Schubert and Mertz CD

Price: $14.99
Duo LiveOak performs
Songs of Franz Schubert and guitar works of Johann Kaspar Mertz

Nancy Knowles; soprano
Frank Wallace: 19th century guitars, baritone

Gyre Publications
Copyright ©2000 Frank A. Wallace
Cover photography by Elsa Voelcker, design by Nancy Knowles
All rights reserved.

01 Romanza Mertz 3:29
02 Wehmut Schubert 2:56
03 Capriccio Mertz 2:03
04 Harfenspieler 1 Schubert 3:36
05 Harfenspieler 2 & 3 Schubert 3:32
06 Unruhe Mertz 2:00
07 Der Schiffer Schubert 2:30
08 Schäfers Klagelied Schubert 2:59
09 Jägers Abendlied Schubert 2:03
10 An die musik Schubert 2:37
11 Meeres stille Schubert 1:33
12 An Malvina Mertz 4:01
13 Erlkönig Schubert 4:54
14 Der Leiermann Schubert 2:57
15 Greisengesang Schubert 4:31
16 Abendlied Mertz 3:58
17 Mignon I Schubert 2:29
18 Mignon II Schubert 3:05
19 Dithyrambe Schubert 3:14
20 Wiegenlied Schubert 2:19
21 Wandrers Nachtlied Schubert 1:42
22 Elegy Mertz 8:39

Total time 72:01

Singers have always loved singing to the guitar, with its intimate resonance, and for both singers and guitarists, Schubert?s lieder are a dream repertoire. The emotional power and complexity of melody, poetry, and accompaniments alike are legendary. On the guitar, the play of finger on string, with its resulting variations in tone and attack, affords a nuance of _expression which is not available to the piano. In accompaniments for Schubert?s songs these qualities more than make up for the more limited range and dynamics of the instrument.

In the late 18th century, the new six-string guitar existed side by side with the five-string, the six course, as well as the now-waning five-course (baroque) guitar. By the year 1807, fueled by the influence of Giuliani, this new guitar had established its popularity in the musical capital of Vienna.

In that year, when Schubert was a boy of ten, the thriving musical community saw the publication of Beethoven’s famous song Adelaide in guitar transcription as well as many guitar works of Giuliani, Molitor, and Aguado.

In 1821, in his first publication of Schubert lieder (Opus 1-7), Schubert’s publisher Diabelli (a guitarist himself) chose to issue four of his songs in guitar versions. These editions not only helped Schubert?s efforts to establish himself as a songwriter, but it also appealed to the growing contingent of guitarists in Vienna. Judging by the plate numbers, there were two cases (Der Wanderer, D 493 and Morgenlied, D 773) in which Diabelli’s publication of the edition with guitar accompaniment seems to have preceded the piano version.

This simultaneous printing of select Schubert songs with both guitar and piano accompaniment became a pattern as Schubert became respected as a lieder composer. Over two dozen of his songs were published in his lifetime with guitar accompaniments and many more followed his early death as his fame increased. There was clearly a market for these guitar settings, as shown by the multiple printings of them in the early 1800’s not only by Diabelli but also by such houses as Pennauer, Sauer and Liedesdorf, J. Czerny and Cappi.

Although there are still some today who debate that Schubert played the guitar, others say that Schubert not only played but composed on the guitar when he couldn’t afford a piano, playing under a blanket in bed, because he couldn’t afford heat either! According to Percy Scholes in the 1943 Oxford Companion to Music:

“One of Schubert’s friends, Umlauf, records that he used to visit him in the mornings before he got out of bed, and usually found him with a guitar in his hands: ‘He generally sang to me newly composed songs to his guitar.”?

Another source says that his principal possessions were a few books, a guitar and a pipe. Further evidence of his interest in and understanding of the guitar is his 1813 setting of a Cantata to guitar accompaniment (D 80) honoring his father?s name day. Also, in 1814 he added a cello part to Wenzel Matiegka’s Notturno for flute, viola and guitar.

The 19th century romantics? passion for the guitar was so intense it was dubbed ?guitaromanie?. Paganini, whose fame was made on the violin, was also an incomparable guitarist. In fact, those who heard him on both instruments had a hard time deciding which he played best. In 1821 he and Rossini dressed up as two female singing beggars and strummed their way on two guitars through the streets of Rome during carnival. Berlioz’ principle instrument was the guitar?he never played piano?and in true romantic fashion he would often take his guitar up to the mountains for long rambles, serenading the peasants and inventing wild recitative from Virgil with strange harmonies on his guitar. His friend French playwright Ernest Legouvé wrote:

“The guitar embodied all instruments for him, and he was very good at it.”

The guitar’s popularity was intense for three or four decades before it began to wane. The Bratislavan guitarist/composer Johann Kaspar Mertz (1806-1856) belonged to this latter period but did not adhere to the typical post-classical style. He made significant contributions to the colors and harmonic language of the guitar repertoire, having been clearly influenced by his pianist wife, Josephine Plantin, and her knowledge of Mendelssohn, Schumann and Chopin. It is with Mertz that we first see titles such as Lied ohne Worte (Song without Words), Abendlied (Evening Song), and Unruhe (Unrest), showing his desire to create poetic sketches. Thus the title of one collection of his works, Bardenklänge, is literally “Bard Sounds”. While it was popular in his day to write variations on popular and operatic songs, Mertz also wrote six arrangements of Schubert songs. One assumes that as a precocious young player of both guitar and flute, Mertz started out on a six-string guitar. But like many of his contemporaries, he ended up preferring the increased range of the eight- and then the ten-string guitar. He was popular both as a composer in Vienna, where he was a leading member of the Vienna school of guitarists, and as a touring performer (Prague, Berlin, Dresden, Moravia, Poland, Russia). In 1856 Mertz won the coveted award for guitar composition in Brussels.

Frank Wallace plays from the Chanterelle edition of Mertz’s works (Monaco, 1983, Simon Wynberg, editor).

Of the seventeen songs on this CD, ten are Wallace?s own transcriptions from the piano version and seven are by Thomas F. Heck. (See footnotes on playlist.) Though many have transcribed Schubert?s songs, we are particularly indebted to Thomas Heck and his performance edition Franz Schubert: Sixteen Songs with Guitar Accompaniment, Tecla Editions, 1980. Detailed notes about these songs and their publishing history can be found in his publication.


Louis Panormo 1822
Of a three-generation family of instrument builders active from 1734 to 1890, Louis Panormo was born in Paris in 1784. His father, Vicenzo Trusiano, was born in Palermo and settled in London in 1772. Of Vicenzo?s four instrument-building sons, Louis was the most famous, building guitars in Bloomsbury from 1819-1854. He is known as the only builder outside of Spain at the time who built in the ?Spanish style?, with fan strutting, a development attributed to José Pagés of Cadiz. Fernando Sor worked with Panormo to develop this system in his guitars, giving them their rich rounded tone.

Manuel Gutiérrez 1854
The street in Sevilla made famous by Antonio de Torres Jurado, Calle de la Cerrajería, and its neighboring street Calle de la Carpintería, was already the center of elite guitarbuilding when Torres arrived in 1845. José Serrano, Diego Salazar, and Manuel de Soto y Solares1 all had workshops on Calle de la Carpintería. According to Domingo Prat, Torres shared a workshop with Manuel Gutiérrez who had worked at Calle de la Cerrajería #36 from the early 1830s.

It is assumed that this fine older builder Gutiérrez shared many of his secrets with Torres, as is evidenced in the indisputable similarities between the 1854 Gutiérrez used on this recording and the 1857 Torres (FE 07) in the Yale University Musical Instruments Collection, both shown below. These instruments are alike in size, shape and lightness of construction, with the exception of the Gutiérrez deeper body (over 100mm!). Both instruments have three-piece backs, five radial struts, a v-shaped shaft splice, and an almost identical headstock, in a shape reminiscent of bull’s horns. Their sound is remarkably similar, in spite of the different woods for the back and sides (Gutiérrez, Brazilian rosewood; Torres, cypress). Both are rich, dark, full and complex in sound. Torres has been quoted as saying, “it is impossible for me to leave [my] secret behind for posterity…it is the result of the feel of the tips of the thumb and forefinger communicating to my intellect whether the soundboard is properly worked out…?”

Similar techniques were clearly used by Gutiérrez to refine the top of our guitar, whose thickness varies widely from 1.4-2.2mm. The only way to pass on such a “feel” is through the age-old hands-on master/apprentice system, which had thrived in Spain since the Middle Ages. Like their predecessors, these lightly-constructed instruments are built to be played in spaces that have the natural amplification of hard walls, tile floors and high ceilings, allowing for a playful dialogue with the space that is sadly missing in our time. From many years of performing and recording renaissance music with lutes and vihuelas in resonant halls, we believe that this very experimental period, before the race was on for power and projection in bigger, deader halls, was really a golden age of guitar building. Just listen to the complexity of the sound of these instruments…

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