'As always, it was sheer pleasure to observe Robin Hill's remarkable fluent technique: everything looks easy when he plays it.' Colin Cooper- Classical Guitar Magazine ----- 'Wonderful for their (Hill & Wiltschinsky) precision, touch and clarity of sound... refined virtuosity, the achievement of a long interpretive process.' Il Giornale D'Italia (Rome) ----- 'I loved your CD and thought your technique and performance were fabulous...' Rick Wakeman

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Track 1: Malaguena and 'Classical Star'

So, here we have the first in the series of liner notes for 'Virtuoso'.
The track is 'Malaguena'.

The word Malaguena can mean many things, literally it's meaning is 'A woman living in the Spanish port city of Malaga'.
However, it is also commonly used in the music world as being 'a traditional flamenco song of Malaga'.

In this case, Malaguena is a traditional, fast and exuberant flamenco style piece, which has evolved from the sevillana and the fandango.
Originally Malaguenas were sung and played at high speed, with rhythmic patterns in 6/8 time, to accompany dance.

However, towards the end of the 19th Century the Malaguena developed further incorporating more from 'real' flamenco.
The music was slowed down, and the melody enriched with flourishes and ornaments, as the number of performers was reduced to a single guitar.

Virtuoso techniques were gradually incorporated, such as the rapid arpeggio, scales and the tremolo, which then created a much more varied palette.

Whilst the Malaguena had always derived from local fandangos, with regional variations, it was the guitar that allowed for the independence of the malaguena from the fandango, due to the changes in character of the playing with solo guitar and an ability to produce a sharper and richer sound.

For this recording, Robin decided to start the CD with Malaguena as the idea was to market to a wide range of audience, and this particular piece is always popular in concert. Most people instantly recognise the main theme, and it's always good to start with something very exciting and , at the same time, familiar!
The main theme is stated in the bass which is then followed by a rapid variation section and the theme is then repeated with an accompanying tremelo in the treble. The piece then modulates from E major to C major maintaining the tremelo. A slow expressive section in C major ensues..this section being reminiscent of the canto libre style....a rapid scale flourish re-introduces the main theme and the first section is then repeated.
So I hope that you enjoy it!

On another subject, yes, we did watch 'Classical Star' last night, and I did make it through the whole day without finding out who had won!
It was exciting to watch and nerve wracking waiting to hear the final results.
At the risk of sounding too politically correct, I do think they all did very well.
The stress of performing a concerto is something most people will never experience. There's a huge pressure to get it right and the thrill of an orchestra playing behind you is incredible.

Sophie did very well with an incredibly difficult piece, and it will be interesting to see how her career develops now that she has won the competition.

Karen took the bassoon onto another level. Whatever the outcome of the competition, she has done herself and her chosen instrument an huge favour. I'm sure we will be hearing more of her in the future.

Ian, well, I'm not surprised that he didn't win, but he was up against some very strong competition.
He also has youth on his side and I feel that he can, and will, improve his interpretive skills as he matures. As I have already said, technically he is very good, but he needs to learn to add more soul and emotion. Even in the brief clips we saw and heard on the programme his improvement was evident.

'Concierto de Aranjuez' is a formidable piece for any guitarist to undertake. It is deceptively difficult throughout all three movements.
I always remember watching a video of Julian Bream performing the piece and he can clearly be seen to mouth the words, "It's a bugger", to the conductor!

From personal experience, Robin first performed the concerto with the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, with the conductor, Carl Davis. He had a couple of months to prepare the piece and practised it so much that our young son used to sing the main theme in his cot as he went to sleep!
No guitarist takes this piece for granted and we discussed it with Paco Pena, who was on the same programme.
Robin asked him if he would contemplate recording it, as Paco de Lucia had just recorded and performed it, and Paco's reply was that he may do one day but would need at least a year to prepare.

So, it was a very brave move to play this piece, however an understandable one. It is by far, and quite desevedly, the most well known classical guitar concerto.

'Star' quality also incorporates an artists ability to communicate with the audience, and Ian certainly seemed able to do that. His comments about tuning the guitar could have come from an 'old' pro!

So to sum up, Ian did very well given his age and I'm sure we will hear more of him as he develops as a person and as a player.
As for the programme itself, well, the classical music world is full of competitions, and all the stresses, strains and tears that go along with them.
At least on this occasion the criticisms were always constructive and delivered in a positive way, and I'm sure that all the participants have therefore benefited from the experience.
Also, the exposure of classical music on mainstream T.V. can only be a good thing. If there's another series, it would be nice to hear longer extracts, or even whole performances, so that those of us at home can evaluate each student, rather than basing our decisions on edited highlights.

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