A Bravura Performance on an 1846 Lacôte Guitar Shapes the Romantic, Historical Sounds of Classical Guitarist Patrick Appello
Classical guitarist Patrick Appello delivers a stunning collection of 'romantic guitar' songs on his upcoming CD, 'The Last Rose of Summer.' The album, set for March 6th release, showcases the sounds of Appello's 1846 Lacote guitar and features works by Franz Schubert, Mauro Giuliani and Johann Kasper Mertz. Appello describes the instrument in greater detail:
The guitar used in this recording is an 1846 Rene Lacôte, an instrument from the Augustine guitar collection. It was reconstructed by Jason Petty in 2006. The guitar is in its original state except for the neck, which was restored in the 1920s. This instrument represents the mature, robust Lacôte style of construction, possessing the qualities of enhanced volume, resonance and a distinctively modern timbre. His innovations were critical to the development of the modern instrument.
Appello, a respected classical/flamenco guitarist and lutenist, has dedicated himself to the study of Early Music, specializing in Romantic guitar literature. On 'The Last Rose of Summer,' he builds extraordinarily rich textures that take listeners on a journey back in time.
The works of Johann Kasper Mertz were relatively unknown for almost 160 years after his death. It was in the last two decades that Mertz has been recognized as one of the major mid-nineteenth century composers for the guitar.
Born of peasant stock in 1806 in Pressburg, Hungary (now Bratislavia), Mertz moved to Vienna in 1840 and composed music under the patronage of the Empress Carolina Augusta. His concert performance in the Hofburg Theater was so successful he captured the attention of the Viennese elite. This led to a concert tour where he met concert pianist Josephine Plantin whom he married several months later in Prague. Returning to Vienna, the couple resumed their careers as composers, teachers, and concert artists. Little is known of his life except what may be found in Memoirs of Nicolai Petrovich Makaroff." Makaroff, a Russian nobleman and guitar aficionado, says of Mertz, He was a tall man about 50, neither thin nor fat, very modest with no hint or pretense of greatness about him." Mertz, a frail and tormented man, faced adversity throughout his career. Diagnosed with neuralgia in 1848, Mertz was prescribed strychnine. Inadvertently, his wife administered the entire drug supply in one dose causing Mertz to suffer strychnine poisoning. The illness prevented him from working for almost two years.
Mertz's compositional style mirrored the Romantic composers of the mid-nineteenth century. He composed operatic paraphrases, rhapsodies, nocturnes, polonaises, as well as sets of character pieces such as Bardenklänge" ("Bardic sounds"). This music captures the spirit of the Romantic period which glorified the individual, emphasizing a love of the mystical or unknown. The Bardenklänge" is a musical adaptation of the epic poems of Ossian, a fictitious third century Scottish bard. The composer's transcriptions of six Schubert Lieder were modeled after Franz Lizst's arrangements of them leading to Mertz being labeled the Franz Lizst of the guitar." He championed the use of nails on the right hand to produce a superior tone,"(posthumously recorded by his wife). Mertz also experimented with different guitar scordature and added a number of bass strings. He concertized with a ten-string guitar, impressing King Ludwig the First of Bavaria. Mertz's career continued with measured success for several years. In 1856 he finally succumbed to heart disease (possibly a residual effect from his experience with strychnine poisoning a decade earlier).
The Opern-Review selection from Lucia Di Lammermoor is in modified rondo form. The main theme is based on the tragic aria of Edgardo: Tu Che A Dio Spieagsti l'Agli." Mertz also uses a theme from the chorus Fur le Nozze a Lei Funeste," treating it with his standard fare of arpeggios, augmentation, and rhythmic displacement. His operatic rhapsodies are reflective of the great piano works of this era. Mertz undoubtedly heard these pieces in his wife's piano studio.
Liebesbothschaft/Message of Love" is a through-composed Lied incorporating an alberti bass figure set under a framework of rapturous harmonies and chromaticisms that serve to intensify the symbolism of the text. In the poem, the speaker invites a stream to convey to his beloved a message of their blissful reunion. Die Post" is a modified strophic Lied that provides an excellent example of Schubert's style of word painting. Dotted rhythms and syncopations evoke the sound of the hoof beats of the postman's horses. Harmonies in the treble voice suggest the mail carrier's horn and the contrasting minor section recounts the all too familiar tale of unrequited love.
Mauro Giuliani was the most important and influential guitarist and composer of his time. Born in 1781 in Bisceglie, Italy, he moved to Barletta and was educated in music until his early adulthood. His studies included counterpoint, cello, and guitar. His ingenious style of composition blended Viennese Classicism with Italian lyricism. His command of the instrument was recorded in this eulogy from the Giulianiad (a defunct London quarterly:) The tone of Giuliani was brought to the greatest possible perfection: in his hands the guitar became gifted with the power of expression at once pure, thrilling, and exquisite. In a word, he made the instrument sing." Fillipo Isnardi, a self-styled biographer of Giuliani, describes his playing of the instrument with a mastery, with an elegance, and with a vibrazione (loudness) which no one before him achieved." The reputation of Giuliani's ability to produce volume and sustain on the instrument has been well documented in letters and publications of the period.
The Last Rose of Summer" is a poem by the Irish poet Thomas Moore, a friend of Byron and Shelley. Sir John Stevenson set the poem to music in 1805. It also appeared in a collection of Moore's poems called Irish Melodies" (1807-1834). Beethoven and Mendelssohn composed variations on this tune and the opera composer Von Flotow also quoted this piece in his famous opera Martha." Giuliani arranged this air using simple harmonies with few technical demands, rarely rising above the fifth position. This may account for its dedication to William M. Kelly, himself an amateur guitarist, who may have commissioned them from Giuliani. My Lodging is on the Cold Ground" first appeared in an English publication in 1665 and was incorporated into a Ballad Opera in London in 1737. Probably of Irish origin, this melody has become an American classic under the title Believe Me, If All Those Endearing Young Charms."
The stirring Irish two-step Garryowen" became a favorite tune of English soldiers at Waterloo, and the official air of the 7th U.S Calvary Regiment. It was also printed in Irish Melodies" (1807-34) by Thomas Moore, the same collection that contains The Last Rose of Summer." The Giulianiate, opus 148, is Giuliani's last authenticated work. It is mentioned in a letter to the publisher Dominico Artaria as partial payment of a debt: the dowry of Giuliani's illegitimate daughter Maria. Giuliani's concept of stand-alone pieces that contain various sentimental ideas are introduced as Varié Idée Sentimentali," as seen on the title page. In a previous letter to Artaria, Giuliani had promised that his new compositions would be something never produced before." For this recording, I have chosen pieces from the second part of The Giulianiate.
Il Sentimentale," marked grazioso, represents Giuliani's graceful style of composition in 6/8 time, using short motivic themes, which he artfully varied using imitation, sequencing, and scale passages. L'Allegria," marked allegro, is a playful piece in the key of A Major. His carefully crafted two-part writing, mimics laughter by using a series of conjunct thirds in the melody. The codapresents a delightful punctuation in characteristic Giuliani style. In Giuliani's time, the condition of melancholy was considered a disease. La Melanconia" is Giuliani's famous character piece that describes this disorder. This piece is an example of Giuliani's mastery of the Miniature Form": an andantino in 2/4 time along with a wistful treatment of melody and accompaniment.
L'Armonia," marked allegro spiritoso, is a lively bravura work employing an ostinato-like arpeggio figure that echoes throughout the piece, along with a few brazen tonicizations. The piece has evolved from Giuliani's earlier balanced classical style, incorporating a more complex form of writing that was currently being explored and would soon be in full flower.
More about Patrick Appello:
Patrick Appello has distinguished himself with a thirty-plus year career including classical and flamenco performances at major venues. He had the honor of being chosen as the solo classical guitarist at the World Trade Center in New York, NY. He played for the premiere of the Cellar In The Sky" restaurant, in the Windows on the World complex, and for many years thereafter. Mr. Appello was also co-winner of the Oscar Ghilia Guitar Competition; solo artist, Master Class at the Aspen Music Festival. For the past decade, Mr. Appello has dedicated himself to the study of Early Music, specializing in the Romantic guitar literature. Early Music performances include concerts with the New York Continuo Collective and as a theorbo accompanist in the New York Metropolitan area. A graduate of Manhattan School of Music, he has a Master of Music degree from New Jersey City University and has studied guitar with Manuel Barrueco, Frederic Hand, Juan de la Mata, and Ana Maria Rosado, as well as pursued lute, Baroque guitar and theorbo studies with Pat O'Brien, Lucas Harris, Eloy Cruz, and Grant Herried. He has taught classical guitar at the Westchester Conservatory. Currently, Mr. Appello is a lecturer in theory, music history and classical guitar at Georgian Court University and is on the faculty as an instructor in classical guitar and lute at the Monmouth Conservatory of Music.