St John Chrysostom
Church, Newmarket, Ontario, Canada was the recording venue
and anyone who is the least interested in guitar records nods
approvingly. Say: “Produced by Norbert Kraft and Bonnie Silver,
isn’t it?” So it is and nothing more needs to be said. They
know their business when it comes to recording the guitar.
Marco Tamayo also knows his business. Cuban-born he has since
1995 lived in Salzburg, Austria, where he studied for Eliot
Fisk and where he is now a teacher at the Mozarteum. Among
his list of qualifications are several victories in international
guitar competitions. In 2002 he received the Mauro Giuliani
Prize for his interpretations of the composer’s music over
the years, including the world première of some unpublished
works. He is technically accomplished and plays with great
Giuliani was a
Neapolitan but from the age of 25 spent most of his life in
Vienna, where the climate for guitar music was more favourable.
He was regarded as the greatest guitar virtuoso of his generation
and wrote a large quantity of music for the instrument. This
is the second volume of his music on Naxos, the first, played
by Ricardo Gallén, contains variations, of which he wrote
a lot (Naxos 8.555284). From the same company there is also
a disc with duets for flute and guitar, played by Nora Shulman
and Norbert Kraft (8.554560).
As can be seen
from the heading there are more variations on this disc but
in addition we get to hear one of his three sonatas, the one-movement
Sonata Eroica Op. 150, which was published posthumously
by Ricordi in 1840. There are some quite daring harmonies
here but generally speaking this is not very heroic music.
It is quite agreable to listen to, but it requires a virtuoso
to manage certain passages, which Marco Tamayo does with flying
(1773-1832), today a forgotten name, was a rather successful
opera composer in his day and I Baccanali di Roma,
written in 1816, the same year as his somewhat younger compatriot
Rossini’s Barbiere di Siviglia, is regarded as his
best work. The aria from this opera, used as the basis for
Giuliani’s variations, has echoes of the first bars of the
Nat King Cole classic Mona Lisa. The composition as
a whole is built on dynamic contrasts and Tamayo makes the
most of his opportunities. This is bold playing.
In an era without
radio and gramophone records there was still a need for musical
entertainment and a lot of music-making took place in people’s
homes. The musical potpourri, or medley as we call it nowadays,
was popular, and Giuliani contributed to this genre with five
compositions (Opp. 18, 26, 28, 31 and 41), three of which
are included here. Colin Cooper writes in his liner notes
that there is some confusion concerning the numbering of them
since the fourth, Op. 31, was printed under the misleading
title 3rd Grand Pot Pourri. It is still
on this disc given as No. 3 and the Op. 26 is No. 1, so what
happened to Op. 18? Never mind, this is entertaining music
although not very deep. The melodic material is drawn from
various sources: opera arias (Non più andrai, Figaro’s
first act aria from Le nozze di Figaro is included
in Potpourri No. 2 [track 3]), folk-songs, street-songs, Viennese
Ländler. Much of it is forgotten today, but even if the humming
factor is low there is a cornucopia of good tunes here and,
played with obvious enthusiasm, they make for pleasant listening.
They are quite loosely put together and can hardly be regarded
as masterpieces. Technically they are moderately difficult,
intended for home music-making as they were.
The two remaining
pieces are more demanding. The little Fughetta is a
fine composition and the Six Variations on “I bin a Kohlbauern
Bub” based on a folk-song “I am a cabbage-farm boy” is
a virtuoso piece. The fifth variation in a minor key lends
a more serious atmosphere to the composition, but this is
soon dispelled by the galloping final variation.
Maybe not essential
listening but played with such obvious relish it is still
worth anyone’s fiver and it runs for more than 75 minutes.