Clear Note has recently published Manuel Ponce’s song cycle Seis Poemas Arcaicos in a fine arrangement for voice and guitar by Gregg Nestor (with audio download). Along with these six lovely songs, this publication also includes Gregg’s rendition of Estrellita for voice and guitar. Estrellita is one of Ponce’s most famous songs.
This song cycle was composed in Mexico City in the year 1939. Chronologically in the context of Ponce’s eight song cycles, it occupies the next-to-last position, succeeded only by the cycle entitled Three Poems by Enrique González Martínez, written between 1939 and 1940.
The texts that served to inspire his compositions were gleaned from
the Cancionero de Palacio, an ancient musical codex found in Madrid that
had belonged to the Catholic kings and which comprised the broadest
catalogue of polyphonic profane songs of the time period at the end of
the 15th Century and the beginning of the 16th. This important codex was
later published on two occasions: first in 1890, when it was edited by
Spanish composer-musicologist Asenjo Barbieri (1824-1894), under the
title Cancionero Musical de los siglos XV y XVI; and secondly, in 1947
and 1951, when it was edited by Catalonian musicologist Higinio Anglés
(1888-1969). Ponce was familiar with the Barbieri edition, and indeed he
possessed a volume of it in his private library.
Mexico, D. F., May, 2011
Ponce studied in Paris for a time, where he befriended Andrés Segovia, among others. He wrote more than forty works for the guitar, and fifty popular songs and song cycles. With its beautiful melody and poignant verse, his beloved Estrellita, arranged here by Gregg Nestor, is a classic in song literature.
Seis Poemas Arcaicos and Estrellita have been recorded by
guitarist Gregg Nestor and soprano Anna Bartos on their CD Cantares
(Townhall Records THCD-44).
The Wild Dance CD collection, the first of three volumes by Duo Sonidos, unleashes a wellspring of exciting new transcriptions culled from the rich repertoire of vocal and violin chamber music, previously deemed unthinkable on the guitar. This colourful mosaic of 20th-century music, from Rodrigo’s affectionately lyrical Cuatro canciones sefardíesto John Williams’ haunting theme from the film Schindler’s List, unveils the hidden world of charm and intimate expressivity provided by Gregg Nestor’s skillful and sensitive arrangements.
Great Selection of Composers and Music
The complete list of composers on this CD is varied and impressive: Lukas Foss; George Gershwin; Erich Wolfgang Korngold; Manuel María Ponce; Maurice Ravel; Joaquín Rodrigo; Karol Szymanowski; John Williams. The music is equally varied and impressive. For example, you will find wonderful arrangements of old favorites like Gershwin’s It Ain’t Necessarily So and less well-known but delightful pieces like Wild Dance by Szymanowski. It is a joy to hear the fine interpretations of these composers by Duo Sonidos with William Knuth on violin and Adam Levin on guitar.
Gregg has made a beautiful violin and guitar arrangement of the famous song Estrellita by Manuel Ponce. This arrangement is now available in an excellent edition from Clear Note. It comes with an MP3 download rendition of the song by the excellent Duo Sonidos with William Knuth on violin and Adam Levin on guitar.
Mexican composer Manuel M. Ponce (1882-1948) studied in Paris, where he befriended Andrés Segovia, among others. He wrote more than forty works for the guitar, and fifty popular songs and song cycles. With its beautiful melody and poignant verse, his beloved Estrellita, is a classic in song literature.
The excellent song cycle Poema en forma de canciones by Joaquín Turina has been recorded by Soprano Ursula Maria Kleinecke, accompanied by guitarists Adam Pettit and Gregg Nestor, and is included as a download with this edition. The music and recording are available here. The songs are as follows:
Los dos miedos
Las locas por amor
My music is the expression of the feeling of a true Sevillian who did not know Seville until he left it… yet, it is necessary for the artist to move away to get to know his country, just as it is for the painter who takes some steps backwards to be able to take in the complete picture. Joaquín Turina
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”