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Mauro GIULIANI (1781-1829)
Rossiniana, No.2 op.10 (c.1821) [14:54]
Rossiniana, No.1 op.119 (c.1820) [16:13]
Rossiniana, No.3 op.121 (c.1821) [18:07]
Cavatina ‘Bell raggio lusinghier’ from Semiramide (1826) [7:46]
Shin-ichi Fukuda (guitar)
rec. 15-18 July 2005, Academia Montis Regalis, Mondovi, Italy

Unlike many nineteenth century operatic transcriptions, Giuliani’s versions from Rossini have nothing of the routine about them, no sense that they are dutiful pieces of work made to meet a demand (real or hoped for). Here there is, on the other hand, a genuine sense of involvement and pleasure, a love for the material.

No doubt it is relevant to know that Rossini and Giuliani were acquaintances. In 1820, Rossini and Paganini were in Rome, Rossini involved in preparations for the premiere, in February 1821, of his opera Matilde di Shabran. In the same month, Giuliani was writing to his editor Giovanni Ricordi explaining that he had got to know Rossini and that reporting that he “has favoured me with many originals from which I can arrange everything that appeals to me”. Giuliani, Paganini and Rossini spent a good deal of time together, socialising and making music (as detailed in Giancarlo Conestabile’s Vita di Niccolň Paganini published in Perugia in 1851).

There is real understanding, partly explicable at this biographical level, in the way in which Giuliani handles Rossini’s music. He knits together themes from different works in a way which results in the creation of something which goes beyond mere transcription or arrangement; nor is it quite a matter of Giuliani’s writing variations. In effect what he does is to write music which is in dialogue with the materials he borrows from Rossini and, by the very way he juxtaposes the Rossinian themes he points out musical connections between them. I am also beginning to realise that the unheard words are not irrelevant – there are places where the connections are implicit in the texts sung in the operas, but not, of course, heard in Giuliani’s versions for guitar. Some, at least, of those who heard Giuliani play what he called his “pot-pourris” of/from Rossini would certainly have known the words of the arias whose melodies they were rehearing, and would have made the connections.

In the first of the Rossiniane, for example, an introduction which doesn’t appear to have a specific source in Rossini, is followed by versions of ‘Deh calma ciel’ from Otello, ‘Arditi all’ire farem ritorno’ from Armida, ‘Non piu mesta’ from La Cenerentola, ‘Di piacer mi balza il cor’ from La gazza ladra, before concluding with ‘Miei rampolli femminini’ (from La Cenerentola once more). There are, of course, changes of mood and tone here, but also a kind of continuity both musical and (implicitly) textual. As well as pleasing the ears, each of the Rossiniane invites us to think about the works on which it draws.

The fine Japanese guitarist Shin-ichi Fukuda’s perfomance of the first three of the sic Rossiniane (plus Giuliani’s version of the cavatina ‘Bel raggio lusingier’ from Semiramide (which seems to have been one of Giuliani’s favourites amongst Rossini’s operas) has clarity and lucidity on its side. Technically assured, Fukuda’s melodic lines are sharply etched and his rhythms are precise. I’m not quite sure, however, that he really does full justice to the Italianate warmth of this music. He is recorded very closely and the acoustic, though very faithful to the instrumental sound, is rather unforgiving. Amongst other recent versions, I am inclined to prefer the complete set by Frédéric Zigante on ARTS 447146-2 and 447147-2 (see review), though the recording quality is not all it might be. But Fukuda is well worth hearing too; this is music which readily sustains and rewards alternate readings.

Glyn Pursglove


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