Geppetto’s Brand of Guitar Journalism

Published by Robert Coldwell on

By Matanya Ophee

The storm surrounding the Associated Board examination lists in England seems to have subsided.[1]See our [Killing the Message II]. The principals involved went on to other pursuits, and an affair that quickly rose to prominent coverage on the pages of Classical Guitar magazine, went out with a flaccid after-thought, expressed by the magazine’s editor, Mr. Colin Cooper, in his rambling monthly column titled Gruppetto.[2]Classical Guitar, October 1997, page 52.

GREMLINS get in everywhere. ‘Michael Macmeeken attached Tecla 101’, we made Brian Jeffery say in our June issue (p.54). Obviously the word in Dr Jeffery’s original letter was ‘attacked’. Jeffery’s defence—not surprisingly, he stood up ‘robustly and one hundred per cent’ for Tecla 101 —has been attacked, even more robustly, by Matanya Ophee in a ten-page document which, not for the first time, is simply too long to publish in CG, though I have been told it is available on the Internet. Ophee takes issue with some of the claims made by the publishers, specifically that Tecla’s issue of the Sor Studies was ‘the first new critical edition of all this music for over half a century’. The late Ruggero Chiesa’s critical edition of the Studies in 1984, for instance, has to be taken into consideration, says Ophee: it included op.44, which the Tecla edition did not—though it was included in a later reissue of Tecla 101. There are other editions of Sor’s Studies, as Ophee points out: Coste, Segovia, Gendai, Jape, and, most recently, Chanterelle.

Interest in Sor is still growing, and any light that can be thrown on his compositional processes is welcome. Matanya Ophee’s criticism should be read with that in mind. No doubt it will be published in one of the quarterly journals that can devote rather more space to the issues of scholarship than the monthly CG, with its rather more general readership.

The last salvo in this sorry affair, was a long letter by Brian Jeffery, published after the magazine already indicated that the affair was closed and no more will be heard of it. It seemed to me, then, that it is appropriate that my own contribution, [already published here on line], should also be made available in print. After all, the great majority of guitarists world-wide do not have access to the Internet. Obviously, even Colin Cooper hears about it from other people, not owning a modem himself.

So I submitted my article for the consideration of the magazine’s editors. During the week we spent together doing jury duty at the Esztergom Festival this last August, Colin and I discussed this issue on more than one occasion. Yes, he told me then that it was “simply too long to publish in CG,” an argument repeated once again in his Gruppetto piece. I pointed out to him that this is an evasive pretext that perhaps does not reflect the true editorial motivation. When Classical Guitar was embroiled in a bitter fight for survival against Guitar International magazine, they published a very long article by me,[3]“Some Considerations of 19th Century Guitar Music and Its Performance Today”,  Classical Guitar IV/12, V/1, V/2, V/4 August, September, October, December 1986.  properly divided into four installments. The article began by taking issue with statements made by John W. Duarte in an article in the rival Guitar International magazine. I must point out that in consideration to my friend Jack Duarte, neither his name nor a direct reference to his article and the venue where it appeared were mentioned in my piece. I had no desire to become embroiled in the squabbles between the late George Clinton and Maurice J. Summerfield. I had my own share of unpleasant dealings with the owner of Guitar International. The issues at hand, however, needed to be discussed and little gain was to be had by ascribing the notions to which I took exception as originating with Jack. One of the main arguments I made there was that the past is extremely important to us and that “an instrumental discipline that does not care for its past, does not deserve to have a future.”

Be that as it may, the article was printed in full. British readers did not need a waving red flag buried in a footnote to know what this was really all about. The argument of inappropriate length again falls flat on its face when you consider the lengthy articles, in many installments, published in CG by other writers over the years.

It seemed to me that Colin finally agreed with me that length by itself is not an issue, when the real question is whether the readers of Classical Guitar magazine are entitled to know the truth, even if they do not have access to the Internet. The last I heard from him, as we were leaving dusty, mosquito-ridden Esztergom, was that the piece will be published in one of the next issues and if necessary, in installments. Apparently, Colin changed his mind or ostensibly, his mind was changed for him by the powers to be at the magazine’s editorial office. I regret that this final resolution of the matter came to my attention in such an indirect pusillanimous manner.

What is absolutely amazing, is the final sentence of the entry in which the Features Editor of the magazine tells us that Classical Guitarmagazine is no longer interested in issues of scholarship “with its rather more general readership.” A curious statement coming from a magazine that from its very beginning, to this day, carries on its masthead the name of Harvey Hope with the title of History Editor! I am not sure if the “more general readership” taxonomy was intended as an insult to those readers of the magazine whose interest in the guitar and its history is more than a shallow concern in the best strings to use, the fatuous proclamations of interviewed prima donnas and who played what in the last meeting of the Ashby la Zouche guitar society. Classical Guitar seems to pass the buck to other magazines, insinuating that Scholarship is an unsavory word which implies ivory towers and convoluted PH.D. dissertations. I reject that view categorically. Scholarship is simply the method by which we find out what happened in the past. It is the concern of every single guitarist on whatever level of performance excellence.

In this case, Brian Jeffery declared in the pages of Classical Guitar magazine that he is ‘robustly and one hundred per cent’ behind the veracity and correctness of everything in his edition of the Sor Etudes. He did not, robustly or otherwise, provide one single argument in support of the assertion. My contribution was not an ‘even more robust’ attack on Jeffery, but simply a detailed description of the facts surrounding this issue and a devastating rebuttal of Jeffery’s self-serving declarations, including detailed listings of the errors included in the Jeffery book, a fact conveniently ignored by Cooper when he characterized my piece. When faced with unadulterated rubbish printed in an internationally distributed magazine, with, obviously, the full acquiescence of its editors, a conscientious writer has a duty to tell the readers where the truth abides. Not printing such a rebuttal on the flimsy excuse that it is too long and too scholarly for the lowest common denominator of the magazine’s readers, is a shameless attempt to cover-up a malodorous prevarication already printed there and distributed to all. Why?

You can call this paranoia, but in my long association with Classical Guitar magazine, this is not the first time a contribution of mine has been rejected. The magazine did print over the years many of my large scale articles, letters to the editor etc. Reviewing the record of what they published and what they rejected, I cannot help but see a clear pattern: whenever I spoke a bit too loudly about any of the magazine’s own contributors, or any other British guitar personality, my contribution was rejected outright. When it was longuish, that was the nominal reason. But more often than not, my pieces were not all that long, and still they were rejected on a variety of excuses. One [example] is still on line. Here is another:

Soon after I published the Orphée Data base of Guitar Records by Jacques Chaîné in 1990, the book was favorably reviewed in Classical Guitar magazine by Colin Cooper. Apparently, one reader of the magazine, a fellow named Graham Wade, strongly disagreed with the opinions expressed in the review and wrote a scathing letter to the editor denouncing both the review and the book under discussion. He thought that the fact the book does not including any dating information, is a gross distortion of history. I responded and the response was printed. This generated a rather lengthy exchange of venom between Wade and myself. Eventually, in one of my missives in this exchange, I let it be known that I do not trust Mr. Wade very much and that I would think twice before buying a used car from him. I thought it was a humorous response to pompous pretensions, using a cliche so common in American parlance as to seem entirely innocuous. Wade, so it seems, did not think so. The next communication from him to the magazine must have been an official letter, possibly from his attorney, demanding a public apology for this slight, or else . . . The following was published in the December, 1991 issue of Classical Guitar:

APOLOGY TO GRAHAM WADE


In our November issue we published a letter from Mr Matanya Ophee in which he wrote that he would ‘think twice about buying a motor car’ from Dr Graham Wade. It has been pointed out to us that the words used by Mr Ophee can be construed as an attack on the personal honesty of Dr Wade. Such was neither the intention of ourselves nor, we are sure, of Mr Ophee, and we deeply regret any distress that Dr Wade may have suffered as a result of the publication of the phrase.

LB

In the very same issue, in the same page, the magazine also published an LTTE from Mr. Wade which included some more attacks on me, regarding another exchange we had about Andrés Segovia. My reaction to this was immediate and transmitted to the magazine’s chief editor by fax:

FAX TRANSMISSION (4 Pages) December 5, 1991

Maurice J. Summerfield 
Classical Guitar Magazine

Dear Maurice,

I do not know who is this LB person who signed the apology to Wade. I presume it is your correspondence editor Liz Beeson. Anyway, better tell this person that I do not take kindly for anyone putting words in my mouth to pacify the litigious drives of Graham Wade. I don’t see why it is that you would allow this man to vilify me on the slightest pretexts, using the most disgusting language possible. When I so much as try to defend myself and put him in his place, he runs to his lawyer with the result that you immediately shrink away from your commitment to impartiality and allow him to sling mud at me while tying my hands behind my back. We have been through this route before, with much distress to all of us. I thought you learnt better as the years go by. I certainly expect you to print this letter in its entirety in the very next issue —January. I deserve, at the very least, the same considerations you give to Wade. Happy chanuka, anyway . . . Matanya

To the Editor:

In the strongest possible terms, I wish to disassociate myself from the apology to Dr Graham Wade which you published on page 55 of your December 1991 issue signed by LB. No one at your offices asked me for my stand on this issue before publishing this apology, and I would not have agreed to join in it, since it was my intention to question Dr Wade’s integrity. The apology quotes the statement made in my letter, the one which may have caused Dr Wade to suffer the “distress” for which you apologized, partially and thus, out of context. It also misrepresents the condition of the motor car I had in mind. It wasn’t just any motor car as the apology says, but specifically a usedmotor car. What I said was: ”...Based on this exchange, and other writings by him, we cannot share Mr Wade’s assessment of his own worth. For the time being, I would think twice before buying a used motor car from him.” The operative statements which governed my intentions in this episode and which you excised out of your apology are the following: “ . . . and other writings . . .” and ” . . . for the time being . . .”

Dr Wade’s unwarranted attack on our edition of the Orphée Data-Base of Guitar Records, in which he used more than his fair share of innuendos about my person, bound with a naked assault on my professional competence and personal integrity, is a matter of public record. The “other writings” I refer to are instances in books by Graham Wade in which he used the work of others without permission or credit. Of particular interest to me is the one instance in which he used my work in what can be best described as a negligent, if not predatory, misuse of someone else’s intellectual property. Here are the details:

In his book titled “The Guitarist’s Guide to Bach,” (Wise Owl Music, Gortnacloona, Bantry, 1985, ISBN 0 947600 01 9) on page 17, Graham Wade says the following:

“ . . .On 26 March, 1926, Segovia played a recital in Moscow, performing several Bach pieces. An article appeared in Izvestia praising Segovia’s ability to play serious music, such as that of J.S. Bach, on an instrument like the guitar which is ‘is poor in resources and mainly destined for accompaniment’.”

In my 1982 Soundboard IX/1 review of Miron Abramovich Vaisbord’s Russian language biography of Segovia, (Izdatel’stvo “Muzyka”, Moscow 1981, edition Nº 11393) I said the following:

“ . . . On March 2, 1926, the day of his first concert in Moscow, an article titled “Some words about our guest—Andrés Segovia” was published in Izvestia in which the writer spoke in glowing terms of Segovia’s ability to play serious music, like that of Bach, on an instrument which “is poor in resources and mainly destined for accompaniment.”

I maintain that Graham Wade had used the text of my 1982 review in his 1985 book, without my permission and without any credit to the source. Had he given any credible source for the quotation, I would still have a problem with his use of my translation of the Izvestia quote. Russian can be rendered at least six different ways in English. Even if Graham Wade possessed the least bit of knowledge of the Russian language, which I believe he does not, or even if he used another translator, it is unlikely that the resulting language will have matched my own to the letter. The particular choice of words for this quotation is mine, not anybody else’s. Replacing “glowing terms” with “praising” and “like that of Bach” with “such as that of Bach,” still does not grant Wade a claim for authorship. Not only he used my language, he also used my research and that of Miron Vaisbord. In 1985, Graham Wade had no way of knowing about the Izvestiareference, except through my review of Vaisbord’s book. Too bad he also managed to discombobulate the dates of Segovia’s first Moscow concert in March 2nd of 1926, with his last Moscow concert on March 26th. The information that Segovia appeared in Moscow several times during March of 1926 was first reported by Vaisbord and repeated in my review of his book. Surely the fact must have some significance in relation to a true biography of Andrés Segovia. This is the sort of professional ineptitude as a historian of Segovia, which led me to state that I cannot share his assessment of his own worth.

As for the question of personal honesty: On November 30th, 1986, I sent Mr. Wade a registered letter, with copies to his publisher and, because we were at the time in the middle of another attempt by Wade to enrich his solicitors in which this magazine was involved, also to Maurice J. Summerfield and to Colin Cooper. The letter stated the same facts regarding Wade’s misuse of my review as described here, and further said:

” . . .I would like to grant you the benefit of a doubt, and to assume that your misappropriation of other people’s work was not motivated by a desire to plagiarize, but by your cavalier attitude to the bibliographical documentation of sources.

Hence, I suggest that you owe both Vaisbord and myself a public apology and explanation. I request that you cause such apology and explanation to appear, either as a letter to the editor or as a paid advertisement, in all guitar publications in which your book is advertised for sale . . .”

Now, five years later, I am still waiting to receive Mr Wade’s response to this letter. And this is the essence of qualifying my words with the “for the time being!” As long as Graham Wade continues to ignore the facts of this matter, and instead of saying oops I am sorry, he chooses to launch this ugly attack on one of my publications, I have no choice to but to wonder if I am dealing here with an honest colleague who disagrees with me on matters of principle or fact, or with a person whose understanding of professional courtesy would cast him as a pariah in general scholarly circles. Once I have seen some indication that Dr Wade understands the basic tenets of professional etiquette, I will reconsider and perhaps buy that used motor-car from him, if it is still for sale.

Further proof of Wade’s addled understanding of what common decorum between colleagues ought to be, is his unconscionable exploitation in a public debate of materials I communicated to him privately, and doing so without my permission and entirely out of context, manipulating my words to appear as something else than what they actually were. In his current letter, (CG, December, 1991, page 54) Wade says:

” . . . In 1985 Mr Ophee informed me that Andrés Segovia was a ‘Bolshevik sympathizer’. Now, Mr Ophee attempts to insinuate that Segovia’s sublime art is somehow tainted because of links with Franco. The truth is more complex . . .”

Yes, Indeed! The truth must be more complex and perhaps we will never know it. The fact remains that in my private letter to him, dated July 8th 1985, in response to a rather friendly communication from him regarding my article on the First Guitar Concerto which was published in this magazine, I said to him the following:

“ . . .I credit Segovia with the feat of singlehandedly resuscitating the guitar in the Soviet Union during his concert tours there. The fact that he was a Bolshevik sympathizer in those days, is of course entirely besides the point. It is indeed possible that Vaisbord, inadvertently perhaps, had manufactured this idea about Segovia’s politics . . .”

This is what Wade characterizes as “informing.” Needless to say, I too, did not have access to the Segovia-Ponce Letters in 1985. My ideas about Segovia’s politics were originally formed by information provided in 1981 by Vaisbord, and drastically changed after I read the Letters. I even said to Wade in my 1985 letter that I am looking forward to “lay my hands on the Segovia Letters to Ponce which Corazon Otero did NOT publish.” Quoting my private letter out of context, allows Wade to portray my public writings about Segovia as riddled with inconsistency. I am sorry, but I cannot accept such deportment as an honest debate by a sincere adversary. As for Wade’s disclaimer that in response to my article on Primary Sources he “threw a minor tantrum and pretty much waved about the specter of British libel laws,” the printed record speaks for itself and need no further elaboration. I do wonder, however, who was it that “pointed out” to you, this time around, that my words can be construed as an attack on the personal integrity of Graham Wade? was it he himself? his leading libel lawyer? do tell us please!

Matanya Ophee 
Columbus, OH, USA

I received a response from Mr. Summerfield, within a few hours, in which he told me that he cannot publish this letter as it stands and would I please tone it down a bit. So I did:

FAX TRANSMISSION (3 Pages) December 6, 1991

Maurice,

All right, it seems that there still is a basic discrepancy between your claim that CG is the most important magazine for classical guitarists, and the particular situation of British law which effectively prevents you from accommodating non-British writers on the same level of journalistic impartiality as that accorded British ones. So be it.

We are having actually two separate debates. One was started by Wade’s unwarranted attack on Colin’s review of the Orphée Data-Base, and I agree with you that it has gone far enough. It is very instructive to see this “decent and trustworthy person” as you characterize him, launching this mud-slinging campaign against a publication with which he disagrees, and then running to his libel lawyer when the temperature gets hotter. I expect your apology, and then my statement of disassociation with it, should close the matter and we shall hear no more of it.

The other debate we are having will have to continue as long as you continue to allow Wade the space to print his antiquated, uncorrected and unjustified sycophancy of Segovia. You are probably right that no British judge would give me the time in my passionate pursuit of guitar history. I would expect all the time in the world in this regard from Classical Guitar magazine. Otherwise, it would seem that you are more interested in the purveyance of prettified, commercially palatable eulogies, than in the truth.

Since you cannot publish my letter in its entirety as sent to you yesterday, then I suggest you print the response to Wade’s current letter as it appears below, and I insist that you publish the following statement in the January issue:

In the strongest possible terms, I wish to disassociate myself from the apology to Dr Graham Wade which you published on page 55 of your December 1991 issue signed by LB. No one at your offices asked me for my stand on this issue before publishing this apology, and for my own specific reasons, which Classical Guitar magazine chooses not to make available to its readers, I would not have agreed to join in it.

Matanya Ophee 
Columbus, OH

To the Editor:

In his response to my remarks regarding his articles about Segovia (CG:12/91) Graham Wade fails to address some specific points of contention I raised, i.e., the question of the first LP of guitar music, and the question of Ponce’s Concierto del Sur being a “response” to Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Concerto. He chooses instead to concentrate on Segovia’s politics. I do hope that in the future, Dr Wade the historian will find it in himself to deal with these two historically important questions in a convincing way.

I am not sure I understand Wade’s perception of my statement that Segovia was `a major force in the history of the guitar in this century’ as “patronizing.” Does this mean that his statement that `Segovia was the predominant force of the guitar in this century’ is also patronizing? Perhaps a further clarification from Wade would be called for, but I am not holding my breath.

I am appalled though, by Wade’s addled understanding of what common decorum between colleagues ought to be. In his current letter, (CG, December, 1991, page 54) Wade says:

“ . . . In 1985 Mr Ophee informed me that Andrés Segovia was a ‘Bolshevik sympathizer’. Now, Mr Ophee attempts to insinuate that Segovia’s sublime art is somehow tainted because of links with Franco. The truth is more complex . . .”

This is an unconscionable exploitation in a public debate of materials I communicated to him privately, used without my permission and entirely out of context, while manipulating my words to appear as something else than what they actually were.

In a private letter to him, dated July 8th 1985, in response to a rather friendly communication from him regarding my article on the First Guitar Concerto which was published in this magazine, I said to him the following:

“ . . .I credit Segovia with the feat of singlehandedly resuscitating the guitar in the Soviet Union during his concert tours there. The fact that he was a Bolshevik sympathizer in those days, is of course entirely besides the point. It is indeed possible that Vaisbord, inadvertently perhaps, had manufactured this idea about Segovia’s politics . . ..”

It is an intolerable perversion to characterize this text as my “informing” Wade about Segovia’s Bolshevik sympathies. This was my interpretation of specific statements made by Vaisbord. For the elucidation of the readers, Miron Abramovich Vaisbord is a Soviet historian and musicologist who published in 1981 a Russian language biography of Segovia. I reviewed his book in the 1982 (IX/1) issue of Soundboard magazine in which I gave a full paraphrase of Vaisbord’s chapter about Segovia’s concert tours in Russia, with several facsimiles of pictures and concert programs of Segovia in Russia. This review was the first Western source of some very solid biographical information about Segovia not available previously. Quoting my private letter out of context, allows Wade to portray my public writings about Segovia as riddled with inconsistency. I am sorry, but I cannot accept such deportment as an honest debate by a sincere adversary.

As for Segovia’s politics, Wade is entirely correct: the truth must be more complex and perhaps we will never know it. Yet, any serious biography of Segovia, and as I stated already, it is sorely missing in our literature, will have to deal with this question. Why was it that prior to the break-out of the Spanish Civil War Segovia had spent so much time in the Soviet Union, yet, never returned to that country, even after the end of the Second World War?

Does an artist’s political convictions “taint” his art? I suppose that depends to a some extent on one’s personal convictions. Personally, I find it difficult to accept Segovia as a “sublime artist,” once I have read what he really thought of the Jewish people, precisely at the time when Hitler was planning their extermination, a holocaust in which several members of my family were slaughtered. This is a personal bias which I don’t expect others to share, yet one which, I must admit, controls my emotional reaction to fawning misrepresentations of Segovia’s contributions to our art.

Quite obviously, the American people in 1937 thought that Segovia’s political convictions at that time, his 1937 new York Concert took place a few days after the battle of Jarama in which 26,000 (twenty six thousand) American members of the Lincoln Brigade were massacred by Franco’s forces, were a good enough reason to ban him from appearing in front of the parents and brothers and sisters of those who had died for what they thought was a noble cause. In New York of 1937, this man Segovia was certainly tainted. Graham Wade does not seem to be concerned with these matters, and they do not change for him one iota in his idolization of Segovia. My stomach happens to be constituted differently.

I too, did not have access to the Segovia-Ponce Letters in 1985. My ideas about Segovia’s politics were originally formed by information provided in 1981 by Vaisbord, and drastically changed after I read the Letters. I even said to Wade in my 1985 private letter that I am looking forward to “lay my hands on the Segovia Letters to Ponce which Corazon Otero did NOT publish.” As it is known, I eventually did.

As for Wade’s disclaimer that in response to my article on Primary Sources he “threw a minor tantrum and pretty much waved about the specter of British libel laws,” the printed record speaks for itself and need no further elaboration.

Matanya Ophee 
Columbus, OH, USA

Needless to say, neither this letter, nor the disclaimer I requested, were ever published. A few days later, I received a letter from Colin Cooper in which he tried to assuage my feelings and assure me that the magazine is entirely impartial and that they do not give British writers any preferential treatment. I wrote him as follows:

January 6, 1992

Dear Colin,

It is possible for both me and Wade to be right about being treated with an unfair bias. It is a question of how each of us views the matter. A highly personal thing, I am sure, which has nothing to do with the magazine’s actual attitude. From my point of view, I think the unfairness is inherent in the magazine’s ambiguous role as a forum for international exchanges about the guitar, which is at the same time constrained by British attitudes. If it is an international magazine, destined to be read by English speaking guitarists everywhere, it cannot be allowed to be controlled by local special conditions. Once you allow that, you cannot avoid the mark of parochialism.

It is unfair to me to allow Wade the freedom of the insult, libelous or not, or the freedom to publish out-of-context private correspondence. I would never know what is or what is not libelous in England and I don’t think that this ought to be the sole yard-stick by which you measure the contents of letters. For example: in the January issue, David McConnel published the same information about Shand and Regondi which is included in my preface to the edition, and which was already published in CG. Also the fate of the Bone collection was widely discussed by Wynberg in the magazine already several years ago. What is the point then, to allow McConnell to come across as a great savant who can read the Bone dictionary? Shouldn’t someone responsible, like the correspondence editor, tell him that this is old news?

It is unfair to Wade to allow me to publish anything at all, since however hard he tries, he cannot match the factual truth of what I have to say. The best he can do is rip me off. Another inherent inequity, is the simple fact that both you and Maurice know that even if I could be bothered, and I certainly can afford it, I would never entertain the idea of suing the magazine. That he runs to his libel attorney at the drop of a hat, should be enough reason for you to bar him forever from the pages of CG. It amazes me that you have not done so yet.

[Paragraph dealing with other issues deleted here.]

Alright, old friend, you look forward to “future correspondence that is stimulating without being libelous, tough without being insulting, and accurate without being pedantic . . .” That is not possible, since no matter what you and I might think, someone will take offence. But try this on for size:

To the Editor:

Thérèse Wassily Saba informs us (CG, January 1992) about Nicola Hall’s debut recording which includes Ms. Hall’s transcriptions of Rachmaninov’s Prelude in G Minor Op. 23, the Paganini Caprice Op. 1 Nº 24, the Bach partita in d minor and other pieces by Granados, Albeniz and Sarasate. I am looking forward to listening to this recording as I am sure it will be an enjoyable experience, unmarred by Hall’s stage mannerisms playing the same pieces, and on which I wrote recently in Soundboard. I am amazed though, that Ms. Wassily Saba would so frivolously refer to this recording, and by extension to Nicola Hall’s enterprise as a musician, as “expansion of the repertoire.” It is one thing for a press agent to use whatever hyperbole he sees fit to promote a new talent, and I would not be much surprised if the phrase appears in one form or another in the liner notes to the record. It is quite another thing for an editor of a magazine to succumb to such imprudent characterization of a particular performer. To expand the repertoire means to bring into light new works, original or transcriptions, which no one had ever done before. Now let’s see:

Paganini Caprice Op. 1 Nº 24:

This item was published in guitar transcriptions by Theodore Norman (C.F. Peters,) Els Kluin (Harmonia, 1975) and a couple of other transcribers. The Orphée Data Base of Guitar Records, lists seven recordings of the piece, by Aldo Minella, George Sakellariou, John Williams (3 issues) and Kazuhito Yamashita (2 issues.) I heard Eliot Fisk perform it in Boston in 1978 and it has been in his repertoire for quite some time before that. If I am not mistaken, it is included in the forthcoming publication of his transcriptions of Paganini Caprices to be issued shortly by Guitar Solo.

J.S. Bach Partita in d minor.

Was published by Schinina/Gangi (Bèrben,) José de Azpiazu (Symphonia Verlag,) not to mention the recent publication by Kazuhito Yamashita of the complete set of six Sonatas and Partitas. There are 9 recordings of the complete partita by Stephen Boswell, Christoph Kirschbaum, Celedonio Romero, Pepe Romero (3 issues,) Burkhard Wolk, Kazuhito Yamashita, Walter Abt and Manuel Barrueco, not to mention, again, Yamashita’s recent recording of the six which is not yet listed. The recordings of the Chaconne from that partita are too numerous to list.

Granados and Albéniz: I am not going to waste your time by discussing this.

Zapateado by Pablo Sarasate:

There are a few listings for Sarasate pieces in the Data-Base, but I will be able to talk better about this, once this Zapateado was more precisely identified.

Which leaves us with the Rachmaninov. I am not aware of any published transcriptions or recordings of this item, the more common target for guitar transcribers is his Op. 3 Nº 2 in c# minor, of which I have some 10 different transcriptions in my collection. The only unpublished transcription of Op. 23 in g minor I know of, was made by Edmund Jurkowski in the early seventies. He gave me a copy of it in the 1986 Tychy Festival, where Nicola Hall received the first prize, and only his untimely death prevented me from publishing it during his life time.

Nicola Hall’s utilization of these particular works is in the best traditions of our discipline. See my recent article on transcriptions in this magazine. This is not trail-blazing by any stretch of the imagination. The only expansion applied to the repertoire here, is akin to the expansion of hot air expelled in this exercise of commercial hype. This is not meant to cast any aspersions on Ms. Hall’s qualifications as a transcriber or a performer. It is a pity her agents, and inadvertently, the News Editor of this magazine, had chosen this unfortunate embellishment, at the expense of other guitarists, who are, just as talented and capable as Nicola Hall. What really astounds me, is Ms. Wassily Saba’s incursion into the realm of prophecy when she says that “ . . .I hasten to add that her [Hall’s] path is not one that would be easily followed . . .” Do let me borrow your crystal ball. I could use it.

Matanya Ophee 
Columbus, OH

This too, was never published in Classical Guitar magazine. Now, do I see a pattern, or do I imagine things?

Copyright © 1997 by Editions Orphée, Inc., All Rights Reserved.

[DGA Editor: (11/13/2020) need final links to other articles]

References

1 See our [Killing the Message II].
2 Classical Guitar, October 1997, page 52.
3 “Some Considerations of 19th Century Guitar Music and Its Performance Today”,  Classical Guitar IV/12, V/1, V/2, V/4 August, September, October, December 1986.

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