Rregondi A 200th Birthday Bouquet Bridge Records

Giulio Regondi (1822-1872)
A 200th Birthday Bouquet
David Starobin (Romantic guitar)
rec. 1992-2012, Mastersound Astoria NYC, Mastersound Astoria; SUNY College, Purchase, USA
Bridge 9585 [57] 

In all periods of Western Art Music, there have been outstanding musicians and composers whose musical legacy passed into obscurity after their death. Others have been overshadowed by contemporaries, and their excellence rarely recognised or valued. It took almost a century after his death for the genius of J.S. Bach to be again recognised, and performed by a younger generation; and still several more decades before for his magnificent Cello Suites were again performed.

Although the classical guitar has a much shorter history, the same trends occurred. Few outside South America had even heard of Agustin Barrios before the renaissance of his music in the 1970s.

Since his death in 1986, the quality guitar opera of Francisco Mignone remains virtually unknown outside of South America. Another master guitarist from an earlier era, who had been largely neglected and ignored until recently by the guitar world, is Giulio Regondi.

Giulio Regondi was born in Geneva, although some speculate Lyon. He was a child prodigy, and of such excellence that, when he was age 9, Fernando Sor dedicated his composition Souvenir d’amitié Op. 46 to him. Regondi spent most of his life in France and England, where he died in 1872. He wrote a significant amount of quality guitar music, including a set of etudes, and a number of larger scale works. He was also an accomplished concertina player, and composed for that instrument.

The comprehensive liner notes accompanying this disc reference the 1922 centenary of Regondi’s birth as passing unnoticed. In contrast, the 2022 bicentenary is being celebrated by the release of this disc of his music for guitar. Of the ten tracks, six are first releases; the remainder have appeared on two different, past Bridge recordings by Starobin.

A quick review of Regondi’s discography suggests a progressive renaissance of his guitar music over the past two decades; all of his ten etudes for guitar have appeared on the two following discs:

Mesirca Alberto (Brilliant Classics 94841, 2014), and Federica Canta (Da VInci Publishing DV C00464, 2021). Both these releases also present other music from the pen of Regondi. There is also a growing number of releases which present compositions by Regondi e.g. Ricardo Gallén (Naxos  8.555285) 2002); Alexandra Whittingham (Delphian DCD34248, 2021), among others. However, it is not only the current generation of guitarists who value the music of Regondi. The blind guitarist Antonio Manjón played two Regondi pieces during a tour of Europe and America in 1915. The eminent American guitarist, Vahda Olcott-Bickford is also claimed to have enthusiastically championed, and played Regondi’s music. Interestingly, her Guitar Method (1921) includes music by Aguado, Giuliani, Sor, Carulli, Carcassi and Mertz; but no Regondi.

David Starobin was born in New York City in 1951 He commenced guitar studies at age 7 with the Cuban/American guitarist Manuel Gayol; he also studied with Albert Valdes Blain, and at the Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore), with the legendary Aaron Shearer. Starobin has a most distinguished career as a guitarist, educator, composer, record producer and film director. He is an assiduous pursuer of new music for the guitar, and has recorded music by Poul Roders, William Bland, and Paul Lansky. He is described as ‘having a foot in two worlds: that of new music, and period guitar works’. He was the first to record the complete studies of Regondi in 1993, and has also recorded music by Sor and Giuliani.

This recording highlights why the music of Regondi has undergone a recent renaissance. It is 

appealingly idiomatic to the guitar, and most entertaining to hear. Guitarists have much empathy with the music; guitarist Karmen Stendler had this to say about Féte Villageoise Op 20 (2): Witty character, impeccable form, rich harmonics, and vast expressive possibilities.’ Similar empathy is evident by Starobin in this recording. He is a fine guitarist who possess all the necessary skills, technical and musical, to show-case this music by Regondi; also the musical perception, and vision to be a leader in the renaissance of the composer’s music in this era.

While it is easy to understand Starobin’s choice of a Stauffer period guitar copy, it represents an overall compromise in the final sound. Many of the original Baroque stringed instruments are being played today, with only minor adjustments to the original design; they are usually revered as superior to modern versions. The Romantic guitar is far removed from its modern relative, which generally produces a larger volume of better balanced, and superior tonal-quality sound. This does not preclude the possibility of an original, or copies of the Romantic guitar producing agreeable sounds, as evidenced here; also the René Lacôte (1820) played by Marcello Fantoni in his ‘Carulli Rediscovered’ CD, recently reviewed in this forum (review).

Zane Turner

Previous review: Göran Forsling (May 2023)

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Introduction et Caprice Op. 23
Fête Villageoise Op 20
Concertina Etude in B-flat major
Concertina Etude in D major
Air Varié no.1 Op. 21
Concetina Etude G Major
Concertina Etude in a minor (originally c minor)
Etude No 10 in A major
Etude No 2 in a minor
Nocturne ‘Reverie’ Op 19