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Original Music for Violin and Guitar
Virtuoso Pieces

Josef MAYSEDER (1789-1838)
Polonaise, Op 4 (1816) [7:10]
Polonaise Brilliante, Op 12 (1816) [10:37]
Enrico PRAEGER (1783-1854)
Tema von Variazioni, Op 26 (1818) [9:23]
V. KRAUS (fl. 1830)
Variations (c.1812/13) [7:22]
Victor MAGNIEN (1804-1885)
Duo Concertante, Op 5 (c.1828) [14:07]
Duo Concertant, Op 6 (c.1828) [13:54]
Bartolomeo BORTOLAZZI (1772-1846)
Duo Concertante (? c.1804) [8:05]
Giles Colliard (violin)
Agustín Maruri (guitar)
rec. 26 & 28 March, 2001; Santa Eufemia de Corollos/Cozelos, Olmos de Ojeda, Spain
Premiere recordings.
EMEC E-041 [70:38]

Of the composers whose music is represented on this disc, I suspect that the only name which will sound at all familiar to most (certainly it was the only one I recognized when I first looked at the disc) is that of Josef Mayseder. Even then, I suspect, it is not as a composer he is remembered. For me the name rang a bell because I had seen it in a number of books on Beethoven. Mayseder was born in Vienna and seems to have spent most of his life there. He was taught the violin in childhood and made such progress that by the age of 11 he was playing in public (at, for example, concerts in the Garden Hall of the Palais Augarten). He soon established himself as a well-known figure in the city’s musical life. In 1802 he played before the Empress Marie Therese at the Hapsburg summer retreat of Laxenburg. In 1810 he was made Concertmaster of the Vienna Court Orchestra and in 1816 became solo violinist of the Hofburg Palace Orchestra. In 1817 he was awarded the Freedom of Vienna and given the title ‘Citizen of Honour’. His musical life crossed paths with the major musical figures of the time, sometimes in the course of the musical evenings which took place in aristocratic houses, sometimes in the more public music of the city. He first met Beethoven around 1800 and went on to play in the first eleven of Beethoven’s string quartets. His name appears quite a number of times in the Beethoven Conversation-books, both as a ‘subject’ and a ‘speaker’. In May 1824 he was one of the violinists in the premiere of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and, less than three years later, in March 1827 he was one of the torchbearers at Beethoven’s funeral, amongst such better-remembered figures as Czerny, Schubert and the dramatist Franz Grillparzer. In the early decades of the nineteenth century he had a prominent position in Vienna’s musical life, in both private and public spheres. No less a figure than Eduard Hanslick judged (in his Geschichte des Konzertwesens in Wien, Vienna 1869-70) that Mayseder effectively dominated Viennese concert life from 1810 to 1830. His work as a violinist was praised by Spohr, Weber, Joachim, Piatti (“such pure intonation, and so much fire”) and Berlioz (“a brilliant violinist, correct, poised, elegant, supremely assured”) amongst others. A writer in Blackwood’s Magazine (1837) described Mayseder as “the most popular violin composer now in Germany and Europe”. He made tours to Italy (1818) France (1820) and to Germany Bohemia and Poland (1828-31). For much of the above information I am indebted to Vanessa Devaux’s Ph.D thesis, Josef Mayseder (1789-1863): A Viennese Violinist and Composer (School of Music, Cardiff University, 2014).

Alongside his impressive success as a performer, he was active as a composer. His output includes eight string quartets, five string quintets, four string trios, seven piano trios, a number of works (including two sonatas) for violin and piano, a few pieces for violin and guitar, and one Mass. This Mass, in E-flat, was first performed in June of 1848 and was thereafter performed every New Year’s Day in the Hofkapelle until 1940 (see Devaux, p. 46). No doubt most of the works for violin were written for performance by Mayseder himself. This was certainly the case for the two works recorded here. The Op 4 Polonaise was, it seems, written for performance by Mayseder and the Italian-born guitarist, Mauro Giuliani. In 1815 (the date at the beginning of the manuscript of this polonaise; it was published in 1816) Mayseder helped to organize and perform a series of concerts in the gardens of the Schönbrunn Palace, including some with Giuliani. This Polonaise was probably written with one of these concerts in mind and one suspects that Giuliani had a substantial hand in the preparation of the guitar part. The collaboration (if one is right to assume Giuliani’s involvement in the piece) is a straightforward and thoroughly enjoyable piece, played very persuasively here by Colliard and Maruri. It wouldn’t go amiss as an encore at the end of a violin recital even today – not as brilliant display piece, but as the sort of charmingly quiet ‘farewell’ piece favoured by some recitalists. I don’t know of an arrangement for violin and piano, but I imagine one exists; if not, one ought to be created!

As its title suggests, the Tercera Polonaise Brillante from Mayseder’s Op 12 is a more ambitious and technically demanding work. It exists in two versions, one for violin and string quartet and a second for violin and guitar, arranged by Anton Diabelli (which is what is played here). As it develops, Mayseder’s writing makes many demands on the violinist, not least in terms of the quite extensive use of high points on the E-string. In some passages, indeed, one suspects that Mayseder’s main aim was to give himself opportunities to display the brilliance of his own technique. Giuliani’s arrangement does a good job of replacing the four-instrument accompaniment of Mayseder’s original score with hardly any sense of loss or impoverishment. Incidentally, I know (thanks to information from an Austrian friend) of only one recording of the version for violin and string quartet, on the Gramola label, Joseph Mayseder: Virtuosenwerke Vol 5 (GRAM 99194), released in July 2019, with Thomas Christian as soloist. Indeed, the Gramola catalogue is well worth consulting for details of the other recordings of Mayseder’s music which they have enterprisingly recorded and issued.

The other composers on this disc merit and need briefer discussions than I have given to Mayseder, who is a genuinely significant figure. The composer here identified as Enrico Praeger is elsewhere referred to as Heinrich Aloys Präger. He was born in Amsterdam and his full name (which makes clear his Jewish origins) was Heinrich Hijman Chaim Aron Aloys Präger. He seems to have grown up in Braunschweig (Saxony). After a musical education, in which his instruments were violin and guitar, he found work as musical director of various theatrical companies, some of them nomadic, others based in cities such as Dresden and Leipzig. Between 1822 and 1828 he was a violinist in the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, (between 1825 and 1830 he also edited the monthly musical magazine Polyhymnia). From 1829 to 1831 he was kappelmeister of the Royal Hanoverian Orchestra and was subsequently one of the music directors of a theatre in Aachen. As a composer his works include chamber music (e.g. a String Trio, Op 14; 3 duos for two violins, Op 42 c.1874), works for solo violin (such as his Caprices for violin, Op 10, c.1814), didactic works (e.g. 12 Exercises for Violin, Op 22 and a ‘Suite of Exercises for the guitar, Op 28, 1828) and a number of arrangements of tunes by other composers, often from the operatic stage (e.g. Airs choisis: arrangements pour la guitarre). The work which concerns us here – his Tema con Variazioni, Op 26, was published in 1818 by the famous house of Breitkopf & Härtel (founded almost a century earlier in 1719) in Leipzig. Praeger was a thoroughly competent performer on both violin and guitar, so perhaps we should not be surprised that this work really is a duet between instrumental equals, with the guitar freed from the role of ‘mere’ accompanist and being given some foregrounded passages of its own. Präger’s theme (in E minor) has a rather attractive wistful lilt to it and the ensuing seven variations (three of them in E major) are inventive both in rhythm and melody, as well as being varied in tempo and dynamics. The work closes with a dashing allegretto in E major. The whole is a well-crafted piece, with just a dash of ‘inspiration’. So far as I can judge – having no access to a full score, or to any other recordings (if they exist) – it seems to be very well played by Colliard and Maruri.

Of the composer of the fourth work on this disc, the anonymous booklet writer is content to say “We do not know much about V. Kraus. Fétis makes a passing reference to him”. What is then summarized from Fetis is presented with greater clarity in Philp J. Bone’s The Guitar and Mandolin: Biographies of celebrated players and composers for these instruments (1914, p.250): “Kraus, a German musician engaged in the Court orchestra of Bernbourg during the end of the eighteenth century, who was a violinist and guitarist and has left Op 1, Sonata for guitar and violin; Op 2, Sonata for guitar solo and An die Naedchen, a polonaise with guitar accompaniment, all of which were published by Peters, Leipzig.” Bernbourg, of which the usual modern spelling is ‘Bernburg’ is a town in Saxony. The Princes (and later the Dukes) of Anhalt-Bernburg were based in the town and it was presumably in their orchestra that Herr Kraus worked. According to the notes accompanying this CD, the set of ‘Variations’ recorded here was “dedicated to the liberation of Moscow from Napoleon’s troops” and “was published in Vienna by Louis Maisch”. After occupying the city for 36 days, on October 19th 1812 French troops began to leave Moscow and the first Russian troops, under the command of Ferdinand von Wintzingerode entered the city a few days later.

Kraus’s piece was presumably written either late in 1812 or early in 1813. His ‘Variations’ start in somewhat downbeat fashion, picking up momentum later. Any sense of celebration is only encountered around the middle of the work, where there is some exciting and demanding writing for the violin, with the guitar providing a fairly basic accompaniment. This is the least interesting or rewarding of the works on the disc – the weakness, I suspect, being that of the composer rather than the performers. William Faulkner once declared pithily that the obituary of a writer should read “He wrote books, then he died”. By way of analogy, the most I can say of Kraus is that “He lived in Bernburg, wrote music, then died”.

The French composer, violinist and guitarist Victor Magnien certainly made more of a mark on the world. Indeed, having implied in the opening to this review that I had no knowledge of Magnien or his music, I have since realized that I have encountered a little of his music. I remember (now!) that four or five years ago a guitar-playing friend played all (or perhaps part) of a CD of Magnien’s music for solo guitar, played by the Canadian guitarist Pascal Valois (Centaur CR 3469). I can only recall that Magnien’s music had a genuine ‘romantic’ charm, along with some degree of virtuosity, and that it was clearly the work of someone who understood the guitar well. Research reveals an interesting life, in which early difficulties were overcome.

Magnien – whose full name was François Victor Antoine Magnien – was born in Épinal in northeast France, where his father held an administrative post in the government. The son studied music in Paris from 1817 to 1819, his teachers including the violinist Rodolphe Kreutzer (the dedicatee of Beethoven’s Violin Sonata, No.9) and the guitarist Ferdinando Carulli. However, his family was faced by financial difficulties when, for political reasons, his father lost his position. The family moved to Colmar and the young Victor began to teach guitar and violin to private students in Colmar and also Mulhouse to supplement the family income. After a while he was earning enough to be able to study in Paris again, though only for a few months each year; he continued his studies with Carulli, while also studying with another eminent violinist, Pierre Baillot and also composition with the Belgian François-Joseph Fétis. From 1827 onwards Magnien’s compositions began to appear from the Parisian music publishers Richaut, included the two duos concertante recorded here. The two were republished together around 1835; in neither case does the earlier publication carry a date, but both probably belong to the years between 1827 and 1830. During the turmoil which surrounded (and followed) the Revolution of 1630 – which overthrew Charles X – Magnien gave a series of concerts in Germany, which were very well received. His standing in France was obviously enhanced by this success, since in 1833 he was made director of the Philharmonic Society of Beauvais. In 1846 he was appointed Director of the Conservatoire in Lille (he also taught violin and guitar there). He is said to have done much to raise the standards at this in this institution.

Each of the two duos recorded here is in three movements: Op 5 consists of an Allegro, an Adagio and a Polonaise; Op 6 is made up of an Allegro, a Minuetto and a closing movement marked ‘Adagio. Rondo’. The two works suggest just how well Magnien understood both instruments. While not attempting anything especially innovative or profound, both duos are well-made and eminently listenable. Each instrument is given music of substance and there is genuine musical dialogue between them. Both works have that charm which is also a hallmark of Magnien’s works for solo guitar. Colliard and Maruri are persuasive advocates for these duos; as is the case throughout this CD their playing is committed and perceptive. On admittedly very limited evidence, I suspect that some of Magnien’s other music deserves to be heard more often than it is nowadays.

The CD closes with another Duo - the ‘Duo Concertante’ by Bartolomeo Bortolazzi. This CD was recorded in 2001 and initially issued in 2012. The dates mean that all concerned were unable to take advantage of the impressive research of Rogério Budasz, whose scholarly and well-documented study of Bortolazzi, ‘Bartolomeo Bortolazzi (1772-1846): Mandolinist, Singer, and Presumed Carbonaro’ was published in the Revista Portuguesa de Musicologia, New Series, 2 (1), 2015, pp.79-134. This fascinating research fundamentally alters previous ideas about Bortolazzi’s life. There is far too much material in Budasz’s substantial essay for me to do more than offer the very barest of summaries. Most previous accounts of the composer’s quietly stop around 1808 or so, as if Bortolazzi had mysteriously disappeared from the face of the earth. No previous account gives the date of the composer’s death. Budasz’s research shows that Bortolazzi was not born in Venice, as previously thought, but in the town of Toscolano, on the western shore of Lake Garda. More startlingly he demonstrates that Bortolazzi left Europe for Brazil in 1809. He and his family are recorded as living in São Paolo in 1813. Budasz also provides a fuller account than hitherto of Bortolazzi’s musical life in Europe. How around 1790 he seems to have “embarked on an adventurous career of itinerant musician and actor”, along with a few friends (p.83) and how that adventure initially took him around Northern Italy and to France and the Tyrol. He was in Vienna c.1796-1799; indeed, in 1799 Hummel dedicated a mandolin concerto to him. In 1803 he was giving concerts in ‘Germany’, e.g. in Dresden, Leipzig and Berlin. He set up and edited a magazine, Amusement Périodique pour la guitarre et violon, which doesn’t seem to have had much commercial success. Around 1806 he and his family moved to London, launching an English version of the Amusement, teaching and giving recitals. In London, as he had been in Vienna (and as he would be later in Brazil), he was a member of a Masonic lodge. Though he performed before the Royal family he wasn’t able to find a secure financial position. Late in 1809 he and his family sailed to Brazil. In Rio he, once again, sought pupils for lessons in “singing, guitar, and mandolin” (Budasz, p.98). He made another venture into the publishing of a magazine. He acted, sang and played. At one point he owned a small coffee plantation “and two slaves” (ibid.p. 97). In 1832 he officially acquired Brazilian citizenship (p.106). Of the 36 years which he lived in Brazil, over 20 were spent in Rio. But he also had spells in São Paolo and elsewhere. It was a remarkable life and through it all he ‘survived’ as “an instructor and performer on the guitar and the mandolin [his first and favourite instrument], had temporary engagements with theatrical companies, sometimes as a singer, and published music. But he never had a steady job at a conservatory.” (Budasz, p.117). I once asked the very learned poet Peter Russell why he had chosen not to complete his degree. His answer – “I was afraid I might become an academic if I did” – was both a friendly dig at me, as an academic, and a choice of life-style. I suspect that Bartolomeo Bortolazzi, who seems to have had no formal training in music beyond what he learned as a child, would have understood Peter’s answer.

Surprisingly, the Duo recorded by Colliard and Maruri doesn’t appear in Budasz’s ‘List of Compositions by Bartolomeo Bortolazzi’ (pp.120-24). In style, its three movements (Maestoso-Larghetto-Rondo.Allegretto) have a decidedly Viennese quality – not by chance does the writer of the booklet notes describe the work as “a lovely musical Mozartian divertimento filled with transparency and charm.” It seems reasonable to assume that the piece was written to appeal to Viennese taste, during the years Bortolazzi spent there. It may be relevant to note that of the works Bortolazzi definitely published (and probably wrote) while working in ‘Germany’ and Vienna, some were for violin and guitar, such as his Op 15, Variations pour la Guitarre & Violon concertans sur l’air ‘Quanto é più bello l’amor contadino, to which Budasz assigns the date ‘c.1804’.

The Duo has a pleasing elegance. The graceful violin lines in the central Larghetto are especially attractive. Elsewhere the violin writing often has a greater bite to it. For the most part the violin dominates the work, with the guitar largely serving as a supportive accompanist. There is a slightly different emphasis in the opening Maestoso (which isn’t really notably majestic) where the guitar does have a few moments of independent expression. Bortolazzi’s songs with guitar were much admired at the time and I imagine that they might have their attractions nowadays too.

There are no lost masterpieces here, but all except the ‘Variations’ by Kraus are well worth hearing and would certainly reward more than a single hearing. The work of Mayseder will surely appeal to anyone attracted to Viennese classicism (especially at the point when it was on the cusp of becoming ‘romantic’, to put things rather crudely). Praeger and Magnien are composers of whom I now wish to hear more. Such reactions owe a good deal, of course, to the quality of the performances on this disc. Throughout, the work of Gilles Colliard and Augustín Maruri is sympathetic and assured, involved and involving. The interplay between the two musicians is exact and disciplined, while also sounding natural and comfortable. These largely-forgotten composers of the early nineteenth century could not have asked for better advocates of their music.

Glyn Pursglove



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