Venezuela Alegre: The Guitar Music of Carlos Atilano
Gregg has provided a great treat for lovers of Venezuelan music. He has just published 32 pieces of Carlos Atilano in a 70-page volume. As an additional treat, the package includes a delightful 32-track digital download of Gregg playing all the pieces.
Here is a comment on Atilano:
“…no mere Lauro clone… The music is unmistakably Venezuelan… spicy without being ground-breaking. Atilano is writing in a familiar tradition, while remaining his own man in his own time.”
Colin Cooper – Classical Guitar Magazine (October, 2012)
Atilano composes in a number of Venezuelan styles including the following:
Rooted in Folklore
Carlos Atilano’s guitar pieces almost invariably have their roots in the folklore of Venezuela. He proudly says: “All the pieces that I have written were inspired by pure love for my native land. Being away from Venezuela brings in me that nostalgia which comes from longing for my homeland, its music, its places and the aroma of the tropics.”
Gregg has just helped to make guitarists who love Scott Joplin quite happy. He recently released a great set of four Scott Joplin Ragtime Guitar Solos through Clear Note.
About Scott Joplin
Scott Joplin was born in Northeast Texas in around 1867, just outside Texarkana, and was a street performer before settling in Sedalia, Missouri, St. Louis, Missouri, and finally New York City where he died in 1917. He was an American composer and pianist, who achieved fame for his ragtime compositions, and was dubbed “The King of Ragtime”. During his brief career, Joplin wrote over 40 original ragtime pieces, one ragtime ballet, and two operas.
As a composer Joplin refined ragtime. This new art form combined Afro-American folk music’s syncopation and nineteenth-century European romanticism, with its harmonic schemes and its march-like tempos. With this as a foundation, Joplin intended his compositions to be played exactly as he wrote them – without improvisation. The composer wrote his rags as “classical” music to raise ragtime above its “cheap bordello” origins and produced works which were described as “…more tuneful, contrapuntal, infectious, and harmonically colorful than any others of his era.”
For this publication, four of his finest were arranged for solo guitar. Although grouped as a “suite”, they can be easily played and presented individually.
“Bach and Beethoven erected temples and churches on the heights. I only wanted to build dwellings for men in which they might feel happy, and at home.”
Edvard Hagerup Grieg (1843-1907) was a Norwegian composer and pianist. He is widely considered one of the leading Romantic era composers, and his music is part of the standard classical repertoire worldwide. His use and development of Norwegian folk music in his own compositions put the music of Norway in the international spectrum, as well as helping develop a national identity.
Grieg’s character and personality shine through in almost all his published compositions. Nowhere are they more vividly evident than in his Lyric Pieces. Six of these exquisite jewels have been set for solo guitar as a short suite, but can be played as separate pieces in concert.
A Sarabande from the “Holberg Suite” has also been included in this edition as a stand-alone work.
Gregg arranges mostly for ensemble with guitar, but in this case he has made a solo guitar setting of the piano piece Aparicíon by Enrique Granados pub. by Clear Note.
Composer Enrique Granados, along with Isaac Albéniz, brought modern Spanish music into the home of the avid music lover. Most of Granados’ works are for piano solo, and through them he created a unique style of writing for the [then] modern school of Spanish keyboard music. Many of his works have been successfully arranged for guitar and are among the all time audience favorites in the instrument’s literature.
Aparición was composed for the “Cateura” pedal piano, an instrument invented around Barcelona at the beginning of the twentieth Century. No known examples of the “Cateura” are known to have survived; however, through indications of the scores in the works Granados wrote for it, the pedals must have provided special coloristic tonal effects.
This arrangement for solo guitar by Gregg Nestor also uses fingerings that help emphasize the ringing sonorities, adding to the charm and beauty of this jewel.
Gregg has arranged a lovely set of the lesser-known songs of Albéniz called Rimas de Bécquer for voice and guitar as well as for violin and guitar and cello and guitar. These songs are based on poems of Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer. Clear Note has published the scores for all three settings and they are available using the above links.
I. Besa el aura que gime blandamente
II. Del salón en el ángulo oscuro
III. Me ha herido recatándose en las sombras
IV. Cuando sobre el pecho inclinas
V. ¿De dónde vengo? El más horrible y áspero
Isaac Albéniz’s (1860-1909) name immediately conjures up his piano masterpiece Iberia and various works that have met their success in fine transcriptions for guitar and that are a staple of the repertoire for the instrument. But sprinkled through his tremendously active career as a composer and piano virtuoso, ensemble musician, conductor, impresario and piano teacher are his songs – over thirty of them!
These songs show a different side of the composer. More carefully considered than familiar light-weight salon pieces, they display a greater sensitivity and attention to detail.
The Rimas de Bécquer (Rhymes of Bécquer) (1885), like the poems themselves, are succinct works (the longest does not exceed thirty-three measures). The repeated rocking motion in the accompaniment of the first song, for example, characterizes the motion of the waves, while the frenetic arpeggiations in the last song dramatize the narrator’s extreme agitation.
Together, these early jewels mirror in microcosm the development of his unique voice and style in masterworks that were to come and that tie him as a major musical icon in the Spanish Nationalist style.
Composer Enrique Granados, along with Isaac Albéniz, brought modern Spanish music into the home of the avid music lover. Most of Granados’ works are for piano solo, and through them he created a unique style of writing for the then modern school of Spanish keyboard music. Many of his works have been successfully arranged for guitar and are among the all time audience favorites in the instrument’s literature.
This collection, in two arrangements for guitar duo and for guitar quartet by Gregg Nestor, consists of works from the composer’s youth (circa 1890 – 1895) and strongly convey the nationalistic elements so pronounced in his elegant style. They have been organized as a suite of contrasting movements, but can successfully be played as stand alone pieces.
Clear Note recently published a fine guitar duo by Michael Deak called Introspections for Guitar Duo. Gregg Nestor and Raymond Burley have made a recording of that entire work on their Kaleidoscope CD, also available at Clear Note.
About the Work
Introspections was conceived as a quiet journey into an exotic tonal landscape, intended to inspire in the listener a spirit of serenity. The piece reflects elements of Spanish music, especially in the first movement, though subtle intimations of these elements can be found throughout the entire work. Allusions to jazz harmony are also present, particularly in the second movement written in the style of a chorale, where the chordal structure is readily apparent to the ear. The final movement is influenced by Ravel, most prominently towards the end.
The guitar duo tradition stretches back to the early nineteenth century when Fernando Sor wrote duets to perform with Dionisio Aguado. Other composer / performers of this period such as Mauro Giuliani and Fernando Carulli also published fine works for two guitars. In the twentieth century various distinguished duos established an international reputation, the most eminent being the Presti-Lagoya partnership who set new standards in both technique and interpretation.
The duo is a versatile medium capable of encompassing a more complex repertoire than a single guitar. In particular the duo lends itself to imaginative arrangements from a wide variety of sources, including the pianoforte and even orchestral scores. If, as Segovia maintained, the solo instrument is ‘a miniature orchestra in itself’, it could be argued that two guitars double the instrument’s tonal and interpretative resources. The music on this recording demonstrates the duo’s capacity to present a wide range of transcriptions with authority, sensitive musicianship, and virtuosity.
It is an adventure to see what chamber music from the great composers can be suitably arranged to include the guitar. Gregg comes up with three interesting Clear Note editions of Ravel’s Don Quichotte à Dulcinée for violin and guitar, oboe and guitar and cello and guitar. The cello edition is shown below.
Ravel’s setting of contemporary French writer Paul Morand’s Don Quichotte-inspired poetry came at the very end of his creative life, and only upon a commission from the Austrian filmmaker G.W. Pabst for a film he was making on Don Quichotte. Pabst was plainly not devoted to Ravel’s work, however; – when Ravel was slow in producing the specified scores, Pabst readily accepted music from Jacques Ibert instead. The result of this aborted collaboration, Ravel’s set of three songs entitled Don Quichotte à Dulcinée ended up being his last completed work.
Ravel based each movement on a traditional Spanish dance: “Chanson romanesque” is a quajira, which alternates bars of 3/4 and 6/8. Although “Chanson épique” is hymnlike, introduced with a low spiritual chorale, it too is a dance: the 5/4 Basque zortzico. Its naturally languid rhythm is here extrapolated to a state of reverent suspension, as Don Quichotte invokes the medieval patrons Saint Michael and Saint George as witnesses to the purity of his love for Dulcinea.
Don Quichotte is human after all, and he boisterously comes back down to earth in the final movement, called, inevitably “Chanson à boire”. Underlying this “Drinking Song” is the quick accented 3/4 of the jota.
This instrumental version by Gregg Nestor for cello and guitar perfectly captures the misguided but sincere protagonist, a brave man risking ridicule and torment in his quest for love.