An Malvina, from Songs of the Bard (“Bardenklange”, Opus 13, No. 1), by Johann Kaspar Mertz, modern edition by R. Reed.
I came upon An Malvina in the fabulous fourth book, The Romantic Guitar, in the Frederick Noad Guitar Anthology series, which came out in 1986 about 10 years after the first three volumes had been in print: Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical. In my opinion, this piece is one of the highlights of this fourth book. Often a composer gives special treatment to the first movement or song in a collection, as evidenced by the first Prelude from the first suite of Johann Sebastian Bach’s set of six and this lovely serenade being the first of fifteen songs without words. On a personal note, An Malvina was my opening piece on my very first recital at Duke almost 30 years ago.
The special majestic introduction (the opening six measures) is balanced perfectly with the final six measures. In between is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful arpeggio serenades in guitar repertoire. And aren’t we glad it is easy! Mertz is at one with both his instrument and the craft of composing. Too bad he died at age 50! Our instrument has had some bad luck with great composers: Miguel Llobet was approached by Ravel, Falla and many other fine composers and he said “the instrument is too hard to write for, don’t bother”! Anyway, this lovely song without words is played mostly with the i and a fingers and, of course, the thumb. The composer instructs us to play the piece expressively with a well pronounced top line above a very soft accompaniment (pianissimo).
Most of the Bardenklange Opus is of moderate difficulty, as is this piece. Try it out and let me know what you think. It’s a sad love song. The love is alive not some dead memory and I have added some words at the end that you may use to help you feel the meaning of this gorgeous love poem. R Reed
— Randy Reed, TGS music editor