François de Fossa: Three Grand Duos

Based  on the works of Haydn.

 for two guitars. Volume II & III

Score. 76 pp., $39.95, Presser Order number 494-02834 (EICM-12d)

The Royal Conservatory in Brussels has the only known copy of the Haydn arrangements for guitar duo by François de Fossa. The first of three volumes was published earlier and the other two are in the current edition.‎There are nine duets in total and each duet has four or five movements. Most of the music is taken from Haydn’s early string quartets while a couple of movements are transcriptions from keyboard works or symphonies. While de Fossa calls his collection arrangements, the term transcription would be more accurate in English. Only one movement, the Tema con variazione Hob. XVI:27, differs from the Haydn original to the extent that it qualifies as an arrangement.‎De Fossa transposed most pieces in guitar “unfriendly” keys to C, G, A, or E but more adventurous keys such as A-flat occur also.‎The titles which François de Fossa provides do not give away the Haydn origin. All but three movements of the seventh duo are identified by the Hoboken index and authorship of four other movements cannot be proven to be Haydn’s. Haydn had his works published in many countries and while opus numbers were assigned by the printers, it is no wonder that the same work is known by different numbers or that two different compositions have the same opus number. Also, editors, knowingly or not knowingly, published works under the name of Haydn, thus banking on his popularity, which explains that the authenticity of some pieces remains questionable.‎The long life of Haydn, his tremendous production and his adaptation to vogue meant that he passed through various style periods. De Fossa had no problems mixing movements in these suites which had their origin two decades apart.‎ The life and works of François de Fossa were documented in a biography by Matanya Ophee which contains a letter from de Fossa to his sister written from Madrid in 1808. In this letter he boasts to have been called the Haydn of the guitar. The sentence “[...] I would have been feted much more yet, had I made them a present of my quartets” suggests that he had at that time made guitar transcriptions of Haydn string quartets and it is very well possible that publication had to wait twenty years until his economic situation had improved and his popularity was established. His first music was published in 1823 and it is entirely possible that many of his works were written years before.‎Ophee also edited de Fossa’s Op. 13, four divertissements extraits des oeuvres de J. Haydn [...], which is a potpourri of movements from four symphonies, another indication that the composer was a great admirer of Haydn. Since the publication in our times of works by the French guitarist-composer De Fossa, more of his work has surfaced, among them Op. 16 in Liège, Belgium and Op. 10 in Toledo, Spain. A continuous demand for good music from the classical period guarantees that guitarists will put François de Fossa on their program, which is already evident from the current number of recordings.‎

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Last Modified: 11/19/2011 11:02:55 AM