Keeping The Guitar’s Tradition Alive 1

My work as a discographer consists in gathering any information I can find on classical guitar recordings, of course, and include it in my computerized discography (13, 600+ recordings). For this, I rely a lot on the Internet and I must say that it is sometimes a blessing and sometimes a curse. A blessing, when I find very complete information about the composers, titles, times, guitars played, etc. A curse, when on such important websites as itunes.apple.com, cdbaby.com, qobuz.com and many others, I rarely see the names of the composers associated to their pieces.

I then have extra work: listening to the pieces to identify the composers or find the email of the artists and ask them. If I am lucky someone answers my letters, if not…

Sometimes I wonder if in ten or fifteen years from now, people will remember at all who composed Recuerdos de la Alhambra, Torija or Campanas del Alba (Tárrega, Torroba, Eduardo Sainz de la Maza) or if everything, in that future musical limbo, will just be one big streaming tune. So, if you are a recording artist, please help us to keep the guitar’s tradition alive: make sure to include the complete info on your own website first and, if possible, elsewhere too.

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Happy 2016!

I would like to thank the readership of Guitar’s TOP 100. The book has now been shipped in 22 countries: Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Mexico, The Netherlands, New-Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Puerto-Rico, Russia, Spain, Switzerland and the USA.

My wish for 2016 and the 21st Century is that not only the guitar community, but the international music community is made more aware of the guitar’s amazing original repertoire. I wish its music to be listened to, appreciated, treasured and shared more. Thank you for trusting this author and Happy 2016!

In Need of Uplifting Music

As days are growing shorter and colder, at least in this part of the world (Canada), one really needs to seek any remnants of light left. So lets get a piece of sun where there is plenty: Australia and Brazil!

My sunny, uplifting pieces of music today are three:

From Brazil, Paulo Bellinati’s (1950-) Jongo (1978) is the TOP 86 most recorded piece for guitar. This good-humoured piece has melodies constantly shifting from lower to upper registers, a section in harmonics and a surprising improvised hand percussion episode performed on different parts of the guitars’ bodies. [Benjamin Beirs (guitar); Maud Laforest (guitar) Self-production 885767585140 http://www.duotransatlantique.com]

From Brazil again, Radamés Gnattali’s (1906-1988) Sonata for cello and guitar (1969), presents a good mix of fun and content across its three movements. The instruments are really equal partners here as each one shares the spotlight and gives its best shot at Gnattali’s infectious melodies. [Marc Regnier (guitar); Natalia Khoma (cello) Dorian Sono Luminus DSL-92116]

Finally, from Australia, Ross Edwards’ (1943-) Arafura Dances: Concerto for Guitar and String Orchestra (1994-95) is based on two of the composer’s maninyas, Australian Dance/ chants, that are, in the composer’s words “woven into a fabric of insect rhythms and drones”. Warning: This music will grow on you. It is attractive, seductive, and downright irresistible! [Karin Schaupp (guitar) Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, Conductor: Richard Mills, ABC Classics 476-227-0 or 481 0961]

Guitar Quartets

From time to time one comes across an exceptional guitar quartet at a concert, on CD or mp3. One’s interest grows and maybe will one like to explore this ensemble’s repertoire. But, how popular are guitar quartets? Are any guitar quartets in the list of the TOP 100 most recorded pieces for guitar?

The answer is no. Still, which quartets are the most popular? I found four.

To my knowledge, there are at least 38 recordings of Leo Brouwer’s Paisaje cubano con lluvia (1984) (“Cuban landscape with rain”).

Ex-aequo with this piece is Federico Moreno Torroba’s Estampas (1972)

The second place is also shared. This time between Paulo Bellinati and Leo Brouwer.

Paulo Bellinati for his Baiao de gude (1977) and Leo Brouwer for his Paisaje cubano con rumba (1985) (“Cuban landscape with rumba”) the two at 25 recordings.

These pieces are a good place to start if you are interested in music written for guitar quartets. Already know them? Then, you might want to listen to Máximo Diego Pujol’s Grises y soles (1996), Phillip Houghton’s Opals (1993) or even Nigel Westlake’s Six Fish (2003) for a start. Have fun!

Fernando Sor anniversary

176 years ago died one of the most celebrated guitarist-composers of all times, Fernando Sor (Joseph Fernando Macari Sor Moncadas) (1778-1839). He died on the 10th of July of 1839 and was buried on the 12th at the Montmartre cemetery, in Paris. According to his biographer, Brian Jeffery, Fernando Sor’s ballet Cinderella was presented 104 times at the Paris Opera, which is quite a feat.

As for the guitar, Fernando Sor is one of the three most recorded guitar composers with Francisco Tárrega and Heitor Villa-Lobos. I located more than 1,000 recordings with at least one piece by Sor.

Nowadays, Sor’s music is still very popular among guitarists and their public since five of his opuses are in the TOP 100 most recorded pieces for guitar. Furthermore, one of three guitar duos that made it to the TOP 100 is Sor’s l’Encouragement, Op. 34 (TOP 89). Do you have a favourite version of this piece? One of my favorites is by Alexandre Lagoya and Ida Presti. Thank you Fernando Sor for all the beautiful music you wrote!

Domeniconi’s Koyunbaba

  • Koyunbaba Suite for Guitar, Op. 19 (1985) By Carlo Domeniconi (1947-)

Koyunbaba means “shepherd,” koyun being the word for “sheep” and baba the word for “father.” A scordatura is used in Koyunbaba, it involves a C sharp minor chord with the result that only one string keeps its original tuning! According to John Williams, the great Australian guitarist, this new tuning provides a rich and exotic atmosphere as well as creating musical intensity and excitement.

Why is this piece important? Simply put, Segovia’s (and other guitarists) repertoire search among the symphonic composers was followed by Bream’s after the Second World War. Around the 1980’s, Koshkin’s The Prince’s Toys, Brouwer’s El Decameron Negro and Domeniconi’s Koyunbaba marked the return of the guitarist-composer in the  attention of the record-buying public since Koyunbaba is TOP 34 among the most recorded pieces for guitar. Koyunbaba opens the door to a whole world of colour and magic from Turkey. This magnificent piece reminds us of the importance of the guitarist-composers at each moment of the guitar’s history!

David Russell Concert in Quebec City

IMG_1312This picture was taken on tuesday February 10, 2015 at the end of David Russell’s concert in Quebec City at the Palais Montcalm. All the members of Guitar’s TOP 100 listening committee were present. From left to right: Cédric Giguère, Éric Dussault, David Russell, Raymond Skilling and myself, Enrique Robichaud. Great concert which I had the opportunity to hear again 3 days later in Gatineau!