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Mauro GIULIANI (1781-1829)
Le Rossiniane

Rossiniana: No.1 op.119 (c.1820) [15:26]; No.2 op.120 (c.1821) [14:19]; No.3 op.121 (c.1821) [16:52]; No.4 op.122 (c.1824) [15:24]; No.5 op.123 (c.1824) [11:29]; No.6 op.124 (c.1828) [11:59]
Variazioni, sulla Cavatina favorita "Nume perdonami" nei Baccanali di Roma del Sig. Generali, op.102 [8:37]
Variazioni di un facilità progressiva, dall'opera Cenerentola, op.146 [10:01]
Variazioni brillanti e della più grande facilità, sulla Cavatina favorita "Di tanti palpiti" dall'opera Tancredi, op.87 [6:15]
Variazioni, sulla Cavatina favorita "Deh! Calma o ciel" dall'opera Otello, op.101 [6:26]
Frédéric Zigante (guitar)
rec. Ivrea, Italy, 1-20 July 1992
ARTS 478302 [61:21 + 53:67]


The Italian guitarist-composer Mauro Giuliani spent the years from 1806 to 1819 in Vienna, mixing in the highest musical circles. Viennese contemporaries certainly admired his work and felt that he had had a considerable impact on the musical landscape of the city. His fellow guitarist and composer Simon Molitor sang his praises effusively in the Versuch einer Vollständigen methodischen anleitung zum Guitare-Spielen which he published (jointly with R. Klinger) in Vienna in 1812:

Then Herr Mauro Giuliani, a Neapolitan, came to us - a man who from his youth had been led in the best direction through a proper sense of harmony and who, as an accomplished virtuoso, joined to the most correct performance the very greatest perfection of technique and taste. By means of his teaching and the spirit of emulation he has aroused amongst teacher and lovers of the instrument, he has created amongst us so many accomplished amateurs that there can scarcely be any other place where true guitar playing is so widely practised as here in our Vienna.

Giuliani's years in Vienna were - for all his apparent success - cut short by financial difficulties and mounting debt. He left to return to Italy, spending some years in Rome before a final return to Naples (he was actually born at Bisceglie, on the Adriatic coast of Italy 'opposite' Naples). While in Rome in the first half of the 1820s he seems to have spent a good deal of time in the company of Rossini and Paganini. It was in these years that he began the series of six Rossiniane - fantasias for solo guitar on themes from the operas - which form the core of this pair of reissued CDs. He had already written sets of variations on material by Rossini, such as the Variazioni brillanti e sulla piu "Di tanti palpiti" dall'opera Tancredi which is also recorded here. But the Rossiniane mark a considerable advance on these earlier compositions.

As Frédéric Zigante puts it in his booklet notes "the distinct character of the Rossiniane " is found in Giuliani's desire to gather not only the exquisitely melodic essence of Rossini's operas, but also their theatricality, transforming these pieces into some kind of miniature opera acts for the guitar with great instrumentational pertinency and effective organization". Certainly there is a sense of design - quite large-scale design - to each of the six pieces, each drawing on a variety of operatic materials and treating them with considerable freedom and invention. The first draws largely on Otello and L'Italiana in Algeri, the fifth on Il barbiere di Siviglia, Tancredi, Cenerentola and La gazza ladra, and so on. There is an emotional shape, a rhythmic variety, to the resultant works; the Rossiniane have often been described as "pot-pourris" of Rossinian ideas, but I think that underestimates the care with which they have been put together and just how many of the ideas are actually Giuliani's. Maybe there are places where in a sense neither can take the credit - some of the ways in which Giuliani elaborates Rossinian motifs surely owe something to the practices of contemporary singers whom he had doubtless heard. There is a very interesting study of this, and other aspects of the Rossiniane in a substantial article by Stefano Castelvecchi, "Le Rossiniane di Mauro Giuliani", in the Bolletino del Centro Rossiniano di Studi, nos.1-3, 1986, pp.33-72.

Frédéric Zigante plays the Rossiniane with obvious affection and understanding and with the necessary technical assurance. He is particularly good at the clarification of the larger design of individual pieces but perhaps sometimes a little lacking in full-blooded lyricism. Still, he certainly sustains one's interest over two CDs of solo guitar - no mean feat. The control of dynamics is excellent and, along with well-judged and sensitive phrasing, makes for some very agreeable listening. The recorded sound is satisfactory without being especially vivid.

The sets of Variations are pleasant but less remarkable than the Rossiniane. Giuliani seems to have been adding to the Rossiniane till quite close to the time of his death in May 1829. The Giornale delle Due Sicilie reported his death in its issue of 14 May, 1829:

On the morning of the eighth of this month the famous guitarist Mauro Giuliani died in this capital city [i.e. Naples]. The guitar was transformed in his hands into an instrument akin to the harp, soothing men's hearts with sweetness. He is succeeded by a young daughter, who shows herself to be heir to his unusual ability.

I wonder what happened to her?

Glyn Pursglove


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