Regondi A 200th Birthday Bouquet Bridge

Giulio Regondi (1822-1872)
A 200th Birthday Bouquet
David Starobin (guitar)
rec. 1992-2012, various venues
Reviewed as download from press preview
Bridge 9585 [57]

This disc was issued in the autumn of 2022 as a 200th Birthday Bouquet to Giulio Regondi. And who was he? Readers are excused for not knowing his name, since after his death he was marginalized more or less to a footnote in music history; his centenary in 1922 passed unnoticed. But in his lifetime he was a celebrated artist, guitarist, concertinist and composer. He was born in Geneva, Switzerland to a German father and an Italian mother, but moved with his family to London in 1831, where he appeared as virtuoso guitar child prodigy. (See the cover picture). He also became a virtuoso on the concertina, a newly invented English relative to the accordion, which later also was developed to the bandoneon, today an essential instrument in the Argentinian tango. Eventually the concertina became his main instrument. But tastes changed and when his pupils also passed away the memory of him faded away, too. Not until long after WW2 was there some kind of renaissance, which was enhanced by the disclosure of hitherto unknown manuscripts. One of the torch-bearers for Regondi’s music – probably the most important – was David Starobin. He is best known as an advocate for contemporary music and has premiered hundreds of new compositions by mainly American composers. However, he also has a soft spot for 19th century composers, like Sor and Giuliani, who were predecessors to Regondi. Of the ten pieces in this bouquet, four (tr. 1 and tr. 8 – 10) were recorded and issued on two CDs in the early 1990s, the rest at sessions in 1997 and 2012 and those are all first releases. 

I first came across Regondi’s music more than ten years ago when I reviewed a disc with the award-winning Swedish guitarist Johannes Möller. There he played Rêverie Op. 19 with stunning technique and beautiful tone, and this piece was for several years a frequent visitor in my CD-player. It was a great pleasure to renew my acquaintance with it, as the final number on the present disc. The tremolo finale always makes great impact. The characteristics of that piece are also evident in the rest of Regondi’s oeuvre: virtuosity – he must have been an enormously skilled performer – catchy melodies and advanced harmonic language. The larger pieces are true masterworks: Introduction et Caprice, Op. 23, that opens the recital, leaves the listener breathless, partly for the composition as such, but no less so for the playing. It seems so easy and relaxed, almost nonchalant, but anyone with some knowledge of guitar-playing will recognise how much difficult it is. Fête Villageoise, Op. 20 is charmingly melodious, sunny and light-hearted. Air Varié, which also contains a substantial helping of tremolo, is possibly the harmonically bravest work here, with unexpected modulations. The four Concertina Etudes, transcribed for guitar by David Starobin, are short but interesting. In a couple of them there are distinct references to Johann Sebastian Bach. The two Etudes, out of ten in total, which were unearthed as recently as 1989, and consequently newly found when Starobin recorded them in August 1992, are further gems. That the playing is superlative goes without saying, and with recorded sound to match and illuminating liner notes by Paul Cesarczyk and David Starobin, this issue should be a must-buy to all lovers of guitar music.

Göran Forsling

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1) Introduction et Caprice, op. 23** (9:41)
2) Fête Villageoise, op. 20* (7:02)
3) Concertina Etude in B-flat major (in two parts)
trans. Starobin* (1:36)
4) Concertina Etude in D major (in two parts)
trans. Starobin* (1:51)
5) Air Varié no. 1, op. 21* (11:09)
6) Concertina Etude in G major (in two parts)
trans. Starobin* (2:01)
7) Concertina Etude in a minor (originally in c minor)
trans. Starobin* (2:03)
8) Etude No. 10 in A major*** (5:27)
9) Etude No. 2 in a minor*** (6:33)
10) Nocturne “Revêrie”, op. 19** (9:35)
*first release **previously issued on BRIDGE 9055 ***previously issued on BRIDGE 9039