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Duo Orfeo

In Federico Mompou’s (1893-1987) own words: “The best word is the unspoken word. I, as you all know, am a man of few words and a musician of few notes… I wish that [my music] should seem to come out of the shadows so to return to the shadows again. I find myself forced to find new forms; I believe that my music will never fit in a perfect world.” Mompou gave his first public piano recital at the age of fifteen but, perhaps due to his introverted disposition, abandoned a career as a soloist in favor of composing. During his study at the Paris Conservatory, he became familiar with the Impressionists, and Satie in particular seems to have inspired in him a penchant for miniaturist forms and economical means of expression. The pieces played here are among Mompou’s earliest works for solo piano, written when the composer was in his twenties. "Jeux sur la place" is a short movement from Mompou’s "Scènes d’enfants," while the four "Plany" that follow are from his "Impresiones intimas."

Contemporary accounts of the lute-playing of Franscesco Canova da Milano (1497-1543) traverse the laudatory gamut. He was written to be “the most eminent musician of all… superior to Orpheus and Apollo in playing the lyre and any other instrument whatever,” “the first player of our age,” and, even fifty years after his death, “a miraculous lute player.” The esteem in which he was held no doubt contributed to the widespread publication and dissemination of his music across Europe, the extant corpus of which surpasses that of any other lutenist of the time. His lute works consist almost entirely of free-ranging contrapuntal fantasias and arrangements of vocal pieces – chansons, madrigals and motets – of other composers. While he is sure to have improvised variations on the popular dances of the day, this setting of "La Spagna" is his only surviving dance.

The Brazilian composer Radamès Gnattali (1906-1988) enjoyed a long and prolific career as a composer and arranger of Brazilian popular music. His work bears the influence of Brazilian musical and folkloric traditions, jazz, and impressionism. Gnattali’s "Suite Retratos" for guitar duo pays homage to four Brazilian popular musicians, each movement drawing upon the style of its dedicatee. The third movement is written after Anacleto de Medeiros, who led a famous military band in Rio de Janeiro at the turn of the 20th century. 

In an essay entitled “What I Am,” the eccentric French composer Erik Satie writes: “Everyone will tell you I am not a musician. That is correct. From the very beginning of my career I class myself a phono-metrographer. My work is completely phonometrical. Take my 'Fils de Étoiles,' or my 'Morceaux en forme de Poire,' my 'En habit de Cheval, or my 'Sarabandes' – it is evident that musical ideas played no part whatsoever in their composition. Science is the dominating factor. Besides, I enjoy measuring sound much more than hearing it. With my phonometer in hand, I work happily and with confidence. What haven’t I weighed or measured? I’ve done all Beethoven, all Verdi, etc. It’s fascinating. The first time I used a phonoscope, I examined a B-flat of medium size. I can assure you that I have never seen anything so revolting. I called in my man to show him. On my phono-scales a common or garden F-sharp registered 93 kilos. It came out of a fat tenor whom I also weighed. Do you know how to clean sounds? It’s a filthy business. Stretching them out is cleaner; indexing them is a meticulous task and needs good eyesight. Here, we are in the realm of pyrophony. To write my 'Pieces Froides,' I used a caleidophone recorder. It took seven minutes. There’s more variety in it. The financial return is greater, too. I owe my fortune to it.” Perhaps there is some sarcasm here, perhaps not. Satie’s "Danses de Travers" are one of two short piano works that also carry the title "Pieces Froides," or "Cold Pieces." 

Though he’s rumored to have once said “the only thing more beautiful than one guitar is two,” Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849) never did write anything for the instrument. However, many of the 21 Nocturnes for solo piano that he composed over the course of his life feature a beautiful cantabile melody over an arpeggiated guitar-like accompaniment; it’s not surprising that they adapt well to guitar duo.

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