Alma Guitarra Vol. 2
“Edad de Plata”, “Silver Era”: so do historians define the period between the 1920s and the 1940s in Spain, characterized by an exceptional flowering of art in all of its forms – clearly alluding to the much longer “Siglo de Oro”. The guitar would become one of the protagonists of that epoch, living, precisely in those years, such a fecund period that it can be defined as a new and modern renaissance, with an extraordinary activity of composers, performers, and luthiers.
Eduardo López-Chavarri was a musician and intellectual with a manifold activity: a composer, musicologist, music critic, author, translator, orchestra conductor, Professor of Music History and Aesthetics at the Conservatory of Valencia; in his youthful years, he was even a lawyer and a fiscal agent. The extreme variety of his field of action probably overshadowed his ability as a composer: nevertheless, his guitar works are highly interesting, even though they have been almost never performed until now. López-Chavarri’s love for the guitar was born out of his direct knowledge of and listening to some performances by Francisco Tárrega, and it took shape thanks to his close relationships with Miguel Llobet, Andrés Segovia, and, most importantly, with Josefina Robledo, all of whom were dedicatees of some of his guitar works. He even taught composition to a young Joaquín Rodrigo; likely, he was the one who prompted Rodrigo to begin composing for the guitar in the mid-1920s.
His 7 Piezas para guitarra are recorded on disk for the first time here, almost a century after their composition. Written in 1925 and dedicated to Valencian guitarist Rafael Balaguer, they were published the following year as the first instalment of the German publisher Schott’s series Gitarren-Archiv, together with pieces which are by now an indissoluble component of the guitar repertoire, such as Joaquín Turina’s Fandanguillo and Federico Moreno Torroba’s Suite Castellana. This editorial series, subtitled “Spanish Modern Music for the Guitar”, would provide space, for many years to come, for most of the works dedicated to Segovia and for his own transcriptions. Theoretically, it should have acted as the perfect springboard for his 7 Piezas, and, more generally, for López-Chavarri’s guitar music; instead, his works were swallowed by an incredible and unjustified vortex of disinterest.
Still, these seven pieces are full of grace and authentic simplicity, between dance rhythms (principally Habaneras in the Danza Lenta and La mirada de Carmen, a homage to the gaze of singer Carmen Andújar, his bride-to-be, and Boleros in Ritmo popular, Fiesta lejana en un jardín, Nocturno and Lamento), and an unstoppable singing attitude, occasionally melismatic. Worth noting are the refinement of the rhapsodic Nocturno, imagined as taking place in a garden of Granada, and the exuberance of the closing Gitana.
“Por y para mi amigo Andrés Segovia”: thus reads the dedication of the Fantasia-Sonata composed in 1929 by Joan Manén. It is the only guitar piece within the catalogue of this Catalan composer and violinist.
In 1893, at the green age of nine, Manén, just as López-Chavarri, became acquainted with the art of Francisco Tárrega, sharing with him the stage at a performance in Catalunya, when he was moving the first steps of his wonderful international career, which would bring him to be defined as Pablo de Sarasate’s true heir. Besides being a violin virtuoso, he was also a prolific composer, who wrote five operas, two ballets, Symphonic Poems, several solo concertos with orchestra and chamber music. Andrés Segovia accepted, once more, the challenge of adapting for the six strings music he had expressly commissioned and requested, written and conceived by a non-guitarist composer. He performed the Fantasia-Sonata in autumn 1933 at first in Lausanne, Geneva, Lucerne and Stockholm; then he offered it to the audience at London’s Wigmore Hall and at Barcelona’s Palau de la Música. He also edited its publication within Schott’s series, which was by then “his own”; eventually, he recorded it in an epoch-making disk in the ‘50s.
Formally, the Fantasia-Sonata is a unicum within the guitar repertoire, since it develops through six seamlessly connected movements, totaling nearly twenty minutes of extraordinary music. Stylistically, Manén employs a very personal language, which is a synthesis of his experience in the German area (and of his passion for Richard Strauss’ and Richard Wagner’s music), and of his exquisitely Mediterranean singing style and rhythmical vitality. Today, a handwritten manuscript by the composer is available (even though its last pages are missing). It has been found in Segovia’s archive. I could therefore compare it with a version of the same piece realized by Manén for symphonic orchestra in 1938 and called Divertimento. Through this operation, I was able to realize a personal version of my own; it differs only slightly from the solutions adopted by the great Andalusian guitarist, but, in my opinion, it is more satisfactory in some passages.
Born in Uruguay in 1878, Carlos Pedrell belongs in the numerous list of composers who were attracted, in those same years, by the fascination of the six strings. The nephew of famous Spanish composer and musicologist Felipe Pedrell, who was also his teacher, he moved first to Spain, and later to Paris in order to study with Vincent d’Indy. Back in South America, he settled in Argentina; then he went back to Paris, from 1921 until his death in 1941. In the French capital, he was in close relationship with the vibrant world of the guitar at that time. Since 1924, in fact, Segovia immediately included two short pieces by Pedrell dedicated to him within his repertoire (i.e. Guitarreo and Improvisación); he would perform them in his recitals almost uninterruptedly for almost fifteen years. His Danzas de las tres princesas cautivas were composed around the late 1920s and dedicated respectively to Andrés Segovia (Zoraida), Emilio Pujol (Doña Mencía) and Miguel Llobet (Betsabé), who also prepared the fingerings for this last dance in the printed publication edited by Emilio Pujol and published by Casa Romero y Fernández in Buenos Aires. These three dances are doubtlessly the most ambitious pieces written by Pedrell for the guitar.
The stories of three princesses held captive (cautivas) are found midway between history, myth and legend; they symbolize the three religions and the three cultures – i. e. the Arab, the Christian and the Jewish one – which cohabited for centuries in the Iberian Peninsula. According to the famous Tales of Alhambra by Washington Irving (1832), Zoraida was enclosed by Muhamad VII of Granada in the Torre de las Infantas of the Alhambra in the early fifteenth century. According to the story reported by Juan Valera (1824-1905), Doña Mencía was a fifteenth-century Castilian princess who was widowed at seventeen and who voluntarily enclosed herself in her castle. A small city nearby Cordoba is today named after her. Or else, she can probably be identified with Mencía López de Haro, who was in the thirteenth century the Queen married to Alphonse III of Portugal; she was imprisoned, for some time, in the castle of Ourém. The Biblical Betsabé made King David fall desperately in love with her; to the point that he had her kidnapped and brought to his palace, even though she was already the wife of valiant warrior Uriah.
In this fairy and romantic ambience, Pedrell builds a refined musical tale, with a writing style which can be defined, at least, as symphonic; he accompanies us into a dream from where he almost seems to awake us with the last chords of the final dance.
The three guitars you will hear in this recording were built in Madrid by Manuel Ramírez, Santos Hernández and Domingo Esteso; they were created in the same cultural environment of that epoch which, today, a century later, remains for me an essential reference point.
Marco Del Greco © January 2023
Translation: Chiara Bertoglio
Marco Del Greco
Vincitore del Concorso Chitarristico Internazionale di Tokyo, Marco Del Greco è uno dei più affermati chitarristi della sua generazione.
Nato a Roma nel 1982, ha ricevuto la sua formazione musicale nella classe di Carlo Carfagna al Conservatorio di Musica “S. Cecilia” di Roma, dove si è diplomato con lode e menzione d'onore.
Successivamente è stato ammesso nella prestigiosa Hochschule für Musik - Musik-Akademie der Stadt di Basilea, in Svizzera, dove ha conseguito con lode un Master biennale di alta specializzazione concertistica nella classe di Stephan Schmidt.
Ha vinto il primo premio nei concorsi internazionali “Alirio Díaz”, “Nicola Fago” di Taranto e “Città di Lodi”, il 2° premio al “Mauro Giuliani” di Bari e numerosi altri premi in concorsi nazionali e internazionali.
Nel 2010 ha vinto il 1° premio al “53rd Tokyo International Guitar Competition”, uno tra i più longevi e importanti concorsi chitarristici nel mondo, riconoscimento che lo ha lanciato nella carriera internazionale.
Ha suonato e tenuto masterclass in Giappone, Cina, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Russia, Italia, Francia, Spagna, Germania e Irlanda in importanti sale da concerto e istituzioni, tra le quali: Auditorio Nacional de Música di Madrid, Bunka-kaikan, Nikkei Hall e Yamaha Hall Ginza di Tokyo, Minato Mirai Hall di Yokohama, National Center for Performing Arts di Pechino, Hong Kong Arts Centre, Auditorium Conciliazione e Sala Casella di Roma, Teatro Vittoria di Torino, Drama Theater di Kaliningrad, Taipei National University of Arts, DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama di Dublino, Real Conservatorio Superior de Música di Madrid.
Nel marzo 2014 è uscito per l'etichetta NEOS il suo lavoro discografico dedicato alle opere per chitarra sola dei compositori giapponesi Toru Takemitsu e Toshio Hosokawa, registrazione che ha riscosso un grande interesse da parte di critici, riviste e radio in tutto il mondo, quali: RAI Radio3, NDR Kultur, Süddeutsche Zeitung, KulturRadio, ORF OE1, Gramophone, Il Fronimo, Seicorde (CD del mese), Gendai Guitar, Fono Forum, Classic Voice (CD del mese). Il disco è stato inoltre premiato con la Chitarra d'Oro 2015 al 20° Convegno Chitarristico Internazionale di Alessandria.
È professore di chitarra presso l'Istituto Superiore di Studi Musicali "Rinaldo Franci" di Siena.
Eduardo López-Chavarri Marco
(b Valencia, 29 Jan 1871; d Valencia, 28 Oct 1970). Spanish musicologist andcomposer. He obtained a law degree from the University of Valencia (1896) and a doctorate in law from the Central University in Madrid (1900); as a musician he was mainly self-taught, though he had private studies in composition with Pedrell and piano lessons in France, Italy and Germany. He studied musicology in Germany, and harmony there with Salomon Jadassohn. Following a brief career as a lawyer he became a distinguished composer and critic, choral and orchestral conductor, lecturer and teacher. From 1898 until shortly before his death he was music critic for the Valencian daily Las provincias. In 1903 he founded and directed the Valencian Chamber Orchestra, which enabled him to perform works by eastern Spanish composers, including his own, thereby succeeding Salvador Giner (1832–1911) in the role of spokesman for the regional Valencian school of contemporary Spanish music. He also conducted the orchestra of the Teatro Principal (1906), and was guest conductor for the symphony orchestras of Madrid, Bilbao, Zaragoza, Oviedo and Valencia. From 1910 to 1921 he was professor of aesthetics and music history at the Valencia Conservatory, where he also directed both the orchestra and chamber orchestra. From 1943 he served as musical adviser for the Sección Femenina and wrote many works for its chorus. His compositions show a great diversity of styles and instrumental combinations, with extensive use of traditional melodies; he has collected c200 songs and dances from the coastal regions of Valencia and Alicante in the unpublished Cancionera de Valencia. Among his publications are numerous translations of studies of late 19th- and early 20th-century composers, and of some important writings by Schumann, Kufferath and Marcello; the most valuable, however, are his Música popular española, a fundamental study of Spanish traditional music, and Historia de la música. He was an honorary member of the Faculty of Arts, London University, and a member of various academies in Spain (S Carlos, Valencia; Fernando, Madrid; Bellas Letras, Córdoba and Barcelona).
Joan Manén (b Barcelona, 14 March 1883; d Barcelona, 26 June 1971). Catalan violinist and composer. Precociously gifted, he learnt solfège and piano with his father from the age of three, and at seven played Chopin concertos in public. Meanwhile, at five, he had begun to study the violin with Clemente Ibargueren; he rapidly attained astonishing technical mastery and at the age of nine made his début in Latin America. He made his European début as a violinist in 1898, when he was hailed as a virtuoso of the first rank; he later made five world tours.
Almost entirely self-taught as a composer, Manén had begun to write at 13, and in 1900 he conducted a concert of his own works in Barcelona. His first opera, Juana de Nápoles (produced when he was 19), was well received at the Barcelona Liceu, and he immediately followed this with Acté, for which (as for all his later operas) he wrote his own libretto. He then spent time in Germany, where he acquired an admiration for Wagner and Richard Strauss, which can be observed in his orchestral writing. Strauss’s influence on his harmony can also be particularly heard in his songs. He composed prolifically in many genres, but later destroyed, disowned or radically revised everything he had composed before 1907. This led him, for example, almost completely to rewrite Acté – increasing the complexity of the texture – as Neró i Acté.
Manén made numerous arrangements, both instrumental and vocal, of Spanish and Catalan folk melodies, and traditional dance styles (e.g. the sardana) appear in his works. His music is tonal in idiom and predominantly lyrical, and there are often thematic connections between movements. His writings include many articles in Spanish and French periodicals and a treatise on the violin. In 1927 he became a member of the Spanish Academy of Arts; among many other awards and honours, there has been a plan to name a new concert hall in Barcelona after him.