Bach & Tárrega

Preludes and Dances

2018, Continuo Records

When speaking of Johann Sebastian Bach and the Cello Suites, I cannot not think of the Sarabande in C minor from the fifth Suite that in Cries and Whispers gives voice to the vision of Bergman’s Pietà. This mo‐ment of spectacle deposits itself in the Suite, and in my opinion enters the current categories of interpreta‐tion at full speed, adding to the stratifications of significant possibilities of how the history of a composition is made. I was influenced by this image and do not hide the consideration of the original, to my work on the

 

Second Suite. It appeared to me that Bergman cast a fresh light on all the bodies of the Suites for me, and that those images would make this music return to speak of human passion. «This music forgives us poor devils and allows us a new happiness, cry‐ing for us with all its soul. Wir setzen uns mit Tränen nieder, with the music, for the music», writes Hans Werner Henze in his autobi‐ography Bohemian Fifths. I confronted this recording of Bach’s music, in particular this Suite, with the passion of the poor devil that trusts in the promise of Bach’s happiness. From Hopkinson Smith I stole many of the contrapuntal harmonisations and ex‐planations found in the bass and other internal voices. It was an essential step in studying his vision of Bach, and I felt that he didn’t have to add much to his many creations. Another direction, and completely different, is the path I took for the use of em‐bellishments. Altogether mine is the attempt to adapt and render all the musical solutions for guitar, the Bach originals, those of Bach/Smith, and also of Bach/Palazzesi, obviously transcribing them.

 

The Prelude, Fugue and Allegro is a composition – that is already atypical in the combination and number of movements – for in‐strument and keyboard that, for various historical misunderstandings, has deceived us into being believed for the lute. This is enough to confer its record of being a dissemination, in the guitar repertoire, without comparison. It is really this dissemination – that is, the sedimentation of a quantity of interpretations that are not properly inspired by some expressive needs that create fer‐tile terrain for the dogma – that in my opinion represent the biggest obstacle for those who wish to face this work. For those who listen to this work while already knowing it, will find a deviation from the usual path. This is not something previously stated, or a habit. Rather it is the final destination of a journey that these three movements made through my imagination, over the years the tactus kept slowing down to the point that it became a lens to enlarge these polyphonic fragments that were smaller and smaller. This led me to a homogeneous concept of the rhythmic pulsations which unify the three movements, and to see something in that music that seems only possible for the guitar: the rendering of the light and shade of the internal voices. There is also something unexpected regarding the choice of tempo, something that could have lead to rational and historical motiva‐tions, but that would have been a subsequent addition of meaning. I describe it here in fact as an unexpected occurrence, a curi‐ous fact, or rather as a natural event that unearths the origin and significance of a custom; and here I am referring to the bond between the rhythmic pulse and the heart beat of the performer, to the motivations that express the origin and concept of the term tactus. Only after, it was unexpected and surprising to think that even my heart beat, while still, was pulsing forty-six times a minute.

 

I recorded this disk, including the Prelude, Fugue and Allegro, refusing to record fragments and passages that would have been taken out of their natural musical existence; the editing is minimal and practical and limited to the selection, the choice, having these wide and complete sections as a basis. In the case of this specific work, I accepted that the lens of the dilated tempi would under‐line casual imperfections generated by the type of recording and so by the inner characteristics of the instruments and strings. I accept these imperfections and I delude myself that they represent my way of interpretation, a requirement to allow the music to say something that can only happen within itself.

 

Francisco Tárrega was a guitarist, composer and tireless transcriber. His Preludes express the purely speculative and imaginat‐ive side of him as composer. Almost all of his works have a dedication, the most noted of these is for the Prelude en La menor, dedic‐ated to his queridisimo discipulo Miguel Llobet. We don’t have knowledge of any concerts in which Tárrega put his Preludes down on paper. Even for this reason, the Preludes in my opinion remain testimony of his search for a simple purity, and I dare to say of the highest grade of rigour, that Tárrega was asking himself as a composer. This purity must be intended as the synthesis of everything he learnt from being a transcriber, from his composition studies and from being a guitarist. This purity is the sum of what, according to him and to his idea of the guitar, could only be necessary, denying the existence of any superfluous element. Nothing in his music recalls folklore, the traditional guitar style, and there is no ostentatiousness of any playing skills, and only the strictly necessary elements are included. Perhaps we must be careful with the use of this concept regarding Tárrega’s work. Josefina Robledo and her family hosted Tárrega, her teacher, who was affected by visual impairment. It is Josefina, who from a privileged point of view, describes him to us as a genial man with a simple and generous attitude; in him as a musician, in his daily instrumental practice, in his rapport with his ideas and discoveries, he was driven by an approach that Robledo later de‐scribed as being francescano. Therefore Tárrega wasn’t that sort of intellectual artist typical of his time like his pupil Miguel Llobet soon after became, this was due to Llobet’s understanding of the guitar as an instrument to push the boundaries and read‐apt them to his powerful compositional skills. With Tárrega however there is a conscious refusal to relate to the intellectual world in favour of an existential and musical style, that is poetically simplified but so emotionally intense that it bursts apart in a sort of artistic mysticism: he concluded his life closing himself to the world in the quest for musical sounds. He arrived at having a com‐plete understanding of the guitar as an instrument, respecting its limits to the point of obsession – this is my opinion – something that is so infinitely closed to contain the infinitely large secret of existence. The sound, avant toute chose.

 

The instrument that I used for the recording was made by Gabriele Lodi, and is the result of a bet between us, but mostly our re‐search on the possibility of presenting, today, an instrument that has truly been made according to the criteria of the craft from the first two decades of the 1900s: it isn’t a study on the past, or it could be in the measure with which we accept that the study of the past is a way to interact with our present. This guitar features a tornavoz, that allows the performer to enhance the fundament‐al notes of the emitted sounds; separating them from everything that is not necessary to the essence of the sound itself; musically speaking, this above all, strongly affected the directions of interpretation that I could take in this recording.

 

Regarding the recording, the editing in all its forms, this work was an idea and a product of Andrea Lambertucci. Together we shared the attempt at keeping in balance something that could be replayed and that would preserve the impromptu nature of music making. The result is this fragile vessel of sound (as defined by Florenskij the fragile vessel of human words), that is this recording, for you to listen to.

 

Giacomo Palazzesi

Appignano, July 30, 2017