Official Release: 15 October 2021
A few more words are needed to cite the recently rediscovered Feuillet d’album: it is perhaps the less complex work in the programme, but it is still perfect in its synthesis. Finally, the two further rediscoveries, found in a manuscript copy within an English collection, i.e. a Fantasia on themes by Mozart and an Air Varié on themes by Bellini. The Mozart-inspired Fantasia is a partial transcription after an analogous piano piece by Thalberg: this reveals much about the models of musical writing towards whom Regondi directed his attention (and this is true also of the Bellinian work). An introductory Larghetto, already rather complex, is followed by the extremely famous theme Là ci darem la mano from Don Giovanni, then by two Variations, by an Intermezzo (Andante) and by the fireworks of the Finale. The work based on L’amo tanto e m’è sì cara from Bellini’s I Capuleti e I Montecchi is very similar. Here, the set of the thematic elaborations contains four Variations, closed by a Finale which is no less fiery than that of the other Fantasia. It has been demonstrated that these two works precede, in the chronology of Regondi’s publication, the group constituted by op. 19-23. Their scoring, in fact, is not as innovative and elaborate as that of the master pieces commented above, i.e. opp. 19 and 23. The technical demands are however always of a high level, and remain as the distinctive traits confirming that all of these pieces came from the pen of a rarely-found talent.
The present notes can only be closed with a curious reflection, generated by Regondi’s biographic story. It seems in fact beautiful that the music by Giulio Regondi – an unhappy child and an unlucky adult – are “rocked”, as it were, on this discographic occasion, by two female hands: it is almost a small compensation owed to him by Fate. The missing mother, and the difficulty in relating with the female universe experienced by Regondi also as an adult, find today a moment of reparation and serenity, which the composer certainly lacked during his life. We therefore plaud with special affection to the Christening of Regondi’s complete works interpreted by Federica Canta, wishing to them both the best possible fate.
(Milan, February 2021)
Ramirez Julian Gomez (Madrid 1879-Paris 1943)
Julian Gómez Ramirez was born in Madrid in 1879. He began his apprenticeship under Agustín Andrés around 1892; his teacher moved to Paris, in Rue de Pateaux n. 7, around 1908.
Already in 1910 Ramirez appears as an employee of José Ramirez I. Although he was no relative of the Ramirez family, his descendants claimed for him the status of a disciple of Ramirez I. According to Robert Bouchet, Julian told him that he had worked for Manuel Ramirez before moving to Paris (around 1914 in Rue Rodier 38), where he remained until his death, happened during World War II in 1943. Around 1936, Julian Gómez Ramirez befriended Robert Bouchet (1898-1986), who would later become a constant visitor of Julian’s tiny, dark and chaotic workshop; Julian encouraged him to become a luthier in turn. In spite of the narrow conditions imposed on the luthier’s work by his small shop, Julian Gómez Ramirez created many guitars of a good and genuine quality. Many of his appreciators and several musicians owned and employed his guitars, including guitarist Ida Presti (1924-1967) and her husband Alexandre Lagoya (1929-1999). He can be considered as the founder of the French guitar-building school of the twentieth century, along with Robert Bouchet and Daniel Friederich (1932-2020); however, since he was not French-born, history unfortunately relegates him to a background position.
Guitar professionals are used to divide the nineteenth-century repertoire into two distinct periods: an “Early Nineteenth Century”, encompassing approximately the years between 1800 and 1839, and a “Later Nineteenth Century” beginning approximately around 1840 and continuing until the late 70s. The virtuoso guitarists cum composers who created a broad and articulated guitar repertoire in the Early Nineteenth Century referred – in their aesthetics and language – to the Classical masters (Haydn, Mozart), with a few timid Romantic ferments. The later ones, instead, adopted the musical aesthetics of Mendelssohn, Schumann and Liszt, leading the writing and technique of the nineteenth-century guitar to previously unconquered heights. The greatest representatives of the former group are the Catalan musician Fernando Sor and the Pugliese Mauro Giuliani, whilst in the latter group the figures of Napoleon Coste, Johann Kaspar Mertz and Giulio Regondi tower. However, while Coste received the baton of guitar composition from his teacher and friend Fernando Sor (who was his senior by 37 years), and while Mertz lived and worked in Vienna, where Giuliani (who was his senior by 35 years) had been applauded – thus inheriting his writing models –, Regondi posits himself as the revolutionary creator of a new guitar language. This finds an extraordinary efficaciousness in his works, since he crafted a model of guitar writing which anticipated the future, constituting – up to present-day – a challenge for the greatest living guitarists.
The life of Giulio Regondi (1822-1872) has been investigated since the 1980s thanks to some skilled researchers who reconstructed its chronology. These studies helped to understand the circumstances and events which rendered his life neither easy nor happy. Regondi had been a child prodigy with an incommensurable talent; contemporaneous prints portray him in an angelic pose and with a very suave expression. However, he grew without the love of a real family: his mother was missing from his life, since she deceased prematurely, and the paternal figure was that of a “bad father” (or stepfather/tutor, as it could be), who vexed the poor child forcing him to inhuman practice sessions in order to exploit his skill for economic purposes. The father would later abandon his grown-up son in London: the City was probably very inhospitable to him – at least at the beginning – but later it became, fortunately, his true homeland. As an adult, Regondi would come to disown the negative experiences of his youth, to the point of neglecting his activity as a concert guitarist in order to become an acclaimed virtuoso on the concertina, an instrument belonging in the family of the accordions. The reader wishing to know better the history and biography of Regondi is referred to more detailed research (for instance to the exemplary work of Alessandro Boris Amisich and Helmut C. Jacobs). We will now only add that Regondi died at the age of fifty, leaving us some a numerically limited group of musical works bearing witness to his extraordinary personality. Besides opus numbers 19-23, published by the Offenbach publisher André in 1864, at the height of the composer’s renewed interest in the guitar, musicological research has allowed us to collect also ten étude , a Feuillet d’album and two great Fantasie on themes by Mozart and Bellini. Currently, what has reached us of Regondi’s output amounts to this, and this also constitutes the ambitious discographic programme that we will now discuss succinctly.
In 1981, the publishing house Chanterelle of Heidelberg – whose founder, the Scotsman Michael Macmeeken, is still a meritorious figure in the panorama of guitar publishing – issued Giulio Regondi’s “Complete Works” edited by Simon Wynberg. The editor himself expressed the wish that other rediscovered works could soon join the works already included in his publication. This did really happen, at first thanks to Matanya Ophee, an American researcher and publisher, who published in 1995 the ten étude which had resurfaced in the former Soviet Union. Later, the other three works (Feuillet d’album and the operatic Fantasies) were added, thanks to the rediscoveries realized by Austrian guitarist and researcher Stefan Hackl. The world of the guitar, however, had already found the signs of Regondi’s highest musical expression in that first edition of the “Complete Works”. Whilst the two Arie Variate op. 21 and 22, as well as the Rondò op. 20, did not elicit, at first, any particular emotions, it clearly appeared that the Notturno op. 19, together with the Introduzione e Capriccio op. 23 came out of the blue within the sleepy guitar repertoire of the second half of the nineteenth century. That repertoire was rather unknown at the time, and included only a meagre group of pieces (to be true, Coste and Mertz were also awaiting a wide-ranging reappraisal, which came only in later years). In his Notturno Reverie op. 19, Regondi presents himself with an introductory section, harmonically dense, which leads to a chromatic net of descending diminished sevenths. In so doing, he almost magically transforms the small guitar into Chopin’s Erard piano. Immediately after, he stupefies the listener with a long, sorrowful and pleading musical phrase, entrusted to a game of repeated notes, celestially written. The central section, preceding the return of the theme, is an example of a genius-like employ of the middle-low register of the guitar. That aural zone would allow the guitarists, after the experience of Torres (the Stradivari of the guitar) to make the instrument sing on the third, fourth and fifth string, without those sound deficits displayed in most cases by the small nineteenth-century guitars. Almost in a kind of a premonition, Regondi intuits the instrument’s new and almost unexplored possibility: it is an absolute stroke of genius. The return of the repeated notes leads then to a coda extinguishing itself up to the difficult final chord of D major, which is taken in an arpeggiated fade-out through the entire range of the six strings.
Op. 23 is another unrivalled height of the entire guitar repertoire: it may seem incredible, but this work’s publication year coincides almost perfectly with that of the extraordinary Introduction et Rondo Capriccioso for violin and orchestra by Saint-Saëns. It almost seems that Regondi aimed at demonstrating to posterity that a lonely guitar could compete, in expressive intensity and Romantic elan, with the masterpiece by Saint-Saëns. Here too we find a harmonically significant introductory Adagio followed by a Capriccio. This is a broad, elaborated and complex lively movement in the Sonata form; it challenges any player, and raises the bar of guitar virtuoso writing to impervious heights.
The light issuing from these two works relegates unfairly to shadow the two beautiful Arie Variate op. 21 and op. 22, built on the more frequently experimented and classical structure of “Introduction, Theme, Variations and Finale”. Nobody has hitherto revealed (will someone be able to solve the mystery?) whether the themes employed by Regondi are his own or are excerpted from works by another composer or from popular songs (the theme of the Aria op. 21 reveals a somewhat Neapolitan character, which could lead us to favour the idea of a folk song).
The Fête Villageoise op. 20, instead, has the role of Cinderella within this group of five works, being decidedly the less frequently performed among them. Still, the Rondo form is perfectly employed, and the rural setting is no less authentic.
Let us come, however, to the “apogee of the Romantic guitar”, as the Dieci Studi are aptly defined by the famous scholar, teacher and composer from Vercelli, Angelo Gilardino. Here Regondi reaches a happy synthesis between musical content and technical value. This is a sublime and rarely found feature: Segovia identified it, in his introduction to his edition of Sor’s Etudes, in the piano Etudes by Chopin or in the harpsichord Sonatas by Scarlatti. Actually, in these ten pieces of a self-evident beauty, challenges abound for both hands. All of the Etudes have something new to say, and all require an uncommon technical solidity on the performer’s part. From the gentle and linear No. 1, to the vibrating and dramatic No. 2, to the serene and lively No. 3 we reach No. 4, long and complex, the technically transcendental No. 5, the beautiful No. 6 with its melancholic key of D minor, or else No. 7, intricate and with a pianistic flavour, No. 8, warm and expressive, up to No. 9, peaceful and tranquil, or No. 10, intrepid and heroic.
Federica Canta: Born in Milan in 1991, Federica Canta discovered the classical guitar world at the age of ten.
Following her Cum Laude graduation at the “G. Verdi” Conservatory in Milan with Paolo Cherici (June 2013), she studied with Francesco Biraghi in the same institution, obtaining the Second Level Academic Degree with highest marks Laude and Honors (October 2016) with the Recital and the written thesis “Italian Capricci through the centuries”. In June 2017 she got her Master in Performance Practice with High Distinction at the Koninklijk Conservatorium of Brussels, where she studied with Antigoni Goni, and a Postgraduate in Music in June 2018.
Between 2010 and 2013 she attended the prestigious “Giulio Regondi Guitar Academy” in Milan with Andrea Dieci and Bruno Giuffredi. Federica has attended masterclasses given by Giulio Tampalini, Lorenzo Micheli, Matteo Mela, Carlo Marchione, Elena Papandreu, Margarita Escarpa, Pavel Steidl, Marcin Dylla, Leo Brouwer, Sergio and Odair Assad. During her concert activities, she focused her attention on the romantic repertoire for guitar, on modern and historical instruments too, stimulated by the profound passion of her teacher Francesco Biraghi. In 2014 she played in the big hall of the Conservatory G. Verdi in Milan for the production “Don Pasquale” by G. Donizetti and in September 2018 she collaborated with the Academy Orchestra of Teatro alla Scala in Milan for the Opera “Alì Babà” by L. Cherubini.
Federica performed for some of the most important Guitar Societies in Italy, Belgium, Germany and United States.