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“Mr. Russell possesses a talent of extraordinary dimension.” —The New York Times

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David Russell, guitar

GIULIANI: Rossiniana, No. 3, Op. 121
D. SCARLATTI: Sonata in D major, K. 490 (trans. Russell)
D. SCARLATTI: Sonata in D major, K. 491 (trans. Russell)
GRANADOS: Valses poéticos (trans. Russell)
BACH: Partita No. 1 in B minor, BWV 1002 (trans. Russell)
ALBÉNIZ: Capricho catalán from España, Op. 165 (trans. Russell)
ALBÉNIZ: Granada from Suite espagñola No. 1, Op. 47 (trans. Russell)
ALBÉNIZ: Asturias from Suite espagñola No. 1, Op. 47 (trans. Russell)


Join us for a pre-concert interview at 7 pm with David Russell and Benjamin Verdery of Yale University.


Art of the Guitar and 92nd Street Y Guitar Institute are generously supported by The Leir Charitable Foundations in memory of Henry J. and Erna D. Leir; The Augustine Foundation; and The D’Addario Music Foundation.

David Russell, guitar
GIULIANI: Sonata for Guitar in C major, Op. 15, “Sonate Brillante” – I. Allegro Spirito

Explore the Music

(Click the names below to expand info.)

GIULIANI: Rossiniana, No. 3, Op. 121


Born in Bisceglie, Italy, July 27, 1781; died in Naples, May 8, 1829
Rossiniana, No. 3, Op. 121
Composed c. 1822; 18 minutes

No city was more guitar–besotted in the early 19th century than Vienna. Mauro Giuliani arrived there in 1806 and quickly became its foremost guitarist, despite plentiful competition. Classically trained in composition and cello as well as the guitar, he wrote more than 100 solo guitar pieces and as many songs plus three guitar concertos. He played cello in the premiere of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony and became “virtuoso onorario di camera” to Napoleon’s second wife, the Empress Marie-Louise.

None of this prevented him from falling deeply into debt, to the point that his household belongings were seized for auction. He left Vienna in 1819, and ultimately he found new patrons in Naples, where Rossini was the music director of the city’s two opera houses. Not one to miss a market, Giuliani wrote six sets of Rossiniana, essentially medleys of Rossini’s “greatest hits.”

After a solemn introduction, Giuliani sets tunes from La cenerentola (1817), La donna del lago (1819), Il turco in Italia (1814), Zelmira (1822) and Ricciardo e Zoraide (1818) with idiomatic assurance in his third Rossiniana. His own virtuosity is readily apparent in the technical exuberance, but so is his musicality and obvious appreciation for the more extroverted elements of Rossini’s music.

© 2014 John Henken

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SCARLATTI: Sonata in D major, K. 490 (trans. Russell) and Sonata in D major, K. 491 (trans. Russell)


Born in Naples, October 26, 1685; died in Madrid, July 23, 1757
Sonata in D major, K. 490 (trans. Russell)
Composed in 1756; 6 minutes
Sonata in D major, K. 491 (trans. Russell)
Composed in 1756; 5 minutes

Driven by his proud and demanding father, Domenico Scarlatti shuttled professionally among the major Italian cities until 1719, when he left Italy for a new position in Lisbon. There his duties included teaching the royal princess Maria Barbara, forming an enduring and prodigiously productive musical relationship. When Maria Barbara married Crown Prince Fernando of Spain in 1728, Scarlatti followed her to Madrid, where he spent the rest of his life. Inspired by Maria Barbara’s patronage and the music of Spain and Portugal, Scarlatti wrote over 550 sonatas—single movements in binary form, often etude-like with their attention to particular technical or coloristic effects.

Scarlatti grouped the majority of these pieces in pairs, but he also created four triptychs, including K. 490, 491 and 492. These three sonatas are all in D major (in the original key); in the Baroque era D was the key for trumpets and drums, and echoes of fanfares and marches can be clearly heard in the first two of the group. The ceremonial main section of K. 490, almost nothing but scales and cadences, sounds French in aspect, but the impla¬cable sequence of the contrasting section, with its crunching chromatic bite, is pure Iberia. Sonata K. 491 behaves similarly, with all courtly brilliance in the main effort, but after a dramatic pause, a fandango breaks in from out of nowhere, harmonically speaking (C major in the first half, F major in the second, in the original).

© 2014 John Henken

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GRANADOS: Valses poéticos (trans. Russell)


Born in Lérida, Spain, July 27, 1867; died in the English Channel, March 24, 1916
Valses poéticos (trans. Russell)
Composed in 1886-87; 14 minutes

A well-trained prodigy, Granados had great success as a teenager. (Isaac Albéniz was on the jury when the 16-year-old Granados won a competition at the Academia Pujol with Schumann’s Sonata Op. 22.) At age 20 he went to Paris to study with Charles de Bériot, who reinforced his interest in color and improvisation. Granados toured and concertized extensively, composed a large body of mostly piano and vocal music, and established his own Academia Granados. He also made “free transcriptions” of 26 Scarlatti sonatas.

In 1916 Granados was in New York City for the premiere of his opera Goyescas at the Metropolitan Opera. (The great cellist Pablo Casals was also in New York at the time, and he and Granados put on a duo recital for the Friends of Music, which included Granados’s Valses poéticos.) Granados’s stay in the US was an artistic triumph, prolonged by an invitation from President Woodrow Wilson to perform at the White House. This caused him to miss the ship that would have taken him and his wife directly back to Spain. Instead they took a later ship to England, and after staying in London a few days with the Catalán sculptor Ismael Smith, they boarded a ship for France. It was torpedoed in the English Channel, and both Granados and his wife were drowned, with conflicting stories about who leaped into the water to save whom.

Valses poéticos is an early work, though probably not composed before Granados went to Paris, as has been suggested. It was clearly a personal favorite of its composer, who performed it often and recorded it on Welte Mignon rolls. His recording reveals the liberties he took with the published score, which in any case encourages that approach, with its frequent indications of “rubato,” “con molta fantasia,” and other suggestions for tempo fluctuation and rhythmic freedom.

Structurally, the work consists of a very fast 2/4 introduction or prelude, followed by eight brief waltzes, ending with a recollection of the first waltz (almost intact in some scores; truncated in Granados’ recording). The titles of these very vivid, highly contrasting waltzes vary between scores and the recording, and can be only a rough suggestion of the poetic fancies implied. Certainly nobody in Vienna at the time would have considered the presto metrical games of the eighth waltz “ideal,” as the recording labeled it (“Vals ideal”)! Whether in reverie or whimsy (the fourth is consistently labeled “humorístico”), these are charming and deft salon fantasies that ring surprising changes on the idea of a waltz.

© 2014 John Henken

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BACH: Partita No. 1 in B minor, BWV 1002 (trans. Russell)


Born in Eisenach, March 21, 1685; died in Leipzig, July 28, 1750
Partita No. 1 in B minor, BWV 1002 (trans. Russell)
Composed c. 1720; 26 minutes

The origin of the three sonatas and three partitas for unaccompanied violin—“Sei Solo” (Six Solo), as the manuscript is simply headed—probably extends back to Bach’s first tenure in Weimar, a bare six months in 1703. The “Sei Solo” were brought to a finished state in 1720 in Cöthen, during Bach’s years in service as Kapellmeister to Prince Leopold. This was the period (1717–1723) of Bach’s greatest concentration on instrumental music. Exactly when the works were first performed and by whom is unknown, though Bach himself would be an obvious possibility.

The three partitas or dance suites are multifarious in form, and generally lighter in style and texture than the three sonatas. The four core dances of the Baroque suite were allemande, courante, saraband, and gigue, inherited from the 16th century and usually highly stylized. Other, newer types, often current as actual dances, could be added.

In his Partita No. 1, Bach replaced the gigue with a bourrée and added a “double,” or variation, for each dance. In every case, the double ups the rhythmic ante, converting the characteristic dance elements into a flowing etude over the harmonic pattern and basic melodic outline of the movement. Thus the austere dotted rhythms of the Allemande become a broken chord essay in streaming 16th notes. The Courante, which was already a pattern of running eighth notes (which, as the name implies, most courantes are), is doubled into relentless 16th-note scales. Even the deeply felt Sarabande—the emotional core of the Partita—shifts from noble chords in 3/4 meter to a single-note arpeggiated line in 9/8. The earthy, firmly stepping bourrée (the dance was most commonly known by its French name, though Bach used the Italian form, borea, here) itself blossoms into steady eighth notes, which then become an ecstatic torrent in the double.

© 2014 John Henken

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ALBÉNIZ: Capricho catalán from España, Op. 165 (trans. Russell)
Granada from Suite española No. 1, Op. 47 (trans. Russell)
Asturias from Suite española No. 1, Op. 47 (trans. Russell)


Born in Camprodon, Spain, May 29, 1860; died in Cambô-les-Bains, France, May 18, 1909
Capricho catalán from España, Op. 165 (trans. Russell)
Composed in 1890; 3 minutes
Granada from Suite española No. 1, Op. 47 (trans. Russell)
Composed in 1886; 4 minutes
Asturias from Suite española No. 1, Op. 47 (trans. Russell)
Composed in 1886; 6 minutes

Everything from popular salon styles to the most advanced ideas from major conservatories shows up in the music of the peripatetic pianist Isaac Albéniz. The musicologist and composer Felipe Pedrell had particular influence on Albéniz, giving him the intellectual and aesthetic support to ground much of his music in Spanish sources. Published erratically, Albéniz’s piano music is almost as wayward in its chronology and titles as his itineraries were geographically.

Although he did compose a handful of sonatas, the majority of his mature piano pieces are A-B-A musical character studies, with place names and often a subtitle indicating a dance or song form characteristic of the place. The fifth of six “hojas de album” (“album leaves”) issued as España, Op. 165, the Capricho catalán sways gracefully over a subtly insistent rhythm. Only slightly more aroused in the middle, it fades away with chiming harmonics.

The eight pieces that eventually ended up in the Suite española, Op. 47, were composed from 1885 to 1891, but only four were grouped together by the composer in 1886, with the other four added posthumously, making a publisher’s potpourri rather than an integrated multi-movement work. Granada, the first of the group, is a serenata: warm and caressive in the framing sections, mysteriously moody in the middle.

Subtitled “Legend” in the Suite, the often-arranged, percussive Asturias is one of the added pieces and also served as the prelude for the Cantos de Espanã, Op. 232. Asturias alternates a relentless toccata-style drive with a more lyrical, though increasingly urgent, variation.

© 2014 John Henken

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Artist Bio

David Russell, guitar

Grammy Award–winning classical guitarist David Russell is world-renowned for his superb musicianship and inspired artistry. Born in Glasgow, Scotland, Mr. Russell moved with his family to the Spanish island of Menorca while he was a young boy. There he was introduced to the guitar by his father, an artist and avid amateur guitarist. At age 16 he attended the Royal Academy of Music in London, where he twice won the Julian Bream Prize in guitar. He returned to Spain and in the next few years won Spain’s major guitar competitions and prizes: the José Ramírez International Competition of Santiago de Compostela, the Andrés Segovia Prize of Palma de Mallorca, the Alicante Prize and, the prestigious Francisco Tárrega International Guitar Competition.

In 1981 Mr. Russell made both his London and New York debuts, and he now performs around the world, appearing regularly at leading halls in New York, London, Tokyo, Los Angeles, Madrid, Toronto, Rome and elsewhere. A regular guest at the foremost international music festivals, Mr. Russell is especially popular as a teacher of master classes. In 1997 he was named a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music in London, and in 2003 he was given the Medal of Honor from the Conservatory of the Balearic Islands. In 2005 the Higher Conservatory of Music, Vigo, Spain, named its new concert hall the “Auditorio David Russell,” and in 2009 Mr. Russell was named an honorary member of Amigos de la Guitarra, the oldest guitar society in Spain.

An active recording artist, Mr. Russell has a discography of over two dozen albums. Since 1995 he has had an exclusive recording contract with Telarc International, and its release of his Aire Latino won a 2005 Grammy Award for best instrumental soloist. His latest CD is 2012’s Grandeur of the Baroque, preceded by 2011’s Spanish Music for Classical Guitar. Other recent releases include Sonidos Latinos: Guitar Music of Latin America; For David, featuring works written for Mr. Russell by Sérgio Assad, Francis Kleynjans, Stephen Goss, Benjamin Verdery and Philip Rosheger; Renaissance Favorites for Guitar; and Art of the Guitar, with selections by Albéniz, Villa-Lobos, Grieg, Debussy and others. Mr. Russell has also recorded the complete works of Tárrega and Rodrigo’s works for guitar and orchestra. His website is

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