Here is another delightful video by Duo Vitare playing Gregg’s arrangement of Ching-a-Ring Chaw.from Aaron Copland’s “Old American Songs,” Set 2. This was originally a minstrel song in a dialect. The song tells how wonderful it is in “the promised land.”
Clear Note recently published Gregg’s fine arrangement of the Turina Quartet in A Minor. You can find the music here.
Lento – Andante mosso
Andante – Allegretto
The opening passages of the Quartet in A minor, Op 67a, (here with the piano being replaced and adapted for guitar by Gregg Nestor), immediately announce an essential foundational element of Turina’s music. These melodic passages are constrained and mysterious, but distinctly Andalusian. They hearken to the ancient cante jondo, the serious ‘deep song’ of southern Spain, and become building blocks for the entire structure, appearing in the second and third movements as well, and thus giving the work a cyclical form. In another direct reference to folk music, passages of the second movement feature repeated chords and pizzicato in the strings which both allude to the guitar.
JOAQUÍN TURINA (1882-1949)
Joaquín Turina’s successful synthesis of the early-twentieth-century French School and Andalusian folklore, embodied in the classical genres of chamber music, was no small feat. As a Spanish composer seeking to express his national identity through chamber music, he had very few precedents to emulate. Falla and Albéniz advised Turina to embrace his heritage as an Andalusian musician. Albéniz is reported to have said: You must base your art on Spanish popular song, on Andalusian music, because you are from Seville. In later years Turina would recall this conversation saying: Those words were decisive for me, [and] they are a piece of advice that I have tried to follow throughout my career.
The result of this encounter with Albéniz and Falla was an outpouring of music that established Turina as one of the outstanding Spanish composers of the early twentieth century. Nearly all of his works bore allusions to Spain, and more specifically to Andalusia.
Publisher: Clear Note
Gregg and Duo Vitare worked together to create the lovely video of the Ravel Chanson Romanesque from Don Quichotte à Dulcinée that you see above. The video even includes an elegant dance interpretation of the work. Duo Vitare does a great job with Gregg’s arrangement of the Ravel piece for cello and guitar. You can find this arrangement and many others in the Gregg Nestor Collection on the Clear Note website.
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.
Duo Vitare gives an excellent performance of the cello and guitar arrangement of Rimas de Bécquer IV and V. Enjoy this fine video! The score is available here.
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.
Gabriel Urbain Fauré (1845-1924) was one of the great composers of French song who perfected the mélodie as a true art song form. He created an extraordinary range of songs, all original in conception and constantly developing in style, extending the musical parameters of French song and inspiring new techniques of vocal composition. Fauré’s lyrical songs translate beautifully into instrumental music and are arranged here by Gregg Nestor for cello and guitar. The score plus parts and an audio download are available here.
Le Papillon et la Fleur was, in fact, Fauré’s first published composition – composed, in his words – “in the school dining hall amid the smells of the kitchen,” – and is one of the composer’s most simple and direct mélodies.
Aprés un Réve is one of Fauré’s best-known and most beguiling works. The work depicts a dream in which the narrator and her beloved come together in an almost unworldly meeting, followed by a longing to return to this dream state after awakening.
In Au Bord de l’Eau both the cello and guitar accompaniment evoke flowing water, with gentle arpeggios suggesting ripples on the water. Occasionally the melodic focus is passed from cellist to accompaniment amongst shifts between minor and major modes.
In Dans les Ruines d’une Abbaye the music juxtaposes a young newly married couple amid the ruins of an abbey, two near-opposites. The tune is as light as the mood of the newlyweds the song depicts, with simple rippling accompaniment on the guitar.
Danzas Fantásticas! The title alone of this excellent arrangement for two guitars already gets one excited. It promises to be a great joy for any two guitarists who play it. The score along with an audio download card is available here. The audio is taken from the CD called Kaleidoscope recorded by Gregg Nestor and Raymond Burley.
Danzas Fantásticas, Op. 22, originally written for piano and later orchestrated, were premiered in 1920. The work takes inspiration from the poetic ideas expressed in the novel La Orgía by José Más (1885-1940).
Exaltación (Exaltation) is prefaced with the words – It appeared like the figures of some incomparable picture, moving within the calyx of a flower – and begins meditatively before progressing to the vigorous rhythms of the jota.
Ensueño (Reverie) is more melancholic – The strings of the guitar sound like lamentations of a soul no longer able to bear the weight of sorrow. The rhythmic pattern established after the opening trills is the zortzico, a Basque dance performed on flutes and drums, characterised by a 5/8 rhythm. The pulse is firmly stated before the advent of a delightful melody. An expressive middle section, Allegretto tranquillo, changes the mood towards the reflective until the return of the zortzico. In a short coda a few bars of the Allegretto’s 6/8 rhythm reappear before the quiet 5/8 ending.
Orgía (Orgy) takes as its motif – The perfume of flowers blends with the aroma of camomile and the bouquet of tall chalices filled with incomparable wine from which, like incense, joy rises. This final movement, brilliant and colorful, is ideally suited to guitar textures, revealing distinct melodic and harmonic similarities to the composer’s solo guitar pieces, Sevillana, Op. 29 (1923) and Sonata, Op. 61 (premiered 1932.)
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.”
This is an excellent performance of Gregg’s arrangement of Schubert’s famous and happy song “Die Forelle”. Adam Cicchillitti plays guitar and Philippe Courchesne-Leboeuf sings.
Courtenay Budd and David Leisner perform Granados’ Elegia as arranged by Gregg.
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.
- The Entertainer
- Elite Syncopations
- Pineapple Rag
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.