Mertz, Johann Kaspar (1806-1856): Carnival Of Venice Op. 6
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TurinaSonata.mp3 (This is the same recording that can be downloaded on the home page.) Recorded: Nov. 24, 1996 at Tabaret Hall, University of Ottawa.
The last movement of the Sonata Op. 61 by Joaquin Turina (1882-1949) reveals a strong flamenco guitar character. Joaquin Turina was a member of the Spanish nationalist school which combined classical compositional style with Spanish folk music. Turina's love of music began when he received an accordion as a small child. He became a piano child prodigy and began performing at the age of 14. In his early 20's he moved to Paris for 10 years to study composition with Vincent D'Indy. While in Paris he met several important composers who greatly influenced him, including Debussy and Ravel. His friendship with Albeniz and DeFalla, fellow Spanish composers living in Paris, led him to compose in the Spanish nationalist style which they adhered to.
Turina's nationalism extended not only to music but also to politics. During the Spanish civil war he lived in Madrid and suffered repression by the left-wing Republicans who controlled the city. After Madrid fell to Franco his fortunes changed and he received appointments to important positions by the Franco government. His association with the Spanish fascist government has contributed to his works not being viewed with the merit to which their musical integrity deserves.
ScarlattiSonatasK32andK391.mp3 Recorded: Feb. 1, 1996 at Freimann Hall, University of Ottawa.
Sonatas K32 and K391 (in the Longo classification L423 and L79) by Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757). Although Italian, Scarlatti spent a large part of his life working in Spain and like Turina was greatly influenced by Spanish guitar music although of a much earlier era. Scarlatti wrote over 500 sonatas for harpsichord including these two which have been arranged for guitar.
BachPreludeandFugueBWV998.mp3 Recorded: Nov. 24, 1996 at Tabaret Hall, University of Ottawa.
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) was born in the same year as Scarlatti and Handel but never met either (Scarlatti and Handel did meet) despite a strong desire to meet Handel. His employer once lent him a horse to meet Handel when Handel was in the vicinity but the meeting never took place for unknown reasons. Handel was apparently less enthusiastic about meeting Bach than vice versa. Bach was, however, the greatest composer of the three and in my opinion the greatest composer ever. He was not famous in his day and was unknown for roughly 100 years after his death until his music was rediscovered. Even in his final and most prestigious appointment in Leipzig, the city with which he is most strongly associated and where he worked for 27 years, he was the third choice for the job out of 5 candidates and only offered the position after the first two choices turned it down.
Bach is also notable for the fact that he had 20 children! As one might assume, they were not all with the same woman as he was married twice. As was typical in this time, 10 of his children died at childbirth or at a young age and only 6 made it to adulthood. Several of his adult children also became famous musicians and composers, most notably Carl Phillip Emanuel, Wilhem Friedemann and Johann Christian. Apparently, there are no direct descendents of the J.S. Bach line. Bach's first wife died unexpectedly while he was out of town and he returned to find out to his complete surprise that his wife was not only dead but had also been buried in his absence. His second wife was 17 years younger than him and bore him 13 children. Both marriages were apparently quite happy but his second wife had a falling out with his sons after his death and died in poverty 10 years later.
The following recording is of the Prelude and Fugue from Bach's Prelude, Fugue and Allegro. The manuscript of this work states that it can be played on either the lute or harpsichord. 15 years later, I no longer remember why I did not record the Allegro as I was playing the whole piece at the time. Possibly I had exceeded my recording budget so two out of three will have to do.
WaltonBagatelle1.mp3 Recorded: Feb. 1, 1996 at Freimann Hall, University of Ottawa.
William Walton (1902-1983) was born in Oldham, England where his father was working as an organist and choir director. His singing ability was recognized at an early age which allowed him to receive a scholarship at Oxford as a singer in the boys choir instead of having to attend a public school in Oldham. He started composing at a young age because he wanted to remain at Oxford and feared being sent back to Oldham once his voice broke if he did not distinguish himself in any other way. Attending Oxford allowed Walton to come in contact with wealthier students who later became his patrons. Walton was able to devote his time to composing as he was almost always able to find financial support from wealthy aristocratic friends or lovers.
In 1922 at the age of 19, Walton rose to prominence when his work Facade was first performed. This work caused a stir because it consisted of poems being read through a megaphone accompanied by Walton's music. Despite this early association with the avant garde, Walton's music was often criticized by contemporary critics for not being avant garde enough. Walton was commisioned to compose music for the coronations of both King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II. During World War II he composed music for British war propaganda films. The Five Bagatelles (of which I only recorded the first) were Walton's second composition for the guitar. He had earlier composed a song cycle for guitarist Julian Bream and tenor Peter Pears. Bream's satisfaction with the song cycle led him to commission the Bagatelles which were completed in 1971. Walton was so pleased with the Five Bagatelles that he later arranged them for orchestra, one of the few pieces in the guitar repertoire to receive this honour.
DowlandLachrimaePavan.mp3 Recorded: Feb. 5, 1997 at Freimann Hall, University of Ottawa.
John Dowland (1563-1626) was also an English composer but of a much earlier era. He was born the year before Shakespeare but outlived him by 10 years. Little is known of his early life but in his late teens he moved to France to work as a lutenist and converted to Catholicism which he later claimed prevented him from being given a good position in England. While this may have played a role there were other factors including the personality of Dowland himself. He wrote and published his Captain Digorie Piper's Galliard and Piper's Pavane, for example, while in the employ of the Danish king whose ships had been destroyed by the famous pirate Digorie Piper. His failure to find a good post in England led to his move move to Germany and then Denmark but financial problems eventually forced his return to England. Possibly the death of Queen Elizabeth I also inspired him to return as it was during her reign that he was unable to get a court appointment. Finally in 1612 he was given the post he had been seeking for so long and became one one of King James I's lutenists.
Despite all of his work and financial problems, Dowland was quite famous as a composer and lute virtuoso in England and continental Europe. A contemporary poem that for a long time was falsely attributed to Shakespeare states, "Dowland to thee is dear, whose heanvenly touch Upon the lute doth ravish human sense." He was the author of what could be called the biggest hit song of the Renaissance, Flow My Tears. There is no evidence that Shakespeare and Dowland ever met, but Shakespeare does make a sarcastic reference to this song in Twelfth Night. The melancholy mood and text of the song was fashionable during this period. The lyrics of the first verse of the song are: "Flow, my tears, fall from your springs, Exiled for ever, let me mourn Where night's black bird her sad infamy sings, There let me live forlorn." Dowland subsequently arranged the song in instrumental version in his pulication, Lachrimae or Seaven Teares Figured in Seaven Passionate Pavans. Lachrimae is the latin word for tears and the following piece is a guitar arrangement of the solo lute version of this song.
MertzElegie.mp3 Recorded: Feb. 1, 1996 at Freimann Hall, University of Ottawa.
The nationality of Johann Kaspar Mertz (1806-1856) is a bit difficult to determine. He was ethnically German but was born and raised in Bratislava, now the capital of Slovakia but at the time the capital of Hungary. He lived much of his adult life in Vienna, Austria. The poverty of his family led to Mertz, who was a child prodigy, having to give guitar lessons at the age of 12 to supplement the family income. Mertz earned his living as a guitar teacher in Bratislava until the age of 34 when he moved to Vienna. This move and his popularity with the Viennese musical establishment greatly enhanced his career and he toured extensively throughout Europe. At a concert in Dresden he met his future wife, Josephine Plantin, who was a concert pianist and also one of the performers at the concert. She is best known for having almost killed him by administering him an incorrect dosage of medicine. It is not entirely clear whether she or the doctor made the error but Mertz almost died. Although he lived 10 more years, doctors at the time of his death from tuberculosis thought that ill effects from the poisoning may have contributed to his catching this disease and also to his heart problems. Near the end of his life Mertz had entered a composition competition started by a Russian guitar aficionado who wanted to stimulate guitar composition. Mertz wrote three of his best pieces for this competition but unfortunately died before they could inform him that he was the winner. Mertz was one of the first guitar composers to compose in the romantic style of Schubert and Schumann and not the more conservative classical style. The fact that his wife was a concert pianist may have influenced this development in that he would have been constantly exposed to the newest piano music. The Elegy is one of Mertz's best known pieces yet nothing is known about whom it was written for.