Duets for Flute and Guitar
Mauro Giuliani was born in Bisceglie, a small town near Bari in the southeast corner of the old Kingdom of Naples. After early musical training, the details of which are not clear, although he was apparently a competent cellist as well as a guitarist, he settled in Vienna in 1806. There he established himself as the best guitarist in a city where the guitar was already popular and befriended many of the city’s musical luminaries, including Beethoven, Schubert, Mayseder, Moscheles, Diabelli, and others. An important innovator, he composed what may have been the first virtuoso guitar concerto (both his and that of Ferdinando Carulli in Paris were first performed at about the same time) and dozens of other works, many of them requiring prodigious technique on the instrument. In 1819 Giuliani returned to Italy, reportedly to escape debtors, and he spent his last years in Rome (until about 1823) and Naples. His works continued to be published after his death in 1829, a fact which confused many of his early biographers into believing he had lived until 1840 or later; in reality, the "M. Giuliani" who enjoyed a musical career in the 1830s was Mauro’s own son, Michele.
Biedermeier Vienna, perhaps more than any other city in history, recognised music as a vocation which was its own reward. Children of both sexes began to study music from the age of four or five and many of them became quite accomplished performers. The guitar offered many advantages; it was cheaper and more portable than a fortepiano and easier to begin learning than a violin. Its lack of volume was less of a problem, since it was rarely played in the larger venues and was, in fact, an advantage in a small room where louder instruments could be overpowering. Most of the students of the guitar, however, like those of any other instrument, were learning the instrument for the social advantages it conveyed, not because they aspired one day to become concert artists themselves. A guitar could provide entertainment in a bourgeois parlour or aristocratic salon, diversion in a military camp, or pass the time on a long voyage by horse-drawn carriage, and competent young musicians, particularly young women, were frequently asked to perform in social gatherings, a time-honoured tactic to attract the attention of potential suitors. These social functions of the guitar explain why so many of the published works of composers such as Giuliani were dedicated to pupils who are addressed as "Mademoiselle," but also, with somewhat less frequency, "Captain" or "Lieutenant."
A significant quantity of the Viennese publications for guitar were not solos but rather chamber music which featured the guitarist as an accompanist or concertante in a small ensemble. The guitar’s enduring popularity has always had a great deal to do with its ability to provide chordal accompaniment to a melody instrument or human voice. The most popular instrumental combinations were, in about this order, guitar and violin or flute, two guitars, guitar with flute and viola, and guitar with violin and one or two flutes. Works such as Mayseder’s Grandes Polonaises for principal violin and strings were even published with guitar accompaniments as alternatives to the piano reductions. Nor is it true that only guitarists composed for the instrument. Chamber works incorporating the guitar were published by the likes of Franz Clement, Joseph Mayseder, Hummel, and even Franz Schubert and Carl Maria von Weber; whether any guitarists had served anonymously as co-authors or collaborators cannot be established with certainty, but none is credited in the publications and some extant manuscripts, such as one of Mayseder’s, suggest a familiarity with the guitar sufficient to render such assistance unnecessary. A typical public concert programme of the age which happened to feature a guitarist would usually present him (most of the guitarists were male) in duo with a flautist or violinist, accompanying a singer (or accompanying himself in song - most of the guitarists, including Giuliani, found singing a useful skill), and perhaps in some larger ensemble bringing together all or most of the performers for a grand finale. A virtuoso such as Giuliani or Sor would be expected to play one or two solos, but certainly not an entire programme of them; in most cases, the solo would be a composition written by the performer himself. In spite of the guitar’s popularity, the cult of the virtuoso solo guitarist, so firmly established in the twentieth century by Andrés Segovia, did not yet exist.
The present recording features three chamber works from Giuliani’s Viennese period and another which may well date from the same period but which was published later, during the composer’s years in Italy. Giuliani’s music exudes Viennese charm, but it also differs from the typical chamber music of the age in subtle ways. The flute, of course, is given the principal responsibility to carry the melody, but the guitar is given solos throughout, and these are often too technically demanding for the average amateur, judging from the music of his popular rivals. This suggests that Giuliani’s music was composed for himself to perform and he occasionally lapses into bravura Rossinian passages which may have raised a few eyebrows among Haydnesque conservatives, although certainly not those of his friend Beethoven.
Giuliani’s Grand Potpourri, Opus 53, originally published by Weigl in 1814, weaves together a number of melodies, some original, others borrowed from the art and popular music of the day. It opens with an Andante grave in D minor, a quotation from Mozart’s Don Giovanni, followed by an Allegretto in D major, an Allegro vivace in G, and Andantino in E, Allegretto in A, and a Grazioso in D.
In the Sérénade, Opus 127, published by Ricordi in 1827, a Maestoso in G major precedes a Minuetto and Trio in D, and a Theme in D, marked Andantino mosso, with three variations. The guitar states the theme and is featured in the first variation. Giuliani digresses from the typical Viennese serenade, which ended with a March, by closing with a rousing Rondo allegro.
The Grand Duo Concertant, Opus 85, published by Artaria in 1817, is perhaps Giuliani’s best known work for flute and guitar, featuring infectious melodies and brilliant passages for both instruments throughout its four movements, Allegro maestoso, Andante molto sostenuto, Scherzo and Trio, and Allegretto espressivo.
The Grande Sérénade, Opus 82, issued by Weigl in 1817, opens with a lovely theme, marked Grazioso and in D major, with three variations, followed by a Menuetto and Trio in A, an Allegro in D, and a concluding March and Trio, as was customary with the Viennese Serenade.
ReviewsThe performances here, if not exploding with star-power virtuosity, nonetheless catch the charm and intimacy of the scorings with good taste. A fun CD. - Nora Shulman, The State, February 2002