About Miguel Llobert
"He imprinted on the strings of his guitar a stamp of elegant purity which astounds.”
~ Isaac Albéniz
Composer/Guitarist Miguel Llobet was born in 1878 in Barcelona where he lived until his death at the age of 59. Throughout his life he was immersed in the unique, rich folk traditions of this northeast region of Spain, a region which shares history and language with parts of France, Andorra, and Sardinia. Ritual dances and poetic ballads on romantic legendary themes are a vital part of the Catalonian cultural heritage.
It is to the folk songs of Catalonia that Llobet applied his remarkable skills as an arranger. His deep understanding of the guitar enabled him to take the exquisite, expressive melody lines of these folk songs and infuse them with harmonies and rhythms that that are simple yet refined. Llobet’s transcriptions of the folk songs assumed a larger significance in the history of the guitar when, around 1915, he introduced them to Andrés Segovia. Segovia added arrangements of the folk songs El Mestre, L’Hereu Riera, El Testament d’Amelia, and El Noi de la Mare to his performance program and they were an important part of his concerts during the 1920s and 1930s.
Llobet’s arrangement of El Mestre is noteworthy for its harmonic development, while El Testament d’Amelia and Plany show his innovative use of the guitar’s tonal palette. La Cançó del lladre, unadorned but cultured in its arrangement, was Llobet’s last harmonization for guitar. El Noi de la Mare (The Mother’s Son or The Son of Mary) is a traditional Christmas folk song. His arrangement of it has been a popular encore piece.
Llobet’s arrangements did not end with the folk songs of Catalonia. He also became a prominent interpreter and arranger of the music of composer/pianist Isaac Albéniz. Although Albéniz’s music is most often associated with the southern region of Andalusia and the city of Granada, he was in fact born in the Catalonian city of Camprodon in 1860. To some extent, his music was the guitar expressed through the medium of the piano. Albéniz once said, “Llobet was the guitarist bordering on the marvelous because he imprinted on the strings of his guitar a stamp of elegant purity which astounds.”
The four duets on this recording illustrate Llobet’s use of the resources of the guitar in the form of harmonics, pizzicato, and fingering passages in the higher positions of the fretboard for tonal color. The Evocation from Albéniz’s monumental piano suite Iberia encompasses the dance forms of jota and fandango. Castilla from Suite española features a five-part seguidilla, a dance in triple meter. In each of these pieces, Llobet stays close to the original piano score, while introducing colors and harmonies that reflect the influence of the French Impressionists. The one piece where Llobet takes more liberty with the original is in Rumores de la Caleta (Malaguena), where he translates gestures idiomatic to the piano into those more natural to the guitar.
Llobet also arranged a work by composer/guitarist Fernando Sor, entitled Variaciones sobre un tema de Sor, op. 15. This may at first appear to be a departure from the Catalonian theme of this recording, as Sor’s musical style was rooted firmly in the conventions of the Classical period. However, Sor was born in Barcelona in 1778 and lived his first thirty-five years in Spain, absorbing the musical influences of Catalonia. Llobet’s arrangement is based on Sor’s Folies d’Espagne, op. 15. It begins with Sor’s theme and first two variations, and includes four more variations, an intermezzo, and another four variations. The beauty of Llobet’s arrangement is the different character and technique that he brings to each variation, ranging from a variation for left- hand only to a variation comprised of harmonics.
Notes by: Jim Tosone (Contributing Editor & Staff Reviewer guitar review magazine)