Was John Williams INSANE/DRUNK when he recorded the Mudarra Fantasia X? I trully consider him as one of the best guitarist out there, but please,let's be serious: his version of the Fantasy was horrible!!! Please listen to the Filomena Moretti version...This lady plays it so good, that it makes me think of John as of a little robot with incredible technique. Every great guitarist has his ups and downs. Look at Segovia, or at Bream for example. All I want to say is that John may be one of the greatest, but please, don't talk about him as of the greatest there is. Don't forget: there are a lot of INCREDIBLE guitarists out there who hadn't had the luck of, let's say, intense publicity.
Tim posted on Wednesday, 25 January, 2006 - 11:07 pm
Insane? Drunk? No, just 40 years ago...
I don't know Ms Moretti, but I have heard others - Yepes sounds like he's asleep. The problem is that the music was written almost five centuries ago - who knows what Senor Mudarra had in mind.
Guitar Lover posted on Thursday, 26 January, 2006 - 01:18 am
Please listen to the Moretti recording first. You say: who knows what senor Mudarra had in mind...Bach lived almost 3 centuries ago, Dowland almost 4 and still there are A LOT of studies on their works. So it isn't impossible to find out what Mudarra had in mind. But please listen first to the Moretti version. Buy it, get it from p2p or whatever and compare it with the Williams version. Every guitarist thinks a piece in his own way, but the point here is that williams' version is a mess. It really sounds like something played by a - I'm sorry to say this - drunk guitarist. Anyway, that's just my oppinion. And don't forget that we are talking about J.Williams. I don't think that such a guitarist would play anything based only on a moment's inspiration, whithout even having researched the piece.
Tim posted on Thursday, 26 January, 2006 - 08:48 am
Mudarra's Fantasia became well known in the early 60s when players took up the editions of it by Pujol and Diaz. Phrases like 'virtuoso showpiece' and 'febrile excitement' are used to describe it - hence played very fast (by the way I have listened to a sample of Ms Moretti).
Mudarra described the Fantatsia as in the manner of the harp of Ludovico (whatever that means?) and wrote that its dissonances sound fine when the piece is played well (but how fast, what phrasing?).
JW recorded it in the tradition of players of his day - like Segovia moulding early music to their own needs. 40 years ago the concept of 'historically informed' performance of early and baroque music didn't exist. But even with considerable musicological research there is still wide variation in how Bach, Dowland etc are performed.
When JW re-recorded Giuliani's first guitar concerto in the mid 90s his notes describe it as 'a piece I'd played all my life but not known'. If he re-attempted Mudarra I think that would be different too.
Tim also a guitar lover posted on Thursday, 26 January, 2006 - 01:24 pm
BTW Ludovico was court harpist to Ferdinand V of Spain, famed for his improvisatory style. So is what you call drunk just capturing that improvisatory style....
Bill D posted on Thursday, 26 January, 2006 - 11:21 pm
Been listening to the Fantasia. A bit tired but I don't see (hear) the problem.
However, I'm not a guitarist so I would appreciate an explanation. I prefer it to the Sky version (which I'm listening to now).
Two critics can review the same performance with one saying that the playing was impeccable and the other that it was inept!
Tim posted on Friday, 27 January, 2006 - 12:09 am
JW plays it rather faster than Ms Moretti. Ms Moretti is smoother, JW puts rather heavier emphasis on the bass notes, with a bit more tempo variation (Segovia would have beeen pleased with his pupil). You can listen to a sample on cduniverse.com
JW recorded Mudarra in the mid-60s for his third CBS LP, long before Ms Moretti was born. If he re-recorded it now he'd be a bit more 'historically informed'. The recording is also a bit crude by current CD standards which I think over-accentuates his basses.
As to JW having the 'luck of intense publicity'. He's 30 years older than Ms Moretti and the world was different in the 60s - classical musicians like Previn, Menuhin, du Pre were household names and could be seen on prime-time TV. These days even a hyped-fiddler like Hilary Hahn says she can go to the supermarket and no-one knows who she is.
Tim posted on Friday, 27 January, 2006 - 07:54 am
PS tempo - Mudarra's 16th century text says some dissonances 'don't sound bad if played as fast as intended'. It's a matter of opinion how fast that means. In the 60s JW (like others, listen to Bream for example) played it very fast to impress.
Bill D posted on Friday, 27 January, 2006 - 11:49 am
...'historically informed'... Some performances vary a huge amount, not just in style or tempo but even the notes! When I heard Barrington Pheloung's version of the Vivaldi concerto for two mandolins, I thought he was sticking in extra notes (compared with, say, JW's version). Turned out that he had gone to the original Vivaldi manuscript and re-transcribed it.
Then I got a Sharon Isbin CD and there were different notes still!
The 'intense publicity' and resultant fame were merited. JW and Julian Bream made classical guitar widely accepted and popular in Britain. As a primary school kid in the early 60s, with little time for much beyond pop, I knew who they were and enjoyed their playing (on TV).
As I have mentioned to Richard (Sliwa) before, Segovia's name entered the Glasgow idiom. If folk singers (or any amateurs) started even to strum a guitar, they would get: "Look at that ****! Thinks he's f***in' Segovia!"
Tim posted on Friday, 27 January, 2006 - 01:08 pm
The 'historically informed' issue isn't just about what notes are on the original manuscript. Like with Barrios what should be regarded as the compsoer's definitive version.
Vivaldi, like Mudarra, didn''t feel the need to write down every ornament note for note. A teacher, or hearing other players, or learning by osmosis**, would mean the player learnt tempo, articulation and when embellishement was allowed.
** Like the old folkie joke "I heard this song played by so-and so: he learnt it from Osmosis, then Osmosis taught it me". Bill, I know you're a scientist , so don't take this too literally. I know osmosis doesn't work like that as it's just another word for diffusion.
Tim posted on Friday, 27 January, 2006 - 01:09 pm
PS I know it's not really.
Bill D posted on Friday, 27 January, 2006 - 07:17 pm
"...'historically informed'...isn't just about...notes..."
I know. I meant it to be a side issue although both relate to scholarly efforts to investigate what the music should or can be. Some scholarly efforts are so serious and earnest that they seem to lose sight of the fact that the music is meant to be enjoyed. But then all art suffers from that, like the film critic who is too busy yacking on about cinematography or plot development to sit back and have some fun.
Of the various forms of so-called fine art or (even more pretentiously and snobbishly) 'high art', music probably suffers less from this since it is more accessible to more people. That's why I dislike the term 'serious music' which some peole use for classical. 'Classical', 'jazz' and 'folk' have their lmitations as label but generally people know what you are talking about. (I think it was Louis Armstrong who said "I guess all music is folk music because I ain't heard no horses play it.")
And (although not really sorry to be pedantic :-)!), scientifically, osmosis is a *special* kind of diffusion (of water). However, the figurative meaning of absorption or assimilation is also legitimate.
Tim posted on Friday, 27 January, 2006 - 07:50 pm
So special that the water moves and not the solutes. I can remember some satanic rituals involving salt, gelatin and an onion skin trying to demonstrate the difference. Folk-singers use a special kind of osmosis in which beer (or whisky) moves rather than water until a state of disequilibrium is reached.
I must remember that quote by Louis Armstrong, though he obviously never watched "That's Life"...
Bill D posted on Saturday, 28 January, 2006 - 01:22 am
Pardon the pedantry but I spent a fair part of the last week marking an exam paper where most of the students got an answer about osmosis completely the wrong way around.
As for folk singers' drinking, the late, great Cliff Hanley said: "Some people say that I have a drink problem. Not true. I drink, I get drunk, I fall down. No problem."
(Cliff Hanley was a famous Scottish writer. He wrote "Scotland the Brave", which was considered the Scottish national anthem before "Flower of Scotland". Before them it was "Scots Wha Hae", which would be my choice.)
And back to music critics...
Critics are like eunuchs in a harem: they know how it's done, they've seen it done every day, but they're unable to do it themselves.
Tim posted on Saturday, 28 January, 2006 - 09:16 am
I guess your students got confused about osmosis after hearing you extol the virtues of Kate Bush's 'Running up that Hill'.
Disraeli described critics as people who'd failed in literature and art. (BTW I didn't know until recently the origin of Cream's Disraeli Gears - coming up in a Beeb classic albums programme if you need to find out.)
As to the 'work' of critics, the BBC Music Mag reviewer questioned Ms Moretti's tuning in the live CD which included her Mudarra.
Tim posted on Sunday, 29 January, 2006 - 04:42 pm
I hope no-one reads my last post and thinks I'm criticising someone I've not listened to. Ms Moretti's clearly a very fine guitarist - if you want to check this out go to www.cdpresto.com where you can listen to a complete track of her playing Asturias from the same CD as the Mudarra. An excellent performance, with much well deserved applause at the end.
There's a few string squeaks and background noises you wouldn't get on a studio recording. I could live with the squeaks but the background noises in some quiet bits might irritate me more on repeated listenings. To be honest the only thing which holds me back from buying her CD is that I've got several recordings of all the pieces by other guitarists (not just JW).
Filomena Moretti is Sardinian, so probably no relation to the harpist Isabelle Moretti who's French (I think) - she's recorded Rodrigo's harp arrangement of Concierto de Aranjuez.