Temps de Rêves

About the CD

She begins with two of English Renaissance composer John Dowland's most quintessentially nocturnal pieces, Mr. Dowland's Midnight and A Dream, works which belong respectively to the almain and pavan dance forms. Both works share in the melancholy so frequently ascribed to the composer. To present-day ears, the introspective nature of these pieces probably seems at odds with the courtly entertainment function which they were meant to satisfy. Yet their melancholy, far from stealing from the insight they provide on the spirit of the Elizabethan age, actually seems to underline the limits of human existence as stated by Shakespeare, that greatest Elizabethan of all, in The Tempest: "We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep." Feelings, like palaces, dissolve in time; and purpose, like recollection, only exists in the mind, which itself is not eternal.

Recollection or a glimpse into what was, as conjured by Spanish composer Francisco Tárrega in his celebrated serenade Capricho Árabe, results in a Romantic glance back to an exotic past in which the Arabic reference is more an invitation to celebrate Spain's fascinating cultural heritage as seen from a 19th century perspective, than a return to the musical idioms of its Moorish yesteryears. The same open, enchanting spirit transpires through the next piece, Tárrega's Sueño (A dream), whose introduction, warmly lethargic like a Castilian village under the sun, gives way to a virtuoso tremolo passage that meanders freely with deceptive ease in a relentless voyage through a diversity of sentiments such as those as can only be experienced while witnessing one's own nighttime visions.

Introductory piece to his Six Pièces Originales, Opus 53, French Romantic composer Napoléon Coste's meditative Rêverie wanders harmonically through various states of being in a succession of passages, each with its own characteristic mood, starting with a chorale-like opening in E major which quickly gives way to a procession of episodes that vary between the pastoral, the inquisitive, the somber, the transitional, and the purely atmospheric, before returning to the original chorale.

The contrast between Coste's contemplative mood couldn't be greater with that of British contemporary composer John W. Duarte's Night Music, Op. 65. Here, the interpreter is given free rein to follow their expressive instinct in conveying the nocturnal anxiety of modern man, for whom darkness holds no source of rest nor solace. Far from the comforts of the sitting room or the stillness of the soul, we now walk the dark alleys of present-day existence, with its over-mediatized cascade of fearsome prospects, both real and imaginary. The recurrent use of the tritone evokes a discomfort akin to that of the nightmare, in which feared harm can never be entirely left behind.

To counter the anxiety, Anna Slezakova proposes the pure, accessible beauty of the Rêverie- Nocturne, Op. 19 by Giulio Regondi, a 19th century Swiss-born composer of Italian and German origins that had made a name for himself as a guitar child prodigy by the time he arrived in London at age of nine in 1831. Celebrated in his day as the Paganini of the guitar, his music fell into oblivion for many years before enjoying a well-deserved revival in the last two decades of the 20th century.

Written close to a century later, the following Nocturno is one of Spanish composer Federico Moreno Torroba's earlier guitar compositions. Also known for his zarzuelas and, particularly, for the very successful Luisa Fernanda, Moreno Torroba is one of the most prolific Spanish guitar composers of the 20th century. His music bathes in a post-Romantic language permeated by a clear nationalist flavor that yet allows for an enhanced richness in harmony not unlike that seen in the works of his countryman Manuel de Falla.

The lengthiest work in this album, Benjamin Britten'sNocturnal after Dowland for guitar, Op. 70, written for Julian Bream, has often not been associated neither with sleep nor dreaming, but with their absence in the affliction of insomnia. Britten himself said in an interview that the piece "had some very, to me, disturbing images in it". Its reverse variations form places the theme, Dowland's sorrowful Come, heavy sleep at the end of the work, in a dramatic construction that offers respite by the statement of the original theme only after the listener has traveled through eight different variations that do not themselves provide any rest. Without adhering to any specific program, the architecture of the work thus parallels the sentiments expressed in Dowland's song, which Britten made sure to include in his score for the performer to be explicitly aware of:

"Come, heavy Sleep, the image of true Death,
And close up these my weary weeping eyes,
Whose spring of tears doth stop my vital breath,
And tears my heart with Sorrow's sigh-swollen cries.
Come and possess my tired thought-worn soul,
That living dies, till thou on me be stole."

2017 © Javier Arreaza Miranda