Narciso Yepes

Narciso Yepes

Narciso Yepes (November 14, 1927May 3, 1997) was a Spanish guitarist.


He was born into a family of humble origin in Lorca, southern Spain. His father gave him his first guitar when he was four years old. He took his first lessons from Jesus Guevara, in Lorca. Later his family moved to Valencia when the Spanish Civil War started in 1936.

When he was 13, he was accepted to study at the Conservatorio de Valencia with the pianist and composer Vicente Asencio. Here he followed courses in harmony, composition, and performance.

On December 16th 1947 he made his Madrid début, performing Joaquin Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez with Ataúlfo Argenta conducting the Spanish National Orchestra. The overwhelming success of this performance brought him renown from critics and public alike. Soon afterwards, he began to tour with Argenta, visiting Switzerland, Italy, Germany and France. During this time he was largely responsible for the growing popularity of the Concierto de Aranjuez.

In 1950, after performing in Paris, he spent a year studying interpretation under the violinist George Enesco, and the pianist Walter Gieseking. He also studied informally with Nadia Boulanger. This was followed by a long period in Italy where he profited from contact with artists of every kind.

In 1952 he arranged a traditional song for guitar called Romance (which would later be covered by My Chemical Romance and Pearl Jam) which would become the theme to the film Forbidden Games (Jeux interdits) by René Clément, propelling his career on an international level. Yepes also performed other pieces for the film soundtrack. His later credits as film composer include the soundtracks to La Fille aux Yeux d'Or (1961) and 'La viuda del capitán Estrada' (1991). He also starred as a musician in the 1967 film version of El amor brujo.

In 1964, Yepes performed the Concierto de Aranjuez with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, premièring the ten-string guitar, which he invented in collaboration with the renowned guitar maker José Ramirez. Yepes was the greatest proponent of the 10-string, an instrument that made it possible to transcribe works originally written for baroque lute without deleterious transposition of the bass notes. However, the main reason for the invention of this instrument was the addition of string resonators tuned to C, A#, G#, F#, which resulted in the first guitar with truly chromatic string resonance - similar to that of the piano with its sustain/pedal mechanism.

After 1964, Yepes used the ten-string guitar exclusively, touring to all six inhabited continents, performing in recital as well as with the world's leading orchestras, giving an average of 130 performances each year.

Aside from being a consummate musician, Yepes was also a significant scholar. His research into forgotten manuscripts of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries resulted in the rediscovery of numerous works for guitar or lute. He was also the first person to record the complete lute works of Bach on period instruments (14-course baroque lute). In addition, through his patient and intensive study of his instrument, Narciso Yepes developed a revolutionary technique and previously unsuspected resources and possibilities.

He was granted many official honours including the Gold Medal for Distinction in Arts, conferred by King Juan Carlos I; membership in the Academy of “Alfonso X el Sabio” and an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Murcia. In 1986 he was awarded the National Music Prize of Spain, and he was elected unanimously to the Spanish Royal Academy of Fine Arts.

Since 1993 Narcisco Yepes limited his public appearances due to illness. He gave his last concert on March 1st 1996, in Santander (Spain).

He died in Murcia in 1997.

He was married to Marysia Szummakowska. They had one son, Ignacio Yepes, an orchestral conductor, and one daughter, dancer and choreographer Ana Yepes

Press Quotes

  • "Narciso Yepes gave a most delicate account of Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez. The range of timbres he can produce, to contrast phrases and to shape them, is astonishing . . . The work is not worthy of such playing." (Paul Griffiths [acclaimed author on new music, writer, librettist, critic] 1974, THE TIMES, London, 6 Nov., p.11)
  • "Mr. Yepes' playing was distinguished by its clarity of detail, particularly in the ornaments, and facility of the passage-work. He was also able to sustain contrapuntal lines by some devilish trick, and he used color, not like Segovia, for its sensual appeal, but to help underline phrases and structural details ... Yepes had poetry and power in large measure and flexibility of rhythm that was a total contradiciton to the tight beat he kept. Mr. Yepes' startling performing magnetism is a natural product of his technical mastery..." (MUSICAL AMERICA)
  • "With a rare intelligence and sensibility, Narciso Yepes conveyed to his audience that powerful silencing of all the critical spirit that only really great performers can bestow." (SOIR, Brussels)
  • "Such incomparable artistry, coupled with staggering technical virtuosity, is rare among artists today." (RECORDS AND RECORDINGS)
  • "Yepes is more than a brilliant virtuoso and more than a consummate musician ... he is a magician who needs no more than a rhythm or a chord to bring all under his power." (AUX ECOUTES, Paris)
  • "He is a consummate technician and a knowledgeable interpreter in a variety of guitar idioms, from the Renaissance and Baroque to the Modern ... His attributes as a well-disciplined master of the guitar are of the first rank." (THE NEW YORK TIMES)
  • "Other fine guitarists have visited Japan, but none of them, not even Segovia, revealed such delicacy and beauty in the instrument." (SANKEI SHINBUN, Tokyo)
  • "...We consider Yepes the most complete guitarist of our times." (EL MERCURIO, Santiago de Chile)
  • "An admirable musician, a master of his instrument ... his interpretations are solidly built up and are not affected by the slightest trace of sentiment ... The audience showed their enthusiasm by their eager and well-deserved applause and foot-stomping. Certainly merited". (JOURNAL DE GENEVE, Geneva)
  • "His musical personality is of the widest possible scope. It took no more than three opening pieces to establish Mr. Yepes as a vibrant, sensual, searching and highly articulate performer". (THE N.Y. HERALD TRIBUNE)
  • "The suite by Falckenhagen and the two Scarlatti sonata transcriptions - both clean and cool in their symmetry - seemed burdened to the point of stumbling by Mr. Yepes's rhapsodic pauses and surges. [...] In three Villa-Lobos studies, however, Mr. Yepes's generosity of phrase found sympathetic and grateful recipients [...]" (THE NEW YORK TIMES; Music Noted in Brief; Narciso Yepes Plays A Guitar Recital at Met; Bernard Holland; November 10, 1986)
  • "Compared with the more flowing style of his older contemporary, Andres Segovia [...], Mr. Yepes's style could sound oddly clipped, yet his admirers pointed out that his approach allowed counterpoint to emerge with a clarity unusual on the guitar." (THE NEW YORK TIMES; Narciso Yepes, Spanish Guitarist And an Innovative Musician, 69; Allan Kozinn; May 4, 1997)

Recordings (A Partial List)

Recordings at Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft

  • "La Fille aux Yeux d'Or" (original film soundtrack) (Fontana, 460.805)
  • "Narciso Yepes: Bacarisse/Torroba" (Concertos) (London, CCL 6001)
  • "Jeux Interdits" (Original film soundtrack) (London, Kl 320)
  • "Narciso Yepes: Recital" (London, CCL 6002)
  • "Falla/Rodrigo" (Concierto de Aranjuez) (London, CS 6046)
  • "Spanish Classical Guitar Music" (London, KL 303)
  • "Vivaldi/Bach/Palau" (Conciertos & Chaconne)(London, CS 6201)
  • "Guitar Recital: Vol. 2" (London, KL 304)
  • "Rodrigo/Ohana" (Concertos) (London, CS 6356)
  • "Guitar Recital: Vol. 3" (London, KL 305)
  • "The World of the Spanish Guitar Vol. 2" (London, STS 15306)
  • "Simplemente" (re-release of early recordings) (MusicBrokers, MBB 5191)
  • "Recital Amerique Latine & Espagne" (Forlane, UCD 10907)
  • "Les Grands d'Espagne, Vol. 4" (Forlane, UM 3903)
  • "Les Grands d'Espagne, Vol. 5" (Forlane, UM 3907)
  • "Fernando Sor - 24 Etudes" (Deutsche Grammophon, 139 364)
  • "Spanische Gitarrenmusik aus fünf Jahrhunderten, Vol. 1" (Deutsche Grammophon, 139 365)
  • "Spanische Gitarrenmusik aus fünf Jahrhunderten, Vol. 2" (Deutsche Grammophon, 139 366)
  • "Joaquín Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez, Fantasía para un Gentilhombre" (Deutsche Grammophon, 139 440)
  • "Rendezvous mit Narciso Yepes" (Deutsche Grammophon, 2538 106)
  • "Luigi Boccerini: Gitarren-Quintette" (Deutsche Grammophon, 2530 069 & 429 512-2)
  • "J.S. Bach - S.L. Weiss" (Deutsche Grammophon, 2530 096)
  • "Heitor Villa-Lobos" (Deutsche Grammophon, 2530 140 & 423 700-2)
  • "Música Española" (Deutsche Grammophon, 2530 159)
  • "Antonio Vivaldi" (Concertos) (Deutsche Grammophon, 2530 211 & 429 528-2)
  • "Música Catalana" (Deutsche Grammophon, 2530 273)
  • "Guitarra Romantica" (Deutsche Grammophon, 2530 871)
  • "Johann Sebastian Bach: Werke für Laute" (Works for Lute - Complete Recording on Period Instruments) (Deutsche Grammophon, 2708 030)
  • "Francisco Tárrega" (Deutsche Grammophon, 410 655-2)
  • "Joaquín Rodrigo" (Guitar Solos) (Deutsche Grammophon, 419 620-2)
  • "Romance d'Amour" (Deutsche Grammophon, 423 699-2)
  • "Canciones españolas I" (Deutsche Grammophon, 435 849-2)
  • "Canciones españolas II" (Deutsche Grammophon, 435 850-2)
  • "Rodrigo/Bacarisse" (Concertos) (Deutsche Grammophon, 439 5262)
  • "Johann Sebastian Bach: Werke für Laute" (Works for Lute - Recording on Ten-String Guitar) (Deutsche Grammophon, 445 714-2 & 445 715-2)
  • "Rodrigo/Halffter/Castelnuovo-Tedesco" (Concertos) (Deutsche Grammophon, 449 098-2)
  • "Domenico Scarlatti: Sonatas" (Deutsche Grammophon, 457 325-2 & 413 783-2)
  • "Guitar Recital" (Deutsche Grammophon, 459 565-2)
  • "Asturias: Art of the Guitar" (Deutsche Grammophon, 459 613-2)
  • "Narciso Yepes" (Collectors Edition box set) (Deutsche Grammophon, 474 667-2 to 474 671-2)
  • "20th Century Guitar Works" (Deutsche Grammophon)
  • "Guitar Music of Five Centuries" (Deutsche Grammophon)
  • "G.P. Telemann" (Duos with Godelieve Monden) (Deutsche Grammophon)
  • "Guitar Duos" (with Godelieve Monden) (BMG)
  • "Leonardo Balada: Symphonies" ('Persistencies') (Albany, TROY474)

Works Composed for or Dedicated to Narciso Yepes (a partial list)

Concepción Lebrero: Remembranza de Juan de la Cruz

Estanislao Marco: Guajira

Tomás Marco: Concierto "Eco"

Joaquin Rodrigo: En los trigales (1939)

Manuel Palau: Concierto levantino

Manuel Palau: Ayer

Manuel Palau: Sonata

Salvador Bacarisse: Concertino in A-minor

Salvador Bacarisse: Suite

Salvador Bacarisse: Ballade

Maurice Ohana: Tiento (1955)

Maurice Ohana: Concerto "Trois Graphiques" (1950-7)

Maurice Ohana: Si le jou paraît... (1963)

Cristobal Halffter: Codex 1 (1963)

Leo Brouwer: Tarantos

alcides lanza: modulos I (1965)

Leonardo Balada: Guitar Concerto No. 1 (1965)

Antonio Ruiz-Pipó: Cinqo Movimientos (1965)

Antonio Ruiz-Pipó: Canciones y Danzas

Leonardo Balada: Analogías (1967)

Antonio Ruiz-Pipó: "Tablas" Concerto (1968-69/72)

Vicente Asencio: Collectici íntim (1970)

Vicente Asencio: Suite de Homenajes

Bruno Maderna: Y después (1971)

Leonardo Balada: "Persistencias" Sinfonía-concertante (1972)

Jorge Labrouve: Enigma op. 9 (1974)

Jorge Labrouve: Juex op. 12 (Concertino) (1975)

Luigi Donorà: Rito (1975)

Francisco Casanovas: La gata i el belitre

Miguel Ángel Cherubito: Suite popolar Argentina

José Peris: Elegía

Xavier Montsalvatge: Metamorfosis de Concierto (1980)

Xavier Montsalvatge: Fantasía para guitarra y arpa (1983)

Federico Mompou: Canço i dansa no. 13

External links




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