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.
Gregg and Clear Note Publications have produced yet another set of excellent arrangements, this time of Bartók. The Bartók Sonatine and Bagpipe are available from Clear Note in two different versions: flute and guitar and violin and guitar. Only the flute and guitar cover is shown below.
As a young composer, Béla Bartók (1881-1945) fell under the spell of folksong after hearing a peasant girl singing a Transylvanian tune during a summer visit to Gerlice Puszta, southeastern Hungary, in 1904. “I now have a new plan,” he told his sister. “I shall collect the most beautiful Hungarian folksongs and raise them to the level of art songs by providing them with the best possible piano accompaniments.”
The Sonatine, a three movement piece Bartók wrote for piano in 1915, is adapted here for basically any solo instrument with guitar accompaniment. It’s based on folk tunes the composer collected in his neighboring country Romania. Some sixteen years after writing this piece Bartók arranged an orchestral version of it he titled Transylvanian Dances. The second piece in this edition, a brief but energetic Bagpipe, is from Volume 5 of Mikrokosmos and is added here as an encore piece.
Gregg’s fine arrangement of music from the movie Schindler’s List is played here by Duo Vitare. The duo consists of Polish cellist Agnieszka Kotulska-Rahunen and Finnish classical guitarist Kimmo Rahunen. Their website is Duo Vitare. These excellent musicians perform beautifully in the following video. Enjoy!
Not everyone knows that, besides his excellent guitar playing and arranging, Gregg also does occasional jobs as a music copyist. In December 2015, he did a big orchestral score copying job for a 4-day recording session at Abbey Road Studios in England. The music that Gregg copied was written by composer Mark McKenzie for the forthcoming film Max and Me (summer 2016 release). The recording features an 85-piece orchestra, London Voices (a 32-voice choir), the Libera Boys Choir, violinist Joshua Bell and vocalist Clara Sanabras.
After Gregg finished the copying job, he sent the score and parts over to Abbey Road Studios. Then he flew over to Abbey Road to make sure that everything went smoothly at the recording sessions. You can see Gregg below at Abbey Road happily handing out an orchestral part for the sessions.
Clear Note has just released Gregg’s arrangement of Grieg’s Holberg Suite Op. 40. You can check out this new Grieg work for guitar and chamber ensemble at Clear Note here.
The five movements of the suite are:
Praeludium (Allegro vivace)
Air (Andante religioso)
Rigaudon (Allegro con brio)
The Holberg Suite, Op. 40, by Edvard Grieg, originally entitled “From Holberg’s Time”, and subtitled “Suite in olden style”, is in five movements that are reminiscent of eighteenth century dance forms. Grieg composed the work in 1884 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Danish-Norwegian humanist and playwright Ludvig Holberg.
The Holberg Suite, originally composed for piano, was later adapted by Grieg for string orchestra. This arrangement by Gregg Nestor adds the color of wind instruments and guitar, creating a chamber work that is both fun to play and refreshing to hear.
Clear Note has very recently published two of Gregg’s Music Plus One arrangements for guitar and chamber orchestra that come with play-along CDs. The first is the folk song Aire de Joropo and the second is Maxixe by Agustín Barrios. Both arrangements also are available in performance editions with score and parts here.
Joropo is a musical style resembling the fandango, and an accompanying dance. It has African, Native South American and European influences and originated in parts of what is now Venezuela. It is a fundamental genre of música criolla (creole music) and is a very popular folk rhythm making use of polyrhythmic patterns, especially of hemiola, and alternation of 3/4 and 6/8 tempos.
Aire de joropo has been a popular folk song played by classical guitarists for a number of years. This guitar and orchestra fantasy was arranged by Gregg Nestor as an encore piece for a London concert in 1980.
This edition of Maxixe for Guitar and Chamber Orchestra includes a Music Plus One play-along recording. MPO recordings are engineered for educational use, personal enjoyment, live concerts, and casual performance.
“The genesis of this arrangement of Maxixe occurred in 1980 during my stay in England. I was playing the Manuel Ponce Guitar Concerto with a municipal orchestra and was asked to prepare two encore items. As the concerto I was playing was by Ponce I chose two short works in keeping with the Mexican and South American style, Maxixe by Agustín Barrios and the folk song Aire de joropo.”
A new delight for vocalists and guitarists! Gregg has skillfully arranged seven volumes of beautiful German lieder for voice and guitar by Schubert, Schumann and Brahms. This collection is called Masterworks of German Lied. All seven volumes with 163 lieder are now available from Clear Note. You can order the entire set of excellent volumes here. The volumes for each composer may also be ordered separately: Schubert – Vols. 1-3; Schumann – Vols. 4-5; Brahms – Vols. 6-7.
We speculate that if today’s concert level guitars had been available to Romantic era composers, with their richer palette of subtle sounds, greater volume, and vastly improved intonation, the guitar might well have played a more prominent role with these composers. Classical guitar embodies many of the Romantic ideals: its intimacy, color, and evocative possibilities are a perfect fit for the German lieder found in this expansive collection.
The seven volumes contained in this edition focus exclusively on songs by Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms. One hundred sixty-three lieder from these masters are presented in chronological order, offering a sequential viewpoint into the creative arc of each composer’s lifelong exploration of the genre. Throughout the collection meticulous attention has been paid to representing the original articulations and phrasing to assist in musical interpretation.
Among these three composers only Schubert actually played the guitar. He also composed for the instrument, and several of his songs were originally published with alternate guitar accompaniment. Neither Schumann or Brahms are known to have played guitar, but Viennese musical society of that time, at the highest levels and within the middle class, loved guitar and many played it. The iconic nineteenth century composer and guitarist Mauro Giuliani, an acquaintance of Schubert, is said to have sung some of Schubert’s vocal works, and played music “past midnight” on occasion with Schubert and other musicians.
With the publication of this treasury of German lieder, expertly arranged for voice and guitar by Gregg Nestor, today’s vocalists and guitarists have the opportunity to study and perform the largest collection of these exquisite Romantic masterpieces to date.
The Kennedy Center is presenting a concert of Jewish music on November 23, 2015 by Pro Musica Hebraica. Pro Musica Hebraica is an organization devoted to presenting Jewish classical music—much of it believed lost, forgotten, or rarely performed—in a concert hall setting.
One of the featured performances will be Gregg’s arrangement of Cuatro Canciones Sefardíes (1965) for voice and guitar by Joaquín Rodrigo. The songs will be performed by mezzo-soprano Rachel Calloway and guitarist Adam Levin (photos below).
For a PDF brochure with more information about the Pro Musica Hebraica concert click here.