Wednesday 10 March 2021

Vocal Cords: for his debut recording guitarist Andrea Belmonte explores early 19th-century Italian guitar music

Vocal cords: Italian themes for guitar; Andrea Belmonte; KHA

Vocal cords: Italian themes for guitar
; Andrea Belmonte; KHA

Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 9 March 2021 Star rating: 3.5 (★★★½)
A charming disc which creates a collage of lyrical movements from early 19th century Italian guitarist composers, and showcases the singing style of young Italian guitarist Andrea Belmonte

Under the title of Vocal cords, this charming debut recital by guitarist Andrea Belmonte on the KHA label explores the legacy of Italian guitarist and composer Mauro Giuliani (1781-1829) with music by Giuliani along with Giuseppe Antonio Brescianello, Niccolo Paganini, Gioachino Rossini, Domenico Cimarosa, Luigi Legnani, Matteo Carcassi, Giulio Regondi, Francesco Molino, Marco Aurelio Zani de Ferranti and Ferdinando Carulli.

Born in 1996, Andrea Belmonte is a young Italian guitarist with catholic tastes, his repertoire ranges from baroque to flamenco not to mention contemporary and jazz, and his thesis for his first degree was an in depth study of flamenco techniques and language in classical guitar writing. For his debut recording, Belmonte has chosen the guitar tradition which grew up around Mauro Giuliani .

Giuliani studied both cello and guitar, but after he moved to Vienna in 1806 he quickly became known as a guitarist. His Grand Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra (op. 30) which premiered in 1808 had considerable success. He also wrote a guitar method and his playing came to define guitar style for a generation. Also on the disc are Italian composers who came after Giuliani, following in his method and style. These are names which are not so well-known today, Carulli, Molino, Legnani, Gegondi, Carcassi, but they came to define a school of Italian guitar playing from 1800 to 1840. All were guitarists and composers, having success with both whilst some also published methods for guitar.

Not all the composers on the disc were guitarists, Brescianello is a rather unknown composer who wrote for the gallichon, a kind of lute played in Germany in the 18th century, whilst Cimarosa and Rossini are present in arrangements of their music. Cimarosa's larghetto Sonata No. 49 in C sharp minor is performed in the arrangement by Julian Bream, to whom the album is dedicated, whilst the quartet from Rossini's Semiramide is performed in an arrangement by Giuliani. Paganini never played the guitar in public, but he was a guitarist and would play in private so that there is a small body of guitar music written by the composer.

Those familiar with type of repertoire are probably aware of its problems, lovely melodies but compositional styles which are rather conservative and do not really hold up for large scale pieces. Belmonte has almost made a virtue of this, his title says much as he has chosen music which sings whilst he also plays individual movements rather than whole works. The longest track is 3'35 and many are far shorter with two under a minute. The result is a magical collage. Little or none of the music is familiar, and Belmonte's technique is exemplary in the way that he makes his guitar sing, making the disc about this sense of elegant melody without us worrying about the lack of adventurous harmony. When I spoke to the guitarist Yuri Liberzon recently [see my interview] he talked about the problems of guitarist composers and the way they rarely pushed the instrument and crossed boundaries in their compositions. Belmonte's response is to say not to worry, sit back and enjoy the music.

And enjoy it we do, his playing has a great deal of charm to it and whilst 35 minutes might seem short value for a disc, it is just the right length for this recital. I do hope that Belmonte comes back to the studio soon, and I would be certainly interested in a disc exploring his thesis about flamenco in classical guitar writing!

Vocal Cords
Giuseppe Antonio Brescianello (c1690-1758) arr Ruggero Chiesa (1933-1993) - Colascione Partita III: II. Adagio,
Niccolo Paganini (1782-1840) - Ghiribizzi, Ms 43: No. 8 in C Major. Andante
Giocchino Rossini (1792-1840) arr Mauro Giuliani - Semiramide, Act 1: III. Quartetto "Di tante regi e popoli"
Domenico Cimarosa (1749-1801) arr Moshe H Levy - Sonata No. 9 in D Minor
Mauro Giuliani (1781-1829) - 24 Studi, Op. 48: No. 5 in E Minor, Allegro
Luigi Legnani (1790-1877) - 36 Caprices, Op. 20: XXIV. Allegro molto
Domenico Cimarosa, arr Julian Bream - Sonata No. 49 in C-Sharp Minor, Larghetto
Giuseppe Antonio Brescianello, arr Ruggero Chiesa - Colascione Partita XVI: IV. Gigue
Matteo Carcassi (1792 - 1853) - Le nouveau papillon, Op. 5: No. 6 Allegretto
Mauro Giuliani - Le Papillon, Op. 50: No. 15, Allegretto
Giulio Regondi (1822-1872) - 10 Etudes: No. 1 in C Major, Moderato
Francesco Molino (1775-1847) - Romance
Giulio Regondi - Air varié de l'opera de Bellini "I Capuleti e I Montecchi": Variation 2
Giuseppe Antonio Brescianello, arr Ruggero Chiesa - Colascione Partita VI: IV. Aria
Mauro Giuliani - Studi Dilettevoli, Op. 98: No. 4 in A Major, Allegretto
Marco Aurelio Zani de Ferranti - 6 Mélodies Nocturnes Originales, Op. 41a: No. 1, Le Souvenir
Ferdinando Carulli (1770-1841) - Fandango, Danse Espagnole, Op. 73: No. 2
Niccolo Paganini - Grande Sonata, Ms 3: II. Romance. Più tosto largo. Amorosame
Andrea Belmonte (guitar)
Recorded 19 & 20 June 2019, Abbey Rocchi Studios, Italy
KHA 20 1CD [35.56]

Find the album on-line.

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