“La nuit, on entend des chants et le son des guitares pendant des heures entières…”
Palma, le 15 novembre 1838
Frédéric Chopin resided for barely 3 months in the winter of 1838-39 on the island of Mallorca together with the writer George Sand and her two children, in search of a more favorable climate than that of Paris.
After some vicissitudes they ended up installed in the beautiful Cartuja de Valldemossa, which had been evicted of its monks in 1835 due to the confiscation of Mendizabal. We have received abundant information about what happened to them those days thanks to the book "A Winter in Majorca" by Sand herself and the numerous letters that Chopin wrote and received.
During those months, Chopin finished composing his 24 Preludes op. 28 in all keys, as J. S. Bach had already done in his collections of preludes and Fugues. From Valldemossa he sent the manuscript to his publisher in Paris.
Prelude No. 4 in E minor has remained since its creation one of the composer's most recognized and at the same time most enigmatic pieces. It even sounded in a transcription for organ during his funeral only a decade later. The slow “lamenti” of the melody together with the ambiguous and painful beats of the left hand, full of chromaticism and at times virtually impossible to analyze harmonically, make this short piece one of the author's most spoken about pieces.
The letter that Chopin wrote to his friend Fontana on November 15, 1838, the drawings of local guitarists made by George Sand's son, even the fact that the piece begins using the treble open strings of the guitar in the accompaniment, make us want to imagine Chopin capturing the spirit of this instrument on the piano keys, as Scarlatti already did and Albéniz would do later.
From Francisco Tárrega's early transcription, in which he inverted the register of the voices, to later versions for duo, guitarists have not ceased to be fascinated by Chopin's music and by this prelude in particular. Despite being the author of probably some of the most deeply idiomatic piano music ever written, great guitarists such as Barrios, Llobet, Segovia or more recently Roland Dyens adapted some of his pieces for their instrument with great success.
Recording this magnificent and extremely faithful transcription by Ricardo Gallén together with him in the same spaces where Chopin lived, surrounded by the composer's belongings and manuscripts, was a unique and magical experience that we will never forget.
Thanks to the whole Knobloch team for making it possible.
Pedro Mateo González