Drew Henderson (Canada), guitar - CICGF concert: June 4 at 7:30 p.m., Eastern Daylight Time

DREW HENDERSON (Canada), eight and six string guitars Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750) From Suite no. 4 for solo cello, BWV 1010 Prelude Sarabande Bourrée I and II Franz Schubert (1797–1828) Lob der Tränen Joaquín Turina (1882–1949) Sonata para guitarra, Op. 61 Allegro Andante Allegro vivo -----------------------------------

When Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) composed his six cello suites between 1717-23, writing for solo cello was an anomaly. Not surprisingly, these suites were virtually unknown in the ensuing decades. And they might have remained so, had not the 13 year old cellist Pablo Casals chanced upon them in a second-hand music shop. He bought them, played them, and was smitten. In 1936 he made the first complete recording of the suites. This shattered their anonymity for good. Today, a cellist can choose from over 80 editions of the suites. They’re now the cornerstone of the cello repertoire.

The first three suites fall happily on the cello, but the 4th doesn’t. It’s in Eb major, an uncomfortable key for the cello. (Cellist Bruno Cocset claimed he didn’t understand how this suite should sound until he heard a recording of it by harpsichordist Gustav Leonhardt.) For this reason, there’s an advantage in transcribing the 4th cello suite to the guitar. Cellists, of course, can’t change the key to something less recalcitrant. But guitarists, when transcribing music, routinely change the key of the original to something that better suits the guitar. So the irony is that Bach’s 4th cello suite can sound more idiomatic on the guitar than on the instrument for which it was written. One can imagine cellists gritting their teeth in envy.

What Casals did for Bach, Franz Liszt similarly did for Franz Schubert (1797-1828). A Belgian musician in Paris introduced Liszt to Schubert’s songs. Liszt adored them, and arranged over 50 Schubert songs for solo piano. He also championed them in his wildly popular recitals, and anything Liszt championed became a hit with music audiences. Pianists and publishers couldn’t get enough of them. One could say that Liszt put Schubert on the map. Following Liszt’s example, 19th century guitar virtuoso Johann Kaspar Mertz arranged six Schubert songs for solo guitar in 1845, among them Lob der Tränen. Mertz’s guitar arrangements are strikingly similar to Liszt’s. Undoubtedly he knew the Liszt arrangements through his wife, who was a fine pianist.

Joaquín Turina (1882-1949) wrote only five opus numbers for guitar. He was, after all, a concert pianist, and composed many more piano works for his own recitals. But his modest guitar oeuvre—it easily fits on one compact disc—is today perhaps the best known of all his music. Turina shunned the avante garde trends of his time. Indeed, he made no secret of his hostility toward atonal music, tartly dismissing “all the modernist mess.” In spite of his conservative bent, however, his guitar music is colorful and vibrant. While most of it is overtly tinged by flamenco, his Op. 61 Sonata stands apart as more traditionally European. Composed in 1930 for Andrés Segovia, it fit neatly with Segovia’s desire to enrich guitar repertoire with a substantial multi-movement sonata.

Program notes by Tom Poore


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