We owe a debt of gratitude to the French guitarist Thibault Cauvin, whose energetic enthusiasm for his performing projects has not only pleased his audiences throughout the four corners of the earth where he travels to give concerts – reaching audiences well beyond the traditional classical music aficionados – but also for attracting the attention of the Cuban composer, conductor and guitarist Leo Brouwer.
During lockdown, Thibault Cauvin has been revisiting Leo Brouwer’s two series of 30 ‘Estudios Sencillos – Simple Studies’ – simple only by name! making a video recording of one each day. This inspired Leo Brouwer to write another three, which have now been published by Ediciones Espiral Eterna.
Speaking about the original 30 Estudios Sencillos, Thibault Cauvin explains: ‘This legendary series was initiated almost 60 years ago. A few decades later, Leo Brouwer wanted to update this work and composed ten Nuevos Estudios Sencillos. And here, on the occasion of this recording and inspired by this beautiful story, the great maestro, aged 81, has honoured me by dedicating three new ones. So in his house in Cuba, he picked up his pen again and continued this legendary series that accompanied his life, like a summary of his work.’
The Trois Nouvelles Études – dedicated to Thibault Cauvin – have the titles: Étude No. 1 La ruta de las máscaras – In memoriam Claude Lévi-Strauss; Étude No. 2 El ser y la nada – In memoriam Jean-Paul Sartre; and Étude No. 3 El diálogo eterno – In memoriam Jacques Derrida. As their titles suggest, they convey concepts of complexity and depth, using an economy of musical expression, which Leo Brouwer has achieved, as always, with his masterly perspicacity.
Leo Brouwer, speaking about his Estudios Sencillos and Trois nouvelles études
Estudios Sencillos were inspired by some of my clandestine students. I had to survive during my stay in New York in the late ‘50s, a very difficult time of my life, when I had to give private lessons. I had an adult student, Sharon Pryor, with extraordinary abilities. She really inspired me and that was the beginning of the series. Some years later, many soloists started to perform the Estudios Sencillos as concert works, but that was not my real purpose. Each study addresses a particular technical and musical problem or specificity. Just one recommendation: follow your sensory intuition and pulsation. Your fingers will do the rest!
I composed the Nuevos Estudios Sencillos at the beginning of the new millennium, feeling that I was a creator of the twenty-first century (I always said when I was a child that I wouldn’t make it to 2000!). They’re a mix of tributes to legendary composers – to great world-class composers for guitar, as well as to unknown Cuban composers. While having similar objectives to the first twenty Estudios Sencillos in targeting guitar practice, the ten new pieces were also written with concert performances in mind.
Trois nouvelles études were composed between May and July 2020, motivated by Thibault’s project to record all thirty studies. I had heard his splendid performance, a few years ago, of my Tres danzas concertantes and I have intermittently followed his career through diverse projects. I took the title from Chopin’s three homonymous studies and indeed there is an unintended analogy: my studies are part of a structure similar to the Études Op. 10 (Simple Studies I–XX) and Op. 25 (New Simple Studies I–X) and Trois nouvelles études (Chopin’s finals and my own, for now).
This late continuation of a lifelong series is a tribute (in memoriam) to the great figures of twentieth-century French thought whom I admire: Claude Lévi-Strauss, Jean-Paul Sartre and Jacques Derrida. They are all ideologues of form. Though composed as a trilogy (two of the studies with the sixth in D can be played one after the other, but they function as independent pieces since they are not joined thematically).
This is directly linked to the way I elaborate and develop my musical material. I usually perform a ‘decomposition’ (a term twinned from other topics to Derrida’s ‘deconstruction’), using multiple parameters or formants – like the sound atmosphere, the dramaturgy, the breaking of the material into two dimensions (temporal and thematic), its atomization, its fragmentation and the spatiality of the sound strip where my music moves.
Havana, 7 July 2020
Here, Thibault Cauvin speaks to us about his Thibault Cauvin Plays Leo Brouwer: 33 Estudios Sencillos (Sony Classical 2020) from the recording studio (Note: there is a lovely surprise at the end!)
The recording Thibault Cauvin Plays Leo Brouwer: 33 Estudios Sencillo (Sony Classical) is available through:
Thibault Cauvin Plays Leo Brouwer: 33 Estudios Sencillos follows on from a number of fine recordings, Cauvin has made for Sony. Interviewing Thibault Cauvin in 2014 for Classical Guitar magazine about his recent record release called Cities, I asked him about his travels, a common question of course! ‘I have had the great pleasure to have been on an almost non-stop tour for the past ten years. Lots of people ask me how many different countries have I been to with my guitar, so I decided I would count them: it came out at 117 countries.’
© Thérèse Wassily Saba 2020