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The quiet character and limited texture of the instrument seem very distant from the immense dynamic and harmonic palette of the German composer. However, the relationship between Beethoven and the guitar – and between guitarists and the music of Beethoven – has a rich history of meetings and experiments.
Vienna, the city where Beethoven spent most of his life, was the stage upon which the triumphs of Mauro Giuliani, the greatest virtuoso guitarist of the time, took place. The guitar knew an age of popularity unrivaled by any other. In September 1816 the revered composer and music critic Carl Maria von Weber wrote: “Our expectations were great, thanks to the reputation that preceded the Artist; but it is impossible to deny that the performance of mister Giuliani did not only satisfy them, it surpassed them.”
Eleven years younger than Beethoven, Giuliani came from Bisceglie, Italy, a town along the southern ridge of the European continent. Giuliani and Beethoven sparked each other’s interest: probably with the kind of curiosity that ties together two vastly distant aesthetic universes, certainly (as we know from Beethoven’s letters) with a mutual fondness. In the following years, their names would be associated with a number of musical productions.
Beginning in April of 1818, an arrangement of Beethoven’s Ouverture Op. 115 (the “Namensfeier-Overtüre”) began to appear in the repertoire of Giuliani’s Trio (with Ignaz Moscheles and Joseph Mayseder). As early as 1820, arrangements for guitar of Beethoven’s music begun to appear in editorial catalogues all over Europe. The transcriptions used themes or single movements from Beethoven’s symphonies, chamber, and other instrumental works as points of departure; but it is evident that from a certain point onward the interest of guitarists concentrated above all on the corpus of Beethoven’s thirty-two piano sonatas.
Two hundred years later, performers are still taking up the challenge to push the boundaries of their instrument. The two Sonatas in this program are the fruits of years of work, of listening, of patient debate, and of experience performing in concert halls: we present them today, on Beethoven’s 250th birthday, in hopes that the voices of two guitars, questioning and chasing after one another, can enrich with new detail the marvelous story of music narrated by Ludwig van Beethoven.
Matteo Mela, Lorenzo Micheli, guitar
Further information: Pauli Raitakari, email@example.com
The concert forms part of the Sibelius Academy Guitar Festival.
The concert can also be watched as a live stream and recording.