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Napoléon COSTE (1805- 1883)
Guitar Works. Vol 3.
Pavel Steidl (Guitar)
Recorded Newmarket, Canada. 16 - 20 December 1998 DDD
Naxos 8.554353 [64'52"]
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This is Volume 3 of a Series and as the earlier recordings have not come my way to review, so a brief biography of the composer may be helpful. Coste was French, named at birth after the then new Emperor Bonaparte, and destined for a military career which was duly ruled out through poor health. He seemed to have a natural affinity for the guitar, and with a minimum of formal training he moved to Paris in his mid-twenties to pursue his chosen career with the instrument, with further study and later, with help due to his friendship with Fernando Sor. With the retirement and deaths of the previous generation of guitarists Coste, with a magnificent technique, found himself the leader in his field. An accident to an arm ended his playing career at 57.

His compositions, as illustrated on this disc, reveal the skill of a composer whose writing covered a wide range, including pieces written to celebrate leading composers of the day and fashionable dances. In total the eight tracks show a composer who clearly knew how to write pieces that would appeal to potential audiences. He tapped into current fads and fancies and utilised their popularity in his compositions.

The opening piece, Deuxième polonaise has an introduction and a middle passage as well as the lively dance tune and its recapitulation. In Le Tournoi, by the use of a muted opening clarion call and the subsequent graceful, yet gently martial writing, one can visualise the Tournament and the chivalry the 1830's believed it saw looking back at the Middle Ages. Interestingly, the dedicatee was Hector Berlioz, who was proficient on two instruments only, flute and guitar. Andante and Allegro - identified as an early work - has the slightly introspective feel of a work written for the performers personal pleasure. The short La romanesca with its simple, catchy melody is based on an older (Sixteenth Century) piece and the transcription was extremely popular after publication.

Bellini's Norma, which was performed in Paris in 1833, was the source of Fantasie,Op.16. Coste took two arias "Ah! Bello a me ritorna" and "Si, fino all'ore" to which he added a short linking section and a closing passage. Bellini was also the composer of the theme used in Introduction et variation sur un motif de Rossini. The item wrongly credited to Rossini was actually "Tu vedrai la sventurata from Il Pirata which embellishes the theme in a fine set of variations with a rousing conclusion. Two attractive,short Quadrilles complete the disc.

The recording is excellent and the playing of the Czech guitarist Pavel Steidl is flawless. There is much for the non-aficionado of the guitar to hear and enjoy in music that is consistently attractive and tuneful.


Harry Downey


Harry Downey

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