François de Fossa: Quatre Divertissements
extraits des Oeuvres de J. Haydn, Op. 13

20 pp., $12.95, Presser Order number 494-02874 (PWYS-15d)

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fossa-12.jpgUntil the beginning of the 1980s, the figure of François de Fossa was mainly known by his relationship with Dionisio Aguado, a relationship that included de Fossa’s collaboration in producing the two Parisian editions of the Aguado Escuela, and the complete translation of one of them into French. The situation changed radically in 1981 with the publication by Editions Orphée of a monograph which not only revealed very interesting and decisive factors in regard to the guitar quintets of Luigi Boccherini, but also included an important biographical study and a checklist of the known compositions of François de Fossa. Several works by de Fossa were published in later years, among which were works for two guitars, trios, quartets, an anthology of selected works for guitar solo published in 1990. De Fossa’s Quatre Divertissemens pour la Guitare seule extraits des Oeuvres de J. Haydn, his Op. 13, was part of that anthology. The current edition of it was engraved anew, and completely edited and fingered.

The works of Haydn from which this music is drawn are as follows: Divertimento I — Symphony N° 63 “La Roxolane”, and Symphony N° 85 “La Reine” Divertimento II — Largo Cantabile, Rondo Allegretto. In spite of rigorous search, we have not been successful in identifying the movements of this Divertimento among the known works of Haydn. Divertimento III — Symphony N° 85 “La Reine”and Symphony N° 86 Divertimento IV — Symphony N° 53 “L’Imperiale” and Symphony N° 85 “La Reine”. The Andante of this symphony was also used, at about the same time, by Fernando Sor, as the theme of his Thema Varié pour la Guitare ou Lyre, (WoO-1) as well as in his Op. 20. Of considerable interest here is de Fossa’s seemingly paradoxical approach to transcribing music by Haydn. In the case of Haydn string quartets, he chose the two guitars medium, providing for a more facile representation of the harmony and counterpoint. In transcribing these four divertimenti, extracted from several Haydn symphonies, he chose the solo guitar as the target instrumentation, clearly a medium that is far less appropriate for handling a complex musical texture than the guitar duo. It is perfectly understandable that he was not entirely successful in retaining the selection’s original integrity, having eliminated some parts as noted above. Nevertheless, the resulting works, those that are directly attributable to Haydn and the one that cannot, are splendid concert pieces for the solo guitar.

François de Fossa was born in Perpignan on August 31st 1775 and died in Paris on June 3rd 1849. He was one of the most influential composers for the guitar, an influence which was reflected in his close personal relationships with many well known guitarists of the early nineteenth century, and in particular, with Dionisio Aguado. It is thanks to de Fossa that the guitar quintets of Luigi Boccherini, perhaps the basis of the repertoire for chamber music with guitar, were preserved and are available to us today.

Front cover illustration is a water color by François de Fossa (1861-1935?), the composer’s grandson. It was published as an illustration to an article titled “Le Marechal aux Champs” (l’Illustration, 20/11/1926, N° 4368) describing the residence of Marshal Ferdinand Foch at Trefeunteuniou, near Morlaix in Brittany. We are indebted to Marielle Olive for a copy of this water-color.

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Last Modified: 11/19/2011 11:40:44 AM