Ed. Peter Ansorge and Bruno Szordikowski
Published by Schott, ED 23212 (45 Stücke für Gitarre – Romantische Miniaturen)
Another beautifully prepared and page-turning anthology arrives from Schott’s and it is a pleasure to open the cover.
The editors and arrangers, Peter Ansorge and Bruno Szordikowski, have chosen composers whose dates range from 1797 – 1944, (and an arrangement of a J.S.Bach piece).
Within that broad range of dates there exists a broad range of music. From the absolutely dire and “you can’t be serious”, through the mediocre and getting-towards-worthy, ending with the life-enriching and sound-expanding masterworks, it’s all there for the taking.
Peter and Bruno have thankfully resisted taking the first category but I have to observe that, despite their Preface stating this is aimed at the ‘advanced guitarist’, there are some pieces included which are best forgotten – or at least, only used for didactic purposes.
For this reviewer, some of Napoléon Coste’s and Karl Heinz’s pieces fall into that bracket. How much music does the advanced player have to choose from these days, if we include the existing anthologies of repertoire? We all know the answer is “more than we can count“. Certainly, in the opening half of this anthology, there are a few too many pieces which simply should have been omitted.
It may seem a bit ‘off’ to start with such a criticism, but I think it is the first impression any player will take from this book, so it needs to be said.
Phew, that’s out of the way! Let’s get on with the GOOD news.
There are quite a few fresh names (to me) here including Catharina Josepha Pratten, Alfred Cottin, Charles Dorn and Frederik Rung. Many familiar ones pop up too including Barrios, Paganini and Tarrega. The 83 pages of music have a progression of length and musical challenge, and it’s great to see some classics like Barrios’ Villancico De Navidad and Schubert’s Ave Maria.
There are some charming pieces too, (despite the opening critique) including Sagreras’ Maria Luisa and Vals Nenufar. Catharina Josepha Pratten’s Forgotten leapt out as one of two wonderful first-half inclusions, the other being Berceuse by Frederik Rung.
The key juxtapositions of E major and C major made me smile in Alfred Cottin’s Sur La Vague, and explorations of the chords of G sharp minor and C sharp minor in Georg Meier’s Wiegenliedchen provided welcome relief from the G, G and A minor pieces which preceded it.
When Paganini arrives, the textural differences in repertoire are immediately apparent. Arpeggiations and an “as much as needs to be said” approach to composition is replaced with challenging octaves, prestissimo scales, and “I bet I can write something really tricky in between those two chords and players will love me or hate me for it” attitude, which of course is a hallmark of his writing. The dazzling and the difficult was what Paganini was all about and some of these pieces will only come off the paper when the tempo is high enough to excite the audience.
The editting is, on the whole, very well done. The fingering is mostly logical, there are few typos, and I was grateful for the way a fingered passage is again (at least sometimes) fingered upon its recapitulation. Some editors take the view that, having seen a fingering once, the guitarist doesn’t need to see it again. Personally, I do.
On the subject of fingering, Peter and Bruno sometimes invite the guitarist to find a new way to finger an old passage, now repeated. There will be some who resent the fact that they think on behalf of the player ; there will be others who are offered a view which might not have occurred to them.
There was however an inconsistency which caught my eye. Sometimes the anthology calls for a player to Flag and another time to Harm. Both mean harmonic and my guess is the editors have kept to the composer’s own indications, rather than seek an overall unifying editing style. It was worse with the actual notation of harmonics ; some were notated at pitch and others were represented by the position on the guitar where they are played.
In the second half of the book, the music is longer in duration and arrangements of well-known pieces such as Mendelssohn’s Frühlingslied and both Schubert’s and Bach’s Ave Maria are presented. The Bach is Tàrrega’s arrangement and is superior, in my view. Schumann’s Träumerei is presented as arranged by Barrios with low C and G strings, but Barrios gets the player to stop these detuned strings in higher positions so intonation could be problematic.
My two favourites of the second half were Ernest Shand’s Légende and Jaime Bosch’s Cello which has a strong tune on lower strings and is very effective in this new arrangement by Peter and Bruno.
There is much to like in this anthology and the two editors have done a good job in pulling together and arranging a wide variety of highly effective pieces; ‘pretty’, ‘jolly’, ‘expressive’ and ‘entertaining’ are adjectives which come to mind.
As previously alluded to, there is not much in musical substance here but, in this beautifully presented book, everything works straight from the page and could be a useful resource for students of higher grades.
Colin Tommis, September 2021.