Giuliani: Works for guitar and keyboard. A descriptive note by Brian Jeffery.

Mauro Giuliani: Complete Works, Volume 34 (Tecla facsimile edition)

Five works for guitar and keyboard

A descriptive note about these five works

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This note describes Giuliani’s music for guitar and keyboard.

(This is an adaptation of a note which I wrote for a concert given by Aldo Vianello (guitar) and Patrizia Venturini (piano) in Rimini in 2004.)

It will be a welcome event, to hear again the works for piano and guitar which were composed in the early 19th century. Today both instruments have changed so much that the balance is now quite different. But at that time the pianoforte (or the fortepiano) was not the ocean liner which it later became, and nor was the guitar the large tightly strung object of today. Rather, the clear and impassioned tracery of the piano, and the soft yet crystal clear sound of the guitar, blended to make a combination in which both could be heard and in which, it seems to me, clarity was a principal merit.

Giuliani is one of the principal composers who wrote in that period for piano and guitar. Indeed, the Grand Duo Concertant and the Grand Pot-Pourri National op. 93 are probably the two main works for piano and guitar composed at that period. They come out of a milieu in which the guitar wasn’t isolated from other instruments as it often is today, but was one of a family of instruments, and voice, which were heard together. Giuliani knew the voice and wrote for it, knew the violin and other strings, and wrote for them as well. Indeed, he played in the first performance of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, probably playing the violoncello.

Giuliani arrived in Vienna from Italy in about 1806. Soon he published there works for guitar with other instruments, especially for guitar with flute or violin. In April 1808 he performed his first concerto for guitar and full orchestra there, and songs with guitar accompaniment soon followed.

However, it was not until about 1813 that we find the first work for guitar and piano bearing Giuliani’s name, the Grand Duo Concertant for guitar and keyboard (no op. no.) (TECLA 0646). It is already on a very large scale. The opening Allegro maestoso is long and brilliant. The Scherzo shines, the Largo espressivo gives some slow relief, and then the closing Allegretto espressivo is again very long and brilliant. A major work indeed, one which deserves to be heard a great deal. The late Peter Pieters, who made a particular study of works for guitar and piano for this period, wrote about the Grand Duo Concertant: “Undoubtedly this work is the longest and most virtuosic work for this medium during the nineteenth century.” And he also wrote: “The guitar part is very giulianistic … on page 16 of the guitar part, lines 4-7 are identical to his etude op. 48 no. 24.”

I say “bearing Giuliani’s name”, but in fact the Grand Duo Concertant is a collaboration between Giuliani and the famous pianist Ignaz Moscheles. That it was jointly composed is made clear by the words of the original title-page: “Grand Duo Concertant pour le Piano-Forte et Guitare … composé … par … J. Moscheles et M. Giuliani”. The two performed it together in Vienna in 1813. At the time, Moscheles was just nineteen (and Giuliani, thirty-three). The work is also listed among Moscheles’ works as his op. 20.

Only a few years later, in about 1817/18, Giuliani made another venture into joint composition, this time with his Grand Potpourri National for guitar and keyboard op. 93 (TECLA 0587), composed jointly by him and by the pianist Hummel. This time it is again a very large scale work, full of interest. Whereas the Grand Duo Concertant had been for a normal guitar, this Grand Pot-Pourri National is for the terz guitar, which is a smaller guitar tuned a minor third higher than a normal guitar. It is more brilliant and more easily heard than a normal guitar, perhaps a good choice when performing with a piano. Peter Pieters wrote about it: “This work differs stylistically from other works by Giuliani. There are more modulations and to remoter keys than is normal with Giuliani … If one is not prejudiced against pot-pourris, this is a rather good work.”

The work includes among others the British tune “Rule Britannia”, the French tune “Vive Henri IV”, and the Austrian national anthem.

Giuliani’s Two Rondos for guitar and keyboard op. 68 (TECLA 2557) are the only known work where he, and he alone, was unequivocally the sole composer of an original work for this medium. It was composed probably in 1818. Peter Pieters wrote about it: “These rondos are good pieces of chamber music … they are real chamber music with concertante parts”.

[Note added in 2006: David Starobin says, in an interview in Classical Guitar magazine for November 2006: “I have a sneaking suspicion that the second of Giuliani’s op. 68 Rondos for guitar and piano (the one in b minor) might bear the hand of Beethoven.  It is a lovely thing and not quite Giulianian.”]

The Variations on “Nel cor più non mi sento” and Polonaise for guitar and keyboard op. 65 (TECLA 0554) are a version of a work which also exists for guitar and string quartet. We don’t know whether it was Giuliani who made both versions, or whether this version for guitar and piano was made by someone else. It is virtuosic in the guitar part.

The Variations on “Partant pour la Syrie” for guitar and keyboard op. 104 (TECLA 0601), however, are a posthumously published arrangement for guitar and piano of Giuliani’s op. 104 which was originally for solo guitar. The original version for solo guitar was published in about 1819, but this arrangement for guitar and piano was not published until about 1840, long after the composer’s death. It was probably not made by Giuliani.

To these five works for guitar and piano we can add the three arrangements for guitar and piano which Anton Diabelli made of all three of Giuliani’s guitar concertos. These are available in this edition in volumes 27, 29, and 32 respectively. The first concerto dates from 1808, and Diabelli’s arrangement dates from 1822. So it is much later than the original work and very probably is not an arrangement in which Giuliani had any part. Again it is for terz guitar, where the original concerto had been for normal guitar.

Brian Jeffery

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Copyright 2004 by Tecla Editions. Errors and omissions excepted.