You are on page 1of 12

The Sonata for Guitar in 1920-1950 period The Neoromantic Generation

Ph.D. Thesis by Costin Soare

Rsum
We will begin by saying that metaphorically speaking and by circumscribing the object of our research, the 1920-1950 period represented for the guitar world a sort of sonata exposition: it is the time when certain ideas, certain themes were presented, their development still being work in progress today. There are many factors which have had their contribution to the boom of our instrument in the 20th century, unfortunately still seen at that time as a less serious one; if we were to choose three main themes, those would be: the predecessors - the guitarist-composer Francisco Trrega and the luthier Antonio de Torres; the guitarist Andrs Segovia and the composers of the so-called neoromantic generation (Turina, Ponce, Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Jos, Mann, Moreno-Torroba). Our thesis, entitled The Sonata for Guitar in 19201950 period The Neoromantic Generation , forays the world of the composers mentioned above through their output in a certain genre, the sonata; our approach will follow an analytical approach at a syntactic and, especially, semantic level, by highlighting the emotion and sentiments specific to the performing act during its progress. We will present an account of our research by succinctly discussing each chapter of our thesis.

Introduction

The first subchapters of the introduction represents in fact the theoretical base of the thesis: the first, discussing general aspects concerning the analytical methods in the 20th century, starts with a short description as found in The

166

Treatise of Musical Form and Analysis by Livia Teodorescu-Ciocnea. Their enumeration (the referential-descriptive method; the positivist-constructivist method; the hermeneutic method; the energetic method; the structural method; the holistic method of Schenker) reveals also, beside the specific approach of each method, some historical and philosophical implications, namely the

interaction/complementarity which always existed between the philosophical and practical ways of knowledge: in this way, the aesthetics, the science studying, defining and enouncing the principles/laws of beauty in the art of sounds, will influence the musical theoretical thinking and also the practical side of it during different eras. The importance of the concept derived from here, interdisciplinarity, resides in the way certain ideas, attitudes specific to a certain field of thought, could be found and have an influence in another: the intercrossing of music with imagination and creativity, with literature, poetry and visual arts, but also with psychology, hermeneutics, philosophy, rhetoric, mathematics, can be of help in the search of an analysis model with relevance in the performing act. This second subchapter proposes varied perspectives in the search of the analysis method(s) which can get us closer to the correct way of performing a musical work: this search represents the fruit of our experience and, having no pretension to offering definitive or complete answers, we will try to offer our personal vision, defined as a mode of being with a certain perspective of the world around. A first idea springs from the words of Arthur Schnabel who declares that the true analysis means a clarification and intensification of the musical sensibility, an additional stimulus in the correct direction, as established by our musical instinct, in contrast with a formal type on analysis which makes more harm than it helps. That implies also a good intellectual thinking: for avoiding all sorts of excesses there is a need to find an equilibrium between the emotional and the intellectual side; Schnabel also recommends studying composition, a great exercise for a musician-performer. Then we discuss the analysis model developed under the supervision of the conductor and professor Takao Nakamura, whose relevance in

167

understanding and interpreting a musical score was already verified in various contexts. Based initially on analysing the music with text, the model needed a set of questions regarding the way in which certain structures, tonalities, timbres and so on, are able to create certain affective moods, namely the emotions felt by the performer and also by the audience. Following this road we reach the subject of affects and musical rhetoric which is, historically speaking, a part of the theory and practice of the Baroque Era, but which is also generally applicable in the theory of interpretation for any kind of music. Being based on the rhetorical-musical figures, the concept of musica poetica was searching, as Dietrich Bartel says, a balance between science and art, ratio and sensus, speculation and craft. A short enumeration of the affects (Amor, Luctus seu Planctus, Dolor, Laetitia et Exultatio, Praesumptio et Audacia etc.) and of the rhetorical-musical figures (abruptio, anabasis, antithesis, climax, dubitatio, epizeuxis, passus duriusculus etc.), as found in the treatise Musurgia Universalis by Athanasius Kircher, is meaningful to our research: we can observe how certain musical patterns give a specific affective answer, scientifically documented by the theoreticians of the era. One of the essential features of the music, that of expressing something, could be found in all the musical epochs: one of the meanings of the term expression is referring at the emotional qualities of music as perceived by the auditors, in the opinion of the musicologists Juslin and Persson. To be able to communicate those emotions, a mediator between the composer and the public is needed: this is the performer. But what and how is the performer communicating/performing/transmitting? For an accurate answer, the

instrumentalist needs a guide of performance to help him find the musical truth, an objective view in a very subjective world, that of a language at the borders of the ineffable. The book of Diana Mo, Introduction to the hermeneutics of the musical discourse, offers a possible way in which one can decipher the musical score and its meanings: the object of the hermeneutics will be not particularly the music score, but the discourse the text being actualized, performed at a certain moment. Using a linguistic terminology based on a

168

series of concepts like explicitation-comprehension, sense-meaning, syntactic-semantic, the author reveals the complementarity between rational or logical thinking and the psychological world of the human being. There are also interesting ideas concerning the poeticism inherent to the musical score which leads towards ambiguity, a intrinsic quality of music which can reveal various levels of meaning; we can also mention the chapter about a (possible) musical hermetic, which discusses the suprarational side, the mystery, the subconscious energies dictating the making and interpretation of a musical work. We have finally presented the goal of our research which is emphasising the specific emotions of the musical performance during its progress in time, mental states/affects derived from:

1. the objective interpretation/performance of a musical score, meaning to follow adequately certain musical paths by founding their logic in the writing itself of the work (tonality, modulations, performing instructions, motivic and thematic material and the way those are being developed etc.); 2. a subjective perspective containing our own experiences, in other words the personal, unique and non-repeatable performance of a music at a given time;

For the description of these affects we will use a list of specific words inspired form an essay of Marianne Ploger, The Craft of Musical Communication; the analysis will also follow the important sintactical elements, will suggest our personal approach concerning the tempo, dynamics, agogic and timbre. We will also present two diagrams about the extremes of the semantic tension (maximum and minimum).

169

The guitar in the 20th century

Before our analytical undertaking, we needed a historical frame of the guitar phenomenon in the 20th century: we have presented the important events, people and the conquests specific to each period. Shortly, they are as follows:

I.

1852-1920 the first year mentioned is the year in which Antonio de Torres (1817-1892) starts his career as a guitar luthier, developing an instrumental design bearing an outstanding influence in the evolution of the instrument; 1852 is also the birth year of Francisco Trrega, guitarist, composer and pedagogue whose influence in the 20th century guitar world was prominent; around 1920, Manuel de Falla becomes the first non-guitarist composer writing a work for the guitar: Homenaje pour le Tombeau de Claude Debussy;

II.

1920-1965 starting with the twenties, the more and more sonorous voice of Andrs Segovia (1893-1987) can be heard: he is the one who succeeded in bringing the instrument on the big stages of the world and whose charismatic personality convinced more and more composers to write music for the guitar; the first audition, in 1964, of Benjamin Brittens Nocturnal after John Dowland, op. 70 and its publishing one year later will be for the guitarists a process of reevaluation, a technical and musical challenge ;

III.

1965-21st century a period of maximum flourishing of the guitar at all levels.

Evoking the great figure of Andrs Segovia is a good occasion for a short discussion about his stylistic approach in performance: elements like the horizontal approach to fingering, vibrato, rubato, glissando, legato, a full and varied sound etc., as found in the book by Graham Wade and Gerard Garno (A New Look at Segovia), reveals a musical world different from the contemporary one;

170

the exacerbation and the extreme individualization of the musical discourse were the premises of a very subjective way of performing: the correct stylistic approach was not the main goal of the performer, who was the absolute master on the stage. A period of normality in the guitar world starts with the second half of the century, the focal point being the year 1964 when the premire of the Nocturnal after John Dowland by the English guitarist Julian Bream took place: this is an important moment in which the new school of guitar goes on its own way, different from the Segovia legacy. The guitar and its players will benefit from this change: more and more contemporary composers start writing works for the instrument, festivals and magazines makes possible a good information flow, the guitar enters the academic institutions, audio and video recordings are being made, musicological research is developing. It happens somehow the same thing, at a smaller level, in our country starting with the 90: composers show interest in writing for the instrument, whose rapid ascension have at its base the premises above mentioned.

Performing analysis

To reach our goal, the emphasising of the specific emotions of the musical performance during its progress in time, we have chosen four sonatas which are representative for that era:

1. Manuel Maria Ponce Sonata III (1928) 2. Joaquin Turina Sonata (1932) 3. Antonio Jos Sonata (1933) 4. Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco Sonata (Omaggio Boccherini), op. 77 (1935)

Our choice was based on the intrinsic value of these sonatas, another criteria being their frequent performances and recordings. Each chapter

171

presents in a short manner biographical data and information about the composers musical world, general matters concerning the other guitar works, the circumstances surrounding the sonata genesis and the actual analysis which, beside the above mentioned goal, gives an account of the syntactical aspects and also makes suggestions about tempo, dynamics, timbre and so on. We discuss also about the maximum and minimum, the extremes of semantic tension: for two of the sonatas (Ponce and Turina), we have added diagrams of the semantic tension and made a succinct commentary, in this way completing the initial information regarding the quality of the affects with quantitative data showing the intensity of those psychological states. A very important aspect for every movement of the sonatas was the characterizing of the essential (micro)structures: the principal tonal group (GTP) or the first theme, the secondary tonal group (GTP), the principal motifs or ideas of the slow and final movements in the form of a rondo; this description has pointed at various levels of the musical language: syntax, melody, harmony, articulation, timbre, metre, tempo etc. The accurate description of these elements will lead to a proper understanding of the progress or evolution of that specific movement (for example, a correct appraisal of the musical parameters of the GTP and GTS will lead, without doubt, to a performance in the spirit of the respective movement). It is understood that the analysis continued at the macrostructural level, looking how the principal ideas have contributed to the development section or how the emergence of new motifs in the episodes created a contrast with the refrain or have become complementary to it. We will describe in a concise way such a model of analysis based on Manuel Maria Ponces Sonata III, letting the interested reader to have a more detailed account during the integral lecture of the performing analysis chapter. We have identified in the GTP the main elements of the musical discourse such as: the agitation and disquietude affects present in here come out from the leap motion of the melodic line, from the ostinato figure in the bass line on D, from the harsh tonal color of the d minor tonality; we suggest here the musical equivalent of a ballade, there is an energy which makes us think about the

172

aesthetic categories of pathetic and heroic. In the bridge section we follow two motives derived from the GTP acquiring a special importance in the progress of the exposition: the first one, built on two chords (minor chord with major seventh, respectively augmented chord with major seventh) exposed in the form of arpeggios, suggesting affects of tumult and ardour, takes us to the semantic maximum of the exposition; the second one, in the bass line as a melody in a step motion with an affect of inward pathetism, connects the two appearances of the arpeggio motive. In GTS one can feel a clear contrast with the previous section, the sober and calm mood emerging from the minimal melodic movement accompanied in the bass line by repeated sounds, like delicate timpani strokes. Ponce builds intelligently the subsequent musical plot by emphasising in the first section of the development the dramatic and pathetic character of the main theme: the gradual intensification of the musical discourse, presenting now fragments of theme accompanied by arpegios in triplets, leads us to the maximum semantic tension of the whole movement. The following section appears again in a clear contrast with the preceding one: from here starts the area of lyricism, nostalgia, even reverie, which progresses in an espressivo and intimate mood (low dynamics, short fermatas, poco rubato, dolce). In the recapitulation we can observe the same structure with the exposition, with two exceptions: starting with bar 115 there is a transposition at a minor third lower, and the secondary theme is also transposed with a perfect fourth higher in the initial tonality, d minor: this way, the last section concludes by approving an (almost) classical sonata allegro. We have tried by using our imagination to justify the using of a song (Chanson) full of lyricism and nostalgia as the second movement of the sonata through the universal feeling of longing, which could have been the state of a Mexican man living in Paris, far away from his native land. Within the simplicity and sincerity of this song, Ponce appeals to the polyphonic syntax, sometimes imitative, but generally treated in a free way; the first section, in a tri-strophic form followed by a coda, is divided in three segments: a first phrase

173

presenting a simple and lyrical melodic line, a meditation followed by an intensification of the emotion, the climax being found in the first bar of the last segment. Among the important technical and musical coordinates to be taken into account, there are: a molto legato articulation; poco rubato, observing not to exaggerate the feelings involved in it; to highlight each voice in the given polyphonic context; a moderate tempo (andante comes from the italian word andare to walk), not a slow one. The median part (Vivo) can be described as energetic, even exuberant and it has a ascending-descending dynamic profile presented in successive waves repeating one and the same melodic and rhythmic figure. In recapitulation we can hear again, in a slightly varied way, the first section: the polyphonic texture gets a little more thick, creating an atmosphere of intense emotions; it is followed by a coda, a gradual extinction, like the immersion in a dream. The refrain of the last movement of the sonata, whose structure makes us to suggest a classic rondo form followed by a Spanish fantasy, runs its course in the tonality of D major, at an allegro non troppo tempo, with the character subtitle of giocoso. This first segment is defined by a tonal-modal game whose varied nuances can be accurately performed by using extremely short fermatas, different articulation and timbre. The episodes can be resumed as follows:

B: lyrical, cantabile, slightly improvisational, Spanish mood; C: capricious character, unpredictable, ironic; it uses the anapaest figure from the second movement (Vivo);

D: meno mosso, it reminds us of the lyrical atmosphere of the Chanson; the texture resembles to a chorale, requiring special attention to the voices independent motion;

The last episode, the fantasia mentioned earlier, is in fact a rondo characterized by: the repeated usage of the frigic mode; virtuosity passages in the Spanish flamenco style; the legato tremolo, a technical device specific to the guitar. The episodes suggest a more pathetic affect, in contrast with the refrain

174

energetic style; it is interesting to observe the density of the semantic tension maximums, which can give the guitarist some good ideas about how to intelligently build the tension and the dramaturgy of this last movement.

Synthesis

Starting from a quotation of Daniel Albright, who declares that neoromanticism in the 1920s meant a subdued and modest sort of emotionalism, in which the excessive gestures of the Expressionists were boiled down into some solid residue of stable feeling, the first synthesis subchapter, under the title of Common stylistic features in the guitar sonatas written by neoromantic composers in the first half of the 20th century, includes in a general way some relevant historic, stylistic and axiologic ideas. We mention the influences received in the works for the guitar from musical trends of the time, like impressionism, neoclassical style, late romanticism or national schools; also, despite a position outside the avantgardist movement of those times, owed to the traditionalist/conservative spirit of Andrs Segovia, the guitar works will be of great importance to the evolution of the instrument in the last century by their intrinsic musical value. As a matter of fact, this is the most important reason in choosing and analysing the the four sonatas in this thesis, not to mention the constant performances in festival, recitals and recordings, a cultural fact of great relevance. We then enumerate as follows few general stylistic features coming out from the sonatas analysis: cyclic form; an expanded tonal frame which includes the modal; the typical Spanish character (flamenco scales, using of the frigic mode); the using of the homophonic syntax (which does not exclude few polyphonic moments of great beauty); a form structure which includes in two sonatas allegro movements no development section, and in another one a reduced development section, then, in the slow movements, the usage of a song as an expressive device and, finally, for the third

175

movement, the classical form of rondo, with some liberties taken; mentioning the impressionistic or neoclassical style influences. In the subchapter entitled technical perspectives, we have generally presented the issue of the instrumental technique, which is an important element of the craft of each artist, a field of thought and practice by which the musical substance gains structure and clarity. An indispensable base for

communication, the correct instrumental technique is a must for those wishing to get closer to the musical ideal. Two of the most important methods in the 20th century are presented here: Escuela razonada de la guitarra by Emilio Pujol, a first rank personality in the guitar world and Escuela de la guitarra by Abel Carlevaro, unveiling a special perspective in the physiology of playing the instrument. Both of them look at what we might call the traditional technique of the guitar, whose complementary perspective is the contemporary technique, with special sound effects used in contemporary music, not discussed in this thesis. Pujols method, based on Francisco Trrega technical principles, is written in the spirit of 19th century treatises: it contains in the theoretical exposition general things about lutherie, strings, range, positions, historical issues, the first contact with the instrument, watching the correct position of the body and both hands and a series of advices for the future musicians. In the next volumes, there is a concentric approach of the technical means, starting with open strings exercises and arpeggios, then going into the area of the left hand through varied combinations of the fingers, preparatory exercises for scales and position exchange, getting finally in the last chapter, subtitled virtuosit, to complex exercises which point at a thoroughness of the technical capabilities of both hands and the complete development of the musician-guitarist. Abel Carlevaro is the founder of an innovatory technical school, based on a deep knowledge of anatomy and physics laws, whose originality and functionality were one of the most important steps in the guitar evolution in the last century. The author uses clear concepts in a logic manner by the aid of an analytical thinking able to decompose a instrumental gesture/procedure, simple or complicated, in its components, the conscious recomposition of it

176

representing the necessary step towards the development of the performer. The first volume contains the theoretical exposition and discusses in order the following issues: the position of the instrument, the right hand, the guitarist and his total development, the left hand, scales, dampers and vibrato, completed by a preliminary discussion of the exercises from the following practice books. Concepts like stable equilibrium, natural position, fijacon, toques, unity through muscular contraction need to be assimilated and transformed in correct technical means through a constant practice routine always under the scrutiny of an active intellect. Finally, we have exposed our personal perspective over the necessary technical means of the performer in the 21st century; we have enumerated a list of technical means necessary to every player (confidence, mobility, force, versatility, agility, clarity, robustness, flexibility, endurance, independence, dynamism, precision), then we have presented a model of approaching the instrumental technique based on our experience as performer and pedagogue. Shortly, this focuses on the following elements:

for the right hand: repeated notes, arpeggios, chords, tremolo, rasgueado and natural harmonics; tirrando and appoyando approach;

for the left hand: fingers combinations, legato (then appogiaturas, trills, mordents etc.), barre, extensions, position exchange, natural and artificial harmonics;

To this, we will add scales and technical procedures specific to the guitar like tamburo, pizzicato, glissando; all the technical exercises must have at their base a correct and relaxed position of the body and both hands, always supported by an active thinking.

177