Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909)
José Ferrer y Esteve (1835-1916)
Fernando Sor (1778-1839)
Julian Arcas (1832-1882)
Juan Parga (1843-1899)
Dimitri van Halderen, guitar.
Musicstry Studios. TRT® sound (calibration 2.4). Recorded: February 8, 22 and March 15 2014. Released: January 23 2020. Guitar: Kevin Aram (2011). Photo: Ljalja van Halderen. Liner notes: Dimitri van Halderen. Producer: Mario Martínez. PC13002 ℗ & © 2021 Play Classics.
Every musical piece tells a story. Some of them may be about the composer's musical influences, others about an important episode of his life, about his cultural heritage – but the story will be there.
Tárrega´s person is surrounded by a multitude of stories, but my favourite is certainly the following taken from Pujol´s biography. Francisco Tárrega´s art originated from his deep love of the guitar. When he was not composing, transcribing, practicing or teaching he used to play until the early hours of the morning for the people that happened to be in his house at the moment. These private concerts, that also included improvisation, acquired a legendary status and afforded a chance to all guitarists of the world to hear the Maestro play when they visited Barcelona. Even when a beggar came to his door asking for alms, Tárrega would invite him in, play for him, and after this most intimate of concerts give the poor man some money. This made Tárrega so loved that when in the autumn of his years suffered serious health problems, the beggars would follow him from a distance on his daily walks (without him noticing, of course), in case the Maestro would suffer another stroke and a doctor needed to be called.
Although this story is not directly connected to his music, I believe that in Tárrega´s best pieces one can hear this love of the guitar in every note and in the way he makes the instrument truly sing.
José Ferrer y Esteve was a contemporary of Tárrega and both lived in Barcelona at the same time. He was more known as a teacher than a composer and most of his works are clearly didactic in nature. His best works, however, have a unique character. Charme de la Nuit seems to express the atmosphere of those calm, warm Spanish nights. The Balada is more virtuosic and extrovert in character.
The Fantaisie Elégiaque by Fernando Sor is the last major work he wrote for the instrument. it is dedicated to Charlotte Beslay, a military officer´s wife of whom little is known. We do not know the kind of relationship that Sor and Madame Beslay had, but her death must have affected him profoundly, and inspired him to write his most personal and dramatic work for the instrument.
The introduction of the Andante Largo starts with an arpeggiated diminished chord, followed by a cadence in the main tonality of E-minor that sounds rather more as a question than an affirmation. This is followed by a melody based on a C-major chord – could that be C for charlotte, one wonders? – played by the left hand alone, almost like a distant horn call. The remainder of the introduction consists of dark harmonies played on the bottom strings of the instrument, alternated with a sighing motif based on the notes C –B. This motif also dominated the accompaniment in the Funeral March, and again it seems like more than a coincidence that these notes spell out the initials of Madame Beslay.
The main melody of the Andante Largo must be one of the most beautiful ever written by Fernando Sor. As the melody is repeated, Sor adds left hand embellishments that give us a hint of how he himself might have played in the last epoch of his life. This is followed by a section in G-major that highlights Sor´s ability to “orchestrate” on the guitar. A long dominant chord heralds the return to E-minor and announces the Marche Funêbre.
The stately melody of the Funeral March is frequently interrupted by repeated noteds on the open strings that remind us of drum rolls. The trio section in the key of E –Major – the first time that this key appears in the piece – is singularly moving, like the memory of Charlotte coming to life one last time. Just before the end of the piece, Sor writes above the notes: “Charlotte Adieu”. It sounds like his final words of farewell; there seems nothing left to say...
Julián Arcas was undoubtedly the most successful Spanish guitarist of his generation. His guitar built by Antonio de Torres, considered by many the greatest builder of guitars of all time, was called “La Leona” (the Lioness) because of its forceful sound. Although Arcas was not very prolific as a composer, he left us some pieces that paint a very colourful picture of Southern Spanish culture of those times. His Bolero, although short, is a prime example: it tells us more about 19th Century Andalusia than words could ever do.
Arcas´ student Juan Parga was one of the most successful players and teachers of his time, but today remains mainly forgotten. Born in Ferrol in the northern Spanish province of Galicia, he spent most of his working life in Andalusian port of Malaga. His music is even more folkloric than that of his teacher Arcas, and it is full of special effects: Tambora (hitting the strings or bridge with the thumb or fingers of the right hand, pizzicato (dampening the strings with the palm of the hand close to the bridge, in imitation of the violin´s pizzicato sound) and passages played with the left hand alone.
Many of his pieces, like the Idilio Andaluz, are reminiscent of the guitar music one might hear during a typical Spanish “fiesta” and breathe that atmosphere that is so unique to Andalusian music. A notable exception is “Recuerdos a Cadiz”, an elegiac fantasy dedicated to the memory of Arcas. Comparing it to Sor´s fantasy, we see quite a different story here. Sor´s repeated notes signifying drum rolls here turn into a tambora, generating a much darker sound. The piece ends however not with the expected funeral march, but with a lively waltz, perhaps in homage to the virtuosity of Arcas´playing.
Together, all these pieces tell the story of a young instrument coming of age, in the country where the guitar is considered the instrument through which the Spanish soul speaks.
Dimitri van Halderen
Special thanks to Beatriz Serrano Bertos, Mario Martínez and Héctor Sánchez.
This recording is dedicated to the memory of my teacher Jan Wolf.
Dimitri van Halderen
Dimitri van Halderen is a classical guitarist known for his musical versatility. He enjoys playing the solo repertoire from the Renaissance to contemporary music, at times working together with composers. Aside from that he has played with violoncello, string quartet, singers and even sitar, and when no one watches (or at least, not too many people…) he loves to play jazz.
He started to play the guitar at the age of 10, receiving classical tuition but sneaking away to form a rock band with his cousins at the age of twelve. He never gave up on the classical guitar though, and meeting the Dutch classical guitarist Jan Wolf in 1991 made him decide definitively to become a professional classical guitarist. Jan Wolf became his teacher and mentor, and his philosophical approach to music left a profound influence.
Dimitri holds a degree from the Royal Conservatory of Music in The Hague, where he studied with both Enno Voorhorst and Zoran Dukic, and received coaching in interpretation from composer Cornelis de Bondt and oboist Bart Schneemann.
As a teacher, he has taught at all levels, and as a chamber music teacher, although specialized in groups with guitar, he has taught all kinds of chamber groups, from piano trio to clarinet quintet.
Currently he is chamber music teacher and head of studies at the Conservatory of Music in Salamanca, Spain (Conservatorio Superior de Música de Salamanca). He also teaches a summercourse in Siguenza (Guadalajara, Spain) and as a writer he has contributed an article on guitar technique to Soundboard magazine.