Schubert's Guitars



The two sonatas on this CD were composed in two periods during which life looked very different for the composer Franz Schubert (1797-1828). The first, the Piano Sonata in A major, D 664 was written while on a long trip during the summer of 1819, when he ex- changed the busy and polluted streets of Vienna for the beauties of nature in northern Austria. The second, the Piano Sonata in Bb ma- jor, D 960, his last piano sonata, was composed almost ten years later in 1828. By this time, he was at last enjoying increasing fame as a composer, but his health had deteriorated so much that he did not survive to enjoy this success for long.

Schubert himself owned guitars made by the two best Viennese luthiers: Johann Georg Stauffer and Bernard Enzensperger. His Stauffer was an early example which, in terms of construction, da- ted back to just before the innovations that made this maker famous. Schubert’s Enzensperger guitar already had some of those inno- vations, and it is an extra special feature of this recording that both Fernando and Izhar play on original Enzensperger guitars. These guitars were built between 1830 and 1834, so not many years after Schubert’s death. The guitar was a very popular instrument during the three decades that Schubert lived. It was played by people from all walks of life, and was certainly used regularly in the musical salons in which Schubert himself took part.

There are first editions of his songs written for voice and guitar, some occasional works by him that use the guitar, pictures of Schubert featuring a guitar or a guitar player, and indeed written sources by members of his circle of friends, showing that there was a lot of guitar playing going on in his environment.

Fernando Riscado Cordas has arranged these masterpieces for guitar duo. An important factor in the choice of these works is that they share certain properties that are very suitable to the character of the guitar. As in all of his instrumental music, the vocal character of Schubert’s piano sonatas can be heard very clearly in their melodies. The phrases have very natural fluidity and contours, and an entirely unforced narrative character that suggests a sung text. The early 19th century guitar, strung with gut strings, is an instrument that shines in being able to combine melody with harmony, enhancing this further with a rich palette of timbres. Because guitarists play each note with two fingertips and are always in direct contact with the string and the sound, they can create nuances in sound that are very detailed and that can change in an instant. The difference in character in the two melodic themes of Schubert’s sonatas can thus be presented with better clarity and with more effective colouration than, for example, on a piano.

Fernando Riscado Cordas and Izhar Elias are internationally recognised specialists in the field of historical guitars, and as a duo they focus mainly on early 19th century guitar music played on instruments from that time. Their lively playing is based on an extensive and in-depth knowledge of historical performance prac- tice. They share their great knowledge and musicality at venues and festivals worldwide, and they have won several important prizes. Fernando is affiliated with the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague and Izhar teaches at the Conservatory of Amsterdam.