Viaggio in Italia

Viaggio in Italia
Maker/Manufacturer: MASTERS, MARTHA

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The program of this record is almost entirely devoted to Italian music. In spite of the universal acclaim attributed to Italy as the homeland of opera, through the centuries, Italy also boasts a splendid bloom of instrumental music, whose distinctive characteristics make a tradition that deserves the label “Italian” no less than the universally celebrated operas. Nevertheless, it is not uncommon at all to encounter, in the biographies of Italian musicians who devoted their art to instrumental performance and composition, the stories of their migrations to other European countries, where instrumental music was more appreciated and supported than in the kingdom of melodrama. Two of the three composers of this program who are no longer alive – Scarlatti and Giuliani – spent most of their life outside Italy, and not for pleasure: they were obliged to earn incomes, appreciation and love far from their home. When one of them, Giuliani, came back to Italy, he did that only as a consequence of a misfortune, and regrettably only to spend the last part of his life in a very unfavourable cultural and social ground. As for Regondi, he had very little to do with Italy besides his origins.

Masters’ choice of devoting this recital to Italian authors is also significant in its implication that Italy, more than Spain, was the mother of the art of classical guitar. The association of Spain with the guitar relies upon a tradition of popular music. But concerning the guitar treated as a serious, sophisticated musical instrument, its deepest roots are in Italy, since the times of virtuoso-composers of the XVII century of the strength of Francesco Corbetta, Angelo Michele Bartolotti and Ludovico Roncalli. The dominance of the Italian maestros continued in the age of classicism with Giuliani, Carulli, Carcassi, Legnani and other famous leading figures of the golden age of the guitar. All this without considering the original contribution given to the repertoire of the instrument from outside by Niccolò Paganini, who cultivated the guitar as his second instrument, though he avoided playing it in public.

The guitar has been present in the history of music by two forms: actually and virtually. We have an abundant repertoire of original guitar music (which is far from being explored by guitarists and known by listeners), and we have also the signs of a ghost-like guitar, which appears on the background of music written for other instruments. From Domenico Scarlatti to Manuel de Falla, through Berlioz and Paganini, Glinka and Albéniz, Granados and Debussy, the soul of the guitar, its harmonies, rhythms, and colors are often evoked with a keyboard or with an orchestra.

It is of no surprise, then, to listen to three Sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti in this program. Actually, about 80 of his 556 Sonatas for harpsichord fall properly on the guitar, and not only because it is possible to perform them with an operation that is closer to a sheer reading than to a transcription; but also, and above all, because their character is so evocative of the guitar that playing them on such an instrument sounds like a restitutio in pristinum. It is not difficult picturing in our mind the image of Domenico Scarlatti walking in the gardens of the Real Sitio (royal residence) at Aranjuez, listening to the punteados and to the rasgueados floating in the air, produced by the many guitarists who were at home there. We could easily imagine him hearing those chords and rhythms, fixing them in his musical memory and, when back at his apartment in the magnificent Palacio Real, reproducing and transforming them on the keyboard of his cembalo, likely whilst admiring at the walls some of the masterpieces created by his fellow countryman, the Neapolitan painter Luca Giordano. The Sonatas recorded here show brilliant and joyful elegance (K 178 in D major, Vivo), lyric poignancy (K 208, Adagio e cantabile) and capricious, still tender, grace (K 277, D major, Cantabile andantino). They do not suffer any restriction when played on the guitar, but earn a certain depth, due to the transposition of several phrases of the superior part one octave lower. Additionally, they gain the inner expressivity of the sound of the guitar, which gives to Scarlatti’s music a warmth denied by the dry stiffness of the harpsichord.

Gran Sonata Eroica per Chitarra Composta da Mauro Giuliani dall’Editore dedicata all’Egregio Sigr. Filippo Isnardi Dilettante, Op. 150 is somewhat a special work in the generous output of the greatest Italian guitarist-composer of the 19th century. It was published by Ricordi, Milan, on July 1840, eleven years after the death of the author in Naples. After earning and enjoying a shining glory in Vienna between the years 1806 and 1819, Giuliani suddenly left the Empire Capital and made a hurried return to Italy, where he spent the last ten years of his life in an unfavourable situation. His departure from Vienna was due to a debt he had left unsolved, in spite of the fortune he had earned there in the previous thirteen years. In Italy, he had to find resources for his survival, and he offered to the leading Italian publisher, Giovanni Ricordi, a package of his recent compositions with a letter written from Rome on February 5th, 1921. Ricordi did not buy those works, but in 1840 he was able to publish posthumously the Sonata Eroica, which was included in Giuliani’s offer. It was the publisher who made the dedication to Filippo Isnardi, who was an amateur guitarist living in Naples at the times of Giuliani’s last years. Likely, he had some friendly relationship with the composer, because he wrote the first (short, yet reliable) biography of Giuliani. It seems reasonable to guess that it was him who arranged the publication of the Sonata Eroica by persuading – or paying - Ricordi to publish it, otherwise we could not explain why the publisher decided to dedicate the work to him.

Be that as it may, the work stands as a special item in the wide production of Giuliani. It is a sonata, but with only the first movement. Perhaps Giuliani had the following movements in his mind when he offered the work to Ricordi, whose refusal induced him to give up completion of the piece. Additionally, it begins with a self-quotation: the introduction and the first theme are – though not literally – copied from his previous Rossiniana No. 6, thus encouraging the idea – proposed by a scholar – that the Sonata Eroica might not be an original work of Giuliani, but a pastiche concocted by some follower, e.g. the same Isnardi, upon Giuliani’s material. Actually, the sonata shows all the characteristics that are typical of Giuliani’s style: the balance between the form and the idiomatic treatment of the guitar, with a display of the elegant virtuosity that was one of the Italian maestro’s seals of quality. The piece is written in the composer’s beloved key, A major, the most brilliant and full of sound on the guitar. The nature of the first theme, more introductory than assertive, leaves room to the expanded, singing profile of the second theme as to the main character of the play: this line, reinforced by octaves and thirds, is really the kernel of the movement, both in its first statement and in the recapitulation. The central section is not a dramatic expansion of the thematic motives, but rather a series of pleasant diversions from them, and the conclusion is perhaps somewhat precipitated. With the Sonata in C major, Op. 15, this is the most ambitious attempt of Giuliani in the field of Sonata form – and we can appreciate it for several good reasons, still without being able to perceive any heroic character in it. Perhaps the title was meant to create excitement in the readers...

If Giuliani represented the classic style in guitar music, the romanticism found in the music of the virtuoso/composer Giulio Regondi is the strongest personification in the following period of Italian guitar music. Despite his dedication to the guitar since his childhood, Regondi left a limited legacy of compositions. The most significant among them, a collection of 10 Studies, was discovered only in 1982 by the musicologist Matanya Ophee.

Regondi’s style is marked by a distinctive melodic gift, a refined harmonic frame and a tasteful sense of the form, which shows those irregularities that are typical of the Romantic music. As for his exploitation of the resources of the guitar, Regondi works on the borders, launching a hard challenge even to the most audacious contemporary performers. Such an extreme use of the guitar is not however intended to create an equally extreme emotional tension in the music: Regondi is a parlor composer, with a lyrical inspiration and with no inclination for tragedy. The tender melancholy of his Etude No. 6 in D minor is characteristic of the Italian Romanza, whilst the serene, spontaneous flow of melodic lines of his Etude No. 8 n G major recalls the mode of the romantic Impromptu.

Angelo Gilardino (born in Italy, 1941), a composer with a career as a guitarist in his youth, has never been a student or a follower of Andrés Segovia, the greatest guitarist of the 20th century. But over the course of eight years (1997-2005), Gilardino served as a respectful and committed artistic director of the Spanish Foundation and Museum named after the memory of the Andalucian maestro. The piece included in this program – one of a handful of Gilardino’s guitar pieces inspired by Spain - is a sort of homage paid by an Italian composer to the great Spanish guitarist who showed his appreciation of Italian composers, from Frescobaldi, Roncalli and Scarlatti to Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. Colloquio con Andrés Segovia adopts the form of a Scarlatti Sonata, a polyphonic texture that recalls the Italian Baroque tradition and – of course – it evokes those musical atmospheres that were characteristic of Andrés Segovia’s art. It belongs to a series of Segovia’s portraits that have been offered by composers such as Albert Roussel, Frank Martin, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Alexandre Tansman, Darius Mihaud.

Simone Iannarelli (born in 1970) is an Italian guitarist who, after graduating in Italy, moved to Paris, where he studied with the guitarist-composer Roland Dyens. His work Variazioni – en mémoire de S. Rachmaninoff is a mournful, still delicate and often dreaming, homage to the memory of the great Russian pianist and composer. Conceived as an uninterrupted series of variations, the work shows basically a polyphonic texture, with a thematic statement in the form of a three-voice corale. The following variations tend more to reconsider the same thematic character with changing its inner nuances than to develop it with an organic transformation, though more animated moments appear as a contrast. The piece fades out with sounds at the limits of the silence, quasi niente...

The unique work of this program which does not come from the pen of an Italian composer is the Ciaccona written by Bryan Johanson, a guitarist from Portland who has produced a remarkable number of pieces for guitar and for chamber ensembles with guitar. Whilst assuming the structure of the ancient Baroque form – a set of uninterrupted variations – as a background reference, Johanson is far from aiming to a revival of the Baroque aesthetic. On the contrary, he uses the old, dignified recipient of the Ciaccona for quite a modern construction, and the musical thoughts he conveys may appear reflective, tender, humorous, meditative, but never pompous or heavily decorative. However, some sort of Baroque flavour is perceived in the composer’s adoption of a bass line used by Corelli, though also by German masters of harpsichord and lute. As the composers himself states, “I composed the Ciaccona with the express idea of creating something new out of something old.”


The Illinois Times wrote that guitarist Martha Masters “...is on a swift and certain trajectory to star territory.” Masters’ playing has been described as “seductive” (Ft. Worth Star Telegram), “intelligent and natural” (Guitar Review), and “refined and elegant” (American Record Guide). She has received critical acclaim as a solo recitalist, as a chamber musician with Duo Erato, and as a soloist with orchestras. Recent concert seasons have included performances on concert series and at festivals in England, Poland, Denmark, Spain, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico, and numerous US cities. Martha’s first CD, Serenade, is now in its second printing, and her Naxos recital disc sold over 10,000 copies worldwide in the first year of its release.

In October of 2000 Martha won first prize in the Guitar Foundation of America (GFA) International Solo Competition. In November of 2000, she also won the Andrés Segovia International Guitar Competition in Linares, Spain and was a finalist in the Alexandre Tansman International Competition of Musical Personalities in Lodz, Poland. Prior to 2000, Martha was a prizewinner or finalist in numerous other international competitions, including the 1999 International Guitar Competition “Paco Santiago Marín” in Granada, Spain, the 1998 Tokyo International Guitar Competition and the 1997 GFA International Solo Competition.

In addition to leading the guitar program at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and extensive masterclass/festival teaching, Martha teaches annually at the National Guitar Workshop Classical Summit in Connecticut, and on WorkshopLive.com. She is also currently General Manager and Executive Vice President of the Guitar Foundation of America (GFA), dedicated to supporting the instrument, its players and its music in the United States and throughout the world.

Martha received both the Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from the Peabody Conservatory, where she studied with Manuel Barrueco, and completed the Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the University of Southern California as a student of Scott Tennant.

Also available for downloading or streaming at cdbaby: https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/marthamasters - or your favorite site

Other GSP Recordings by Martha Masters include Viaje en España (GSP1034) and the Duo Erato's "Musings" (GSP1029 - in duo with Risa Carlson)

Additional Information

Additional Information

Maker / Manufacturer MASTERS, MARTHA
Availability N/A
Track 1 Grand Sonata Eroica, Op. 150 (M. Giuliani)
Track 2 Etude #6 in D minor (G. Regondi)
Track 3 Etude #8 in G major (G. Regondi)
Track 4 Sonata in D, K. 277 (D. Scarlatti)
Track 5 Sonata in A, K. 208 (D. Scarlatti)
Track 6 Sonata in D, K. 178 (D. Scarlatti)
Track 7 Ciaccona (B. Johanson)
Track 8 Colloquio con Andres Segovia (A. Gilardino)
Track 9 Variazioni ...Rachmaninoff (S. Iannarelli)


"Her tone production and phrasing throughout the disc is rich and soulful, thanks in great part to her relaxed and flawless technique. Although much of the music is contemporary, it is all very accessible, and this disc will appeal to a wide variety of listeners." - Timothy Smith, Minor7th.com

"Immediately conspicuous is the stunning overall sound quality of the review disc. Based on the review CD this is the best-recorded guitar I have heard. There is some excellent playing on this disc. Martha Masters is able to emulate the very best of those luminaries to whom she has been exposed plus encapsulate the whole in a package of her own unique style. This is the sort of recording that makes the listener want more." - Zane Turner, musicweb-international.com

"A terrific CD from Guitar Solo Publications...Don't let her great Hollywood beauty put you off; this is a powerful executive, an accomplished professor and a gifted virtuoso to be reckoned with. Her left hand, with a soft, supple technique when required, caresses the fretboard to bring out every bit of musicality from the strings. Her right hand, with atomic-clock rhythmic perfection that is also graceful and musical, moves you along each piece effortlessly.

May all Martha Masters' musical voyages be so enjoyable." - John Clayton, St. Louis Classical Guitar Society Newsletter

"Masters delivers convincing and moving performances, with one of the finest 'Sonata Eroicas' I've heard. My favorite here is Johanson's 'Ciaccona', a recent work based on an ancient form. Good sound and excellent notes add to the value of this release." - Keaton, American Record Guide


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