* Guitar Paco Santiago Marín. Cordes Knobloch.
Summertime is an invitation to enjoy the evening, music and, ultimately, sensibility. As a ritual, with the arrival of darkness, when the ear appears to become the most important sensory organ, we come into contact with a superior world, a world lying beyond the evident, steeped in spirituality and emotion. The nucleus of the word absurd, from the Latin surdus, meaning deaf or dumb, which, in its original context, referred to sounds unpleasant to the ear, has become a word to denote the opposite of reason and logic. In ancestral societies a deaf person couldn’t participate in the ceremony but a blind person could. During today’s concert we have a chance to take part in the traditional rite of the Pollença Music Festival and enjoy the whole ceremonial cadre: the Marín guitar as the totem, guitarist Ricardo Gallén as the shaman to officiate over the transit of our listening and initiatory music to transport us from the creator of the world - the world of the six strings - to the singular sounds of the 20th-century guitar.
There is no more appropriate way to begin than with the composer Ferran Sor and his Grand Sonata Op. 22, no.1. Born in Barcelona in 1778 and regarded as one of the most significant composers within the context of the guitar, he also produced outstanding orchestral, vocal, opera and ballet works, and his compositions are mandatory within the repertoire of any guitar virtuoso. The pattern followed by the Great Sonata Op. 22, no. 1 is that of a sonata in four movements in Haydn’s quartet and symphony style, the most important and popular musical form of classicism, in which Sor’s compositions for guitar are outstanding, serving an instrument which was undergoing a process of transformation and evolution at the time. The themes are developed in a linear manner with the use of third modulations and changes in chords such as the initial allegro in which, after using the G major chord at the end of the exposition, he continues to develop them in E flat major. He thus achieves suggestive textures, more harmonic than counterpointistic, and displaces the melodic motifs throughout the movement. This score was published in Paris in 1825 and is dedicated to the Spanish statesman Manuel Godoy as a “Prince of Peace”. We will then listen to Bach, another of the cornerstones of universal music, and on this occasion the Prelude, Fugue and Allegro BWV 998, initially written for the lute or harpsichord. Its writing can be adapted to the texture of the more modern lute of the 18th century merely by modifying the notation and arrangement of certain chords. The work, dating back to approximately 1735, begins with a prelude in 12/8 time which has a certain improvised nature and enhances the sonorities of the instrument. The fugues are followed by themes with rapid fingerwork, using a lighter counterpoint in the central section. The final allegro is a passepied, a dance in 3/8 time very typical of the 16th century and often used in Baroque suites.
The protagonists of the second part are composers related to South American nationalism. La Sonatina was commissioned by the renowned guitarist Andrés Segovia and is the work of the Mexican composer Manuel Ponce. At Segovia’s request, he wrote it in the Spanish or, to be more accurate, Andalusian style, with impressionistic shades, given that the date of its composition, 1930, coincides with the teachings of Paul Dukas in Paris. The force awakened by the allegro of the first movement is poetically followed by the andante, in which he employs the resources of the 20th-century guitar, finishing with a bitonal passage in the final vivace. Segovia, responsible for editing it, added a programmatic description to each movement: Campo, Copla and Fiesta. Venezuelan Antonio Lauro composed waltzes, seeking inspiration in the country’s folklore. The title Carora was coined by his friend Alírio Díaz, a virtuoso guitarist responsible for popularizing it and, at the author’s request, giving it the name of his home town. In La Negra Lauro resorts to the hemiola while feeding on popular sources with an undoubted indebtedness to the Spanish Renaissance, alternating the voices of the higher and lower registers. Perhaps the most famous of the waltzes, Natalia, also known as the Vals criollo or Creole Waltz, is dedicated to his daughter. All these waltzes depict people within Lauro’s family circle. Agustín Barrios, a composer born in Paraguay, also found inspiration in sources of popular music throughout the South American continent; he initially wrote two movements for La Catedral, a religious andante, inspired by an organist who played a choral work by Bach, and an allegro describing the bustle in the street just outside the church. The first movement, a nostalgic prelude, was added later upon his wife’s death. Of Guarani origin, Barrios is regarded as the Paganini of the guitar in South America as a result of his virtuosity as a performer. One fine example is waltz no. 3, although the candidness of no. 4 may be the most appropriate music for a summer evening such as this one.
Finally, an essential piece: Isaac Albéniz. Although Torre Bermeja is not one of Albéniz’s most renowned works, as one of the twelve characteristic pieces of Opus 92 originally composed for the piano it has enjoyed a successful transition in its adaptation to the guitar. Imbued with an Andalusian character, the title refers to a watchtower in Benalmádena (Málaga).
With regard to the introduction to this text, faced with the dichotomy between the visual-science-day and the audible-art-night with a none too well-defined border, we must surrender with devotion and await the fruition of the sensory experience, as a kind of music from the spheres which, after captivating us, is sure to make us more spiritually enriched.
Ricardo Gallén is a distinguished guitarist with a flourishing career. His inspired and innovative performances have positioned him as a first-class musician, while his revolutionary vision of guitar playing technique and teaching is the best evidence of his quality.
“Immense creativity and virtuosity that can be sensed just by looking at his hands”, said the Maestro Leo Brouwer, raising Ricardo Gallén to a very rare level of mastery.
His miraculous abilities have enabled him take his performances all over the world, with solo, duet and orchestra performances, in important venues such as the Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the National Auditorium of Music in Madrid, the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow, the Palau de la Música Catalana, the Auer Hall at Indiana University and the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki among others.
On several occasions Ricardo Gallén has premiered works by renowned composers and participated in several projects under the direction of important directors such as Maximiano Valdés, En Shao, Juan José Mena, Monica Huggett, Leo Brouwer, Jordi Savall and Seirgiu Comisiona, a milestone that stands out in his career was the premiere of the Sonata del Pensador (“Sonata of the Thinker”) that the maestro Leo Brouwer devoted to him.
The winner of the most important awards (Francisco Tárrega, Andrés Segovia and Markneukirchen competitions among others), he has taught in several places, and holds the honour of being one of the youngest lecturers, to this day, at the prestigious Franz Liszt University of Music in Weimar, Germany.
Ricardo Gallén has been a member of different juries at several guitar competitions, as well as a guest lecturer, who has given very successful master classes.
His recordings, since the first album, have received sensational reviews. His latest projects, the Complete Works for Lute by Bach as well as the Sonatas for Guitar by Fernando Sor have been widely considered masterpieces by the specialist press.
Ultimately, we are before a Master, of whom Lope de Vega could have said “those who taste it, know”.
Ricardo Gallén uses instruments made by Paco Santiago Marín and Arnoldo García with Knobloch strings.