Nicolň PAGANINI (1782-1840)
Sonata no.1 in A (after 1828) [8:01]
Sonata no.4 in A (after 1828) [9:42]
Jan TRUHLÁR (1928-2007)
Two Compositions for Violin and Guitar, op.71a (1952/1986) [8:40]
Jan NOVÁK (1921-1984)
Sonata Serenata for Violin and Guitar (1981) [17:42]
Antonín TUčAPSKÝ (b.1928)
Duo Concertante for Violin and Guitar (1989/1998) [21:24]
Duo Teres (Lucia Kopsová (violin); Tomáš Honek (guitar))
rec. Veselí nad Moravou, Slovakia, October 2010. DDD
ARCODIVA UP0132 2231 [66:16]
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 466/1-9.
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 final movement.
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.
This is a highly attractive programme.