Fossa-Spontini Ouverture de Fernando Cortez


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Until 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, and an anthology of selected works for guitar solo published in 1990.

Most guitarist-composers in the early nineteenth century used the popular operas of the day as a source of inspiration. Some works are themes with variations, others are selected arrangements. A few of such works have become part of the standard repertoire such as Fernando Sor’s Op. 9 based on Mozart and Mauro Giuliani’s Rossiniane. In his arrangements of operatic material, François de Fossa borrowed from the works of Rossini, Carnicer, Sacchini, Méhul, Dalayrac, Berton, Boieldieu, Piccinni and Spontini. The title page of the original on which this edition is based, reads as follows:

ouverture / de l’Opéra : / Ferdinand Cortez / de G. Spontini / arrangée pour / Deux Guitares / par / f. de fossa. / Prix 2 Francs / Bonn  chez N. Simrock / Propriété de l’éditeur /[] 2611.  [Datable to July  1829.]

Gaspare Spontini (1774-1851) worked at the Naples conservatory and already had written 11 operas before he moved to Paris in 1803 where he became court composer. His opera Fernand Cortez ou La conquête de Mexique premiered there on November 28, 1809. This first performance was attended by Napoléon Bonaparte and the king of Saxony. The story is about the conquest of Mexico by Hernán Cortés, romanticized and without reference to the annihilation of the Aztec culture. In fact, Napoléon had dictated that Spontini should write this work to glorify the conquistador. In his foreword, the composer mentions his emperor in laudatory terms. The real success of the opera however came after the first revision of 1817 when Napoleon was already exiled to the island of Saint Helena. The work was spectacular with 17 horses on stage. The opera underwent more radical changes and after Spontini’s move to Berlin in 1820, it was performed there also in two more versions. The 1817 revision gives a more prominent role to Montezuma. Spontini returned to his place of birth in 1842 and died there. That village near Ancona today is called Maiolati Spontini.

Product Code: EICM-54