Thursday, May 16, 2013

Guitar and piano duo find challenge and joy in their repertoire

LMTA will present a performance by a local guitar/piano duo at their next meeting, May 22, at Grace Lutheran Church (22nd and Washington Sts.). The meeting starts at 11:30am. The members of the duo, Ken Hoppmann, piano, and Antonio Forgione, guitar, shared some of their history, philosophy, and passion for the music they perform with LincolnCMN.

“When we first met,” Forgione said, “we got the impression that an experience as guitar and piano duo was a great addition to our experience as musicians.” They decided to explore original repertoire for guitar and piano, and Hoppmann said they have now “been working together for about a year and a half.”
When asked why this combination of instruments attracts them, Hoppmann, the pianist, replied:
“I enjoy the subtlety of the guitar, especially in the kind of literature we are playing on Wednesday. Even though the guitar’s sound can travel nicely and certainly carry the melody, it is inherently softer than a piano. The difference in sound capability between the instruments requires me to play with more elegance and understatement than I might if I were playing with a wind instrument, for instance. Also, the fact that both the piano and guitar are stringed instruments creates some special ensemble possibilities. Overall, I am learning to approach the music as though I were playing the guitar and not the piano. I’m learning to shape phrases, execute articulations, breathe, and shade within a guitaristic paradigm. Squarely placing yourself in the artistic place of your ensemble partner is one of the most beautiful and challenging aspects of playing chamber music! It is truly one of the greatest joys I know.”
Forgione, the guitarist, appreciates that, although the repertoire is limited, it gives them the task to “extract more from the music reading…to interpret more from an historical perspective.” He also spoke about the instrumental challenges arising between guitar and piano, “you have also the chance to continuously compare the technical and stylistic approaches of both instruments. I feel that our chamber music practice is an endless and joyful research.”
When compared with other ensembles in which the guitar is accustomed to play, Forgione said that rather than the guitar being “just the harmonic sustain,” with these two “fully polyphonic instruments,” there are more times when “the goal is to spell dialog between them, improving the clarity of the lines and carefully balancing the sound.” The challenges and the possibilities are the reason that Hoppmann and Forgione have put so much passion into their duo.
They know the history of their ensemble pieces very well. “Most of the music we’ve worked with so far is from the 19th and 20th centuries,” Hoppmann explained. “A good portion of that music falls under the category of ‘Hausmusik’ or salon music, and was performed primarily in home settings, often by amateur music makers.” Lute and guitar, Forgione pointed out, were favorites of the aristocracy for a long time. When big halls and stunning performances became the norm, “the guitar was almost completely neglected as a mainstream instrument.” But that’s why the majority of the repertoire they perform comes from the “Hausmusik” era. In the 21st century, they are exploring some of the “interesting input from other musical traditions, as from the South American music.”
On Wednesday, May 22, Hoppmann and Forgione will perform the following works:
Duo, op. 134 by Ferinando Carulli (1770-1841). Carulli was born in the same year as Beethoven. He spent most part of his life in Paris, where he served with the guitar the same wealthy Parisian demographic that Chopin served with the piano. Carulli often used the title “Duo” in favor of the equally-appropriate “Sonata”. In this work, though, he creates a beautiful and entertaining piece in two movements, Larghetto and Rondo, very typical of its brilliant style, based on the finest Italian tradition coming from Naples, where he was born.
Two Rondos op. 68 by Mauro Giuliani (1781-1829). Written in 1818, when he was at the height of his career, these two short but delightful Rondos have character and contain many of the stylistic touches of the master. Giuliani was the biggest virtuoso of his time, exercising excellent capabilities as composer, guitarist and cellist in Vienna. He was collegue and friend of people like Beethoven, Diabelli, Hummel, Moscheles, Mayseder, Paganini and Rossini.
Mazurka, op. 40 and Barcarole, op. 41 by Johann Kaspar Mertz (1806-1856). Examples of the best Mertz’s works for piano and guitar, they were originally written in collaboration with his wife, the concert pianist Josephine Plantin. Recognized as one of the few leading virtuoso guitarist composers in the Romantic period, Mertz’s models were not Mozart, Beethoven and Rossini as for Carulli and Giuliani, but rather Schubert, Mendelsshon and Schumann.