Classical Vienna: Music for Guitar and Piano

Classical Vienna: Music for Guitar and Piano
James Akers, romantic guitar, Gary Branch, fortepiano
Resonus RES10182. 67’47

Music by Ferdinando Carulli, Anton Diabelli, Ignaz Moscheles, Mauro Giuliani

The title of Classical Vienna is a bit misleading, and is not perhaps as you know might know it. Firstly the dates of the composers and pieces are rather late for the usual definition of the Classical period of music. Secondly, using an alternative meaning of the word ‘classical’, the combination of guitar and fortepiano is not exactly a mainstream aspect of Vienna’s musical life. For those not familiar with the sound world of period instruments, the notion of music for guitar and piano might seem bizarre. But as demonstrated on this recording, it works perfectly well. Gary Branch’s contribution to the extensive programme notes explains the history of the Viennese fortepiano and why it was suitable to balance with a guitar.

As James Akers points out in his notes, the continuing rise of the middle class in the early nineteenth century (in Vienna and elsewhere) resulted in much wider aspirations for amateur music making. The composers on this recording, all of whom were resident in Vienna at some point in their lifetimes, make a good living out of providing music for this domestic market, notably Anton Diabelli (he of Beethoven variations fame) who set up a company in 1821 to publish arrangements of popular pieces. He was also a gifted composer, judging by his Sonata for pianoforte and guitar, it’s elegantly melodic central Menuetto & Trio being one of the highlights of this CD.

Curiously, Ignaz Moscheles doesn’t get a mention in the programme notes, but his Fantasia on ‘Potem Mitzwol’ is clearly of a more romantic idiom than Diabelli. Ferdinando Carulli is associated more with Paris than Vienna, but the three pieces included here show an affinity with the Viennese style of the later 18th and early 19th centuries.

The piano used for this recording is a rare original 1826 fortepiano by Conrad Graf, formally in the now closed Finchcocks Musical Museum.  Two guitars are used, an original 1820s instrument by Saumier and a 2015 Panormo replica by James Cole.

A fascinating, and little known repertoire.

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