Saturday, April 25, 2009

Performers Notes

Nicholas Lambson:

I will be playing three diverse solo sets ranging from classical to modern. The Estudios Sencillos (simple studies) are well-known in the guitar repertoire. They are etudes, which are technically biased works, though I find a few of them to be very distinctive musically. I have chosen five of the more difficult and interesting of the popular 20.

Spanish guitarist/composer Fernando Sor lived in Paris for much of his mature career and contributed a wealth of fine works to the classical repertoire. I will be performing his massive mature masterwork, the "Fantaisie Elegiaque" Op.59, which oddly isn't performed or recorded very often. It may be his finest work, though other flashier pieces get performed more often such as his Variations on a Theme of Mozart, Op.9. This is a substantial work on the death of a close friend of his, and is also a personal work for me.

The Bardenklange (Bardic Sounds) of Johann Kaspar Mertz are becoming more and more recognized in the repertoire though they have been around for a century and a half. Mertz was a virtuoso active in Vienna during the Romantic period and may be the finest guitar composer of the era. The works I will be performing range in style from an almost operatic melodiousness to virtuosic fireworks. I will be performing three works: Romanze, Unruhe (restlessness), and Fingal's Hohle (Fingal's cave).

I feel very fortunate to work with Elisabeth on our voice and guitar repertoire. I am primarily a soloist, so it is always nice to work with other musicians and I am particularly excited about our repertoire selection. Some of the works are well-known, and some are relatively obscure. The classical guitar has strong associations with the Spanish idiom, and I think it is fitting that we will be performing works by two Spanish composers, though they are very different. Rodrigo is more modern and a neoclassicist, and he is well-known in the guitar world for his very famous "Concierto de Aranjuez" as well as a number of other fine works. Lorca was a multi-talented author, painter, and musician and the works we will be performing draw on the Flamenco tradition in Spain.

Elisabeth Harrington:

The concert will feature guitarist Nicholas Lambson on solo guitar for half of the evening. I will join him for the other half. The pieces we are performing together are the following four sets, two in English, two in Spanish:1. Three songs by John Dowland (originally scored for voice and lute) Typical early music with word painting in the vocal part, some tricky contrapuntal writing for guitar. They are strophic songs with some repetitions within verses. The stories are about unrequited love.

2. Three songs by Joaquin Rodrigo (the famed twentieth-century Spanish composer who became blind at the age of three, and contributed greatly to popularizing the classical guitar) Wonderful, through-composed pieces with ample melodic and harmonic variation to hold the listener's interest without losing cohesion. They definitely sound Spanish!

3. Five folk songs by Federico Garcia Lorca (accessible, full of "Spanish" idioms; include multiple verses for each melody)

4. Selections from "Letters from Composers" by Dominick Argento (featuring personal notes from J. S. Bach, Robert Schumann, Giacomo Puccini, Frederic Chopin and others, scored for guitar and high voice). These songs are particularly clever, as the music reflects both the tone of each letter, whether loving, mocking, complaining, etc., and includes motives and rhythmic references reflective of the composer's style.

It is a rare treat for me to perform with a guitarist (only the third time in my whole career). I am enjoying learning more about the instrument and how to adjust my vocal intensity and color to balance with Nick's sound.

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