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Mauro GIULIANI (1781-1829)
Complete works for guitar and orchestra with Gran Quintetto op. 65 and Quintet op. 102
CD 1
Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra No. 1 in A Major Op. 30
(Allegro maestoso [16:07]; Siciliana (Andantino) [5:38]; Polonaise (Allegreto) [9:18])
Concerto for Guitar “terzina” and Orchestra No. 3 in F Major Op. 70
(Allegro moderato [13:05]; Andantino alla Siliciano con variazoni [6:54]; Polonaise (Allegretto) [8:28])
CD 2
Concerto for Guitar and Strings in C Major Op. 36
(Maestro [14:44]; Andantino [4”52]; Ronda (Allegretto) [10:04])
Gran Quintetto for Guitar and Strings in C Major Op. 65
(Introduzione [1:38]; Theme and Variations [7:06]; Polonaise [8:36])
Variazioni su “Nume perdonami in tale istante” from Generali’s Baccanali di Roma, for Guitar “terzina” and string Quartet Op. 102
(Introduzione, Thema. Variations [7:53])
Claudio Maccari (guitar) (Opp. 30, 36); Paulo Pugliese (guitar)
Orchestra “Esemble Ottecento” on original instruments/Andrea Rognoni
rec. 1-8 Sept 2002, Chiesa di S. Defendente, Romano di Lombardia, Bergamo, Italy.
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 92621 [59:49 + 55:19]


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This new release presents the complete works of Mauro Giuliani for guitar and orchestra. While not mentioned in the accompanying information, it is the premiere recording of these works as performed on original instruments (18th century guitars).

When the music and soloists are relatively unfamiliar to potential audiences, informative and generous notes desirably accompany the recording; these assist with a better understanding and enhanced musical enjoyment. There is a general paucity of information in the notes accompanying this set. Brilliant’s marketing executives should reference, as a useful standard of excellence, the superb notes by Jaap Schröder that accompany his recording of the J.S. Bach Partitas and Sonatas for solo violin, Naxos 8.557563-64.

Giuliani was born in Bisceglie, Italy on July 27th 1781. Initially a cellist, he later devoted his time almost exclusively to the six-string guitar. Like many skilled Italian instrumentalists of the period he moved north and settled in Vienna in 1806.

There he quickly became famous as one of the greatest living guitarists. He was a prolific composer for guitar with more than 200 individual works to his credit.

In 1808 he gave the premiere of his guitar concerto, op. 30, to great public acclaim. Interestingly he still found time to pursue adjunctive musical interests, and on Dec. 8th 1813 played cello in the premiere of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7. 

The review disc notes make no specific reference to “authentic” or “historically informed” performance, either per se or in context of the guitar. There is probably wisdom in this omission given the non-specific nomenclature involved and the wide diversity of opinion.

Some musicians have adopted middle-of–the-road tactics using historically informed approaches on modern instruments or a combination of modern/original. Other instrumentalists such as violinist Pinchas Zukerman have totally rejected the concept describing it as “asinine stuff - a complete and absolute farce”.

One point on which most authentic performance proponents agree is that such an approach is only a means to an end: that of achieving a more artistically effective performance. Also, that adherence to principles of authentic performance is not an “all or nothing” matter as well demonstrated by individuals such as Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Sir Charles Mackerras.

It is interesting that among the most revered and coveted violins used nowadays to play music of all periods, are those made in 17th-18th century Italy by Antonio Stradivari and by the Guarneri family, having started their careers as “period instruments”.

Changes in musical fashion, composition style, and need for more volume in larger concert venues were among factors that influenced modification to the original instruments. Although the fundamental structure remains unchanged, necks have been grafted to facilitate higher playing positions. This modification together with higher bridges and changes to string composition enhance the volume capabilities of the instrument. The modern Tourte bow is larger and heavier than its baroque equivalent with resultant advantages and disadvantages.

Some would argue that the sound of a baroque violin is not necessarily better than that of its modern counterpart, but different. It possesses virtues not shared by the modern violin and therefore endows the authentic performance with an added dimension of sound. The fact that modern instruments can be played in ways approximating the sounds and technique of the composer’s day should not be disregarded. A relevant example is vibrato, used more copiously in modern technique, can be restricted to suit authentic performance.

Another factor in replicating original performances is the challenge of the composer’s intention, which was often more implied than specifically indicated.

Like the piano, the classical guitar has undergone quite monumental changes when one compares the modern instrument with its 18th century equivalent. In the case of the guitar the only elements that remain unchanged are the rudimentary shape: the presence of six strings and frets on the fingerboard. The modern instrument is much larger, is longer, has a wider fingerboard and a vastly different internal structure. Most importantly the sound is more voluminous, the bass-treble balance much better and the general tonal qualities superior. This instrument has the capacity to be heard in larger concert venues.

What technique was used to play the 18th-early 19th century guitar, in specifics, remains obscure but generally varied from player to player. While some attribute the modern technique of playing the guitar to Francisco Tarrega, others claim that he merely inherited the key components of technique, as employed by Dionisio Aguado, through his teacher Julian Arcas. One source indicates Tarrega initially used fingernails to strike the strings and later turned to use of fingertips only. Yet another indicates his use of fingertips only was not a matter of choice but because his nails were so brittle and friable as to be useless for playing the guitar.

In attempting an “authentic” performance of 18th- early 19th century guitar music one has several options for right hand technique and instrument support. The “pinkie’ finger of the right hand may or may not be anchored to the sound-board; the third finger of the right hand (a) may or may not be used in executing notes. When seated with the left leg elevated and supported by a footstool the guitar may be held in the lap, or as recommended by Aguado, held with the aid of a specially designed tripod. There is a period portrait of Giuliani playing the guitar standing up with the guitar supported by a strap.

Probably the most significant influence on final sound is the use of fingernails or plain fingertips to strike the strings. While Fernando Sor was averse to the use of fingernails, Aguado used them routinely. Argument regarding the relative advantages and disadvantages continues to rage despite Andrčs Segovia’s use of nail/flesh combination and condemnation of flesh alone. Gut strings also were a very important aspect of this controversy and it was not until the invention of nylon in the 20th century that these less reliable and arguably inferior components could be replaced.

Based on prior experience listening to baroque cello and violin, any expectations of a new and elevated sound dimension to the Giuliani works on this review disc are quickly dashed - at least from the solo guitar perspective. The sound of the ”period guitars” used is rather subdued and poorly balanced, the former a result of intrinsic instrument characteristics together with employment of fingertips alone to strike the strings. The overall sound is often more like that of a spinet than a modern day guitar - i.e. instruments beginning with the innovations of Antonio Torres and to which we have become accustomed over the past century. This may explain, at least in part, the incessant drive of modern luthiers to perfect the guitar in the same way that Stradivari et al. did with the violin so long ago.

Actual execution of the music by guitarists on the review disc is first class. Each possesses a refined and strong technique albeit not augmented by departure from the use of right-hand fingernails.

The orchestral playing is quite beautiful, particularly in op. 30, which is the highlight of this new release. Aside from the period guitars, period instruments used on this recording are complementary to the overall objective. The end result is among the better recordings of this music - distinction between period and modern instruments aside.

Maybe the next recording of these works should be assigned to Harnoncourt or Mackerras? Either would likely utilise all the exact same elements but require each soloist to play a modern guitar. The net result would have all the characteristics of a truly memorable and outstanding recording.

Listeners with a commitment to the ”original instrument” concept and an interest in evaluating the novel sounds of 18th –early 19th century guitars will find this an enjoyable recording.

Those with an appreciation and understanding of the modern classical guitar are better served by recordings such as those of John Williams, Angel Romero, Eduardo Fernandez, each of whom has released versions of Opp. 30 and 70 utilising modern guitars.

Zane Turner






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