(1770-1841) Gustavo CARULLI
Music for Guitar and Piano: 2
Duo in C major, Op.11 (1809) [13:16]
Duo in C major, Op.150 [5:12]
Duo in G major, Op.151 [5:21]
Three Waltzes, Op.32 [8:06]
Ferdinando and Gustavo CARULLI
Mélange en Duo sur des motifs de Rossini, op.236 [7:54]
Arranged by Ferdinando CARULLI
Grande Marche de Ries in D major, Op. 168 [4:25]
Overture to Rossini’s La Cenerentola [8:30]
Overture to Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri [8:12]
Grand Duo in E minor, Op.86 [13:59]
(guitar), Deborah Halász (piano)
rec. 19-22 September, 2007, Studio 2, Bayerischer Rundfunk, Munich
Carulli’s early upbringing in Naples included lessons on the cello, but in his mid-teens his passion for the guitar began to dominate his musical interests. By the early 1800s he was travelling in northern Europe and from 1809. having married a French wife. he lived in Paris, where his demonstration of the instrument’s possibilities soon attracted attention. As performer, composer and teacher - both in person and through his Méthode complete (1810/11) - he became an influential presence in the musical life of the French capital.
It is fair to say that Carulli did much to establish the modern vocabulary of the six-string guitar and his own compositions range across the levels of difficulty, as he accommodated himself to the varying demands of beginners and more advanced students, as well providing himself with plentiful material for his own performance in the fashionable salons of Paris. He wrote extensively for a variety of chamber music configurations, centred on the guitar. This present CD is volume 2 of a series for Naxos - I haven’t heard Volume 1 - devoted to his music for guitar and piano.
Most of the music to be heard here is in a fairly direct line of descent from Haydn and Mozart, though it owes more to their ideas of symmetry and grace than to their profundity. The Three Waltzes (Op.32) are attractive pieces, not least in terms of the echoic dialogue between the two instruments. The Duos (Opus 11, 150 and 151) show Carulli slowly - the opus 11 duo was published in 1809, the others in the 1820s) coming to terms with the problems involved in blending the sounds (and dynamics) of these two instruments and often hitting on some very interesting solutions to the inherent problems; as he shifts the focus from one to the other, spotlighting each in turn, the results are never less than engaging. The Grand Duo, which appears to have been published in the mid 1810s, is perhaps the most accomplished and most substantial of Carulli’s original works on the present disc, full of lyrical invention.
Carulli’s Rossini arrangements (including one prepared in collaboration with his son Gustavo) are great fun, capturing much of Rossini’s wit and zest. Opus 168, an arrangement of the Grande Marche by Ferdinand Ries is something of a curiosity. The attempt to give the guitar a martial air has a slight element of the absurd about it, heard along side the far greater power and authority of the piano. The outcome can’t quite avoid a sense of pastiche, even of parody, though the piece is entertaining enough (Carulli is very rarely dull).
I have one important reservation, however. For all the tact with which Déborah Halász plays (and she is a fine pianist) there are moments when the sheer power of the modern piano cannot help but come close to swamping the guitar. I am not sure that the balance of the recorded sound does all it might to help here. Perhaps even more important is the fact that the use of a modern instrument robs Carulli’s duets of some of their innate colours and makes the two instruments far more contrasting than complementary. On a recording such as the 8 discs of Carulli’s ‘Complete Works for Guitar and Fortepiano’ (Brilliant Classics 92269), played by Leopoldo Saracino (guitar) and Massimo Palumbo (fortepiano), on which the guitar used is an instrument made in 1820 by Gaetano Guadagnini and Palumbo plays a fortepiano made by Felix Gross in 1812, the colours are far subtler, the interplay of the instruments much more intimate. For all the skills of Franz and Déborah Halász, there are dimensions of this music which are, for this reason, beyond their reach.