The sonata as a form has always held a particular fascination for me. The relatively limited repertoire of the guitar includes many fine examples that I feel are sadly overlooked in guitar concerts, and so I have always sought to remedy that with my own programs. When I discussed with Stephen Goss the possibility of him writing a work for me, my first choice was a sonata. Although I think he initially was reluctant to fulfil my wishes, I’m glad I convinced him! Written in 2006, his Sonata for Guitar is a work of great depth and beauty. I made a recording of the piece in 2007 for inclusion on a disc that also includes several of his other chamber compositions (Frozen Music, Cadenza CACD 0711). Making the first recording of a piece is intimidating in many ways – there is a great desire to make perhaps the most precise and compelling argument for the music, so that an audience might enjoy repeated listenings, and other performers may be inspired to tackle the work themselves. It should be the definitive statement, if you will. Once this first impression has been committed to posterity, I think subsequent performers are granted a greater freedom to explore other possibilities of interpretation that inevitably exist. Even though I made that first recording myself, I still felt as though some sort of burden had been lifted, and after dozens of performances my affection for and understanding of the piece had grown to the point that I wanted to commit another version to record.
In the composer’s words, the Sonata for Guitar explores resonance. This is partially acoustic resonance: textures are built across several strings, allowing sonorities to ring on and overlap. This simulates the blurring effect created by use of the sostenuto pedal of the piano. There is also the aspect of historical resonance: Pastorale uses the structural, harmonic and tonal relations of the first movement of Debussy’s sonata for flute, viola and harp as a sort of template. The second movement is inspired by Scarlatti’s toccata-like K.141, and the last movement is a double set of variations using two themes from late Beethoven piano sonatas (the theme from the finale of Op. 109 and the second variation of the finale from Op. 111).
It is this historical resonance that inspired the rest of the program of this disc – a short survey of sonatas on the guitar, from the 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.
Scarlatti’s sonatas, although written for keyboard, often lend themselves well to translation to the guitar. As with any transcription or arrangement from one instrument to another, certain changes, and perhaps compromises, are inevitable. The choices I made in these versions could not have been done so without the invaluable example of the Scarlatti transcriptions by Manuel Barrueco, Eliot Fisk, David Russell, Leo Brouwer and Carlos Barbosa-Lima, or the playing and writings of Ralph Kirkpatrick. My thanks (and apologies!) to all of them.
Mauro Giuliani’s extensive oeuvre for guitar is infused with the character of bel canto. The repertoire that is most often heard in concert borrows either stylistically or thematically form the operatic tradition. By contrast, his Op. 15 Sonata comers less from the vocal tradition than the purely instrumental, and it is his only large scale multi-movement sonata.
Written in 1932 for Andrés Segovia, Ponce’s Meridionel is the shortest and most Spanish of his sonatas. To say it is my favourite would deny the affection I have for the others, but I chose it for this program because of how well I think it represents the substantial and significant repertoire that was written for the great Spanish maestro in the first half of the 20th century.