Sunday 17th May / posted by Graham Hawkes
Background from Stephanie
Some people are said to have been born in the wrong era, but sometimes I feel that with such a soft spot for Spanish culture, I might have been born in the wrong place! Instead of Perth, Western Australia, (which I also love) I might have very happily come into the world in Granada or Barcelona. Not only do I appreciate the afternoon siestas, delicious tapas and paellas, I especially love the colour, flamboyance and soulfulness of Spanish music. And, as we all know, at the heart of Spanish music lies the guitar.
The guitar in Spanish music has embraced a vast range of styles and musical incarnations over the past five centuries. With that in mind I’ve chosen a series of pieces that highlight the development of Spanish guitar music from the 16th century Renaissance to the Romantic and Nationalist classics we know and love today, without venturing into the realm of the truly contemporary.
In deciding the order of the pieces I felt that the most effective way to present them was to begin with the more familiar, quintessentially Spanish – sounding pieces of the late 19thand early 20th centuries and to work back to early 16th century masterworks for the vihuela, a close relative of the guitar. The program thus becomes a retrospective look at Spanish guitar music.
The music of Albéniz, Tarrega and Turina encompasses all that it is to be Spanish. These composers were among those responsible for the rebirth and development of Spanish nationalism that began in the late 19th century. Their music brilliantly combines traditional Spanish rhythms, a rich variety of tone colour and beautifully evocative melodic lines. Although the works of Albéniz were originally conceived for the piano they draw heavily on the guitar for inspiration and are in fact far more well- known today as guitar pieces.
In the early 19th century the guitar added a 6th string to become the 6-string instrument we know today, and quickly began to establish itself as a virtuoso solo instrument. At the forefront of this new development was the Catalan-born Fernando Sor who composed a substantial number of high-quality works for the guitar and was widely celebrated for his virtuoso public performances. His Opus 9: “Introduction and Variations on an air from the Magic Flute” is one of the landmark works of the classical guitar repertoire. Full of technical and emotional variety, it is superbly conceived for the instrument.
One of the key figures in the 17th century world of the guitar was Gaspar Sanz. The baroque guitar of Sanz’s day was a 5-course instrument, four of which were double strung and the top course was single. It was a treble sounding instrument particularly suited to strumming, along with plucked and more contrapuntal textures. Sanz’s use of this inherently wide range of colour and textural possibilities is on full display in this expanded arrangement for the modern guitar by the Spanish guitarist Narciso Yepes.
The final pieces come from a time when plucked instruments reigned supreme in Western music, with Spanish vihuela music of the 16th century forming a high point in originality and musical quality. All four of these pieces are masterpieces of the genre. The vihuela of the early 16th century coexisted with the four and five-course guitar. As a six course instrument itself, the music of the vihuela translates very easily and idiomatically to the modern guitar, especially if the third string is lowered to f# as I have chosen to do for this recording. As with the Sanz and so much Spanish music of later times, the folk music of the people is always close at hand, its rhythmic and melodic influence clearly evident in these nonetheless highly sophisticated Spanish pieces of nearly 500 years ago.
The title of the CD, “Colours of Spain” aims to reflect both the nature of the music and the uniqueness of the guitar itself as an instrument of great versatility, variety of tone colour, texture, technique and dynamic range – all characteristics that enable the guitar to so effectively “paint” the different images and emotions inherent in Spanish music. The exquisite water colour on the cover of the CD sleeve painted by my friend Dan Power, vividly emphasises this colouristic theme by merging the purity of nature with the curvaceous form of the instrument itself.
All live musical performances are included in our podcasts with the express permission of artists, who reserve all other rights in their music. All music used in our podcasts is licensed under an APRA Community Broadcasting license agreement.
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