Telemann Satie Ravel Schubert Dowland Ibert Coste
- Featured: Randy Pile
- Release Date: 1/11/2005
Since medieval times, the art of arrangement and transcription has been an important part of music-making. The vocal compositions of early composers--such as Dowland, whose music is heard here--often appeared in arrangements and entabulations for lute or keyboard. Later, purely practical considerations often played an important role in the production of arrangements: by offering works in a variety of guises, composers and publishers sought to increase their circulation and sales. Throughout the nineteenth century, virtuoso performers such as Franz Liszt (and, more recently, Vladimir Horowitz) capitalized on the popularity of certain compositions or melodies by fashioning their own flamboyant, often fiendishly difficult, versions. Another category of arrangement shares some of these incentives, but aspires to other goals as well. Performers on instruments with limited repertoires often turn to arrangements as a way of expanding their supply of music. Along the way, the most felicitous of these transcriptions develop an appeal of their own: they show off the instruments for which they are designed, but also illuminate sometimes familiar music in new and delightful ways. The numerous transcriptions by Spanish guitarist Andres Segovia are a case in point, introducing to new audiences both an instrument and fresh ways of hearing familiar works So it is here. The repertoire for oboe (or it's lower-voiced cousin, the English horn) and guitar is small. Only one work heard on this recording, Napoleon Coste's charming Le Montagnard was originally written for this combination--and even for this the composer offers the option of playing the upper voice on the violin. All the rest are arrangements. In some cases, only one instrument has been supplanted; in others, both. Recast for the lyrical and intimate pairing of oboe and guitar, they lose nothing whatsoever in translation. Maurice Ravel's En forme de Habanera, originally a 'vocalise-etude' for voice and piano, was composed in 1907, and is one of several Spanish-flavored works by the composer (others include his Rhapsodie espagnole and the opera L'Heure espagnole). The brief piece takes it's name from it's characteristic dotted rhythm, maintained here in the guitar, against which the oboe spins out a languorous melody. A tinge of exoticism also runs through Jacques lbert's vivid Entr'acte (1937), just as it does through the composer's popular symphonic suite Escales (Ports of Call), composed fifteen years earlier. Taking it's title from the traditional intermezzo performed between acts of a play or opera, Entr'acte was scored initially for flute or violin with harp or guitar. The nine Bachianas Brasileiras of Heitor Villa-Lobos are among his best-known works, and the character of the fifth especially reflects the composer's own affinities. A prolific composer of pieces reflecting both popular and folk influences along with his own classical predilections (particularly for Bach), Villa-Lobos wrote numerous pieces incorporating the two instruments at which he was adept, cello and guitar. Like many of his works, the Bachiana Brasileira No. 5 was conceived for an unusual ensemble--soprano accompanied by (at least) eight celli. The arrangement heard here is the composer's own for guitar and voice, with the vocalise line adapted to the oboe. Georg Philipp Telemann's Partita in G major is an arrangement only in the most general sense. Published in 1716 as the second in a set of six, it is intended for a single treble instrument and basso continuo (i.e., a bass line with chords indicated by figures). Like the other five, the second consists of a slow movement followed by a succession of brief 'arias' corresponding to popular dance forms of the baroque era (including the allemande, gigue, bourrée, and minuet). Though the product of another Frenchman (a confidante of Debussy and mentor to Ravel, among others), the three Gymnopédies of Erik Satie belong to a decidedly antiquarian musical realm far removed from that of his younger colleagues. Written in 1888, they are among the composer's earliest piano compositions, preceding the iconoclastic stage works and 'furniture music' that established Satie's reputation as an eccentric original. Similar to one another in mood and design--calm, strangely haunting melodies intoned over modally-inflected chordal accompaniments--the Gymnopédies are intended to evoke the ancient Greek ceremonial dances after which they are named. Their lyrical simplicity has helped make them among the best known, and most often transcribed, of Satie's scores. One of their earliest arrangers was Debussy, who apparently recommended their publication in 1895 and orchestrated two of them. In arrangements of music by John Dowland and Franz Schubert--each a master of the art song in his own era--the oboe and English horn assume the singer's role. Celebrated as a lutenist and composer for lute, both in England and abroad, Dowland often published his works in various guises, as solos, songs, or consort pieces. Here, the English horn has been chosen for it's similarities with the register of the male voice; a capo has been used to bring the guitar to the pitch of the Renaissance lute. The two songs by Schubert that follow are among the most famous of his 600 lieder. Many were published with optional guitar accompaniments, though these were not by Schubert, the custom was certainly known and accepted by him. Those heard here were published in the 1830s. Though they adhere closely to Schubert's originals, they retain the mark of their arranger, Napoleon Coste. Coste--in the words of one biographer, 'probably the most significant French guitar virtuoso of the nineteenth century,' was a prolific composer for his chosen instrument, publishing numerous etudes, fantasies, variation sets, and salon pieces. His Divertissement Pastoral, op. 34, is a hybrid. A freely-composed introduction leads to a gentle andantino in which both instruments share melodic material. We can assume that it is the last movement, in which two rustic-sounding themes (one major and one minor) are subjected to a series of variations, that gives the work it's specific name--'The Highlander'. Here the oboe enunciates most of the melodic material, against a varied and highly idiomatic guitar accompaniment. Gregory Hayes.
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