Edith Piaf/Marguerite Monnot
Ricardo Iznaola World-Premier recording:
Gilbert Biberian World-Premier recording:
Track 13. Variations sur un thème de Django Reinhardt
Real Audio | Windows Media
Track 14. Tango en Skaï
Real Audio | Windows Media
Musique de Salon: Classical Guitar Music for a New "Belle Epoque" includes World Premiere Recordings of works by Ricardo Iznaola and Gilbert Biberian, as well as music by Leo Brouwer, Gerald Garcia, and Roland Dyens (including Dyens' arrangements of songs by Aznavour and Piaf). The recording was featured on Minnesota Public Radio's "New Releases with Michael Barone" and has received critical acclaim.
La Belle Epoque (The Beautiful Epoch) was the period from 1895 to 1914 characterized by a general feeling of optimism and hope within society. The world was changing rapidly with new inventions designed to make life easier and to allow diverse peoples easier access to new ideas and philosophies. Nowhere was this feeling of anticipation about the possibilities of the future more prevalent than in the salons of France, where people gathered to socialize, dance, and listen to music. The French composers of the time were searching for a unique, national style and used as their influence the popular music of the cabaret, American musical trends such as ragtimes and cakewalks, and dance hall music including the waltz and the newly arrived Argentine tango, which at that time shared the rhythm of the Cuban habanera. Today these elements are inextricably associated with French music and it is from this tradition that the composers of the works on this recording have drawn. They are all performing guitarists and their knowledge of the many possibilities of the guitar is artfully displayed in these beautiful and entertaining compositions.
The first and last pieces on this program are composed or arranged by the only French composer represented on this recording, Roland Dyens. Dyens has garnered considerable acclaim in recent times as an extremely original and adventuresome composer and performer. Valse en Skaï and Tango en Skaï (Skaï meaning a cheap, imitation leather) also demonstrate his humor and wit, not to mention his great flair as a guitarist. Both pieces pay homage, in the style of a caricature, to the waltz and tango dance forms and are filled with musical "winks" to each. The two French songs, L'Hymne a l'Amour (Hymn of Love) and Sa Jeunesse (Her Youth) were written by the famous French singer/songwriters Edith Piaf and Charles Aznavour, respectively. However, Dyens "the arranger" definitely leaves his mark on these beautiful, harmonically rich renditions.
The distinguished Cuban-American guitarist, composer, and pedagogue Ricardo Iznaola has been hailed as "one of the most seminal players, teachers, and thinkers of the guitar scene today". He says the following about his Musique de Salon, Suite No. 5 for solo guitar: "Musique de Salon pays homage to the end of the century... the l9th century, to the spirit materialized in the Parisian end-of-the-century salon where friends gathered to share the good times making music in an intimate atmosphere o f beauty, elegance, and wit. A hint of sadness transpires at moments. It speaks of that sweet melancholy in which we indulge when we reminisce of past moments of joy no longer available to us." The style here evokes the Impressionistic and post-Romantic flavor of Debussy, Scriabin, and Ravel. Musique de Salon exists in five different versions, with different movements, for guitar duo, guitar and string orchestra, and two versions for guitar and various other instruments.
Four Waltzes for guitar were composed between 1981 and 1985 by the renowned British guitarist and composer, Gilbert Biberian. While he has written for many instruments, Biberian's works for guitar form a substantial and important repertoire for the instrument. These waltzes are very romantic in character and with their rapidly changing moods, from wistful nostalgia to overwhelming angst often within each waltz, hark back to the French cabaret style of "heart-on-the-sleeve" drama mixed with a carefree spirit. The Autumnal months titling the first three waltzes represent the storminess of these pieces set within rhapsodic waltz rhythms. The fourth waltz is indeed a "bitter-sweet" ending to the set.
Gerald Garcia enjoys a successful and varied international career as a performer and pedagogue. The etude presented here is from his 25 Etudes-Esquisses for guitar, Esquisses meaning sketches. The best examples of the concert study have historically created some of the best music as well, and Garcia's are no exception. Etudes-Esquisses No. 23, L'Hommage d'un hommage (Homage of a homage), with its lush harmonies and hypnotic habanera rhythm, is a reference to Homenaje, Le Tombeau de Claude Debussy, the only guitar composition of Manuel de Falla.
Django Reinhardt, the famous Belgian-Gypsy jazz guitarist, who lived during the first half of the 20th century, is paid tribute in Variations sur un thème de Django Reinhardt by the well known Cuban guitarist/composer, Leo Brouwer. Reinhardt's playing style was ornate and flamboyant with biting, fast flourishes and a prominent vibrato, and drew from Gypsy music and the French Impressionist composers Ravel and Debussy. Brouwer effectively captures this spirit. After an atmospheric introduction, the rhapsodic theme is followed by six variations set up in a "quasi-baroque" dance suite, including a bourree, sarabanda, giga, improvisazione, interlude, and concluding with a frenetic toccata. Each variation skillfully develops a fragment of the original theme.
All of the works on this recording were composed during the last two decades of the 20th century. While many people would pessimistically dispute the claim that we are living in a new "Belle Epoque", one thing is for certain: it is again a rapidly changing world and the future now holds even more possibilities. Maybe it is up to us to be optimistic about what lies ahead. If the "contemporary" works presented here are any indication, we can certainly be optimistic about the future of music. It is my hope that you enjoy them in your own "salon".
Program Notes by Troy King