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Monday, March 17, 2008

Champions of Classical Guitar

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Among the composers most well known to classical music lovers are probably not Ferdinando Carulli (1770-1841) or Fernando Sor (1778-1839), even though combined they account for more than works for the guitar. But therein lies the reason, perhaps, that they aren’t better known: The guitar has (as far as Classical Music is concerned) always been something of the ugly stepsister amongst the instruments. In its upcoming concerts, Musical Offering, Ltd., hopes to give the classical guitar its due.

The Italian-born Carulli took up the guitar when he was in his 20s and once converted, sought to develop the guitar as a first-class classical instrument. To this end, he had to study on his own and even had to largely self-publish his compositions. In his quest to popularize the guitar, Carulli didn’t mind borrowing well known tunes from his famous predecessors—case in point being his Variations de Beethoven, Op. 169, which is itself a set of variations Beethoven composed (Op. 66) to the aria “Ein Maadchen oder Weibchen” from the opera Die Zauberfluute by Mozart. Musical Offering performs this work as well as Carulli’s Nocturne in D Minor, Op. 131. The Spanish-born Sor didn’t become quite the guitar-exclusive composer that Carulli was, however he is remembered today chiefly for more than 100 works he composed for the instrument that remain a vital part of the guitar repertory. Sor’s various rondos, divertimentos, polonaises and fantasies are similar to those of his near-contemporary Carulli, but Sor deliberately composed works intended for beginners as well as a decidedly more challenging set of works aimed at the accomplished guitarist. Musical Offering performs Sor’s Fantaisie, Op. 54.

Niccol Paganini (1782-1840) is known as the greatest violin virtuoso who ever lived, and his compositions largely reflect upon that career, but he dabbled in other instruments as well, including the guitar. A particularly potent blending of both instruments can be found in his 1808 Grand Sonata in A Major for Guitar & Violin, Op. Posth. 35, in which—perhaps surprisingly—the guitar part is raised to a level equal to or even above that of Paganini’s beloved violin. In a unique segment of the Romanza, he turns the tables as the guitarist assumes a lovely, melancholic tune while the violinist is called upon to pluck the violin’s strings in accompaniment! Musical Offering’s artistic director and accomplished keyboardist Joan Parsley is joined for this concert by Cuban-born classical guitarist Rene Izquierdo, and guitarist Elina Chekan of Minsk, Belarus. Izquierdo earned his Master of Music and Artist Diploma from Yale University, and is presently professor of classical guitar at Wisconsin State University in Milwaukee. He won the JoAnn Faletta International Guitar Competition in 2004. Chekan directs the Pre-College Division’s Guitar Program at UW-Milwaukee, and also attained her Master of Music

This concert of rare works for classical guitar takes place on March 15 and 16 at 157 N.87th St., Wauwatosa. For tickets and more information please call (414) 258-6133. The concerts are preceded by an opening Jause (Viennese reception).