Paganini, Giuliani, Spohr: Due Italiani a Vienna (19th Century Violin and Guitar Music)


Official release: May 2021

  • Artist(s): Saverio Gabrielli, Lorenzo Bernardi
  • Composer(s): Louis Spohr, Mauro Giuliani, Niccolò Paganini
  • EAN Code: 7.46160912394
  • Edition: Da Vinci Classics
  • Format: 1 Cd
  • Genre: Chamber
  • Instrumentation: Guitar, Violin
  • Period: Romantic
  • Publication year: 2021
SKU: C00411 Category:

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Those who still think of Wagner’s Tristan as quintessentially erotic music should definitely reconsider: in the list drawn by The Most Erotic Classical Music of All Time, an album with a provocative cover featuring a woman’s derriere and suspenders, in good company with an obvious Bolero and a punctual isottesque finale and a less-obvious Moonlight Sonata or a Good Friday Spell (all by the German from Leipzig), one finds the Centone di Sonate for violin and guitar by Niccolò Paganini (Genoa 1782 – Nice 1840) and precisely with the opening movement of the Sonata in A minor placed in the opening of the present collection.
A very bizarre choice indeed, possibly ascribable to the legendary (i.e., completely made-up) familiarity the Genoan composer had with the devil and women? Maybe. But here, we would like to speculate a more subtle reference to the communicative, ‘sensual’ and ‘sensory’ features of the repertoire where Paganini shows his prominent interest for guitar coupled with his beloved violin. The image of the divo assaulted by the very same shouting teenagers who surrounded The Beatles in the Sixties is supplanted by the modish and ‘chamber’ ritual of the same young lady who – in love with her musical idol and without posters, iPhones or iPads – is accompanied by the guitar with languid and falsely prudish wide eyes.
However, one would hurt the ethical-esthetic dignity of figures like Paganini or his peer Mauro Giuliani, his companion in this recording, if he should associate them with those hormonally unstable young ladies, enslaving their chamber (or so-called ‘secondary’) pages to a mere marketing diktat.
Eros does not necessarily correspond to the vulgarity of the aforementioned cover, nor is it synonymous with superficiality. Granted, these pages do indeed bleed vulgarity (from the Latin vulgus = people, crowd), but only in strict observance of the etymology that was rediscovered by Romanticism: ‘popular’ meant sincere, direct, recognizable, immediately understandable and gratifying. Just like the simple ringing of the triangle in the Rondo ‘La Campanella’, a genius intuition Paganini drew not by a treatise on composition, but by the streets of old Genoa, where the beggars – with the penetrating sound of rough triangles or rudimentary pieces of iron drew the attention of passers-by urging them to offer pious alms.
Even though these works by Paganini and Giuliani welcome the classic tradition of Alessandro Rolla’s duets (for violin and guitar, flute and violin, mandolins…), nevertheless they subvert their ‘pedantic’ didactic objective in light of Mazzini and Manzoni’s ‘social’ art. They are not meant for the prince’s son (who had to learn music according to etiquette), nor are they for the aristocratic cultural gatherings where scraps of pompous minuets always made an appearance. They are for the new audience the French Revolution gave birth to, who makes and listens to music on the streets, in the gardens and taverns, the very places one could turn to when looking for catchy melodies and unusual sounds. A world of Freiluftmusik or Tafelmusik which became globalized in Europe by the increase in mobility, but also by the itinerant virtuosos (naturally lead by Paganini) who still had a Viennese heart, the Empire’s capital striving to boast the international fame of Italians Niccolò and Mauro (Paganini for violin, Giuliani for guitar).
Despite the formally austere title, the pages in the Centone di Sonate are astonishing miniatures replayed through the frequent use of the Ritornello, a symbolic reiteration of pleasure. They are a series of specific figurations that can unexpectedly spark strong emotions due to their brevity: a sense of anxious anticipation (the extremely fast repeated notes at the beginning of Sonata n. 1) recalled ‘by surprise’ at the end; the pizzicato in minor key in the middle of an otherwise sparking trio, the heroic and martial March lead by the violin, with a guitar accompaniment, also in Sonata n. 1; the harsh martial traits of the Rondò militare in Mauro Giuliani’s Gran Duetto concertante op. 52; the conciseness and pathos of the second variation which take turns with more sprung rhythms as in Mauro Giuliani’s Rondò of the Serenata op. 127. All is narrated by a soloist who had to be charismatic, chased by the continuous, uniform and most of all reassuring accompaniment of the guitar, which nevertheless becomes the absolute deuteragonist in Mauro Giuliani’s op. 52. The very same happens in Paganini’s Sonata Concertata: here, the two instruments give life to a balanced dialogue where the features of unpredictability, joy and vivacity reveal themselves in the continuous intertwining melodic ‘chiasmi’ of the opening Allegro spiritoso and in the fast pacing at the end of the Allegretto con brio. Scherzando.
Paganini and Giuliani’s unprecedented care for an unknown audience that had to be ‘conquered’ emphasizes a melodic and rhythmical sensitivity which is fed by the present and welcomes dancing and themes and songs from the multifaceted reality of everyday life: sounds from theatres, folklore, the military world, the streets. A contamination of high culture which is prominent in the admission of Rondò and Marcia, Minuetto or Fandango, types of dance that inevitably allude to the body and ‘vulgar’ matter and are based on the predictable and reassuring principle of symmetrical alternation (4+4 bars) rather than on the infinite processes of the concept of development, which is called forth to back more complex and extended forms.
The combined action of two exceptional instrumentalists such as Paganini and Giuliani (the latter only one year older than the former) prompted the spread in the most refined environments of the unexpected coupling of guitars and violins: agile, sparkling and functional to the many festive occasions the new sociability demanded. But also marketable, so that it immediately became interesting to the publishing industry, which paid close attention to the genre’s profitable circulation both through new works and in transcriptions.
This is the theme of the last number in this anthology with prolific musician Anton Diabelli (who was the same age as Mauro Giuliani). Already and established composer of his own pieces for violin, guitar, guitar and piano and guitar and violin, he transcribes for violin and guitar an original string quartet penned by the ‘German Paganini’ Louis Spohr (1784-1859): the renowned Gande Duo op. 11.
Released in 1812-13 and recently republished by Fabio Rizza, the Duo now reaches its first discographic debut. The thin line that was still drawn in Luther’s times between ‘strict Protestants’ and ‘jolly Papists’ does not cease to reveal itself in the works of Spohr, an illustrious and virtuoso violinist and the representative of a German north that was less inclined to welcoming the intrusion of instinct and imagination (even though the musician briefly lived in Vienna between 1813-15). With the ghost of Bach looming over him (a matter of DNA!), Spohr’s quartets show an incessant interplay between their parts, the search for sound density rather than for extended singability or for the Italians’ unexpected flairs. The tendency to isolate the first violin with especially sparking virtuosities is a clear reference to the concert, with the author in the front row and the ‘entourage’ in the background. After all, Louis Spohr was the leading representative of the post-Congress of Vienna style termed Biedermeier: a way of making music that was markedly opened and backed to the point that it even challenged traditional ‘individualism’, a term which had been coined for the chronologically contemporary word ‘Romanticism’.
Therefore, in the face of an undoubtedly classical education, in his music Spohr often used complicated descriptive virtuosities. He demanded his performer to show a sober yet languid carrying; he provided accompaniments that were passionate and vibrant, and no longer restrained. In the intimate pages from the Leider, the quartets and the pieces for harp one finds sanctuaries of intense singability, as in the central Adagio of the present Grande Duo op. 11, whose incipit clearly bears reference to Don Ottavio’s aria Il mio Tesoro intanto taken from Mozart’s Don Giovanni.
However, the slow tempo’s singing often stands opposite to an enthralling final Rondò dominated from beginning to end by an incessant and aggressive dotted rhythm.
In Diabelli’s transposition a greater space is given to the guitar, which takes up the sections that were of the low strings. The intensity of the composer’s mental commitment, the idea of always representing German Kulture no matter what does not leave much space here to ‘vulgarity’ and the dancing body: this piece could have never been included in the top list from The Most Erotic Classical Music of All Time. And it would have been impossible to find Louis Spohr as a guest of the smoky tavern in the London suburbs where David Garrett aka Niccolò Paganini (in The Devil’s Violinist, directed by Bernard Rose in 2013) improvises on the theme of the ‘vulgar’ Carnival of Venice making the freckled androgynous Times journalist burn with desire…

Mauro Giuliani in Vienna
by Cav. Nicola Giuliani
President and Founder of Casa Museo Giuliani

In the last few years the work, life and legacy of Mauro Giuliani have proven to be a shrine of information from which many researchers, biographers and musicologists have drawn in order to complete the human profile of the great proto-Romantic composer from Bisceglie, striving as they are to find the missing pieces of the puzzle in his work as a composer, concertist and in the publications he has been the subject of.
In Vienna, where he arrived in 1806, Mauro lived the most fruitful years in his compositional and concertist production. The stars of many musicians were shining in the Habsburg capital at the time: Spohr, Hummel, Moscheles, Mayseder. Mauro began meeting and spending time with them, especially as he shared the status of ‘emigrant’ with many of his colleagues.
It was in Vienna that Mauro prepared an event that would become memorable: the first performance of Concert op. 30, Giuliani’s work that it is more than others in the big repertoire.
In the capital he met Maria Anna Wiesenberger, also known as Nina, who would bear him three children. Accounts have always described him as a sociable man who was always ready with a joke, qualities he probably never lost even at difficult times. As a matter of fact, Nina died prematurely in 1817 and shortly after his youngest daughter Karolina passed away on March 25, 1818.
In Vienna, Mauro lived in the Singerstrasse near St. Stephen’s Cathedral in 1810 and at house number 939 in 1817, the same year in which he resumed his performances in the imposing hall of the Theater an der Wien and in his favourite Redoutensaal.
One of the main contacts Giuliani had in Vienna was Anton Diabelli, who apart from being an excellent musician also became one of Giuliani’s chief publishers after Artaria. In memory of their friendship, the Casa Museo Giuliani still holds an original letter penned by Michele Giuliani on April 25, 1825 and sent to Diabelli through their friend Antonio Spina, one of Mauro’s pupils.
After returning to Italy in 1819, the “Diario di Roma” from April 20, 1820 mentioned him as being in the Papal capital “coming from Vienna”. Mauro was to remain in Rome for well over three years until the summer of 1823.
A few years later, biographer Isnardi described the bond he formed in Rome with Rossini and Paganini, in what historian Giancarlo Conestabile termed the “musical triumvirate”. Conestabile mentions it in the Vita di Niccolò Paganini and says that while Rossini was working on Matilde di Shabran they often met at the composer’s Roman home, and “were always together with the great man from Pesaro, one playing the guitar, the other the violin. The two sublime talents of Italian art, that is Giuliani and Paganini”. Together they gave “such celebrated entertainment” whose scope Mauro probably didn’t even imagine.
His life ended in Naples, where he passed away at midnight on May 7, 1829. His children had the arduous task of following in the musical footsteps of a great Italian in Europe.
The place where this performance was recorded is especially interesting. The Theatre in Verona that owes its name to actress Adelaide Ristori (1822-1906). The Casa Museo Giuliani in Bisceglie still holds a letter the actress wrote to Mauro Giuliani, which bears witness to the important relationships and exchange of correspondence the Artist had.

Translation: Brian Berni


Saverio Gabrielli: Saverio Gabrielli graduated in violin with highest honors at the Verona Conservatory F. E. Dall’Abaco under the tutelage of M° Alberto Martini in 2011. He continued his studies with M° Ilya Grubert at the Fondazione Musicale S. Cecilia in Portogruaro (VE) and then at the Amsterdam Conservatory (The Netherlands).
He carries out an intense concert activity as a chamber musician which has led him to play with important artists such as Colin Carr, Mischa Maisky, Giovanni Sollima, Arvo Pärt and Richard Stoltzman. As Kozertmeister he collaborated with the Dutch violinist Lisa Jacobs' ensemble The String Soloists, with whom he recorded the violin concertos by Locatelli and Haydn. Alongside his concert career, he also got a trilingual Master degree in Musicology at the Free University of Bolzano with full marks in 2018.
He plays on a precious Cappa violin dated 1642.

Lorenzo Bernardi: Born in Trento in 1994, he graduated from the Conservatory F.A Bonporti of Trento in 2015. He then continued his studies under the guidance of Emanuele Buono at the Conservatorio L. Canepa in Sassari, obtaining a Master’s degree with honors. Thanks to a scholarship offered by the European community, he further specialized at Conservatorio de Musica Manuel Castillo in Seville, Spain, under the guidance of internationally renowned Professor and guitarist Francisco Bernier.
As a soloist, but also as a member of chamber ensembles and with orchestra, he has performed in numerous national and international events. Between 2016 and 2018 he performed in prestigious events of international importance in Spain, Argentina, Bahrain, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam and India where he was also invited as a jury member of international competitions such as Calcutta International Guitar Festival in India , Alma Hanoi Guitar Festival and Saigon Guitar Fest in Vietnam.
In 2016, concerts were held in Mendoza, Argentina, within the Semana de las Artes festival, at the Universidad de Cuyo and at the local Consulate General.
In 2017 he made his debut in Japan performing in Tokyo, Osaka and Fukuoka thanks to the support of the Italian Institute of Culture in Osaka. And shortly thereafter in Spain, within the famous festival and international competition Festival de la Guitarra de Sevilla, playing at the Real Alcazar of the famous Andalusian city.
In 2018 he performed in duo with the virtuoso Ukrainian Marko Topchii at the Trento Philharmonic Hall and with the Vietnamese guitarist The Le, in May 2018 in Manama, Bahrain.
The tour in Vietnam, which saw him perform in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, dates back to June 2018, where he also had the opportunity to hold a Masterclass for local students followed by a second tour, about two months, which at starting in October, he took him to perform again in Vietnam and later in Korea and Indonesia.
In December 2018 he made his debut in India performing in many cities on a tour organized by the Indian Guitar Federation where he had the honor of being among the artists invited to the VIII Calcutta International Guitar Fest.


Mauro Giuliani: (b Bisceglie, nr Bari, 27 July 1781; d Naples, 8 May 1829). Italian guitar virtuoso and composer. He studied the cello and counterpoint, but the six-string guitar became his principal instrument early in life. As there were many fine guitarists in Italy at the beginning of the 19th century (Agliati, Carulli, Gragnani, Nava etc.), but little public interest in music other than opera, Giuliani, like many skilled Italian instrumentalists, moved north to make a living. He settled in Vienna in 1806 and quickly became famous as the greatest living guitarist and also as a notable composer, to the chagrin of resident Viennese talents such as Simon Molitor and Alois Wolf. In April 1808 Giuliani gave the première of his guitar concerto with full orchestral accompaniment, op.30, to great public acclaim (AMZ, x, 1807–8, col.538). Thereafter he led the classical guitar movement in Vienna, teaching, performing and composing a rich repertory for the guitar (nearly 150 works with opus number, 70 without). His guitar compositions were notated on the treble clef in the new manner which, unlike violin notation, always distinguished the parts of the music – melody, bass, inner voices – through the careful use of note stem directions and rests. Giuliani played the cello in the première of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony (8 December 1813) in the company of Vienna’s most famous artists, including Hummel, Mayseder and Spohr, with whom he appeared publicly on many subsequent occasions. He became a ‘virtuoso onorario di camera’ to Empress Marie-Louise, Napoleon’s second wife, in about 1814. He returned to Italy in 1819, heavily in debt, living first in Rome (c1820–23) and finally in Naples, where he was patronized by the nobility at the court of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies until his death. Towards the end of his life he was renowned for performances on the lyre guitar.

Giuliani had two talented children, Michel (b Barletta, 17 May 1801; d Paris, 8 October 1867), who became a noted ‘professeur de chant’, succeeding Manuel Garcia at the Paris Conservatoire, and Emilia (b Vienna, 1813; d ?after 1840), a famous guitar virtuoso who wrote a well-known set of preludes for guitar op.46.

Niccolò Paganini: (b Genoa, 27 Oct 1782; d Nice, 27 May 1840). Italian violinist and composer. By his development of technique, his exceptional skills and his extreme personal magnetism he not only contributed to the history of the violin as its most famous virtuoso but also drew the attention of other Romantic composers, notably Liszt, to the significance of virtuosity as an element in art. As a composer of a large number of chamber works, mostly with or for guitar, Paganini was influential in furthering the performance and appreciation of music in private circles.

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