Hao Yang, guitar (China) - Sunday, June 11, 2017 at 2:30 p.m.


Cleveland Institute of Music, Mixon Hall
Sunday, June 11, 2017, at 2:30 p.m.

Mauro Giuliani (1781–1829)

    Grand Overture
        Andante sostenuto 
        Allegro maestoso

J.S. Bach (1685-1750)

    Partita No.2 in D minor

Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909)



Agustín Barrios Mangoré (1885-1944)

    Un sueño en la floresta
(Souvenir d'un Rêvé)

Antonio José (1902–1936)

    Sonata para Guitarra   
        Allegro moderato
        Pavana triste
        Final. Allegro con brio

Please silence all electronic devices, including cellular phones, wristwatches, and pagers. Photography, video or audio recording are not permitted during this concert.


Early 19th century Italy was no place for a skilled guitarist like Mauro Giuliani (1781-1829). Patrons were few and not much interested in anything other than opera. Further, publishing houses—vital for hawking one’s compositions—were thin on the ground. So like many other Italian musicians, Giuliani headed north. In Vienna, he found a perfect mix of artistic, social, and economic success. His virtuosity opened doors. Giuliani hobnobbed with royalty and the finest musicians in Europe, notably Ignaz Moscheles, Antonio Salieri, Carl Maria von Weber. Even the volatile Beethoven was a friend—in a surviving letter he urges a friend to “persuade this popular guitarist to visit me.” Among many artists in Vienna, Giuliani belonged to a free-wheeling society dubbed the “Ludlamshöhle,” its mission being little more than frothy conversation and hijinks dedicated to “increase the pleasure of society.” (It was here that Giuliani earned the whimsical Latin nickname “Vitac Umo Capodastro.”) Mounting debt, however, eventually drove him from Vienna in 1819. He settled back in Italy and lapsed into relative obscurity. After Giuliani’s death, an admirer wrote of him: “In his hands, the guitar became gifted with a power of expression at once pure, thrilling, and exquisite. In a word, he made the instrument sing. Giuliani gave to the guitar a character which, it was thought before, was totally alien to its nature.”

The Ciaccona of
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) is the last of five movements in his Partita No. 2 for solo violin. Yet so apart does it stand from its surroundings—it’s longer than the other four movements combined—that it’s often performed as a stand-alone work. (Bach may well have originally intended it that way.) Ever since its composition, musicians across the centuries have lavished it with superlatives. Violinist Carl Flesch wrote: “Only a fool would maintain that the Chaconne, this cosmos in itself, could be seen through a single prism.” And indeed, almost every instrument or combination of instruments has taken a crack at it. When Andrés Segovia published his transcription in 1934, the dam burst open for guitarists. For all its daunting complexity, Bach’s Ciaccona is essentially a meditation on four descending bass notes. This simple motif has a venerable musical history, used in everything from Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas to Led Zeppelin’s Dazed and Confused. Bach himself may have relished the challenge: how does one compose a quarter of an hour of music based on a mere four notes? Princeton University computer scientist Bernard Chazelle noted this side of the composer: “Bach didn’t regard himself as an artist, but as a scientist, a cosmologist of music.” Of the Ciaccona, Chazelle went on to write: “He lost his parents before he was 10. He lost 10 children. You can tell from his music that his emotion is raw. This is a man who truly grieves. It’s a dance. But it’s extremely moving, and yet it’s very controlled.”

Perhaps the best known piece in the guitar repertoire, Asturias by Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909) seems a work in search of an identity. Entitled Leyenda by its composer, it was first published in 1892 as part of Chants d’Espagne. Later a German publisher slipped this piece into a 1911 edition of Suite española and renamed it Asturias (Leyenda). That the region of Asturias never crossed the mind of the composer during the creation of this piece seemed not to matter. The name stuck. Cementing the transfiguration, Andrés Segovia is credited with the first successful guitar transcription. (There was an earlier version by the obscure guitarist Severino García Fortea, but Segovia scorned him as a hack, and premiered his own version in 1924.) Since then, it’s become the quintessential Spanish guitar piece, tackled by both duffers and virtuosos. On rock group The Doors 1968 album “Waiting for the Sun,” guitarist Robby Krieger quotes Asturias in the song “Spanish Caravan.”

Unhappy with his current success, Paraguayan guitarist Agustín Barrios Mangoré (1885-1944) redubbed himself “Nitsuga” and began performing in full traditional Guaraní garb. (The Guaraní are the indigenous people of Paraguay.) Even his own compositions were re-jiggered to suit his new persona—Barrios changed the name of Souvenir de un reve to Un sueño en la floresta. A 1933 review chronicled an audience reaction to this spectacle: “In front, a corral of bamboo and two house palms. Mangoré presents himself with feathers. An anachronism. Something for children. We expect a disaster, a fatal musical calamity. Little by little the audience warms up. The guitar becomes a piano, violin, flute, mandolin, drum. At times it seems the guitar plays itself. The applause grows, and increases with each piece until at the end of the performance the public is shouting ‘encore’ to which he replies simply ‘thank you.’”

Born in Burgos, Spanish composer Antonio José Martínez Palacios (1902-1936) s
pent much of his 20s happily in Madrid. Here he wrote many of the works that first gained him recognition. It was also there that he made the acquaintance of guitarist Regino Sainz de la Maza. Offered a job back in his home town in 1929, he became director of the Burgos choir. But after his heady days in the Spanish capital, the dreariness of Burgos weighed on him: “This is simply unbearable. Here there are only nitwits and cavemen and miserly simpletons. Oh, if I could only live in Madrid!” Nonetheless, he and some friends founded a liberal journal “Burgos gráfico.” This didn’t endear him to the repressive factions in Burgos. When Nationalist forces overthrew the government in 1936, they began rounding up their enemies. José, who initially felt himself safe from persecution, was soon engulfed in the wave of reprisals. He was shot while handcuffed to a teenaged apprentice from the printing shop of Burgos gráfico. His 1933 Sonata para Guitarra, only partially premiered by Sainz de la Maza, is his only work for guitar. Its first complete performance had to wait until 1981, when Cuban-American guitarist Ricardo Iznaola played it for the Spanish radio broadcast Lunes Musicales de Radio Nacional.

—Tom Poore, 2017