DUETS ACROSS GENRES
by Jayant S
While the classical guitar is well-established as a solo instrument, with substantial serious repertoire having accumulated particularly since the second half of the twentieth century, it remains relatively unrepresented in ensemble music. Of course, there is some guitar music for duos and upwards, and a number of outstanding concertos, but there remains substantial opportunity for more material, particularly that featuring other instruments.
The combination of the piano and guitar is a case in point. Until the establishment of high-quality amplification for a classical guitar, it would have been extremely difficult to balance these instruments within their optimal sonic and expressive ranges. The guitar has a comparatively limited dynamic range which can be completely drowned out by a piano. I’ve been preoccupied for some years with the search for repertoire that combines the best of both instruments, without much luck. Of course, there are several good guitar concertos which can be played with their piano reductions, and Rose and I have performed three of these, but they don’t represent real piano-guitar music and well, concertos can be a bit long. The last one we performed – Nikita Koshkin’s Megaron Concerto – was all of forty minutes.
I recently discovered the Fantasia for Guitar and Piano (1953) by the Italian composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. Within two movements that last only ten minutes in total, the Fantasia encompasses substantial textural space which brings out multiple possibilities in the combination of both instruments. The music is quite “visual” in expression, unsurprisingly so, considering that Castenouvo-Tedesco wrote music for over 200 MGM films in his career.
Some concertos, of course, are not all that long, and can also feature very well-considered piano reductions that actually sound like parts written for the piano. Leo Brouwer’s celebrated Concerto Elegiaco (1985) is a fine example. Dedicated to Julian Bream, this is a sombre piece of music in three movements, and provides substantial expressive opportunities for both instruments.
Rose and I do happen to be essentially jazz musicians, which probably inspires us to bring some irreverent and unapologetic eclecticism to our classical performances. Trying to work in both broader genres can be interesting – my improvisational approach on the guitar and the bass has become quite exacting in terms of note choices, timbre and technical control, and I seem to approach classical music with improved sonic awareness. Well, most of the time anyway.
We will be performing the Fantasia and the Concerto Elegiaco for the first part of a concert in July. The second half will feature jazz, mostly mainstream, mostly piano and upright bass, but we just might throw in a few surprises.
The Pune Guitar Society will present Rose E and Jayant S in performance at the Mazda Hall, Pune, on 10 July 2019. Many thanks are due to the Poona Music Society for their continued support.