Nicolň Paganini wrote frequently and impressively for the guitar.
It is a facet of his corpus which has been relatively neglected
in performance and recording. That said, there is at least one
'Complete Works for Violin and Guitar', a 9-CD box set featuring
Luigi Bianchi and Maurizio Preda, released in 2004 on Dynamic
On this new recording by the Czech-Slovak Duo Teres, two of
Paganini's sonatas are programmed with works by three 20th century
Czech composers. Though that might seem at first glance an odd
combination, this disc is unusual in that the Czech contributions
all seem to come from a different time - despite all dating
from the 1980s, they could have been composed in almost any
decade in the first half of the twentieth century. Moreover,
these are all audience-friendly pieces - following in Paganini's
footsteps, as it were. This is a highly attractive programme.
What ArcoDiva have listed simply as Sonatas no.1 and no.4 are
from the first set of what Paganini called his Centone di
Sonate, MS 112A numbers 1 and 4 in the Moretti-Sorrento
Thematic Catalogue (1982). Though the liner-notes explain which
sonatas these are of the eighty-odd Paganini wrote for this
combination, it remains rather misleading to label them simply
as "Sonata no.1" and "Sonata no.4" when
Paganini had long since written at least fifty other sonatas
for violin and guitar previous to the Centone! Furthermore,
Sonata no.1 is listed on the CD as being in A minor,
which, according to the MS Catalogue, is merely the key of the
Nevertheless, both works are instantly recognisable as Paganini
- full of his typical wit, panache and invention. Jan Truhlár's
Two Compositions, op.71a is similar to the Paganini sonatas
in length. Written originally in 1952, it was re-written, curiously,
in 1986, after Truhlár's emigration from his homeland had caused
it to be left behind. The two sections are a Dance and Romance,
straightforward but wonderfully mellifluous and lyrical, written
in a style that Paganini himself would have recognised.
The Sonata Serenata is Jan Novák's only work for guitar and
violin, though he did write a handful of other works for guitar,
including a guitar concerto. Novák is a composer still awaiting
the level of recognition his originality deserves. The Sonata
is an imaginative, very attractive work, reminiscent in different
ways of both fellow Czech Bohuslav Martinu and Paganini himself.
And again this is a work of immense appeal to a broad audience.
After marrying an Englishwoman, Czech composer Antonín Tučapský
emigrated to Britain, where he then spent twenty years teaching
theory and composition at Trinity College of Music in London.
His Duo Concertante was originally written for viola and guitar,
but in 1998 he produced this version for violin. Tučapský
writes that he took an interest in all the musical trends of
the 20th century, but "none has suited my natural bent
... I have remained true to tonality and melody and hold that
music is either good or bad". This last point is debatable
at best, meaningless at worst, but it is true to say that the
Duo Concertante ignores developments of the last fifty or a
hundred years and continues the line unpopular with critics,
but popular with listeners - tuneful, unpretentious music that
will beguile almost anyone.
Duo Teres were only formed in 2007, and Slovak Lucia Kopsová
and Czech Tomáš Honek are still only in their early twenties.
Nevertheless, their musicianship is first-rate. This appears
to be their first commercial recording. It is to be hoped that
ArcoDiva will encourage them to do more - another CD along these
lines would be ideal!
Sound quality is superb, although the balance does seem a little
weighted towards the violin. The booklet is informative and
attractive in a 'retro' kind of way, and though the texts have
clearly been translated by a non-native speaker of English,
the standard of language is high enough for it not to matter.
All in all, a disc worthy of space on any music-lover's shelf.