Patricio Zeoli

The Last Rose of Summer

Early 19th Century guitar settings of Irish and Scottish Folk Songs. Original guitar works by Mauro Giuliani, Fernando Sor, J.E Nüske and Leonhard Schulz.

It was at the dawn of the 19th Century that the forerunner of the present day classical guitar, with six single strings, first appeared on the European musical landscape. Foremost among the earliest proponents of this "new" instrument was an entire generation of instrumentalists, chiefly Spanish and Italian " Virtuosi ", who felt obliged by a variety of circumstances – artistic, economic, political - to emigrate to the principal centres of musical activity of that time such as Paris, Vienna, London, Moscow etc. in order to ply their trade and reach a wider cultivated audience. They were following a well-trodden path which many of their compatriots had already taken during the 17th/18th centuries when Italian and"southern " musicians, principally violinists and singers, were held in great esteem and eagerly welcomed by music lovers in the "northern" regions of Europe.

As was usual with such musical migration, these immigrant composers/players not only brought with them the latest stylistic trends and developments from their own nations but at the same time would find themselves exposed to the music, traditions and culture of their newly adopted abodes. For those of them who established long term periods of residency and who more often than not would also be active as teachers and pedagogues, an aquaintance with the local music was not only inevitable but also essential in catering to the tastes and demands of their newly aquired clientele.

By the outset of the 19th century, London had already asserted its' position as a leading international musical metropole. The presence and influence during the 18th century of such figures as Georg Friedrich Händel , Francesco Geminiani and Johann Christian Bach culminated with two visits by Joseph Haydn between 1791-1794. Whereas both Händel and Geminiai had dabbled occasionally with "local" music and literature, it was Haydn who was to create - at the initative of George Thompson, an Edinburgh based folk song collector and publisher - arrangements of more than 400 traditional Scottish songs. Thompson's approach to Haydn had been in response to a growing demand for quality arrangements of folksongs from all regions of the British Isles, which had gained enormous popularity in the salons and concert rooms of London, Edinburgh, Bath and elsewhere. The commercial success of this venture led Thompson to commison other famous continental composers, notably Beethoven, to follow suit. The original lyrics to most of these songs had been deemed somewhat crude and vulgar for polite society, thus Thompson requested figures such as Robert Burns, Walter Scott, Thomas Moore among others, to provide new lyrics, more in keeping with the Post - Enlightenment style of poetry which flourished at that time. These songs were apparently all the rage during that period and even spread abroad to mainland Europe. Aside from Haydn and Beethoven, numerous other composers, including Carl Maria von Weber and Hector Berlioz, were tempted to use them as material in their own works.

It is thus no wonder that many of the guitarists who arrived in London at that time would sooner or later be offering their own renderings and arrangements of the most popular and well-loved songs from this genre. Surprisngly, perhaps, they generally chose not to write duo versions for voice and guitar, but rather instrumental showpieces such as "potpourri " and "theme with variations ", in keeping with current fashions in Vienna, Rome and elsewhere. From the relatively small body of works which have come down to us, those selected for inclusion in this programme feature music by four guitarist/composers : Mauro Giuliani ( 1771 -1828 ) Johann Abraham Nüske ( 1796 – 1865 ) Leonhard Schulz ( 1814 -1861 ) Fernando Sor ( 1778 -1839 )

Johann Abraham Nüske "Fantasia on a celebrated Irish Air"

The melody and lyrics to the song " The last Rose of Summer " arguably one of the most celebrated melodies of all time, were first published in 1813 by the Anglo-Irish poet, Thomas Moore. The song instantly achieved widespread and enduring popularity and was to be continually adapted and arranged by a host of composers including Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Glinka, in the 19th century to Britten, Reger and Hindemith in the 20th. I have assigned this collection of guitar pieces with the above title ( twice referred to, Giuliani and Schulz ).