Roberto Capocchi Plays Spanish Guitar Music

"Roberto Capocchi Plays Spanish Guitar Music," is a solo 2010 CD with music by Isaac Albeniz, Regino Sainz de la Maza, Joaquin Turina, and Francisco Tarrega.

Recorded and mastered by Scott Cadenasso.  The guitar used is a 1996 Gioachino Giussani.


Notes by Aaron Grad


Stringed instruments to be plucked or strummed developed in the world’s earliest civilizations, and variants of those primitive lutes and lyres spread throughout Europe, Asia and Africa. The Greeks called one such instrument the kithara, a name that came to describe certain offshoots of the lute family from the time of the Renaissance. But it was not until the mid-19th century that this instrument reached its maturity, when the guitar maker Antonio Torres perfected what we now call the classical guitar. This ancient instrument of the people finally had the power and range to fill a concert hall, and a rich solo repertoire and recital tradition soon followed.


It is no coincidence that the defining instrument builder and the leading composers and performers in this new Romantic guitar style were all from Spain. Conquered by the Romans, invaded by Germanic Visigoths, occupied for more than 700 years by Muslim forces from Northern Africa, and finally retaken by Christian Europeans after centuries of war, Spain bears the traces of each of its ruling powers. Smaller groups made significant impacts, too, especially the Sephardic Jews whose presence dates back thousands of years, and the Romani people of Central and Eastern Europe (commonly known as “Gypsies”). The mixing of these cultures produced dynamic new folk traditions, especially in the southern region of Andalucía, where the Moorish influence was strongest, and where the Arab oud (a fretless lute) launched the evolution of the guitar. That region’s style of dance and music, flamenco, provided the exotic melodies, vital rhythms and strummed textures that formed the core of the Spanish guitar repertoire.


One of the composers most closely identified with the birth of the classical guitar never actually wrote for the instrument. Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909) composed mostly for the piano, but his style drew heavily upon Andalusian folk traditions, including the guitar-rich flamenco sound. One of his most recognizable compositions, Leyenda, first appeared as the Preludio in an 1892 piano suite, Chants d' Espagne, written while Albéniz was living in London. After the composer’s death, his publishers re-titled the movement Asturias, with the subtitle Leyenda (“Legend”), and added it to an earlier collection, Suite española. (Unfortunately, Asturias is a glaring misnomer: This music has no relation to that mountainous region in the very north of the country, and instead exudes the hot-blooded energy of Andalucía.) The Spanish guitar virtuoso Andrés Segovia was not the first to transcribe Leyenda for guitar, but his performances of the work beginning in the 1920’s made it a classic. The piece begins with the haunting texture of a modal melody snaking around a repeated note, a sound that expands and intensifies with daredevil flair before ushering in Gypsy-tinged ruminations and vigorous dance patterns.


Joaquín Turina (1882-1949) belonged to the generation of Nationalist composers that followed Albéniz. He also studied and lived abroad, and strove to blend continental sophistication with the local sounds of Iberia. His 1932 work Homenaje a Tárrega — or Hommage à Tarrega, in its common French translation — is the last entry in Turina’s small but important catalog of music for solo guitar. The piece pays tribute to another founding father of the Spanish guitar tradition, Francisco Tárrega. The two movements take up traditional flamenco sounds, including the tapping of the guitar’s body in Garrotín and the shifting rhythmic emphasis in Soleares.

The city of Cádiz, one of the southernmost ports in Spain, sits on a narrow strip of land jutting into the Atlantic Ocean. The storied town inspired Isaac Albéniz to include this movement for solo piano in his Suite española, and like Leyenda it has joined the essential guitar repertoire via transcriptions by others. This musical postcard seems to sway with the lilting waves, and only hints at a more distressed state in the central section.


Regino Sainz de la Maza (1896-1981) was one of the finest guitarists of the 20th century. He taught at the Madrid Conservatory, and premiered the blockbuster Concierto de Aranjuez by his compatriot Joaquín Rodrigo. Sainz de la Maza also enriched the guitar repertoire with his own compositions, including these two miniatures. Petenera plays with a typical flamenco cross-rhythm, alternating groupings of three beats and two beats. Zapateado is another flamenco adaptation, in this case referring to a fleet-footed dance style (“zapato” is Spanish for shoe).


Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909), a contemporary of Albéniz, was a prolific composer and a legendary guitarist. He is credited with composing and transcribing more than 200 pieces for the guitar, and his concert performances around Europe helped establish the solo guitar recital as high art. One of his quintessential showpieces was Capricho árabe; the title “caprice” matches the music’s improvisational flourishes and flights of fancy, while the “árabe” descriptor stretches beyond hybridized flamenco to the distant strains of Muslim Africa.


Tárrega composed dozens of short solo works, many simply titled Prelude and some affixed with more colorful names. Lágrima is one such prelude; the title word “teardrop” captures the bittersweet tone of the piece. Adelita is in the form of a Mazurka, a Polish style that likely had more to do with Frédéric Chopin (from whom Tárrega made some of his most exquisite guitar transcriptions) than the original folk context. The Prelude that follows is one of many untitled examples, but its music is no less evocative.


Recuerdos de la Alhambra (“Memories of the Alhambra”) is one of Tárrega’s signature compositions, merging technical command of the guitar with heartbreaking emotion. The title refers to a 14th-century Moorish citadel, and the music hovers in a state of misty nostalgia that evokes the grandeur of the fort and its bygone rulers. The technical trick that creates the sustained melody is tremolo, in which the fingers of the right hand continually re-articulate the highest note.


One of the great mysteries of the classical guitar repertoire is the anonymous Romanza. That simple and timeless melody could have been written by any number of musicians; some of the more novel theories claim that it came from Fernando Sor, an early 19th-century bellwether of Spain’s guitar explosion, or that it is really a Ukrainian folk song. Wherever it originated, the Romanza circulated widely in the 20th century, especially thanks to its performance by the Spanish guitarist Narciso Yepes in the 1952 French film Forbidden Games.

Returning to Isaac Albéniz, we visit one more city originally featured in the Suite española, Sevilla. This capital of Andalucía, long a center of trade, politics and religion, comes to life in active and bustling music. The subtitle, Sevillanas, names a flamenco style, but it also refers to the female residents of Sevilla. Albéniz (or his publishers) surely intended the musical meaning, but there is something charming in the thought that this piece serenades the ladies of a region responsible for inspiring so many immortal compositions. For little else in classical music has the raw, seductive allure of the guitar, a renegade instrument that maintained its earthy roots even as it entered the concert hall.



Copyright © 2010 Aaron Grad.

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Duo Guadalupe; Music for Violin and Guitar

Ellen Chavez de Leitner, violin Roberto Capocchi, guitar - Duo Guadalupe, performing Baroque sonatas, a charming Serenade, Paganini's "Cantabile" and the "Sonata Basque" by Jose de Azpiazu.  

"Chavez de Leitner and Capocchi have made a local name for themselves with Baroque and 19th-century music written for their instrumental combination. This, their first CD, explores pieces by Locatelli, Carulli, Paganini, and Handel in ingratiating performances. Consider it for the music lover you're having trouble finding a gift for, or even as a treat for yourself."

Craig Smith - Santa Fe New Mexican


"It´s really genious! It`s such wonderful music, played so softly and smoothly-right perfect! It gets into your mind and opens up heart and soul."

CD Baby costumer review - Leo and Maria Buchinger

Click here to buy or listen to "Duo Guadalupe" at CD Baby

Tangos de Santa Fe - Matapolvos

Music by Ron Strauss

Serenata de Santa Fe

Tangos de Santa Fe - Carol Redman, flute, Pamela Epple, English horn, Roberto Capocchi, guitar

Matapolvos - Gail Springer, soprano, Pamela Epple, English horn, Elena Supoci, viola, Dana Winograd, cello

Here's what Ron has to say about the music:

"The tango melodies came to life in New York City in the late 1970s. I woke up in the middle of the night with a fragment of music in mind. It started growing into a full phrase so I got up, turned on the light, and wrote it down. This was the first theme (played by the flute) in the first tango, Soñador/the Dreamer. All the other tangos grew out of this one fragment. A little later came the pulsing rhythmic phrase that links the tangos of the suite.

I was listening to a lot of old Carlos Gardel recordings at the time, and in homage to him I kept the harmonic vocabulary and structure of my tangos as simple as the popular songs of that era. The challenge was to achieve some musical richness and complexity while keeping the overall feeling simple and light.

I imagined these tangos as music in a dance-theatre piece, and I eventually sketched out a plot — about two Argentinian tango dancers stranded in 1920s New York. While the tango was blossoming richly in their own country, America was entering the "Jazz Age", the time of the flapper, hungry for noise and raucous rhythms. What fascinated me was that tango dancers always maintain touch with each other, moving intricately in harmony, while in those new American dances — the Black Bottom, the shimmy, the Charleston — it was rare for partners to touch; rather than a passionate commingling there was an exhibitionistic frenzy, a contempt for collaboration and cooperation, a refusal of intimacy. This was the period of Prohibition, bootlegging, gangsters, and the wild speculation leading up to the stock market crash of 1929. The theatre piece would be about innocence rubbing elbows with corruption — and the different forms of passion.

The tangos were initially sketched as a vocal/instrumental line with chords, occasionally filled in with piano accompaniment. I also wrote music for "American" songs and dances of the period, but the theatre piece around them never crystallized. I closed the cover on the project when I left New York in 1980. ... When I came to Santa Fe in 1986 I was asked to compose something for the San Miguel Trio — guitar,flute, and oboe or English horn — and the tangos came to mind; I felt that the textures of a guitar trio would lend themselves well to a suite that was warm, lyrical, unhurried, intimate. (A remnant of the "American" music is heard in the alto flute solo in the final tango of the suite, a la Puesta del Sol/at Sunset.)"

Copyright Ron Strauss

REVIEW from The Santa Fe New Mexican Pasatiempo Magazine, Friday, May 22, 2009:

This disc offers two artistically coherent, multimovement works by Santa Fe composer Ron Strauss. Both are intimate in instrumentation though big in conception: Tangos de Santa Fe for flute, English horn, and guitar lasts almost 30 minutes, while Matapolvos for soprano, English horn, viola, and cello clocks in at almost 25. Yet the musical material never seems stretched thin, in part because each work is a well-spun mix of mystic and meditative (with some accented edges) and in part because Strauss' musical language is colorful, inventive, and accessible without being coy or simplistic.

Tangos dates from New York in the 1970s, and Matapolvos was penned here in 2004, but they clearly come from the same creative mind. This recording was made in 2008 in the Santuario de Guadalupe by members of Serenata of Santa Fe, for whom Strauss wrote Matapolvos. Serenata founder and English hornist Pamela Epple delivers lovely, dark, lyric tone in both works. Flutist Carol Redman and guitarist Roberto Capocchi are fluent, vibrant, and sensitive collaborators on Tangos, while soprano Gail Springer, violist Elena Sopoci, and cellist Dana Winograd are poised and insightful in Matapolvos. Springer delivers Eduardo Galeano's Spanish texts clearly. David Dunn's recording and engineering are alive and present without being overbearing, and there's a fine sense of the space. Good music, solid performances. - Craig Smith.


REVIEW from Weekly Alibi / alibi Albuquerque's alternative news weekly V.18 No. 28  

July 9 - 15, 2009 This Week's Music Ron Strauss Tangos de Santa Fe / Matapolvos (RSM)

Two extended chamber works by Santa Fe composer Ron Strauss, ably performed here by Serenata of Santa Fe, reveal a subtle but muscular musical mind with a keen ear for sonic possibilities. Accessible, melodic and expressive, the five tangos for flute, English horn and guitar capture delicate, haunting musical portraits. Particularly rewarding is the architecturally beguiling "Tango a la Puesta del Sol." In "Matapolvos"-for voice, English horn, viola and cello, with text from Eduardo Galeano's blazing historical trilogy Memory of Fire-Strauss captures the irony, humor and horror of Galeano's narratives, and the listener's complete attention. - Mel Minter.

Click here to buy or listen to "Tangos de Santa Fe" and "Matapolvos" at CD Baby