Napoléon COSTE (1805-
Guitar Works. Vol
Recorded Newmarket, Canada. 16 - 20 December 1998
This is Volume 3 of a Series and as the earlier recordings have not come
my way to review, so a brief biography of the composer may be helpful. Coste
was French, named at birth after the then new Emperor Bonaparte, and destined
for a military career which was duly ruled out through poor health. He seemed
to have a natural affinity for the guitar, and with a minimum of formal training
he moved to Paris in his mid-twenties to pursue his chosen career with the
instrument, with further study and later, with help due to his friendship
with Fernando Sor. With the retirement and deaths of the previous generation
of guitarists Coste, with a magnificent technique, found himself the leader
in his field. An accident to an arm ended his playing career at 57.
His compositions, as illustrated on this disc, reveal the skill of a composer
whose writing covered a wide range, including pieces written to celebrate
leading composers of the day and fashionable dances. In total the eight tracks
show a composer who clearly knew how to write pieces that would appeal to
potential audiences. He tapped into current fads and fancies and utilised
their popularity in his compositions.
The opening piece, Deuxième polonaise has an introduction and
a middle passage as well as the lively dance tune and its recapitulation.
In Le Tournoi, by the use of a muted opening clarion call and the
subsequent graceful, yet gently martial writing, one can visualise the Tournament
and the chivalry the 1830's believed it saw looking back at the Middle Ages.
Interestingly, the dedicatee was Hector Berlioz, who was proficient on two
instruments only, flute and guitar. Andante and Allegro - identified
as an early work - has the slightly introspective feel of a work written
for the performers personal pleasure. The short La romanesca with
its simple, catchy melody is based on an older (Sixteenth Century) piece
and the transcription was extremely popular after publication.
Bellini's Norma, which was performed in Paris in 1833, was the source
of Fantasie,Op.16. Coste took two arias "Ah! Bello a me
ritorna" and "Si, fino all'ore" to which he added a short linking
section and a closing passage. Bellini was also the composer of the theme
used in Introduction et variation sur un motif de Rossini. The item
wrongly credited to Rossini was actually "Tu vedrai la sventurata
from Il Pirata which embellishes the theme in a fine set of variations
with a rousing conclusion. Two attractive,short Quadrilles complete the disc.
The recording is excellent and the playing of the Czech guitarist Pavel Steidl
is flawless. There is much for the non-aficionado of the guitar to hear and
enjoy in music that is consistently attractive and tuneful.