NEW CD: 19th century historical guitars

August 28, 2016

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A guitar compilation out of the ordinary: full of Mediterranean fire and foot-tapping rhythms, but in the context of a historically informed journey through the cultural landscape of the guitar’s spiritual home in the 19th century, and played on original instruments of the time by a musician who has thoroughly researched the technique and technical developments necessary for performances fully within the idiom. There is even a first recording, most unusually for this often-heard repertoire: the Sonatina by Giuseppe Anelli, a guitarist and composer from Turin who probably published these pieces in 1809. 

The best-known names on this album are Mauro Giuliani and his rival Fernando Sor, both being famed through the capitals of Europe as virtuoso guitarists in the first decades of the 19th century. Giuliani’s Capricci Op.20 are a synthesis of his musical style, full of virtuoso passages and feature a delightful melodic vein that clearly derives from the bel canto tradition. Meanwhile the Fantasia Op.21 and the Variations Op.9 arefine examples of Sor’s style, with their implicit references to Mozart and Haydn as sources of inspiration. 

Less familiar to us now is Dionisio Aguado, who was in Paris during the 1830s. His renown as a composer is less widespread than that of Sor, perhaps because he spent much of his life writing a teaching method (published in 1849) that embodies not only a synthesis of his technical vision of the instrument, but also an aesthetics of sound and an approach to interpretation that are distinctly modern in concept. 

The guitar’s technological innovations are more evident in the music of Napoléon Coste, a student of Sor who devised a seven-stringed guitar that responded to the need for greater timbral and harmonic variety, offering extended richness in the lower register. Le Tournoi, a ‘Fantasie chevaleresque’, was conceived for this type of instrument, and derives directly from the programmatic music typical of the romantic symphonic repertoire. It is no coincidence that the piece was dedicated to Hector Berlioz. 

In the beginning of the 19th century the guitar gained a widespread popularity. The technical developments of the instrument led composers to take it seriously and compositions began to appear regularly. 
This CD offers a survey of the most important guitar composers of the 19th century: Mauro Giuliani, Napoleon Coste, Giuseppe Anelli, Luigi Legnani and Fernando Sor: music of classical Viennese background, spiced up by the colouristic possibilities of the instrument, charming, witty and pleasing to the salon audiences. 
Guitarist Luigi Attademo, one of the most important guitarists of his generation, adds an authentic flavour to the recording by playing several 19th century historical guitars.



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