The Symphony’s second in our new series of Concert Recitals features the return of outstanding Grammy-award-winner Jason Vieaux, a contemporary and virtuosic classical guitarist. Besides pieces by some of the masters of classical guitar repertoire, his recital will also feature guitar adaptations ranging from J. S. Bach to Duke Ellington.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 2017, AT 7:00 PM
Grand Overture, op. 61
Mauro Giuliani was one of the greatest virtuosi of the guitar in the 19th century. Although the use of the guitar in mainstream classical music was relatively novel at the time, Giuliani’s playing must have been extraordinary indeed, as the list of musicians that he associated with includes many of the most important of the era: Beethoven, Weber, Moscheles, Mayseder, Hummel, and probably Paganini and Rossini. Some of his most impressive accomplishments include performing one of his own concerti conducted by Carl Maria von Weber and participating in the premiere of Beethoven’s seventh symphony, presumably playing the other instrument that he excelled at, the cello.
Giuliani’s career is divided into three periods, according to the countries in which he lived: Italy (1781–1806), Vienna (1806–1819) and a return to Italy (1819–1829). For many reasons, not least of which was the domination of opera—and by extension a popular taste for the grand and the spectacular—many talented Italian guitarists emigrated. These included Moretti, Carulli, Molino, Carcassi, Zani de Ferranti, and Regondi, as well as Giuliani. While Paris was the destination of many Italian guitarists, Giuliani chose Vienna, which had a profound impact on his career and compositional style. It was there that he met many of the leading musicians of the time, and it was there that he first began using sonata form in works for solo guitar.Sonata form involves the presentation of two themes which initially contrast in key and usually contrast in style and mood as well. These themes are then developed with modulation creating a sense of tension, culminating at the end in a reiteration of both themes, this time both in the home key. It is at its essence a dramatic form and well suited to a dramatic genre such as the opera overture.
The practice of composing an orchestral overture to introduce an opera existed almost since the beginning of the genre. The overture was intended to create a sense of excitement for what was to come, and in the hands of a skilled composer, would foreshadow the drama and conflict of the plot. Some overtures were so popular and self-sufficient that they became independent concert works. Eventually composers began to call works “overtures” that had no tie to a larger work at all—Giuliani’s Grand Overture, op. 61, is one example.
Grand Overture begins with a slow introduction in A minor. Its sense of gravity comes from the use of dissonant diminished chords, chromatic lines, and a pedal on the dominant (a low E) that takes up about the final two-thirds of the introduction. This is followed by the main section of the piece, fast and in sonata form. Although it is in A major, Giuliani waits eight measures to firmly establish the key, prolonging the instability of the introduction and creating a sense of forward momentum. Long stretches of fast arpeggios make this a virtuosic showpiece, and one can hear an entire orchestra of sound contained within the six strings of the guitar.
Lute Suite No. 1 in e minor, BWV 996
Johann Sebastian Bach
Bach’s works for lute* represent perhaps the single most important body of work in the guitar repertoire. Among these works are dance suites, including the Suite in E Minor, BWV 996. This work, like most suites of the late Baroque, follows the standard form of Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, and Gigue with optional movements. Bach chose to include a Prelude and a Bourrée in addition to the four standard movements.
The Prelude to BWV 996 imitates the “French overture” form, which gained popularity in the seventeenth century through the orchestras of Jean-Baptiste Lully at the court of Louis XIV. A French overture begins with a slow section with dotted rhythms, scale flourishes, and heavy ornamentation while maintaining an improvisatory feel. This is followed by a fast, fugal section, beginning with one instrument playing a melody which is then imitated by other instruments entering successively. Bach’s slow section begins with a single voice that seems to wander downward, eventually encompassing a wide pitch register. Following this are mostly scalar passages and chords in dotted rhythms. The fast section begins with a seemingly endless stream of voices stating the subject until, at almost the halfway point, the subject is fragmented within a strikingly dense texture. This movement ends, like most in this suite, with a Picardy third—a major tonic chord in a piece that is otherwise in a minor key.
The remainder of the movements are dances. The Allemande‘s flowing lyricism offers a welcome respite from the intensity of the Prelude. It too features skillful counterpoint but with a lighter texture. The Courante is in French style, which typically features a moderate tempo, a time signature of 3/2, and a variety of rhythms, as opposed to the Italian version of the dance, which is fast, in 3/4, and with constant eighth-note or sixteenth-note rhythms. This movement is one of the most contrapuntal courantes in the repertoire. The sarabande is often the emotional heart of Bach’s suites, and this case is no exception. It is a long-lined aria of intense passion. The Bourrée is the best-known movement of all of Bach’s works for the lute. Its two-voice texture creates a lightness and a bounce that eases the listener out the reverie of the Sarabande. It is also the only movement not to end with a Picardy third. The Gigue features voices that alternate between contrary and parallel motion. The A section has many prominent descending lines, while the B section has more ascending lines, leading to the glorious end of the suite on an E major chord.
*Though it is still a matter of debate, most scholars believe that these works were conceived and originally performed on the lautenwerk or lute-harpsichord, an instrument similar to the harpsichord, but which used gut instead of metal strings to imitate the sound of the lute.
Rumores de la Caleta: Malagueña
(Recuerdos de Viaje, op.71, No. 6)
Capricho Catalán (from España, op. 165)
Torre Bermeja (Serenata from Douze Pieces Characteristiques, op. 92, No. 12)
Isaac Albéniz began his career as a virtuoso pianist and composer of cosmopolitan romantic music. Upon meeting the influential musicologist and composer Filip Pedrell, however, Albéniz’s music shifted toward the Spanish nationalist style. From that point on virtually all of his works were heavily inspired by the rich musical traditions of Spain.
Though he was from Catalonia to the north of Spain, Albéniz especially loved flamenco music from the southern region of Andalusia. In flamenco one can hear the influence of many Eastern cultures, including the Moors (who ruled Spain for about seven centuries), nomadic peoples (who some believe originated in northern India), and the Jews. As a consequence of this eclectic mix, flamenco music has an unmistakable and exotic sound. Rumores de la Caleta is an example of the flamenco form called Malagueña, a regionalized form of the fandango, from Málaga. The fandango is in triple meter, grouped into four-measure phrases. The Phrygian mode is used extensively, which in the key of E uses all of the natural notes, and in flamenco uses a G-sharp in addition to a G-natural, to make the tonic chord major instead of minor. The A section of Rumores consists of fiery rhythmic passages alternating with falsetas (brief melodic lines). The B section is an example of a copla—an extended melodic passage. As is common in the copla, it modulates to the key of C major, which shares the same scale (without the G-sharp) as E Phrygian.
Capricho Catalan refers to the composer’s native region of Catalonia. Long melodic lines spun over a rocking accompaniment create a sense of timelessness and reverence for his home.
The Torres Bermejas, or “Crimson Towers,” are a prominent feature of the castle in Granada called the Alhambra, which was built in the thirteenth century upon the ruins of a much older fortress in Andalusia. The towers get their name from the color of the brick which makes up their walls. The name “Alhambra” is Arabic, and means “crimson castle.” Although the castle is not primarily made of this color brick, it is thought that the name comes from the reflection of sunlight at certain times of day (or from the color reflected as it was built by torchlight, by one account). The Alhambra has been the inspiration for many musical works, including Francisco Tárrega’s famous solo guitar work Recuerdos de la Alhambra (Memories of the Alhambra) as E Phrygian.
Brazilian guitarist and composer Paulo Bellinati has achieved great popularity with his colorful compositions in the style of his native country. The most well-known of these is Jongo, based on a Brazilian dance of the same name which uses 3/4 and 3/2 rhythms and accents over an underlining time signature of 6/8. Originally written for his jazz band Pau Brasil, Bellinati’s piece achieved its greatest success when the composer arranged it for solo guitar. After receiving a first-place prize in an international competition for Jongo, Bellinati also made a duo arrangement for the great Brazilian guitarists Sérgio and Odair Assad. Both the solo and duo versions are fiery showpieces that take the listener on a colorful journey through Brazil while retaining so much of the original texture that it is easy to imagine hearing an entire jazz band.
Drei Tentos from Kammermusik
Hans Werner Henze
Hans Werner Henze is among the most prolific and successful of contemporary German composers. He began formal musical training relatively later in life (in his twenties) with Wolfgang Fortner, and his compositional style reveals a unique voice that melds some of the techniques of serial composition with a Stravinsky influence.
Drei Tentos is part of a larger work entitled Kammermusik (Chamber Music). This twelve-movement composition (later extended with an epilogue) was written in 1958 for the tenor Peter Pears, guitarist Julian Bream, and eight other instrumentalists. Henze describes it as “an encounter between Germany and Greece as conjured up by a poet (Friedrich Hölderlin) whose brain was clouded by insanity and who expressed his vision in wonderful but apparently disjointed phrases.”
“Tento” comes from the Spanish term tiento, a free-form fantasy popular in Renaissance Spain. These three interludes for solo guitar are very commonly excerpted from the larger work. While they clearly exhibit twentieth-century tonal language as well as the fragmentation that Henze describes, they also feature a neo-romantic melodicism, particularly in the first and third movements, which help to establish their otherworldly atmosphere.
Always and Forever (arr. Vieaux)
“A Felicidade” (arr. Roland Dyens)
Antônio Carlos Jobím
American jazz guitarist and composer Pat Metheny inhabits a rare confluence in the music world: he has had an enormous influence over subsequent generations of musicians while enjoying the respect and admiration of his musical colleagues, all the while experiencing one of the most popular and successful careers in American jazz music. ——Jason Vieaux
Antônio Carlos Jobím is widely considered as the most important innovator of the Brazilian bossa nova style. Several years before his collaboration with Stan Getz would propel him to international fame, Jobím wrote much of the score for the award-winning film Opheu Negro (Black Orpheus). This modern take on the classic tragedy of Orpheus and Eurydice is set in Brazil and opens with the song “A Felicidade” and the line that sets the tone for the plot: “Sadness has no end; happiness does.” “A Felicidade” would go on to be one of Jobím’s many hits and has been arranged and recorded by many artists. The present arrangement by French guitarist Roland Dyens has become popular for its infectious groove and flashy flourishes, while retaining the catchy lyricality of the original song.
In a Sentimental Mood
Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington
A composer, arranger and bandleader, Duke Ellington was among a few who elevated jazz to the status of art when the medium was still young. His contributions would ultimately be recognized with presidential honors, thirteen Grammy awards, a Pulitzer Prize and a French Legion of Honor. Among his many hits is In a Sentimental Mood, which according to the composer was improvised at a party in order to calm two women who had become upset. It was first recorded instrumentally by Duke Ellington’s orchestra, and lyrics were added later. The essence of this song can be summarized in the lyrics, “On the wings of every kiss drifts a melody so strange a sweet; in this sentimental bliss you make my paradise complete.”
Suite del Recuerdo
José Luis Merlín
Merlin says of Suite del Recuerdo, “This is an homage to memories, my memories. To the collective memories of my people living in nostalgia, tormented, anguished, happy and hopeful. Memories from the country, in San Luis, with all the smells and sounds from the country. It is like looking inside yourself in very profound silence. Memories of afternoons with grandparents, aunts and uncles, parents, brothers, sisters, cousins. All enjoying each other, sharing our feelings and playing guitar, sitting in the back yard drinking wine, under the vines. Lots of them are not here anymore. They are in my memories.
The work is a memorial to the victims of the Dirty War which took place in the 1970s and early ’80s in the composer’s native country of Argentina, in which the military used “dirty” methods such as torture and rape. Estimates vary widely as to the number of political opponents that died or disappeared in the conflict, ranging from the thousands to the tens of thousands.
Merlin begins his suite with the lament Evocación, followed by a series of nostalgic Argentinean dances. After a reprise of Evocación, the suite is brought to a lively close by Joropo, a lively Venezuelan dance which is the only movement in a major key.
All program notes by Erik Mann.
The Symphony acknowledges with thanks our season program notes contributor, Eric Bromberger.
NPR describes Grammy-winning guitarist Jason Vieaux as “perhaps the most precise and soulful classical guitarist of his generation,” and Gramophone magazine puts him “among the elite of today’s classical guitarists.” Read more!
Vieaux will also be featured as a concerto soloist during The Symphony’s February 19 performance, alongside the full orchestra—don’t miss it!