Antonio Ruiz-Pipó (1934-1997) was a talented Spanish pianist, composer, teacher and musicologist. Born in Granada, he was a versatile musician, shaped by his varied cultural experiences: first by his Andalusian background, then by the Catalan training he received in Barcelona, studying piano with Alicia de Larrocha and composition with Salvador Bacarisse, and, finally, by the environment and from the cosmopolitan culture of Paris, the city where he taught at the École Normale de Musique and at the Conservatoire de Musique. Composer and musicologist very attached to research on the history of Spanish music and professional pianist with a vast repertoire, he had turned his attention to the guitar: firstly he considered it one of the sources of Spanish music and, secondly, he had played the instrument in his youth, gaining practical knowledge. For the classical guitar he has written numerous works. Canción y Danza is considered to be his main legacy, while the fascination for the Spanish past is evident in works such as Homenaje a Cabezon, and in Tablas, the first of his three concertos for guitar, followed by two others: Tres en raya and the Guitar Concerto No. 3, in memory of Narciso Yepes. His complex language was also unequivocally influenced by his admiration for composers such as Albeniz and Falla and by certain aspects of French music. His music, however, is not to be thought of as a mere melting pot of influences. Ruiz-Pipó was able to take different musical ideas, creating his own characteristic idiom. He was a decidedly individual artist, rigorous, expressive and capable of developing extremely complex harmonic and formal processes, giving them an appearance of extreme simplicity. A unique example of neoclassicism, devoid of frills and excessive nods to the past; the treatment and harmonization of his thematic material (often deceptively simple-sounding) are sophisticated and feature strong contrasts of mood and color, which lend themselves to the characteristics of the classical guitar.
Unfortunately, this deep dedication to our favorite instrument has not been followed by an equal attention from the interpreters of the classical repertoire. After the remarkable recordings made by Narciso Yepes for Deutsche Grammophon in the second half of the 70s, very few guitarists were interested in reviving his repertoire. So far I have been able to trace only one complete edition of his works for guitar: “Antonio Ruiz Pipó – Jean Bruno Dautaner, Nadia Gerber – Obra Completa Para Guitarra = Complete Works For Guitar”, released in 2008 for EMEC Discos by guitarist Jean Bruno Dautaner. You can find her on Discogs at this link: Antonio Ruiz Pipó – Jean Bruno Dautaner, Nadia Gerber – Obra Completa Para Guitarra = Complete Works For Guitar (2008, CD) – Discogs
Fortunately, guitarist Wolfgang Weigel has recently released a series of three CDs for Naxos, entirely dedicated to this composer: Works With Guitar 1 – 2 – 3. Internationally renowned German guitarist, born in Saarbruecken in 1954, he studied at the music academies of his native country and Lübeck between 1970 and 1975, and later befriended guitarist Karl Scheit in Vienna, who became his artistic mentor. Weigel developed his international career as an interpreter and teacher in the early 1980s, focusing on contemporary music, particularly the repertoire of post-Franco Spain and South America. Wolfgang Weigel’s friendship with Antonio Ruiz-Pipó began in 1992 and lasted until the composer’s death in Paris in 1997. Together, they collaborated on a revision of Ruiz-Pipo’s complete guitar works for a new planned critical edition. In 1995 Ruiz-Pipó composed his third guitar concerto, dedicating it to Weigel. It was titled “En memoriam Narciso Yepes” and was composed on the occasion of the death of his old friend in the summer of 1997. Unfortunately, the tragic untimely death of Ruiz-Pipó in October 1997 interrupted their work, leaving many projects unfinished. . This recording series is Weigel’s tribute to the legacy of his friend and mentor.
The first cd, “Works With Guitar • 1”, was released in 2019 with the following repertoire:
Trio En Miniatures (6:21)
Tres En Raya (Version For Guitar And String Quartet) (16:29)
Jarcias (1992) is a duet for flute and guitar, which offers the listener a vivid portrait of an imminent sea voyage: in the first movement we experience the ship ready for its great voyage. In the second movement we listen to a meditation on the imminent sea voyage, in the third movement, the ship launches into the sea with a burst of energy, challenging all the power of the abyss: a metaphor for life. Estancias (1970) combines three musical tributes to three figures dear to Antonio Ruiz-Pipó: Karl Scheit, one of the most important exponents of classical guitar in Vienna, who showed great kindness in supporting the young composer; Alberto Ponce, a friend, colleague of the Ecole Normale in Paris and a musician highly esteemed by Ruiz-Pipó and who was also an icon of the ‘good’ Spain that both men, having emigrated, had lost forever; Angelo Gilardino, guitarist, composer and tireless researcher of 20th century music, recently passed away. Trio en miniaturas (1997), with its movements Soliloquio y dialogue, Bajo Mediterraneo and Jeux de cartes is the most Mediterranean of Ruiz-Pipo’s works. The instruments of the cor anglais, the flute and the guitar represent the sound of antiquity across the Mediterranean. Nenia a Manuel de Fella (1980) retraces in a very unconventional way a work by Manuel de Falla that Ruiz-Pipó “Homenaje, pour le tombeau de Claude Debussy” of 1925. Juegos (1990) is divided into the Entrada movements, Perpetual motion , Interlude and Final. The piece is the most French of all the composer’s works. Here he approaches a style of apparent simplicity and naivety that had often been used by many French composers before him with seemingly simple, nursery rhymes-like melodies. Tres en raya (version for guitar and string quartet) (1978) Tres en raya reveals an intelligent game of comparison between the guitar and a “choir” of strings. As in the ancient theatrical interaction between “the individual” and “the crowd”, soloist and group confront each other, discussing, discussing and debating and in the process giving life to an extremely intense and dynamic exchange.
The second cd, “Works With Guitar • 2”, was released in 2020 and features four cycles for guitar only.
“Otoriales”, composed in 1994, are a tribute to five figures from Ruiz-Pipó’s circle. Four works from the composer’s youth follow, originally published under the title Canciones y danzas, from the 1950s and 1960s. The selection continues with the three Preludes, two of which are dedicated to the Spanish guitarist friend Narciso Yepes. The album ends with his Preludios a Obara, a cycle of seven pieces written in the 70s and dedicated to the Japanese guitarist and maestro Yasumasa Obara (1914-1980).
The third cd “Works With Guitar • 3” (2021) instead illustrates the compositions for guitar quartet:
Cuarto Para Cuarto (1973) (10:17)
Homenaje A Antonio De Cabezón (1964) (8:12)
A Sevilla (1987) (Version For Guitar Quartet) (7:41)
Homenaje A Villa-Lobos (1979) (8:09)
Américas (1989) (Arranged 2020 For Guitar Quartet)
The range of styles presented on this CD differs from most of Ruiz-Pipó’s other guitar works and from his orchestral and chamber ensemble works. Here we find his interest in South American music, in particular for Brazilian styles such as samba and bossa nova. In the Homenaje duets at Villa-Lobos and Para Dos and in the quartet Americas (originally conceived as an octet) he also looks at music such as habanera and samba, as well as a little boogie-woogie, while Cuatro para Cuatro, which is a version for guitar quartet of a previous string quartet that captures the solemn seriousness that Federico Garcia Lorca immortalized in his cycle of poems Poemas del cante jondo, and A Sevilla are pure Andalusian. The solo pieces of this album show Ruiz-Pipó. Homenaje a Antonio de Cabezon pays homage to the great blind composer and organist of the 16th century. Ruiz-Pipó’s chamber music works for guitar were written primarily as dedications to various guitarists he met along the way and asked him to compose for their ensembles. In the Prelude he creates illuminating portraits of his friends Narciso Yepes, Vladimir Mikulka and John W. Duarte, all emblematic figures of the twentieth century guitar.
Antonio Ruiz-Pipó was one of the most eccentric and interesting Spanish composers of the 20th century. He shared the unfortunate fate of many emigrants, sheltering in French land and often remaining hidden from the sight of classical guitar performers: despite the remarkable musical production with which he contributed to broadening the instrument’s repertoire, Ruiz-Pipó struggled to reach an almost form of popularity among guitarists. Wolfgang Weigel attributes the reason for this ignorance to a very simple factor: his music requires intense study, is technically difficult to play, and its complexity seems to frighten artists before they have been able to unlock its beauty and grandeur through a long and intense job. Another reason seems to be the fact that the editions of his works are so scarce as to be practically impossible to trace without dedicated research. These three CDs, to which I hope others will be added, try both to do justice to the work of this composer, and to offer attentive and interested listeners a better understanding of the beauty and meaning of his music. Antonio Ruiz-Pipó was an important guitar player and an essential witness to a tragic era. His music deserves to be performed, listened to and appreciated.