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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Sonatas arranged for Guitar Duo
Sonata No. 10 KV 330 [19:09]
Sonata No. 5 KV 283 [18:24]
Sonata No. 4 KV 282 [13:04]
Sonata No. 11 KV 331 [24:31]
Duo Morat-Fergo
rec. 2020, Abtei Marienmunster, Germany
CHALLENGE CLASSICS CC72867 [75:13]

In perusing the liner notes that accompany some recordings of classical guitar music, one may quickly conclude that musicians have a complex about the repertory offered. This may have its genesis in the fact that rarely did any of the great composers write anything specifically for guitar. Most of the early guitar virtuosi wrote their own music for the instrument. An alternative to composition was adapting popular music of the day for the guitar, a process musicians such as Segovia and Tarrega executed with consummate skill, often to the displeasure of the purists. Another option was to motivate eminent musicians to compose quality original works for the guitar an eminently successful initiative embraced by Segovia and Julian Bream, among others.

The liner notes accompanying the review recording read as though offered by a transcription apologist. Reference is made to growing up as a guitarist and facing the disappointment that almost none of the great composers contributed to the guitar repertory, beginning to dream and longing to play the music of these legends. Even the transcriptions for guitar of Bach’s music were insufficient to subdue the urge. In this frame of mind, justification for presenting the programme on two Viennese guitars is via the rationalization “that the sound quality of the instruments Mozart played is at least as distantly removed from the modern Steinway grand concert, as it is from the Viennese guitar.”

Although many fine transcriptions and arrangements for the guitar have been made of famous and popular music, there is music best left to be played on the instrument(s) for which it was composed. Interestingly, Isaac Albeniz is purported to have preferred the guitar arrangements of his music by Miguel Llobet, over the originals for piano. Tarrega also made numerous transcriptions, especially of popular music of the day; while Segovia recognized the skill of such works, he also expressed feelings that Tarrega went too far in his efforts to fit certain music to the guitar. There is probably no better example of the point Segovia made about over-enthusiastic transcription than the outstanding Japanese guitarist Kazuhito Yamashita. Although they are per se quite amazing, few would debate that his renditions of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto Op 61 and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition would be better left to the original instrument(s); the guitar has its limitations particularly in the areas of volume and sustain.

The Swiss-Danish Duo Morat-Fergo comprises Raoul Morat and Christina Fergo. Both studied at the music academy of Lucerne under Frank Bungarten. They have performed in many countries, including Norway, Finland, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Iceland, China, and created a new repertory for guitar duo comprising Mozart, Schubert and Chopin.

The review recording offers four Mozart Piano Sonatas: No 10, No. 5, No. 4, and No. 11. It may be that, to compensate for some preconceived deficiency, the guitarists used ‘romantic Viennese’ guitars in the anticipation that at least the period sound of the performance would be replicated.
However, the modern guitar, under the hands of creative luthiers, morphed into an instrument that provides bolder sound, and greater sustain, a combination better able to compensate for the loss in adaption of this music to the guitar. On audition of the recording, the disadvantage of these small, frail-sounding instruments is immediately conspicuous. Some may crave period authenticity to the music, others the very best of which the guitar is capable; the latter cannot be found here.

The Duo Morat-Fergo (Christian Fergo & Raoul Morat., both playing the romantic Viennese guitar) is not the first to embrace arranging the Piano Sonatas of Mozart for guitar. On his recording Paul Galbraith Performs, the guitarist includes Sonata K280 (trans. A). A far cry from the Viennese guitar, the modern, innovative Cello Guitar used on this recording provides a very resonant, robust sound which helps compensate for the loss experienced in adaptation from the original.

Segovia also demonstrated preoccupation with the Mozart Piano Sonatas as potential items for inclusion in public recital. Early evidence of this is a Barcelona concert programme dated Jan 26, 1919. Typical of his ‘cherry-picking’ style, Segovia included only the Andante movement from one of Mozart’s piano sonatas in C. In the audience was the famed pianist Paquita Madriguera who, some years after, was to become his second wife. She later said that among the concert items this Andante stood out “and moved my soul from its very depths.”

Morat and Fergo are fine musicians and excellent guitarists, who perform well as a duo. However, despite their underlying ambitions, one must quickly recognize the conspicuous limitations of the guitar in this context, exacerbated by the choice of specific instruments; in selecting music for transcription, credence must be given to that important fact. Segovia was quick to identify that music by the Spanish Nationalist composers was often inspired by the guitar; transcription was simply the process of relegation to its origins. Listeners will decide if Mozart also had the guitar in mind when he composed these masterpieces.

Zane Turner



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