Molino’s Three Trios op. 4 for guitar, flute and viola [alto]
by Brian Jeffery
Out of the turmoil of the Napoleonic Wars comes one of the most beautiful of all works for guitar with other instruments: Francesco Molino’s set of Three Trios op. 4, for flute, viola and guitar. It was in north Italy, in the very first years of the new century, after 1800. In Spain, Sor had performed his first seguidillas and what a listener called a toccata on the guitar (probably the sonata which we now call Grand Solo) in Barcelona around that year. Federico Moretti (an Italian officer in the Spanish army with close connections to Napoli which belonged to Spain at the time) had published in Spain in 1799 his Principios de la Guitarra. But just a few miles away along the coast from Barcelona, probably in Genova or Torino, another great guitarist was also composing: Francesco Molino, born in 1768 and already a professional violinist. These wonderful trios are part of his work from that time.
He dedicated them to the last doge of Genoa. (What? Who was the doge of Genoa? Well, just as there was a doge of Venice, so there used to be also a doge of Genoa until the Napoleonic turmoil brought it to an end.) That was Count Durazzo, a Genoese, who served Napoleon and in fact died in Paris in 1809 and is buried in the Panthéon there. From that date, 1809, we know that Molino’s trios must date from that year or before.
I was struck by the beauty of these trios back in 1986 and I published them then in a facsimile with Tecla, but now I have made a modern Tecla re-engraved edition which players can use who aren’t necessarily specialists in the period. I have provided a modern score as well which makes everything easier.
The gem of the collection is trio op. 4 no. 1. It starts with an allegro moderato. Then a beautiful catchy slow movement Romanza, so haunting that I can’t get it out of my head. And finally a fast Rondo, allegretto scherzoso.
The second and third trios, op. 4 nos. 2 and 3, are shorter and Molino himself said that they were like notturni, which was a short serenade in 18th century Italy.
How about difficulty? Well, the good news is that even though these three trios are major concert works, the guitar parts (and indeed the flute and viola) are not at all difficult. Anyone with modest abilities can play them. Here’s an extract of a place where the guitar has a chance to shine:
The Portuguese guitarist Mário Carreira, with Olavo Barros playing the flute and Jean-Loup Lecomte playing the viola d’amore, played the trio op. 4 no. 1 in a concert at Obidos in Portugal, and they just turned the recorder on. [PHOTO] The result is a wonderful warm live recording of this beautiful piece, and I have put it in mp3 onTecla where it can be heard (follow the links to Molino).The Romanza is free to everybody. Have a listen! It’s also available on CD by post from Tecla.