CHOPIN AND GUITAR by Valerio Celentano
The 19 Polish Songs for voice and piano by Frédéric Chopin (Żelazowa Wola 1810 – Paris 1849) were composed between the 1829 and the 1847, but were published, as op.74, only ten years after the composer’s death by his friend Juliusz Fontana. They did not arise the musicians interest till the middle of the XXth century, when, ﬁnally, great singers began to insert them into their programs. That was possible because of numerous linguistic adaptations (French, German, Italian) prepared by the most important publishers at the end of the XIXth century. The Songs are rare examples of the chamber music compositions and, ﬁrst of all, they are unique as vocal compositions in the Chopin’s art catalogue. They often were created as a sort of impromptu executions based on the lyrics of some major Polish poets of that period; especially in Parisian salons, during the upper-middle class and aristocracy meetings, these compositions used to be written down as hommages on the important ladies (as Delﬁna Potocka or Emilia Elsner, for example) albums. The Chopin’s interest for the vocal chamber music was perfectly in line with the European trend of the so-called Salonmusik for which an ad hoc repertoire was destinated. The German Lied, the French mélodie and the Italian romanza raised the vocal artistic level, seconding the already tested and rich repertoire of transcriptions, arrangements and reductions of opera arias that, for some decades, had been responding to the requests of amateurs and swelling the publishers’ pockets. At that time the musicians, once arrived in a new city either for a short stay or for a long period, used to compose pieces designated for the “good” salons, just to introduce themselves to the high society. It is possible that many compositions we are talking about were born according to this cliché, which does not impoverish them of their deep inspiration and artistic value.
Although of different character among them, the Chopin’s songs were united by the constant of the lyrics choice, written, as mentioned, by the greatest Polish poets of the time, poets that entertained correspondence and relationship with the composer even far from his native soil. From the biography written by the famous pianist and composer Ferenc Liszt we know that during the Polish Great Emigration period Chopin frequented in Paris the poets Stefan Witwicki and Bohdan Zaleski and also a circle composed largely of his compatriots, where he had the opportunity to stay up to date on the political and cultural situation in Poland. He was pleased to view new poems and sometimes decided to music them and, still according to Liszt, the new songs seemed to become popular immediately in his homeland, but many times their author’s name remained unknown. That was the way -wrote the Hungarian pianist- he managed to stay in a sort of “musical correspondence” with his faraway land (Liszt in primis will demonstrate a great consideration for the vocal compositions of his friend making an arrangement for piano solo of six songs from the op.74. They will be published as Six Chants polonais S.480). It is therefore very probable that the composed songs were many more than those recovered by Fontana, but already at that time it was impossible to deﬁne the real authorship of the ones attributed to him. We know for sure that in 1836, on the occasion of the anniversary of the Polish Constitution, Chopin used the verses of Wincenty Pol to compose ten patriotic-inspired songs in Paris, but nowadays we know only one of them: Leci lisćie z drzewa.
In this CD you won’t ﬁnd the mazurka in G major Jakież kwiaty, jakie wianki of which we only have notice of the short melodic voice line with lyrics but without any accompaniment and it is not even included in Op. 74 printed edition.
To fulﬁll the romantic postulate of correspondence des arts and to stay in line with his coeval liederists, Chopin treated the composition of his songs with extreme simplicity, limiting the instrumental parts to very short introductions, interludes and tails, and often drawing, just as he already was doing in his style, from the folklore and rhythms of Polish dances: you can ﬁnd oberek in Życzenie, galop in Wojak, kujawiak in Pierścien, some Ukrainian rythms in Czary, and in Hulanka, Moja pieszczotka, Śliczny Chłopiec and many others the mazurka pulsations. Chopin’s last pieces are conditioned, on the contrary, by his precarious psycho-physical state and by his awareness of not being able to see his country never again. The songs deﬁnitively abandon any sense of lightness and joie de vivre and they ﬁll up with darker, resigned atmospheres built on more reﬁned and essential harmonies. As Fontana said, with Melodya Chopin reached the magniﬁcence of some of his piano solo pieces.
THE GUITAR AND VOICE ARRANGEMENT
The catalog of the classical guitar repertoire, in its large corpus made of transcriptions, arrangements and adaptations from other instruments, has always enjoyed, since the nineteenth century, the presence of Frédéric Chopin’s name. The conﬁdentiality, expressiveness and profound inspiration of some of his less virtuous pages, namely: less linked to keyboard mechanics, had undoubtedly arisen, in the romantic and late-romantic period guitarists, the interest and desire of bringing to the own repertoire those works that seemed to marry so well with the nature of the guitar. It could simply be a transcription work but also an attempt to take possession of that lyrical, direct and innovative language. In fact, the inﬂuence that the Chopin’s way of writing had, for more than a century, on the style of major guitarists/composers such as Regondi, Mertz, Tàrrega and Barrios, is still very clear.
It had been, however, always limited to the solo repertoire only, in both arrangements and original compositions. In fact, there is no edition of Chopin’s Songs adapted for guitar and voice, till today. And that is why, 170 years after the composer’s death, this work is supposed to be the very ﬁrst guitar and voice arrangement of the Complete Songs.
The use of the guitar rather than a piano was a well-established practice at the Chopin’s time. From the last decades of the eighteenth century, the vocal chamber music consisted mostly of a dense repertoire of opera arias reductions, intended for salons of the upper-middle social class and aristocracy and it contemplated the alternative use of guitar, harp or lyre-guitar, even in printed versions. Héctor Berlioz, in keeping with that trend, arranged for guitar and voice 25 French opera romances and Ferdinando Carulli did the same with some Rossini’s arias. Even when the vocal compositions had moved away from the former harmonic and rhythmic stereotypes of the accompaniment in favor of a higher artistic research and an original production, the guitar was still used as a valid option instead of the piano (that remained, however, the undisputed master of the salons). For example the great guitarist Mauro Giuliani wrote himself a double piano and guitar accompaniment to some of his vocal compositions. We can cite also the story of Franz Schubert’s Lieder in Vienna. The composer accepted the will of Anton Diabelli – a guitarist, pianist, composer and his publisher – to print some of his Lieder with both piano and guitar accompaniment, aware of the market needs and demands. But, as already said, the Chopin’s Songs were supposed to have another faith. And not only the originals but also their guitar arrangements.
This work derives from the collaboration with a Polish singer Anna Katarzyna Ir- who also assisted me in an indispensable way during the lyrics elaboration for the printed version of 19 Polish Songs (Da Vinci Edition DV 21655).
In regard to the guitar part, we tried to keep as much as possible to the original tones, in order to stay very close to the Chopin’s way of writing. At the same time we essayed to enhance the sonic and expressive features of the guitar and its accompaniment quality by replacing, where necessary, the very pianistic passages with the ﬁrst XIX century guitar ones. We also aimed to ﬁnd an homogeneous range within which a medium voice could move easily. In a 1978 article, the musicologist Thomas F. Heck was encouraging the guitarists to face better than Diabelli the Schubert’s Lieder transcriptions. He afﬁrmed: “Schubert’s Lieder for guitar… it’s possible!”.
Starting today we can ﬁnally say: “Chopin’s Songs for guitar… they do exist!
Anna Katarzyna Ir: Born in Poland, she has completed her musical studies in Italy at the “G. Martucci” Conservatory in Salerno, with Daniela Del Monaco.
She later pursued masterclasses with international artists and academics such as L. D' Intino, A. Berti, F. Previati, E. Scatarzi, A. Gjevang, M. Loritz, R. Himmelbauer, M. Frölich. From 2008 to 2015 made part of the “G. Verdi” Theater of Salerno opera choir (dir. Daniel Oren), singing also some soloist parts.
From 2014 she worked and won several auditions within Operatic Foundations (Teatro Lirico of Cagliari, Accademia Santa Cecilia in Rome, Teatro Lirico “G.Verdi” in Trieste, Arena di Verona, Teatro “San Carlo” in Naples).
Her concert activity is varied: sacred music, Lieder, Songs both as a soloist and in various chamber ensembles.
She has also performed roles as Zia Principessa and Suor Zelatrice (Puccini, Suor Angelica), Rosina (Rossini, The Barber of Seville), Angelina (Rossini, La Cenerentola), Musa/Niclausse (Offenbach, The Tales of Hoffmann) and smaller ones (Kate Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly, 1st Handmaiden of Puccini’s Turandot).
She sung in Italy, Poland, Germany, Turkey, Denmark, Saudi Arabia, China and Japan. Polyglot, she speaks currently Polish, Italian, French, English and Russian and she graduated in foreign languages from Akademia Pedagogiczna (Cracow).
From 2018 she works permanently at the Teatro Lirico “G. Verdi” of Trieste. She studies composition and choral conducting with A. Piani at the Conservatory of Udine.
ICASduo: The collaboration between Valerio Celentano- classical guitarist, and Anna Katarzyna Ir- started in 2013 as ICASduo. The two musicians have a vaste repertoire that embraces authors like Granados, Rodrigo, De Falla, Schubert, Brahms, Falconieri and they also research continuously for Lieder, Songs and Romanzas to perform or even adapt if necessary. This is the case of Polish 19th century authors’ songs, Chopin in primis, originally designated for piano and voice. The same for the Hebrew Songs by Maurice Ravel, and less known ones written in the Cracow Ghetto by Mordechaj Gebirtig. The Duo plays all over Italy and abroad. Among the most important concerts we should mention: the Spanish repertoire concert in Sardinia (Dolianova), the series of classical music meetings in Amalfi Coast (The Gods’ Path), the concert for F.A.I. at the Jeranto Bay, the one at the Polish Embassy in Rome, Chopin Songs at the D’Avossa Palace in Salerno and at the San Pietro a Majella Conservatory in Naples, the “Melodya” concert at the Rovis Hall in Trieste, the VI Polish Language Teachers International Congress opening concert in Ostròda (Poland) at the presence of the Polish Minister of Education and Instruction.
Valerio Celentano: Graduated in classical guitar with maximum vote cum laude at Conservatory of Music “G. Martucci” in Salerno under the guidance of Antonio Grande, he has participated in several Master classes with famous guitarists as Alirio Diaz, Pavel Steidl, David Russel, Jyrki Myllarinen, Mario Gangi, Carlo Marchione, Oscar Ghiglia at the Chigiana Academy in Siena and Athens and with Frédéric Zigante at Corelli Music Academy in Castellaneta. He has won many music competitions (1° prize: Mondovì, 2° prize: Premio delle Arti, Gargnano; “A. Diaz Rome”; 3° prize: “E. Pujol” Sassari, Sanremo I.G.C.) He has a bachelor degree in Modern Literature from the Salerno University with a thesis in Musical Aesthetics entitled "The 17th Century in Naples Through the Spanish Guitar Trend". He obtained a Master’s degree in Ancient Music at the Conservatory of Naples under the guide of Franco Pavan and Toni Florio and continued his baroque guitar and theorbo studies with Massimo Lonardi. Celentano has collaborated with many baroque music ensembles (ScarlattiLab, Effimere Corde) and famous artist such as Renata Fusco, Massimo Lonardi and Pino de Vittorio. Among the chamber music field he expands the guitar repertoire by adapting various works that range from erudite folk songs through Lieder (ICASduo) to instrumental music (Chi Asso duo- a guitar and double-bass project). In 2018 he was invited by Luigi Picardi at the Radio Vaticana show L’Arpeggio for the release of his first CD with Chi Asso duo: “Sul Sur- a South American Anthology” (dotGuitar.it).
He is devoted to teaching and holds an annual specialization course for guitarists in Baronissi and is a classical guitar professor at the 1st degree secondary schools in Trieste.
Frédéric Chopin: (b Żelazowa Wola, nr Warsaw, 1 March 1810; d Paris, 17 Oct 1849). Polish composer and pianist. He combined a gift for melody, an adventurous harmonic sense, an intuitive and inventive understanding of formal design and a brilliant piano technique in composing a major corpus of piano music. One of the leading 19th-century composers who began a career as a pianist, he abandoned concert life early; but his music represents the quintessence of the Romantic piano tradition and embodies more fully than any other composer’s the expressive and technical characteristics of the instrument.