About My Works For Solo Guitar

In the gloomy nineties – which were gloomy to me because of the war and then the post-war desperation in my home-country at that time – my compositions had a special meaning to me, as they were acts of creation among all the destruction surrounding me. Among the compositions, the guitar solo works have enjoyed a privileged status. They were to be performed by me, their creator, and this enabled them to be the most immediate reflections of what mattered to me musically, intellectually and emotionally. Interestingly enough, the style I was developing in works for other instruments was not lending itself easily for presentation in guitar solo works. I believe it was then that I started learning how to extract details from a large work and turn them into main ideas in my works of a smaller scale. Obviously, all of that (and more) was a lot for a mainstream music scene then – which was supposed to have been more open to new ideas than today’s – and most of the people found my music rather difficult to understand. I must admit this used to surprise me. Nevertheless, I eventually started to experiment with some more approachable, popular, “Branimir Lite” works. This has lead to my compositions based on Croatian folk tunes, and later to my version of the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper” album, as well as “Soundtrack”, a collection of “cinematic” melodies.

I have decided to combine the compositions on albums by genre, rather than chronologically. The album “Melodies” would probably be the most interesting one to most of the classical music listeners. For listeners interested in experimental music, “Neue Musik,” an album consisting of an hour of “modern music”, would be more appealing. As the scene for contemporary classical music – even if tiny – is very fragmented, I can imagine that the stylistic richness I present within the “niche” will ensure that everybody finds something interesting. “Croatian Songs” consists of light, but still intellectual and “constructed” compositions. I assume that most of listeners would enjoy them. Those familiar with the original songs would find a reason or two more for having fun.

“Two Preludes” is a juvenile work, with the quality of great directness, and interesting guitar writing. These two movements belong to the first of my publicly performed compositions.

“Chiro’s Toccata” is an early work based on the song from Slavonia, my native Croatian region. The main protagonist is Chiro who is sitting on a hay stack scaring crows with his moustache, smearing sour cream over his face and presumably flirting with girls, which he is finally kindly advised to leave alone. The piece is influenced by Bartok, and balances folk contents with features of a virtuosic concert piece.

“Baroque Triptych” is an attempt to reconcile my own musical ideas with that of great baroque masters, and connect everything with modern influences by Ligeti, Lutoslawski, Henze, Kagel, and other icons of the contemporary music scene.

 “Four Nocturnos From Osijek, January 1990”, is a work written under influence of Hans Werner Henze who was, at the time of composing, just retiring from the composition professorship at my Cologne academy. I was integrating the (still) late romantic expression of the atmosphere from the trip to my hometown with the modern atonal music language. The result is this work, which has been my favorite in concerts and with the major European radio stations.

I composed for guitar and performed my compositions very early in my career. However, after I actually officially started composition studies, it took me some time to compose for guitar solo again. As I felt there were not enough works for guitar in the manner of “etudes” like Chopin’s, Liszt’s or Ligeti’s, I decided to work on my own studies for guitar. Here I present only the first three of the six studies. The latter three are technically and musically so challenging, that they need to wait for a separate occasion. All six of the Studies explore the way in which the time within music is being perceived, as well as how the musical events created in a regular time (one which we measure with clocks) work when distributed non-chronologically, in a manner close to a “stream of conscience”.

“Liebestraeume” is a neo-romantic composition, about the music that the guitarists sorely miss in their repertoire. The romantic literature for guitar cannot match the piano music of composers like Schumann, Schubert, Chopin, and other celebrated romantics – which have probably created over a half of most beloved classical music. Paradoxically enough, guitar is usually associated with romantic music due to its intimacy and ability to produce very delicate sound color shadings. “Liebestraeume” is recreating romantic ideas in a slightly modern context.

“Croatian Songs, Part I” were composed after I already gained a lot of experience in integrating folkloristic contents within context of contemporary music. I decided to completely simplify the tonal language, and even avoided adding the non-chordal tones (like Rodrigo’s minor seconds). The result is music that is easy to listen on the surface, but saturated with various meanings and symbols “under the hood”. Shortly, those who dig deeper will find more. There are many abrupt modulations in non-guitarist keys, which are very hard to execute, and make some squeaks unavoidable (resulting from the moving of the left hand barre across the strings).

The left hand has to work even harder in “Croatian Songs, Part II”. The construction within movements is more stringent, and the compositional ideas are developed more intensively. This time all the movements are written in non-guitar keys, with modulations leading to guitar-friendly keys – a procedure opposite to that of the first part. Composers for most of other instruments (piano in particular) often feel that nothing new can be done when composing in the traditional style, as the burden of the classical masterpieces is so great. To the contrary, while writing both parts (as completely tonal works), I was able to introduce some ideas in guitar writing that the classical (and romantic) composers for guitar had missed.

“The Hunter InThe Garden Of Eden” is an “actor’s piece”, a dramatic single movement inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s life and work. I tried to capture Hemingway – the way I see him – in the net of his three main subjects: hunt, fight, and love. His love for Spain resulted with integration of some flamenco elements, and it fell just naturally, as I was always fond of flamenco, and have long desired to experiment with that type of music from another angle.

“December ‘04” is a return to baroque music and its recreation in the new context. In comparison to the old “Baroque Trypich,” the  ideas are richer and their realization a lot more skillful. However, the most valuable features are not apparent, and the work is enigmatic and hermetic, even if the brilliance of standard concert music is maintained throughout. Despite the fact that this is a polished work of a mature composer, there will be many who would still appreciate the directness and spontaneity of the “Baroque Tryptich”.

“Soundtrack” emerged from my lacking of nice guitar themes in the movie productions I was coming across since ‘The Deer Hunter’. All movements are of different character, and suitable for concert performance, or as encore pieces. Cheap effects have been avoided.

Baltimore, April 2008

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