburg and in 1800 entered Raitenhaslach Abbey. After the dissolution of the Bavarian monasteries (1803) he went to Vienna, where he taught the piano and guitar, and soon became known for his arrangements and compositions (six masses by him had been published in Augsburg in 1799); many of his works were published in Vienna. His job as a proofreader for S.A. Steiner & Co. (as detailed in Beethoven’s letters) gave him an increasing interest in music publishing, and in the Wiener Zeitung (15 September 1817) he advertised a subscription for some of his sacred compositions, which were to appear from his newly established publishing house in the Schultergasse. On 29 September he moved to no.351 Am Hof. The first notice of publications (Wiener Zeitung, 11 February 1818) announced the appearance of further works, which were soon being distributed by most music retailers; the works in the subscription series were available on 27 April 1818.
Wishing to acquire business premises of his own, Diabelli made contact with Pietro Cappi, who had been practising as a licensed art dealer in the Spiegelgasse since 30 July 1816. After Cappi’s shop passed to Daniel Sprenger on 8 August 1818, the firm Cappi & Diabelli was established in the Kohlmarkt, and advertised in the Wiener Zeitung (10 December 1818). From its beginning the new firm was remarkably active in publishing current operatic and dance music; anthologies such as Philomele für die Guitarre and Philomele für das Pianoforte and Euterpe for piano (solo and duet) were popular for decades. Similar series appeared for other types of music; the popular Neueste Sammlung komischer Theatergesänge reached 429 volumes. A series of light, pleasant melodies for guitar was given the title Apollo am Damentoilette.
As an experienced musician, Diabelli knew how to respond to the musical fashions of the time; and the connection he formed with Schubert established the company’s widespread fame. Financed on commission, he published Schubert’s first printed works; on 2 April 1821 Erlkönig appeared as op.1 and on 30 April Gretchen am Spinnrade as op.2. Opp.1–7 and 12–14 later became the property of Cappi & Diabelli. Diabelli’s long-established acquaintance with Beethoven, however, led to only a few publications: the reissues Beethoven wanted of the sonatas opp.109–11, and a few first editions of the smaller works. The firm also published the Vaterländischer Künstlerverein, including Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations op.120.
(b Eutin, ?19 Nov 1786; d London, 5 June 1826). Composer, conductor, pianist and critic, son of Franz Anton Weber. A prototypical 19th-century musician-critic, he sought through his works, words and efforts as performer and conductor to promote art and shape emerging middle-class audiences to its appreciation. His contributions to song, choral music and piano music were highly esteemed by his contemporaries, his opera overtures influenced the development of the concert overture and symphonic poem, and his explorations of novel timbres and orchestrations enriched the palette of musical sonorities. With the overwhelming success of his opera Der Freischütz in 1821 he became the leading exponent of German opera in the 1820s and an international celebrity. A seminal figure of the 19th century, he influenced composers as diverse as Marschner, Mendelssohn, Wagner, Meyerbeer, Berlioz and Liszt.
Johann Nepomuk Hummel: (b Pressburg [now Bratislava], 14 Nov 1778; d Weimar, 17 Oct 1837). Austrian pianist, composer, teacher and conductor. He was considered in his time to be one of Europe’s greatest composers and perhaps its greatest pianist.
Ludwig van Beethoven: (b Bonn, bap. 17 Dec 1770; d Vienna, 26 March 1827). German composer. His early achievements, as composer and performer, show him to be extending the Viennese Classical tradition that he had inherited from Mozart and Haydn. As personal affliction – deafness, and the inability to enter into happy personal relationships – loomed larger, he began to compose in an increasingly individual musical style, and at the end of his life he wrote his most sublime and profound works. From his success at combining tradition and exploration and personal expression, he came to be regarded as the dominant musical figure of the 19th century, and scarcely any significant composer since his time has escaped his influence or failed to acknowledge it. For the respect his works have commanded of musicians, and the popularity they have enjoyed among wider audiences, he is probably the most admired composer in the history of Western music.