Dionisio Aguado | Guitar Music

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Dionisio Aguado (1784-1849)
Guitar Music
CD Stradivarius STR 33563 (2000)
Lorenzo Micheli


Recording: Ivrea, Aula Magna del Seminario Arcivescovile, 25th May 1998 & 9th February 1999
Recording Supervisor & Sound Engineer: Renato Campajola
Digital Editing: Mario Bertodo
Liner Notes: Frédéric Zigante

1-6 Trois Rondo Brillants op. 2
7-9 Le Menuet affandangado op. 15
10-21 12 Estudios
22-23 Le Fandango varié op. 16


Liner Notes

Between the XVIII and XIX century, throughout Europe the guitar began to win back the popularity it had not enjoyed for nearly a hundred years and again became a common sight everywhere. The capital cities of music par excellence Paris and Vienna were soon to become the major centre of this phenomenon, particularly from just before 1810 until 1840, when they became a veritable hive of activity. This revival of the guitar’s fortunes was the work of virtuoso performers, mainly from Italy and Spain, who taught, composed and gave concerts up and down the continent. The pre-eminence of Paris and Vienna was in no small part due to the presence there of the greatest guitarists of the nineteenth century: the Catalan Fernando Sor and his favourite pupil Napoléon Coste, Dionisio Aguado from Madrid, Ferdinando Carulli and Francesco Molino from Italy were all active in Paris, while Mauro Giuliani was the guitarist to be reckoned with in Vienna (although Giuliani’s reputation subsequently fell into disrepute and his work was rediscovered and its true worth recognized only in the 1960’s).
Dionisio Aguado occupies a prominent position in this renaissance of the guitar, but the corpus of his works has only recently become the subject of careful study by specialists and musicologists. This is surprising, since guitarists have always had a great affection for Aguado, particularly because of his methods on which he worked for his whole life. Then again, perhaps it is the great worth itself of his methods and systems of playing technique – which remain highly relevant even today – that somehow managed to overshadow Aguado’s concert pieces: a situation this record is intended to rectify.
Dionisio Aguado was born in Madrid on 8 april 1784 into a well-to-do family. While still young and studying humanities as would any other boy of his background, Dionisio embarked on the study of the guitar under the guide of the Cistercian Father Basilio, a somewhat mysterious figure who was to exert a great influence over many disciples. In Madrid in 1820, Aguado published his Escuela de guitarra, the first of a long series of didactic works. Six years later, in 1826, he moved to Paris, the destination that artists and musicians of his day aspired to, and where he was to reside for almost thirteen years, dividing his time between concert performances (as a soloist and as a duo with his friend Fernando Sor) and teaching, and where he was to produce all his major works. As the years went by, there were fewer and fewer reports of any appearances in concert, however, and Aguado returned to Spain in 1838, devoting himself to teaching and to the preparation of his Nuevo Metodo para guitarra (1843). This large-scale work was intended to collect and set down in an organic, systematic manner the enormous wealth of teaching experience the composer had built up over the years and to which he was constantly adding new elements through his tireless application to his art, right up until his death in 1849.
Dionisio Aguado’s output is recognizably different from those guitarists-composers who were his contemporaries insofar as he devoted himself exclusively to the guitar: he left neither chamber music nor concertos nor further compositions intended for other instruments. And Aguado was equally unlike the guitarists of his time in that he saw nothing wrong in infusing “classical” music with the tone colour and phrasing of the popular Spanish tradition.
The Trois Rondos Brillants, op. 2, were published in Paris by Meissonier in 1825 and are dedicated to François de Fossa, an officer in the French army, guitarist and composer (to whom we owe, among the other things, the survival of the manuscripts of the Quintets for guitar and strings by Luigi Boccherini). As was often the case in the repertoire of the early 1800’s, the work which was dedicated to a major guitarist was no mere routine exercise churned out to keep the publishers happy. The structure is three “diptyches”, in which a slow introductory movement is followed by a fast one – in other words the “rondo” itself. Aguado’s op. 2 is undoubtedly his most significant concert piece for his breadth of form, inspiration and a highly original approach to the instrument. Indeed, all of these elements combine to make it one of the greatest virtuoso pieces for the guitar ever.
The Menuet Affandangado, op. 15 (published in Paris between 1835 and 1838 and also dedicated to De Fossa) is a curious experiment in musical “grafting” in which the composer combines the form of a minuet with the rythm of a fandango, employing a theme and variations (preceded by the usual slow introduction) in which the emphasis constantly shifts back and forth between the two forms.
Le Fandango varie, op. 16, was published in Paris between 1835 and 1838 and is based far more openly on this folk dance which originated in the late seventeenth century. The fandango was danced mainly to an accompaniment of guitars and castanets and has always been one of the mainstays of the music of Spain; its markedly rhytmic character makes it ideal for long displays of improvisation and off-the-cut bravura. In the wake of Antonio Soler and Luigi Boccherini, Aguado produces a sort of transcription of an improvisation on a fandango rhythm, and this use of a folk music tradition again illustrates the closeness and influence on each other of classical and non-classical music.
The choice of 12 out of the 27 estudios contained in the Nuevo Metodo (Madrid, 1843) aims to bring to light the musical value of pieces originally intended for teaching, but in which invention, compositional originality and pure melody go far beyond the scope of the average student exercise. A number of these pieces are also unusually difficult for guitarists to play, which fully justifies their place in the repertoire today alongside the great concert studies.
Frédéric Zigante