Category Archives: Criticism

Narciso Yepes: The Complete Solo Recordings with DG

After a conspicuous absence of over two decades, the complete solo recordings of Narciso Yepes are again in print internationally:

https://www.amazon.com/Yepes-Complete-Solo-Recordings-Narciso/dp/B06Y1XGS1Y

http://www.deutschegrammophon.com/en/cat/4797316

71MCmyERTxL._SL1200_

Someone at Deutsche Grammophon is to be commended for bringing that label to its senses in this respect. Something has budged. Some ten years ago, when encouraged to do so, some head honcho at DG still replied with nonchalant intractability that “There is enough of Yepes already” – while his finest interpretations were unknown to guitarists and complete box sets of Segovia – and the less salable Bream – were, of course, available. Needless to say, in the post-print, digital-download era of music, there was no “economic” excuse for this suppression. But, happily, the situation has finally been remedied.

And yet… Unfortunately someone else at DG – whoever is responsible for commissioning booklet notes – is once again to be censured for a lack of historical awareness and the insult that they bring to the work of Yepes by associating it with the writing of one of the chief architects of anti-Yepes bigotry. Is it not high time to recognize the outdated but lingeringly toxic influence of such so-called guitar experts as Graham Wade – who long denigrated the non-formalist approach of Yepes as “wayward” and “destructive”; who promoted such untenable and deleterious ideological positions as the belief that “true creativity…[is] a continual extinction of personality”, that there is only one permissible tempo or interpretation (which happens to be Segovia’s or Bream’s); and who encouraged the “cast[ing]…into outer darkness” of artists (Yepes, first and foremost) who did not parrot Segovia’s particular brand of formalism (a.k.a. “Apollonian restraint”)?

So, regrettably, one has to say, with mixed feelings: Congratulations, DG, and shame on you.

A highly recommended set of very important recordings, nonetheless.

 

* * *

Tracks that used to be unavailable and/or are of particular interest are highlighted below, in bold:

CD 1: Spanish Guitar Music Of Five Centuries, Vol. 1
Alonso de Mudarra (1510 – 1580)
Luys Don Milan (1500 – 1562)
2.
9:00
Luys de Narváez (1490 – 1547)
Mille Regretz
Diego Pisador
6.
1:01
Gaspar Sanz (1640 – 1710)
Suite Española
Arr. For Guitar By Narciso Yepes
7.
1:18
12.
1:34
13.
2:31
15.
3:07
Antonio Francisco Javier Jose Soler Ramos (1729 – 1783)
Narciso Yepes
Total Playing Time 52:41
CD 2: Spanish Guitar Music Of Five Centuries, Vol. 2
Fernando Sor (1778 – 1839)
Francisco Tárrega (1852 – 1909)
5.
3:58
Isaac Albéniz (1860 – 1909)
España, Op.165
Manuel de Falla (1876 – 1946)
Joaquín Rodrigo (1901 – 1999)
Por los campos de España
Ernesto Halffter (1905 – 1989)
9.
5:51
Federico Moreno Torroba (1891 – 1982)
10.
3:25
Bassols Javier Montsalvatge (1912 – 2002)
Mauricio Ohana (1914 – 1992)
Antonio Ruiz-Pipo (1933 – 1997)
Narciso Yepes
Total Playing Time 50:07
CD 3: Sor: 24 Études For Guitar
Fernando Sor (1778 – 1839)
12 Etudes, Op.29
24 Etudes, Op.35
2.
 
2:59
3.
 
1:30
12 Etudes, Op.6
4.
 
1:41
24 Etudes, Op.35
5.
 
1:38
12 Etudes, Op.29
6.
 
3:35
24 Etudes, Op.35
Etudes for Guitar, Op.31
9.
 
1:45
24 Etudes, Op.35
10.
 
1:44
11.
 
1:36
12 Etudes, Op.29
Etudes for Guitar, Op.31
12 Etudes, Op.6
15.
 
3:31
Etudes for Guitar, Op.31
16.
 
2:48
17.
 
2:44
12 Etudes, Op.29
18.
 
3:48
Etudes for Guitar, Op.31
19.
 
0:55
12 Etudes, Op.29
20.
 
3:13
12 Etudes, Op.6
21.
 
1:56
Etudes for Guitar, Op.31
22.
 
1:17
12 Etudes, Op.6
23.
 
1:07
Etudes for Guitar, Op.31
24.
 
2:07
Narciso Yepes
Total Playing Time 52:19
CD 4: Música Española
Isaac Albéniz (1860 – 1909)
Suite española, Op.47
Transcr. A. Segovia
Recuerdos de Viaje, Op.71
Transcription by Narciso Yepes
Piezas caracteristicas, Op.92
Transcription by Narciso Yepes
Enrique Granados (1867 – 1916)
Spanish Dance, Op.37, No.4 – “Villanesca”
Manuel de Falla (1876 – 1946)
El Amor Brujo
Arr. For Guitar By Narciso Yepes
El sombrero de tres picos
Arr. N. Yepes
Pt. 1
Joaquín Pérez Turina (1882 – 1949)
Sonata For Guitar Solo, Op.61
Narciso Yepes
Total Playing Time 42:31
CD 5: J.S. Bach / Weiss: Works For Guitar
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750)
Partita For Violin Solo No.2 In D Minor, BWV 1004
Arr. For Guitar By Narciso Yepes
2.
 
15:29
Partita For Violin Solo No.1 In B Minor, BWV 1002
Silvius Leopold Weiss (1686 – 1750)
4.
 
2:30
Suite In E Major
5.
 
1:58
Suite In E Major
6.
 
3:38
Suite In E Major
7.
 
3:53
Suite In E Major
8.
 
1:35
Suite In E Major
9.
 
5:22
Suite In E Major
10.
 
1:15
Suite In E Major
11.
 
3:00
Narciso Yepes
Total Playing Time 47:50
CD 6: Villa-Lobos: 12 Etudes; 5 Preludes
Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887 – 1959)
12 Etudes, W235
5 Preludes, W419
13.
4:54
14.
3:08
15.
3:10
16.
3:42
17.
4:24
Narciso Yepes
Total Playing Time 55:21
CD 7: Rendezvous With Narciso Yepes
Francisco Tárrega (1852 – 1909)
Domenico Scarlatti (1685 – 1757)
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750)
Suite In E Minor For Lute, BWV 996
Arr. For Guitar
3.
1:27
Adrien Le Roy
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750)
Suite In E Minor For Lute, BWV 996
Arr. For Guitar
5.
4:53
Anonymous
Francisco Tárrega (1852 – 1909)
La Alborada
7.
1:52
Manuel de Falla (1876 – 1946)
Danza del Molinero
8.
2:56
Miguel Llobet (1878 – 1938)
Antonio Ruiz-Pipo (1933 – 1997)
La Danza
10.
1:37
Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887 – 1959)
5 Preludes, W419
11.
4:39
Emilio Pujol Villarrubí (1886 – 1980)
Salvador Bacarisse (1898 – 1963)
13.
2:01
Narciso Yepes (1927 – 1997)
Narciso Yepes
Total Playing Time 39:33
CD 8: Música Catalana
Andrés Segovia (1893 – 1987)
1.
 
3:01
Miguel Llobet (1878 – 1938)
3.
 
1:23
4.
 
3:16
Francisco Casanovas
Federico Mompou (1893 – 1987)
Cançons i dansas
7.
 
4:24
Narciso Yepes (1927 – 1997)
8.
 
2:12
Oscar Esplá (1886 – 1976)
Tres Levantinas
Arr. For Guitar By Narciso Yepes
10.
 
2:34
11.
 
1:38
12.
 
1:19
Ruano Vincente Asencio (1908 – 1979)
Collectici intim
13.
 
4:38
14.
 
2:46
15.
 
2:42
16.
 
2:03
17.
 
2:47
Narciso Yepes
Total Playing Time 47:07
CD 9: J.S. Bach: Works For Lute
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750)
Suite In G Minor For Lute, BWV 995
1.
6:56
2.
6:28
3.
2:39
4.
2:59
6.
2:52
Suite In E Minor For Lute, BWV 996
7.
3:10
8.
2:08
9.
3:19
10.
2:56
11.
1:33
12.
3:15
Prelude, Fugue And Allegro In E-Flat Major, BWV 998
Arr. For Guitar And Lute
13.
3:28
14.
5:59
15.
1:58
Narciso Yepes
Total Playing Time 54:44
CD 10: J.S. Bach: Works For Lute
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750)
Partita In C Minor For Lute, BWV 997
1.
3:21
2.
7:09
3.
5:32
Suite In E Major For Lute, BWV 1006a/1000
7.
4:14
8.
3:59
10.
4:30
11.
1:43
12.
1:50
Narciso Yepes
Total Playing Time 47:30
CD 11: J.S. Bach: Works For Lute
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750)
Suite In G Minor For Lute, BWV 995
1.
6:56
2.
5:30
3.
2:21
4.
2:41
6.
2:33
Suite In E Major For Lute, BWV 1006a/1000
7.
4:21
8.
4:14
10.
4:35
12.
1:49
Narciso Yepes
Total Playing Time 51:09
CD 12: J.S. Bach: Works For Lute
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750)
Prelude, Fugue And Allegro In E-Flat Major, BWV 998
Arr. For Guitar And Lute
1.
3:26
2.
5:58
3.
2:00
Suite In E Minor For Lute, BWV 996
Arr. For Guitar
4.
3:10
5.
2:26
6.
2:36
7.
3:15
8.
1:24
9.
3:09
Partita In C Minor For Lute, BWV 997
Arr. For Guitar
11.
3:35
12.
7:51
13.
5:38
Narciso Yepes
Total Playing Time 52:17
CD 13: Poulenc / Brouwer / Ruiz-Pipó / Maderna / Balada / Kucera
Francis Poulenc (1899 – 1963)
Leo Brouwer (1939 – )
2.
 
6:13
Antonio Ruiz-Pipo (1933 – 1997)
3.
 
7:19
Bruno Maderna (1920 – 1973)
4.
 
7:48
Leonardo Balada
Analogías
5.
 
2:21
Analogías
6.
 
2:14
Analogías
7.
 
1:18
Analogías
8.
 
1:43
Václav Ku?era
Diario Omaggio A Che Guevarra
Diario, omaggio a Che Guevarra
9.
 
3:04
10.
 
2:38
11.
 
2:31
12.
 
2:17
13.
 
3:37
Narciso Yepes
Total Playing Time 46:44
CD 14: Guitarra Romantica
Mauro Giuliani (1781 – 1829)
Sonata In C Major, Op.15
3.
 
2:14
Fernando Sor (1778 – 1839)
Mauro Giuliani (1781 – 1829)
Sonatina In D Major, Op.71 No.3
6.
 
3:55
7.
 
3:36
Francisco Tárrega (1852 – 1909)
Preludio In D Minor
8.
 
1:50
Preludio In E Major
9.
 
1:49
10.
2:15
11.
4:43
Narciso Yepes
Total Playing Time 45:27
CD 15: Guitar Music By Brouwer / Carulli / Conge / Kühnel / Robinson / Sor
Johann Michael Kühnel (1665 – 1725)
Suite For Lute In A Major
Arr. For Guitar
1.
 
3:55
2.
 
1:41
3.
 
2:54
4.
 
1:58
5.
 
1:15
Thomas Robinson
The Schoole Of Musicke
Four Sacred Songs – Arr. For Guitar
7.
 
0:58
Michel Conge
La mort de Berenguer
Anonymous
Irish March
Ferdinando Carulli
Méthode complète pour le decadorde, Op. 293
Méthode complète pour le decadorde Op. 293
No. 30 Divertissement
12.
 
4:43
13.
 
2:55
Fernando Sor (1778 – 1839)
Fantaisie villageoise, Op. 52
14.
 
3:10
15.
 
0:35
16.
 
3:22
17.
 
3:08
Leo Brouwer (1939 – )
18.
 
4:54
Narciso Yepes
Total Playing Time 45:52
CD 16: Guitar Music Of Five Centuries
Emanuel Adriaenssen (1550 – 1604)
Chanson Anglaise
David Kellner (1670 – 1748)
XVI Auserlesene Lauten-Stücke
Arr. For Guitar
2.
 
2:30
3.
 
2:42
4.
 
2:37
John Dowland (1562 – 1626)
Rudolf Straube
Sonata For Lute No.1
Arr. For Guitar
6.
 
4:15
7.
 
3:55
8.
 
3:27
Eugène Roldán
Au claire de la lune
9.
 
5:47
Francis Poulenc (1899 – 1963)
Gerardo Gombau
Trois morceaux de la “Belle époque”
11.
 
2:29
12.
 
2:21
13.
 
1:53
Joaquín Pérez Turina (1882 – 1949)
14.
 
5:03
15.
 
2:33
Narciso Yepes
Total Playing Time 46:54
CD 17: Recuerdos De La Alhambra
Francisco Tárrega (1852 – 1909)
Lágrima
1.
 
2:07
3.
 
5:20
4.
 
1:54
5.
 
2:25
Endecha
6.
 
0:52
Oremus
7.
 
1:00
8.
 
0:58
10.
 
1:06
12.
 
4:52
13.
 
1:47
14.
 
2:13
15.
 
1:16
16.
 
9:12
Narciso Yepes
Total Playing Time 41:33
CD 18: Scarlatti: Sonatas
Domenico Scarlatti (1685 – 1757)
Narciso Yepes
Total Playing Time 46:17
CD 19: Rodrigo: Tres Piezas Españolas; Sonata Giocosa
Joaquín Rodrigo (1901 – 1999)
1.
 
7:36
Ya se van los pastores
2.
 
3:17
Por caminos de Santiago
3.
 
2:56
Tres piezas españolas
Fandango
4.
 
4:06
Passacaglia
5.
 
5:26
Zapateado
6.
 
3:23
Por los campos de España: En tierras de Jerez
8.
 
4:58
Sonata giocosa
9.
 
4:08
10.
 
3:40
11.
 
3:17
Junto al Generalife
Entre olivares
Narciso Yepes
Total Playing Time 57:08
CD 20: Romance D’Amour
Alfonso X El Sabio (1221 – 1284)
Cantigas de Santa Maria
Isaac Albéniz (1860 – 1909)
Suite For Piano España, Op. 165
Arr. For Guitar By Narciso Yepes
2.
3:53
Regino Sainz de la Maza (1896 – 1981)
3.
2:21
4.
2:51
Federico Moreno Torroba (1891 – 1982)
5.
3:33
Mateo Perez de Albeniz (1755 – 1831)
Emilio Pujol Villarrubí (1886 – 1980)
Miguel Llobet (1878 – 1938)
Fernando Sor (1778 – 1839)
Bassols Javier Montsalvatge (1912 – 2002)
Enrique Granados (1867 – 1916)
Manuel de Falla (1876 – 1946)
Homenaje “Le tombeau de Debussy”
Danza del Molinero
Arr. For Guitar By Narciso Yepes
14.
3:02
Antonio Ruiz-Pipo (1933 – 1997)
Narciso Yepes (1927 – 1997)

 

The Quest for the Other: Beyond Formalism

1) Text & Act: Essays on Music and Performance by Richard Taruskin

2) The Quest for Voice: On Music, Politics, and the Limits of Philosophy by Lydia Goehr

3) Music and the Ineffable by Vladimir Jankélévitch (trans. Carolyn Abbate)

4) The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works: An Essay in the Philosophy of Music by Lydia Goehr

5) The Danger of Music and Other Anti-Utopian Essays by Richard Taruskin

6) Music, Myth, and Nature, Or, The Dolphins of Arion by François-Bernard Mâche

7) Science, Order, and Creativity by David Bohm & F. David Peat

These are seven books, dating from the turn of the century, that I consider vitally important reading for the young, twenty-first-century classical musician. Important because each brings to light some aspect of the changing ideological lenses through which the performance of classical music has come to be viewed through the course of the 19th and 20th centuries – often pre-reflectively, without awareness of the lens.

A thread running through all seven is the rise of a positivistic formalism, the hegemonic ideology of Western art music since the 1920s and practically the only “appropriate” approach to its performance during the so-called “Golden Age of Positivism” of the 1960s through ’80s. Entailing a nuanced series of ideological variations, musical formalism would require a major academic study for its holistic unpacking. Taken collectively, these seven books from the period of interregnum between the previous (modernist) and the coming era, already go far toward expounding the influence, the significance, and the dangers, of musical formalisms. They shed light on why non-formalists, appreciated by the general public, were often ostracized by opportunistic critics. (On this topic, Richard Taruskin’s The Danger of Music includes the essay “Why Do They All Hate Horowitz?” An analogous argument would explain the case of the “wayward” Narciso Yepes in the context of the formalist classical guitar scene of the late 20th century.) These books also begin to point ways toward a rebirth of Western art music beyond creativity-blocking constraints.

On my view, such a “renaissance” is only possible if awareness is fostered of the arbitrary and unquestioned formalist assumptions – including those of the so-called “authenticity” movement – that have undergirded performance since the 1960s, and only if such awareness is supplemented by novel, truly pre- or truly post-modern ways of conceiving of musical “works”. (As Lydia Goehr rightly informed us in The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works, “Bach did not intend to compose musical works” (p. 8) – a 19th century concept.) In other words, a paradigm shift is needed to break classical music out of the “scandalously unsaleable” rut (Mâche, p. 2) in which it has atrophied since the height of formalist hegemony. These seven very important books clarify where we are coming from ideologically, bringing unquestioned assumptions into awareness, and begin to point out ways of moving forward.

Of particular interest is Goehr’s The Quest for Voice, which argues for the necessity of an enhanced formalism – formalism enriched by a transcendent “something” extra.  The nature of this “something” – call it Other, for lack of a better term – is of great interest to me and a subject to which I will return at length. For now, suffice it to say, as have the philosopher Alfred Korzybski, the physicist David Bohm, and the literary theorist Michael Marais (also, in a sense, Kant and d’Espagnat): whatever one thinks or says something [the "work", the Other, the Thing-in-Itself, the "composer's intention", Reality, "the truth"] is, it is not; it is always “something” more and different. Thus, as Goehr writes, via the parable of Die Meistersinger: “[instead of measuring by familiar] rules that which doesn’t run by [your] rules, [it is necessary to] leave behind your treasured rules, and look instead for its rules!” For reasons to be expounded elsewhere and another time, this quest for the other necessarily entails a movement of infinition, the Romantics’ interminable Sehnsucht or quest for the “blue flower” (Novalis’s Blaue Blume), a Derridean différance or Deleuzean “either/or…or”, eschewing naively positivistic formalist notions of knowable “truth” and achievable “perfection”, thereby maintaining a more open, pluralistic, and progressive practice than the ideological fashions of the 20th century permitted.


The Quest for Voice is available to read for free via the University of California Press website:

http://www.ucpress.edu/op.php?isbn=9780520214125

Also, a version of a central essay from Richard Taruskin’s Text & Act, “The Modern Sound of Early Music”, appeared under an editorial title in the New York Times and is available to read online:

http://www.nytimes.com/1990/07/29/arts/the-spin-doctors-of-early-music.html


Note: In the above essay, Taruskin lists three salient (though not exhaustive) characteristics of the formalist style:

* It is text-centered, hence literalistic.
* It is impersonal, hence unfriendly to spontaneity.
* It is lightweight, hence leery of the profound or the sublime.

It is so easy to establish that the desiderata of the classical guitar scene of the late 20th century were undergirded by these formalist assumptions about what performance supposedly ought to be like that it inspires incredulity that no one before me ever connected the dots. Just consider a few characteristic passages from Graham Wade’s dangerously utopian Traditions of the Classical Guitar (1980):

*Formalism is text-centered, hence literalistic:
“The Utopian idealism [†] of the purists may seem tedious. It is always easy to be sloppy and unscrupulous about the demands of the past on the present … This situation is however beginning to change as the public learns that what the composer actually wrote [*] may be far more exciting than the bogus ‘improvements’ of musicians living several centuries later.” (Wade, p. 70) [*What he wrote, yes, which the better informed musician knows is not the totality of what he actually played, or what his listeners actually heard.] This text-centrism extends even to prescriptivistic attitudes to fingering, as in the case of Segovia.

[†] Note: As Taruskin rightly states elsewhere (in the lecture “Where Things Stand Now” 2009): “Utopian idealism” is dangerous for “utopian thinking can easily lead – no, … has always led – to authoritarian thinking.” (Again, the example of the Segovian ideology of forced conformance exemplifies Taruskin’s point about the danger of utopian thinking leading to authoritarian thinking.)

*Formalism is impersonal, hence unfriendly to spontaneity:
“John Williams is a great artist who drew the guitar closer to the orbit of the ulterior impersonality of art, untainted by whim, mood or individual weakness. T. S. Eliot…puts the classic attribute of true creativity into words…[it is] a continual extinction of personality.” (Wade, p. 211)

*Formalism is lightweight, hence leery of the profound or the sublime:
“Segovia’s…true expressiveness…evokes but makes no undue display. The flashy shallowness of much [?] guitar performance is eschewed and any such player is cast, artistically, into outer darkness.” (Wade, p. 189) “Williams was the least exhibitionist of all musicians… In this he was a true disciple of Segovia. His playing demeanour was that of restraint, control and order, an Apollonian” (Wade, p. 208) Also, “transcription from the four-course guitar to its modern descendant is perhaps the most fruitless and destructive of all possible types of instrumental change. … [W]hat we lose are the sonority…and the overall atmosphere of this tiny voice.” (Wade, p. 55, my emphasis)

Equally telling of the formalist views underpinning prejudices within the classical guitar community is the 180-degree flip-flopping of the opportunistic Gramophone “critic,” John W. Duarte. Committed since the 1950s to a so-called “romantic” narrative about his friend (the neo-classicist) Andrés Segovia, by the 1980s Duarte had switched openly, if tacitly, to the formalist bandwagon, by then de rigueur, denigrating Segovia’s “rival” Narciso Yepes for his unfashionably “overcooked vibrato” and “distorted” note values (i.e., for being too “romantic”), where less than a decade earlier the story was the opposite, with Yepes being charged with a merely “accurate account” of the note values and supposed lack of rubato. (Contrast these conflicting “reviews”, or propaganda pieces, about the same recording.)

Duarte conflicting reviews

Given today’s political climate in which “fake news”  abounds, it is particularly important to be on guard for agnogenetic (“ignorance-generating”) tactics like Duarte’s. (It is worth noting that similar tactics were then being used by the tobacco industry to create confusion around links between smoking and cancer. Today they are being used to deny climate change by the fossil fuel industry, or to promote right-wing agendas, with no lower limit to which some people won’t stoop to get ahead.) I am aware of one particularly obsessive compulsive propagandist or troll – going by the pseudonym of “Mike”, among other noms de guerre – making its rounds on the internet, averring in the comments sections of various web pages that Narciso Yepes was a formalist! [*] Rather desperate and clearly a frightened case of projection, lacking cogent argument or proof.

*For example (agnogenetic propaganda at work in the comments sections):
[1] http://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2010/10/whats-wrong-with-classical-music.html
[2] https://babelblog.wordpress.com/2008/09/04/a-bach-christmas/
[3] http://andesnevados.blogspot.co.za/2009/06/narciso-yepes-werke-fur-laute-1.html
[4] http://www.pristinemadness.com/files/chaconne.html
[5] http://dotguitar.typepad.com/dotguitar/2015/11/edizioni-curci-presenta-narciso-yepes-una-chitarra-tra-passato-e-futuro.html
[6] http://jazzontherecord.blogspot.co.za/2014/03/rip-francisco-sanchez.html
[7] http://www.classical-guitar-music.com/guitar-solo/classical/narciso-yepes-recital-with-10-strings-classical-guitar/
[8] http://oserdamusica.blogspot.co.za/2015/04/narciso-yepes-guitarra-espanola-mudarra.html
[9] https://sfwillie.blogspot.co.za/2007/01/narcissus.html?showComment=1454953379996&m=0#c5382681896554491834
[10] http://andantemoderato.com/three-versions-francisco-tarregas-recuerdos-de-la-alhambra/