22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Some of Giuliani's most ambitious pieces made easy,
This review is from: Music of Giuliani (Audio CD)
Don't let my title confuse you. Giuliani didn't write terribly ambitious pieces--if you're looking from the perspective of major composers. From the perspective of an instrument that in his time was not normally a concert instrument, these 5 works are about as daring as music had ever been for the 6-string instrument. Many music lovers have assumed that Giuliani's music is supposed to be simple and/or boring, and so assume that the few represented larger pieces--"Grand Overture" and the concertos--are the only music Giuliani wrote other than tiny exercises.
If you've ever been to a guitarist's concert who played Giuliani, you probably have heard the overture, the first piece of this disc. That's not a complaint, either; it is one of the first truly virtuoso pieces for guitar from the classical era. Russell gives us a perfect interpretation here, as usual.
The highlight here is the two Rossinianas on the disc. Their lyricism is unique among Giuliani's works, being more complicated and more impassioned than most. Some guitar lovers are enthusiastic about any Giuliani music simply because it is some of the very little music that resembles the classical viennese style; These Rossinianas do not require any die-hard fans to defend them, their charm should appeal to any Mozart lover who can so much as tolerate guitar. The op. 150 is also very good, and the somewhat well-known op. 15 is given a particularly lovely slow movement here.
(Giuliani, like many in his time, wrote many sets of variations, none of which appear here--an important choice by Russell because it shows Giuliani's control of other forms. To sample some of these, try the variations disc on Naxos.)
What Russell really achieves here is not so much exploring unknown ground (much of Giuliani remains unrecorded, including works for guitar and other instruments, and songs), but providing the most convincing account of Giuliani's importance to date. It is well known that Giuliani had a relationship with both Beethoven and Rossini, and that he interacted with a number of other important musicians. It seems obvious that Giuliani's accomplishments are minor in comparison to Beethoven's, which I do not dispute. However, Russell's disc shows that this music is more than parlor exercises; it's real concert, virtuoso music that deserves our attention.
I do not lament that Giuliani was not prolific in writing for other instruments; we have plenty of other composers from his era. It must have taken everything in him to figure out how to make the classical style work on guitar (If anything I hope for more recordings of his works for guitar and other instruments). At least it is the closest answer we'll get to the question "What would it have sounded like if the great masters Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven wrote for the guitar?"