The works that comprise this recording were introduced to me in much the same way one makes friends with people in life. There are of course varying circumstances as to how each friendship begins, but ultimately friendships become a strong presence and influence in one’s life. This often makes us wonder, “Where would I be without this person?” The same can be said, for me, of the pieces that are present on this recording.
The music of Domenico Scarlatti was introduced to me through various friends I have met during my studies. His harpsichord sonatas have always captured my imagination and it is through Scarlatti’s clever construction, as well as his clarity of emotional content that I felt compelled to present these three sonatas on this recording. The works of Leo Brouwer were introduced to me as a young student through my first teacher, John McClellan. It was through his enthusiasm for this composer that I have found myself performing many of his works. I was compelled to record this work because of the long lasting relationship I’ve had with Brouwer’s music, and it felt appropriate to have one of his most substantial works for solo guitar present on this recording. The piano works of Isaac Albéniz have been a great influence on guitarists throughout the twentieth century, and it is easy to understand why when one hears his music arranged for the guitar. My teacher at the Peabody Conservatory, Julian Gray, introduced me to the work that closes this recording, and I owe him many thanks for sharing this piece with me.
About the Works:
Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757), son of the famed Italian operatic composer Alessandro Scarlatti, was the private harpsichord tutor to the daughter of the King of Portugal. His student, Maria Barbara, the Princess of Portugal and later the Queen of Spain would be his sole employer for the last 30 years of his life. In his time as her teacher, he composed some 555 solo sonatas for harpsichord. Surprisingly, all of these sonatas are linked in there structural design: that of two parts each of which repeats. What is even more astonishing is the emotional range and character that he is able to build within the confines of this architectural design. The three sonatas presented in this program K. 14 (G major), K. 213 (D minor), K. 178 (D major), offer a glimpse into the playful, contemplative, and virtuosic sides of this composer. These works also display his uncanny ability to create melodic and motivic variety within this single structural framework.
Leo Brouwer (b. 1939) was born in Havana, Cuba and began his musical studies on the guitar at the age of thirteen. Brouwer was essentially self-taught as a composer, with his first experiences in composition presenting themselves at the age of fifteen. Brouwer’s only experience with formal musical training occurred at the Hartt School of Music and the Juilliard School from 1959 to 1960, where his teachers included Vincent Persichetti and Isador Freed. His Sonata for guitar was commissioned in 1990 by Julian Bream, and premiered the following year. The work is in three movements, and as in much of Brouwer’s music, the thematic material is compact. In fact, much of the material used to unify this work is taken from an eight-note motif found in the seventh bar of the first movement. The first movement “Fandangos y Boleros,” opens with a Preàmbulo, which is then followed by a Danza where the composer fuses elements of the Spanish fandango rhythm with that of the Cuban bolero. The second movement “Sarabanda de Scriabin,” begins with a three-note ostinato above which Brouwer overlays the eight note melodic figure from the Preàmbulo. The final movement “La Toccata de Pasquini,” is a virtuosic harp-like moto perpetuo that quotes the cuckoo from Pasquini’s famous sonata for harpsichord. Brouwer also brings the melodic material of the Preàmbulo back for a final appearance tying the movements even more closely together.
Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909), a child prodigy, gave his first public performance in Barcelona at the age of four. At the age of twelve, the young Spaniard stowed away on a boat to Puerto Rico where he then supported himself by giving concerts in the principal towns of Puerto Rico and Cuba until he returned home at his father’s request. The precocious and adventurous nature of Albéniz’s youth was later a characteristic of the man both as a performer and prolific composer. His most celebrated work is the Suite for pianoforte entitled Iberia. Here, Albéniz creates musical portraits of his beloved country offering up a musical representation of the varying cities and landscapes of Spain. Similarly, Albéniz’s Mallorca Op. 202, a barcarolle, continues in this direction by presenting a musical illustration of the island that lies off the eastern coast of Spain. The piece itself, which is in ternary form, begins with a rhythmic figure carried by the accompaniment that supports the hauntingly lyrical melody of the ‘A’ section in d minor. The ‘B’ section, in the parallel major, is a departure from the dark, reflective character of the opening to that of warmth and exuberance allowing a brief moment of relief before bringing the piece to a close.