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MP3 Randy Pile - Sanz, Milan, Rodrigo, Albeniz and Tarrega

Famous Spanish masterpieces for guitar

20 MP3 Songs
CLASSICAL: Traditional, LATIN: Flamenco

of fire and water

Randy Pile
Spanish Guitar

Fire and Water: natural forces that oppose and complement one another, when transformed through the persona of the guitar, inspire dreams of Spain.

The music in this recording comprises a very special niche of the classical guitar repertoire: that of its Spanish identity. While most people would immediately associate the six-string classical guitar with Spain, its roots are actually traceable to Italy and Austria during its hazy beginnings in the last two decades of the eighteenth century and the first few years of the nineteenth century. At this time, the addition of a sixth string to the five-string Baroque guitar, and its various physical manifestations in builders techniques, laid the foundation for the instrument we now normally call the classical guitar. This instrument was especially suited for the new style of music embodied in Viennese classicism and Italian opera. To be sure, Spanish traits made their presence known in compositions by Spanish--born musicians such as Sor and Aguado, but guitar music of the early through middle nineteenth century remained largely pan--European in style and content. Aesthetics of balance, formal structure and melodic graciousness are the hallmarks of guitar music from this period. Yet Spanish composers for vihuela, Baroque guitar, and classical guitar managed to infuse their music with a voice that was and is unique to European classical music--a voice that drew from folk music, from forms brought from the New World, from the emerging world of improvised Flamenco. Thus the music on this recording celebrates the Spanish contribution to the guitar and draws from the rich heritage of Spanish music for plucked string instruments from the sixteenth century to the present. Mixing restraint with impetuousness, the Spanish identity remains exotic to our ears as it tempers fiery bravura with fluid elegance.

Through the ages Spain has produced musicians of a sophistication that equal, and at times, surpass the rest of Europe. The special breed of performer and composer for plucked string instruments has had a favorable history in Spain ever since the brief flourishing of the vihuela during the Renaissance. This instrument had a glorious, but short lived life span with representation by such composers as Milan, Fuenllana, Mudarra, Narvaez. The courtly music of Luis Milan reflects this sixteenth century musician''s preoccupation with the contrast of plain and florid styles. Milan is careful to indicate in his printed music when one should adhere to metric regularity and when to play in a more rhapsodic, improvisational manner. One can sense in his Fantasias a smooth oscillation between serene chordal sections and those of more rapid, fluid execution.

Gaspar Sanz composed for the five string Baroque guitar--a lighter, smaller and more gentle version of the modern guitar. The adaptations on this recording are made with the sound of the modern instrument in mind as the character of the Baroque guitar does not always transfer well in transcription. Nevertheless, Sanz''s music succeeds in modern performance with its combination of courtly elegance and rhythmic drive.
In 1674 Sanz published his three--volume set, Instruccion de musica sobre la guitarra española, a comprehensive text on baroque guitar techniques of the 17th century. The book contains some ninety works, many that are based upon popular dances of the period. Sanz employs many purely Spanish dances and forms rather than the French or Italian genres in vogue. Tradition allows us to draw from his clusters to form groups of pieces for contemporary performance.

Spain''s most celebrated modern composer, Joaquín Rodrigo, has written excellent music for guitar. The naturalness of writing is especially apparent in his Concierto de Aranjuez. This piece has spawned transcriptions, translations, adaptations and reworkings from harp to jazz and even vocal versions. Rodrigo blends antique or popular Spanish forms with piquant harmonies, resulting in music at once appealing and profound.
Tiento antiguo was commissioned by the Madrid Conservatory in 1942. Rodrigo writes:
"This piece is intended to evoke the music of the vihuela, which was a guitar-shaped instrument, the Spanish equivalent of the lute. It was a very popular instrument from the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries and was considered to be the instrument of elegant and polite society. " (Philips 7300 915, Holland)
The tiento, basically a fantasia, is both a flamenco form and the Spanish counterpart of the Italian ricercar of the Renaissance. As with much of Rodrigo''s music this work assumes an air of antiquity, quite unlike the regionality of the outdoor works from Por los campos de España. More resembling a preludial improvisation, the reference to historical periods must be taken as a poetic inspiration of the Spanish vihuelists. Chordal homophony or counterpoint is quite absent here--the piece gently wavers between arpeggios and a "singing" style melody in the upper register.
En tierras de Jerez (In the lands of Jerez), written between 1955 and 1960, is dedicated to Luise Walker. This piece continues the tradition that begins with En los trigales of the "imaginary suite"--Por los campos de España; yet is a darker, more volatile work. It draws on elements heard in the other outdoor works with an elegiac mood. Smooth melodies and cadenza-like melismas, parallel chords (perhaps suggestive of organum) and dissonant arpeggios place this work in a genre where a region or scene is given a more introverted treatment. Where rasgueados occur, they are immediately smothered by harp like figures or parallel chords. En tierras de Jerez presents variations of the flamenco peteneras, alternating between 6/8 and 3/4 time. The abundance of subtle tempo changes makes this one of Rodrigo''s moodier pieces. All of these mood changes are a very successful projection of the flamenco cante jondo of southern Spain.
Of En los trigales (In the wheat fields) Rodrigo writes:
"This piece forms part of an imaginary "suite" which I have titled Por los campos de España. It is one of the most successful pieces from my works for guitar. In En los Trigales one finds oneself in Castilla la Vieja; the region Castilla stretches, as they say, far and wide, and has a taste for loud music. Contrasted with the virile dancing at the beginning there comes a kind of recitative with distant bell sounds -- it is like a rewarding break in the hard work of harvesting." (Philips 7300 915, Holland)
The piece was written in 1939 and later dedicated to Narciso Yepes. It is evident from the composer''s quote that the establishment of a harvest or peasant scenario is broken by a gentler, pastoral mood. A different kind of music naturally accompanies these two events: a loud and vigorous melodic figure is set over an eighth--note accompaniment, then either converted to quietude or interrupted by a wavering espressivo figure. Within the framework of contrast, different harmonic areas are explored and the rhythmic figure manipulated. An Allegro alla marcia recitative ushers in the "distant bell sounds." A repeat of the opening music frames the inside section and leads to a short, defiant cadence.

Manuel de Falla''s sole piece for guitar, the Homenaje, "le Tombeau de Debussy", is a memorial to Claude Debussy and a gift to Miguel Llobet, Tárrega''s pupil. An example of true Spanish Impressionism, its brooding quality is evoked by the use of the habanera, an exotic Spanish/Cuban dance. Falla himself prepared both piano and orchestral arrangements of this piece which recall the ethereal qualities of the original guitar version. Although Debussy never composed for guitar, Falla successfully recreates Debussy''s interplay of light and color, most notable by quoting at the end of the Homenaje a fragment of Debussy''s Estampes for piano. In its brief duration, Homenaje explores sounds of funeral bells and emotions of lament, dramatic outburst, and finally resignation. A true guitar masterpiece, Homenaje has laid the foundation for twentieth century Spanish guitar repertoire.

Aires de Triana, a solo bulerías, is a collection of variations by Agustín Castellón ("Sabicas") which capture the mood of Flamenco singer and guitarist. Sabicas, born in Pamplona in 1917, represents the purest traditional style and highest degree of virtuosity of the flamenco guitarists. Repetition with variation form the basis of Flamenco, a formula in which Sabicas has instilled true brilliance and depth. The layered rhythmic patterns of the bulerías are based on twelve beats divided into four equal groups of three. The third and fourth group are imposed on three groups of two, creating an exciting hemiola effect. A static harmonic progression allows improvised variation--the imagination and skill of the individual Flamenco player is shown to great effect in the bulerías.

Early in this century the role of the classical guitar was revitalized through the efforts of players that included Francisco Tárrega, a Spaniard who worked to restore luster to the then faded instrument. Through his own charming compositions, transcriptions, and technical innovations, Tárrega helped to raise and expand the technical capabilities of the guitar.
Capricho Árabe summons North African desert winds blowing swirling wisps of sand--from which emerge caravans of camels, Moorish conquerors and a beautiful abducted Spanish princess. Tárrega manages to create a scenario and capture the emotions of a lonely girl in a foreign and forsaken land, subjected to the optimism of the Moorish prince as he reassures her with expressions of love and hints of the beautiful life they will soon share.

Isaac Albéniz, Catalonian child prodigy, ran away to South America as a youth. He returned to Spain where he continued to write piano music that captured the spirit of his native country and which has come to represent the birth of Spanish national music. The flavor of folk melody, regional rhythms, and the sound of the guitar are heard throughout, mixed with influences of French modernism. Asturias is extracted from Suite Espagnole; its effect is one of controlled power tempered by a spacious middle section. This piece has become an integral work in every guitarist''s repertoire and is presented here in a Tárrega/P. Romero transcription.
Although Albéniz was primarily a composer of piano music, many of his works lend themselves naturally to transcription for guitar and have enjoyed wide recognition and success as such. His Rumores de la caleta is a street scene, the sixth in his set Recuerdos de viaje, Op. 71. This adaptation for guitar draws on devices unique to Flamenco and to the guitar. Since the piano can never achieve the sound of rasgueado, this adaptation returns to Albéniz''s original inspiration. The impression of street cries and peasant life is vividly drawn in this compelling miniature.

Recuerdos de la Alhambra remains one of Francisco Tárrega''s most endearing compositions. However, this title was not the one chosen by Tárrega himself but given by the publishers of its first edition. Tárrega had originally entitled the work Evocación and later simply En la Alhambra. Tárrega''s original titles indicate a feeling of peace and love that he must have felt on his visits to the great Moorish fortress in Granada. The Alhambra and its adjoining gardens are filled with many fountains and intricate mosaics which are brought to life in this piece. The technique of tremolo, a device unique to the guitar, is given a truly lyrical voice in Recuerdos. The very rapid repeated notes of the melody create a shimmer of sound that brings to mind the sound of fountains, the intense heat of the Granada summer, the drone of insects, and the incredible architectural detail of the timeless fortress.
R.P. La Jolla, CA
November, 1993

Randy Pile, born in Crosby, North Dakota, was raised in Northern California where he moved with his family at age 6. His father, Duane, a doctor by trade, was a great musician who, when not on an adventure, divided his time between the piano and clarinet. Of the children Randy chose music as a profession though his brothers and sisters play various instruments and actively participate in many community musical functions. Mr. Pile resides in La Jolla, California where he is on the music faculties of the University of California, San Diego, Palomar and Mesa College. Besides teaching, touring and recording as a soloist, Mr. Pile performs in Duo Cantilena with oboist Susan Barrett, and in duo with guitarist Alexander Dunn. Special appearances include Guest Artist with Pepe Romero in duo recital, concerto performances and radio broadcasts in both Europe and America as well as the premiere recording of Francisco Madina''s Concierto Vasco with the Bilbao Symphony in Spain. When not on tour he is most likely to be found surfing near his home at Windansea beach in La Jolla.

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