Estrellita Manuel Ponce (1882-1948)
Manuel Ponce was born in Fresnillo in the Mexican state Zacatecas in 1882. By the time he was four years old he was already studying piano and solfege. His wrote his first composition La Marcha del Sarampion (March of the Measles) at the age of nine as he was recovering from the disease.
As with his long time friend Andrés Segovia, Ponce's contribution to the development and position of the classical guitar was enormous. He made his mark not only with many compositions for the guitar but also by helping to bring it to the concert platform, an achievement appreciated by many leading instrumentalists at the time.
Estrellita composed in 1912 is one of Ponce’s most famous works and one of a series of pieces for piano called Canciones Mexicanas. Estrellita has been performed by many orchestras around the world and sung by countless singers. There have been several arrangements of it for guitar. The version on this CD is by Franz Casseus and is in the key of D major with the 6th string tuned to D.
It is important to bring out the inner melodic line when performing this piece. Apart from a few big stretches in the left hand it is not technically challenging.
Julia Florida Agustín Barrios Mangoré (1885-1944)
Agustín Barrios Mangoré born in Paraguay was a world renowned performer, poet and composer. He was famous for not only his performances but also for his gramophone recordings.
Written in Costa Rica on 1938, Barrios dedicated this piece to one of his guitar students, Julia Martinez de Rodriguez, who was also the niece of his good friend, Francisco Salazar. It is in the style of a Barcarola as sung by the gondoliers in Venice. The opening simulates very effectively the motion of a boat being rowed rhythmically through waves of water in 6/8 time. The lyrical style easily brings to mind its vocal origin. The ostinato like bass effect uses all six quaver beats most of the time. The piece is in D major with the 6th string tuned to the keynote.
Un Dia de Noviembre Leo Brouwer (1939)
The Cuban composer, conductor and classical guitarist Leo Brouwer was born in Havana in 1939. He studied composition at the Julliard School in New York and now lives in Spain. He originally orchestrated A Day in November for guitar accompanied by flute, bass, and percussion for a 1972 film of the same name, although it has only ever been published for solo guitar.
The rhythm is generally quite simple. The first section of the piece is in Aminor followed by a second section in Amajor, employing the basic form A-B-A.
McBeth Brian Farrell (1962)
The opening church bell effect is achieved by crossing over the 2nd and 3rd strings at the VII fret. There are 7 bells in total and each represents the seven friends of the McCann’s. Also the church bell effect underlines Kate McCann’s Catholic devotion. Tuning is 6th string D and 5th string G. Also a top C is needed for this piece. The title of the piece comes from Madeleine McCann’s middle name Bethany. As this story is a tragedy the title is a combination of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Beth(any) and Mc(Cann) hence McBeth.
‘Please don’t take my sunshine away’ referenced at the beginning and throughout the pieces was a song that Kate McCann sung regularly to her child.
Fast scale-like passages in the middle section (ligados) represent the frantic running up and down stairs, and a sense of loss and panic. They ascend and descend and shorten and in effect crash into each other while resolving into a harking back to ‘Please don’t take my sunshine away’
At this point the music is deliberately cheerful (as is the opening), good humoured and ‘innocent’. The entire piece is meant to be a vivid reminder that regardless of however all this unfolded there is still an innocent child missing. This piece is simply written to highlight the fact that that a human being - a child- went missing, as do thousands every day. What these children might experience and how tragic it all is, is what’s central to this music. There is no intention to finger point as to who or what went wrong but just simply celebrate a ‘life’ even if lost.
This is the debut recording.
Canción para ella (1965)
Prolific composer, virtuoso guitarist and innovative researcher, Benjamin Dwyer has extended his creative and critical work from a broad base in performance and artistic practice. Cancion para ella was written in memory of the composer's mother. It is not typical of his guitar writing but displays his ability to write in different genres. Unlike most guitar music, it is written on 2 staves each showing treble clefs. The rhythm is mainly in 4/4 with some single bars of 3/4. What makes the piece different is Dwyer's subtle use of dissonance to colour the simple melody.
La Catedral Agustín Barrios Mangoré (1885-1944)
La Catedral influenced by the music of JS Bach is widely considered as Barrios’s greatest work. Despite the conflict between himself and Andres Segovia, the latter did approve of this and other works although he never recorded any of them.
La Catedral was inspired by a visit to Cathedral of San José in Montevideo. Barrios composed two movements of the work in 1921 – Andante Religioso and Allegro Solemne. While living in Havana Cuba in 1938, 17 years after the composition of the first two movements, he revisited the piece and added the Preludio Saudade (“nostalgia”) - dedicated to his wife Gloria, creating a three-movement work. This was a time of declining health, as well as financial and marital problems. The Preludio reflects his sense of sadness and longing for something better.
The first movement is very slow and meditative. The use of open strings and their deliberate overlapping (campanella like) effect is evident while the melody is mostly kept at a significantly high register.
The second movement is even more meditative and there are references to the bells of the Cathedral of San José in Montevideo.
The third movement is very virtuosic and relentless in pace. It has been suggested that it reflected of the hustle and bustle of the traffic that Barrios experienced when he left the peace and tranquillity of the Cathedral.
Un Sueño en la Floresta (A dream in the forest) Agustín Barrios Mangoré (1885-1944)
Barrios was very imaginative and free with his compositions, frequently revising them, which is why there are several versions of many of his pieces. In this recording the version used is by Raymond Burley. It is technically demanding for the player, requiring exceptional stretches of the left hand and the use of the 20th fret, first string. Most modern guitars come with this extra fret, but the Nicolas P. Ioannou guitar used in this recording had to have a match glued to the fretboard to get the top C! In addition, a full range of effects including étouffé, tremolo, pizzicato, harmonics and a cadenza are asked for along with tuning the 6th string to D and the 5th to G. The title A Dream in the Forest reflects the composer's attachment to the scenery of his native Paraguay.
A brief introduction in G major is redolent of 19th century salon music in the style of Chopin. A highly romantic melody follows played entirely in tremolo giving way to the guitar's version of portamento as a variant of the melody is presented with long grace notes in certain places. The tremolo etude returns, but now in the key of G minor. As the approaches the end, the key of G major returns and with a somewhat more intricate accompaniment the piece is driven to its subtle, sentimental conclusion.
Las Abejas (The Bees) Agustín Barrios Mangoré (1885-1944)
This is an arpeggio study set in a fast-paced 12/8 time moving relentlessly forward representing very much a bee darting from flower to flower. A difficult piece, it is essential that the melody is brought out from the continuous quaver movement, falling as it does more on the first, third and fourth beat in the first half and the first and third in second half. The form follows a simple A-B-A structure.
El Colibri (The Hummingbird) Julio Salvador Sagreras(1879–1942)
Sagreras was an Argentine guitarist and composer born into a family of musicians where both his parents played guitar. He ran his own guitar academy and had his own guitar method published in a series of seven books.
El Colibri is a very challenging technically moving forward at a relentless lively 'Vivace' pace with no breaks at all from the outset. The full range of the instrument is used from the low E string up to the B at the19th fret of the 1st string. The choice of the E minor key affords the opportunity for the piece to encompass a full three octave range.
Milonga del Angel Ástor Piazzolla (1921-1992)
Ástor Piazzolla was an Argentine tango composer and virtuoso bandoneón player who regularly performed his own compositions. His Milonga del Angel was written in 1965 and belongs informally to a cycle of five ‘Angel’ pieces.
The Milonga usually precedes the tango and this is why it is often referred to as similar to the tango. It is however usually softer and subtle than the tango and often starts slow to underline the feeling and emotions of the dance. Milonga del Angel does exactly that.
Historically, the ‘Milonga’ is a syncopated, duple meter, possibly African contribution to the evolution of the tango.
Although this is not a fast piece and sounds deceptively easy on the ear, it is really very challenging for the performer, making quite heavy physical demands on the left hand while at the same time requiring the delivery of a clean and flowing interpretation. Its setting in the key of Aminor is familiar enough territory for guitarists, but they also have to contend with modulations to the keys of Bb minor and Eb minor which tend to fit less comfortably on the instrument.
Cocobolo Darragh O’Neill (1971)
Darragh O’Neill is one of Irelands leading guitarists on the contemporary scene. Starting with serious studies in Dublin on the violin at the age of seven he progressed to the guitar, eventually studying with Carlos Bonell at the Royal College of Music, London where he attained a Master's degree in musical performance. His international career as a soloist/composer has taken him to many of the great concert venues around the world including Carnegie Hall in New York as well as numerous sell out performances in his native Dublin.
Cocobolo is actually the name of the Nicaraguan rosewood back and sides of Darragh's guitar. This piece brings together Baroque, Cuban and Bossa Nova influences using such cheeky techniques as strumming the strings beyond the nut at the end of the guitar fingerboard. It’s fun to play and will bring a smile to the face of both performer and listener.
Recuerdos de la Alhambra (Memories of the Alhambra) Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909)
Born in the Province of Castellon, Spain, in 1852, Tarrega's gifts were recognised while he was still a child. After studying both piano and guitar at the Madrid Conservatory he eventually settled on the latter to become one of the few celebrated composers and performers on the instrument in the romantic style of that time.
A substantial piece beginning in the key of Aminor, Recuerdos reflects the composer's recall of the intricate mosaics and rippling fountains and intense summer heat at this Moorish palace in Alhambra, Grenada. The right hand tremolo employed here gives the impression of the melody being sustained throughout the piece. It is a demanding technique unique to the guitar. After an excursion into Amajor the piece closes in its original key.
Luminoso Brian Farrell (1962)
This piece uses many of my favourite chords. The title Luminoso translates as ‘bright’ and although the piece is in a minor key the intention is to be reflective of ‘anything’ that is luminous - maybe a luminous person or landscape.
There is a liberal use of open strings (campanella) and notes up to the 20th fret on the first string.
Towards the end there is a little Scarlattian cross string ornamentation before the final chords and ending on a 13th.
This is its debut recording.
Patrick Benham (1940)
Patrick Benham was born in Hove, Sussex and his mother was born in Dublin to an English family. His father's mother was from Co Cork.
Patrick took piano lessons and also played recorder and harmonica as a child. He bought his first guitar at the age 15 and took lessons with a local dance band guitarist. Two years later he was playing with jazz groups in his home area. At around the same time he was inspired after hearing Segovia to study classical guitar, taking a few lessons with Stella MacKenzie at Len Williams's Spanish Guitar Centre in London. After three years as an art student in Brighton and working in a drawing office in Cheltenham he moved to Bristol in 1962. There he joined the staff of the Spanish Guitar Centre (Western Area) which had been set up by Michael Watson in 1953. By this time Patrick had already started to compose for the instrument. He studied the rudiments of harmony and composition on his own, and also employed aspects of jazz harmony in some of his works. He wrote quite a number of simple pieces for his students some of which have been collected together and published. He has also composed music for concert performance and for guitar with other instruments and jazz ensembles of various sizes.
He left the Bristol centre in 1967 to concentrate on peripatetic school work. In 1969 Patrick was appointed guitar tutor at the prestigious Millfield School near Glastonbury where he remained until his retirement in 2005. Although no longer teaching he continues to compose for the classical guitar. His latest piece Valse (2012) is included on this CD. He still lives in Somerset.
West Country Sketches Pat Benham-Published 1987 - All written around 1985 apart from On Cadbury
I Quantock Prospect
As with all the other pieces in this suite I have tried to convey an English feeling with melodies suggestive of folk song despite quite a bit of chromatic movement in the background.
II Steep Holme, Flat Holme
These are a couple of conspicuous islands in the Bristol Channel midway between the English and Welsh shores. I was hoping to convey a sense of the sea in this. Strangely, long after I wrote the piece I found out that my great-great-grandfather James Crosby had died of heart failure in 1859 while manning a tug-boat right next to these islands which were named on his death certificate.
III Meadowsweet Drove
Much the same kind of mood and feeling as the first piece. I hope you might find in this the summer sounds and scents of the countryside with an awareness of the larger landscape beyond.
IV On Cadbury
I actually wrote this piece in 1967 without any particular location in mind. Much later it hit me how perfectly it described Cadbury Camp, an earthworked hill in South Somerset which is reputed to have once been King Arthur's fortified headquarters.
IV May Fayre
What else could I call this folksy romp in 6/8 time? I wanted to end with a flourish so I hope this does it for you.
Three Guitar Solos Pat Benham-Published 1979
Written around 1976 as a piece for students at around grade 3 level. Classical in flavour.
Not sure exactly when I wrote this, but definitely in the 1970s. A little harder, using the entire fingerboard up to fret 12.
Actually one of my earliest pieces written around 1960 when I was 20. The only one of mine in D-tuning. Had fun running open notes combined with higher positions.
From French Suite - 2012 Pat Benham
I Danse Légère
This was written around 1965. I have recently decided to include it in a group of pieces that I have named French Suite.
Most of this piece was also composed around 1964/65 but added to and edited over the years since then. If pressed to give it a label I would say meditation fits quite well.
My most recent solo guitar piece. The first theme of it was composed in 2004 and the rest of it completed this year (2012).
Patrick Benham February 2013
Benjamin Dwyer (1965)
As a prolific composer, a virtuoso guitarist and an innovative researcher, Benjamin Dwyer's creative and critical work extends from a broad base in performance and artistic practice.
His compositions have been performed internationally, and he has been the featured composer at numerous festivals including Musica Nova 2008 in São Paulo, the Bienalle of Contemporary Music of Riberão Preto 2009, the National Concert Hall's Composers' Choice and the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra's Horizons series. In recent years, he has completed a number of large-scale works, some of which were conceived in response to or in collaboration with artists from other disciplines. These include Scenes from Crow (a mixed chamber work based on the Crow poems of Ted Hughes), Umbilical, his re-working of the Oedipus myth for Baroque violin, double-bass, harpsichord, tape, and Butoh dancer, Rajas, Sattva Tamas (Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra), Concerto No. 2 for Guitar and Orchestra, composed for the renowned Brazilian guitarist Fabio Zanon, and his monumental Twelve Études for guitar, described by Zanon as the ‘culmination of an entire guitar epoch’.
He earned a PhD in Composition from Queen's University (Belfast), an MMus in Performance from the Royal Academy of Music (London), and a BMus (Hons) from Trinity College (Dublin). Dwyer is Professor of Music at Middlesex University’s School of Media and Performing Arts.
Eight Simple Studies
The Eight Simple Studies were composed in response to a commission in 2008 from the Royal Irish Academy of Music (with assistance from the Arts Council of Ireland) to provide a series of graded studies for its internal assessment examinations. Twenty studies in all were written ranging from approximately grade one to advanced level. As the composer wanted these pedagogical works to have a broader use outside the Academy, twelve were collected into Dwyer’s Twelve Studies for Guitar, which the composer premièred at the Concert Hall of DePaul University in February 2012, and subsequently recorded by the composer on the CD Irish Guitar Music (El Cortijo 00010, 2012). The remaining studies were collected under the title of Eight Simple Studies.
This is the debut recording.
Leo Brouwer (1939)
The Cuban composer, conductor and classical guitarist Leo Brouwer was born in Havana and studied composition at the Julliard School in New York. He now lives in Spain. Brouwer’s contribution to guitar music alone has been prolific. As a world class player himself, his compositions, even if they present technical challenges to the student or performers are always well within the players capabilities.
Brouwer's early works were influenced by his native Cuban folk music. During the 1960s and 70s however, he developed an interest in the music of modernist composers Luigi Nono and Iannis XenakisI. His more recent solo guitar works El Decamerón Negro (1981) the Sonata (1990) written for Julian Bream and Paisaje cubano con campanas (1986) are testament of this.
20 Études Simples (Estudios Sencillos)
Études Simples are often described as a good introduction to guitar students of 20th century music. They contain all the elements required to establish a solid foundation in guitar technique. These include scale passages, slurs, chords, specific left and right hand studies, ornament studies and Brouwer also makes good use of complete silences (rest) in some pieces. Interpreting each piece is also a study in itself as they are full of contrasting dynamics and challenging phrasing.
Brouwer wrote No1-10 and 11-20 at different stages in his life. They were deliberately pedagogical and written for his own pupils he was teaching at the time. It is quite evident that his compositional development was maturing by the time he wrote No11-20 as they are richer in form and texture.
The title Études Simples can easily be misinterpreted. ‘Simple’ on the ear maybe however, many are virtuosic when following the composers instructions. No 6 and 7 is marked Lo Mas Rapido Posible (as fast as possible) for example, while No 3 and 20 are marked Movido: Rapido (restless, rapidly).
Hommage à Tárrega Joaquín Turina (1882-1949)
Joaquín Turina was born and studied in Seville, Spain. He also lived for a time in France and was good friends with impressionist composers Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy.
Francisco Tárrega died in 1909 but is regularly credited as the founder of modern guitar technique. Because of this, he influenced many people including Turina who composed this work Homenaje à Tárrega. This piece was one of many dedicated to Andrés Segovia as Segovia had pursued many composers to write for the guitar. It is in 2 movements, Garrotín and Soleares and both are very idiomatic flamenco works for the instrument.
Garrotín (a style of flamenco singing, dancing, and guitar playing)is in the standard 2/4 time and immediately from the beginning establishes a strong rhythmic pulse. There is no shortage of tone and colour contrasts and the piece makes good use of ponticello, glope (to strike the guitar body) and pizzicato, while the ending is as soft as possible.
Soleares is a basic palos of flamenco music. Usually a Soleares is in the Phrygian mode and generally played around the lower registry of the instrument. Turina’s Soleares in 3/4 time, encapsulates all aspects of the above.
Suite Antigua Bartolomé Calatayud (1882-1973)
Bartolomé Calatayud was from the island of Mallorca. He studied harmony and composition and was also taught by Francisco Tárrega. While a teacher of the classical guitar, Calatayud, influenced by the folk music of Catalonian and Mallorca, also composed for the instrument.
Suite Antigua is a 5 movement work all in the key of Amajor accept for the Zarabanda which is in Aminor. The Zarabanda is also played in the original faster Spanish tempo than the slower more commonly known baroque speed. The last movement, Rondino is a smaller form of rondo. Rondo meaning ‘a round’ has its principal subject given out at least three times, while in between these repetitions are parts often referred to as episodes.
Sonatina Meridional Manuel Ponce (1882-1948)
Manuel Ponce was born in Fresnillo in the Mexican state Zacatecas in 1882. By the time he was four years old he was already studying piano and solfege. He wrote his first composition La Marcha del Sarampion (March of the Measles) at the age of nine as he was recovering from the disease.
As with his long time friend Andrés Segovia, Ponce's contribution to the development and position of the classical guitar was enormous. He made his mark not only with many compositions for the guitar, but also by helping to bring it to the concert platform, an achievement appreciated by many leading instrumentalists at the time.
Sonatina Meridional written for Andres Segovia captures several musical styles including neo-classical, neo-romantic and impressionism. The Spanish title in all 3 movements also demonstrates Spanish folkloric influences. Although a sonatina is generally seen as less complex than a sonata, nevertheless Ponce’s Sonatina Meridional is technically very challenging and is written in full sonata-form. All movements have the 6th string tuned to D.
Campo,with its Andalusian flamenco influence, is in sonata form and embraces the Phrygian mode. The second theme (in the dominant), Ponce uses the étouffé effect (muting the tone) with motifs from the first theme closing the exposition. The development, after several modulations now in the submediant, closes with a series of chords where shortly thereafter the recapitulation begins.
The second movement Copla is in 6/8 time. The phrasing is somewhat challenging for the performer while the harmony moves between the major and Phrygian mode. Cante jondo (Deep Song - flamenco vocal style) from Andalusia is present in this movement while the use of the hemiola (6/8 - 3/4) appears in places throughout the movement.
The last movement Fiesta is evocative of the flamenco guitar and leaves to one side the vocal feel of the Copla that precedes it. It is a very lively movement and has a wide variety of colours and dynamics. There is much use of chords (arpeggiated and rasqueado) particularly at the opening which harks back to the opening of the first movement. The hemiola features many times in this movement which gives a fiery and vibrant effect especially when the dramatic use of chords is employed.
Suite Castellana Federico Moreno Torroba (1891-1982)
From Madrid, Spain, Federico Torroba was considered as one of the most important composers for classical guitar even though his repertoire spans many other instruments including opera. A considerable amount of his guitar works were dedicated to Andrés Segovia whom he closely worked with which in turn helped establish Torroba’s international reputation as a composer.
Suite Castellana is a somewhat short suite in three movements. The Fandanguillo, which was traditionally accompanied by guitars and castanets or hand-clapping and usually in triple-time, opens this suite. With a very short, but strong 3 bar opening, it immediately moves into an Andalusian style flamenco rhythm in Eminor and soon modulates into the tonic major, Emajor. The opening 3 bar motif is repeated towards the end but this time the melody is in the bass and it is marked Lento. Very quickly it becomes lively again, only to end somewhat abrupt.
Torroba was a leading writer of light operaand Aradademonstrates this with its beautiful song-like melody. This is a very slow movement and uses a technique often employed by French impressionist composers known as chordal planning.
Danza is again quite short but technical and fast and moves from Vivo to Lento to Vivo again. The Lento section again shows Torroba’s skill at melody writing and is very very expressive.
Suite española, op.47, Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909)
The Spanish pianist and composer Isaac Albéniz was mainly known for his piano works, many of which have been transcribed for classical guitar. His Suite Española, was composed in honour of the queen of Spain, and is more often heard on guitar than the piano.
The suite originally consisted of only 4 works however, after Albéniz’s death, the publisher added 4 more to the collection. Of the 8 works in the suite, 3 of them, Sevilla (Sevillanas), Granada (Serenade) and Cádiz (Canción) are played on this CD. Each title refers to the geographical region portrayed, and the title in parentheses is the musical form or dance from that region. Albéniz gave the world première of Sevilla himself on January 24th 1885.
Sevilla is tuned differently to the standard tuning of the guitar and as in this recording, is often played in the key of Gmajor. This is quite a demanding and challenging work for the performer and is probably one of the most difficult of the 3. The slow section is very lyrical and cadenza like and when the opening theme returns in all its glory, the full sense of life in the Spanish town of Seville is truly captured.
Cádiz (Canción) is a very uplifting piece and as the title in the parentheses says ‘Cancion’ it’s exactly that - song like.
Granada (Serenata) is typically calm and light to listen to and one cannot help being reminded of the Alhambra with its majestic fountains and architecture while listening to this piece. This is a very chordal based work yet there are many romantic scale-like passages with many shifts in keys.
This composition was written for my beautiful wife, Nadia, as a 2014 Christmas present (hence the final section which I wanted to sound ‘Christmassy’). Lindisfarne Castle is a 16th-century castle located on Holy Island in Northumberland, England. For several years, at Christmas-time, we have taken our four dogs and rented a cottage near to the castle but being out of season, we have never managed to see inside; hence the title.
This four-movement work, written in 1998, took as its’ inspiration, the magnificent standing stones on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. With the exception of the third movement, these pieces are not particularly meant to sound ‘Celtic’; instead, I tried to give a musical representation of the ancient, mystical atmosphere of this area. From a compositional viewpoint, this was a change of direction for me.
This is one of my earliest ‘large-scale’ compositions. It was inspired by the attractive area of the United Kingdom known as the Peak District where I live.
NINE MICRO STUDIES
In 2000 I had the idea of writing a set of advanced studies for guitarists. Each one had to have a technical purpose as well as hopefully being musically interesting and brief enough as to not outstay their welcome. I stopped at 9.
This short composition was written in memory of a dog named ‘Daisy’ who shared my life for over 17 years and was my constant companion. The word originates from the Portuguese and is difficult to translate into English, but basically it means a sense of sadness over something which is no longer there.
One of my all-time favourite singer/songwriters was Harry Chapin who, in my mind, wrote some of the most beautiful and interesting songs of all time. Shortly after his death in a car accident in 1981in New York, I was inspired to write this ‘memorial’ piece in his memory.
Programme notes by Steve Marsh.
For information about Steve Marsh or if you wish purchase any of the music played on this CD, please visit his website at: www.stevemarsh.uk.com