Dionisio Aguado dedicated most of his life to the detailed study of his instrument. He made new advances in technique, developing the volume and qualities of tone on the guitar, something new at that time. Aguado made his ideas known in a method published in Madrid in 1820, a work which “contributed much to reverse old routines” (1). In Paris where he lived from 1825 to 1838, Aguado became friends with Fernando Sor and occasionally shared concerts with him. So as to obtain a large and clear tone, he invented the tripodison, a tripod designed to hold the guitar still, without the help of the body, leaving the hands free to move.
Aguado’s compositional output was not very large. However, he has left us a series of studies of great value, fantasies, valses, a fandango, minuets and several rondos de concert showing a deep experience of the guitar.
(1) Ledhuy, Aguado
At an early age Johann Kaspar Mertz learnt to play the guitar and the flute. He earned his living by teaching music until around 1840, then left his native Hungary to establish himself in Vienna reputed for its important musical activity. Shortly after a successful recital at the court, Mertz was appointed court guitarist to the Empress. His excellent reputation as a soloist spread and he left to tour Poland and Russia. Later he also played in Breslau, Berlin, Dresde, Altenburg and Leipzig. During his travels he met his future wife, the pianist Joséphine Plantin, with whom he sometimes played duets. In 1842, the couple lived for some time in Vienna where they were very popular among the nobility. Mertz was also renowned as a flutist, cellist and mandolinist. Despite a weak constitution, Mertz continued giving stunning concerts, particularly those for King Ludwig 1st of Bavaria and the Grand Duke of Hesse Darmstadt. Shortly before his death, Mertz took part in a competition organized by Nikolai Makaroff in Brussels. His Concertino won first prize among 61 compositions from thirty competitors. Napoléon Coste won second prize. A prolific composer, Mertz deserves a high ranking in the choice of 19th century guitar music.
Born in Reus, Province of Tarragona, José Broca taught himself the guitar following Aguado’s method. He later received lessons from the master himself. Broca spent a large part of his youth in his birthplace where he taught guitar until the age of 28. He then entered the French army where he served for 15 years. After the war, he established himself in Barcelona, teaching and concertizing. He became the favourite interpreter of Sor and Aguado’s music. His work includes about 20 compositions, among them a Fantaisie, introduction, thème et variations called La Amistad written for his pupil and friend José Ferrer who dedicated to his teacher his Recuerdos de Montgri. Cristina Palmer, Domingo Bonet and Miguel Mas Bargallo were Broca’s pupils as well.
Giulio Regondi was born in Lyon in 1882 of an Italian father and German mother. He was a child prodigy and toured all the European courts before the age of nine. Regondi played with the young and gifted girl Catherine Josepha Pelzer. Both were so small that they had to climb on a table to be seen by the audience. Regondi revealed a very sensitive and delicate nature, later testimonies emphasize his extreme kindness and his great erudition. Regondi’s known music for guitar consists of nine compositions reflecting their author’s qualities : grace and virtuosity.
Born in Villacarillo, Gimenez Manjon lost his sight at the age of one. He decided at an early age to dedicate his life to music and found in the guitar his inseparable companion. His colleague David del Castillo encouraged him to take up a soloist carreer despite the difficulties of his situation. He spent several periods in Paris and also in Barcelona where he taught at the municipal Conservatory. In the programs of his numerous concerts we see works by the masters Sor and Aguado and also his own compositions. Like his contemporary Tarrega, Manjon transcribed music by Beethoven and Schubert for the guitar and included these works in his repertoire. In 1883, Manjon went to South America where he travelled widely. He settled in Buenos Aires and created a conservatory of music. During the years 1912/13 he toured again in Europe before returning to Argentina until his death. He left about fifteen works, mostly of Spanish and Argentinian inspiration and also a guitar method in two volumes.
Napoléon Coste’s father was an officer of the Emperor Napoleon’s army and so named his child after him. His mother gave him his first guitar lessons. At the age of 18 Coste was ready to exercise his talent as performer and teacher. In 1828 he played in Valenciennes with the guitarist Luigi Sagrini. A few years later he moved to Paris to study harmony and counterpoint and kept close contact with the guitar masters of his time. He gave his first recital in Paris in 1838 together with Sor — then age sixty — who was giving his last public appearance. Seven years after Sor’s death Coste published an enlarged version of his method. In 1863, Coste had to give up his carreer as a soloist because of an accident to his right arm. He dedicated himself to teaching and composing. Wishing to extend the possibilities of the guitar, Coste used a sevenstring guitar with twenty-four frets, this “curious and probably unique instrument” (2) is now part of the musical instrument collection in the Paris museum. Coste was not the only one of this time to use a different or expanded guitar. Carulli, Padovetz and Mertz played on ten-string guitars, Regondi’s guitar had eight strings and, later, Manjon played on an eleven-string guitar.
(2) Chouquet, Catalogue du musée instrumental
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