Had she not been cut down in the prime of life at age 42, perhaps Ida Presti would be celebrating her 95th birthday today (May 31, 2019), playing some lovely piece on the guitar or just getting together with friends and family. Alas, ’twas not to be. Actually, the extraordinarily gifted French guitarist (1924–1967) did enjoy a fairly long career: She was a child prodigy who played her first full concert at the age of ten and then was a prolific performer until her death in 1967 from an internal hemorrhage while she was on tour in the U.S. with her husband and duo partner, Alexandre Lagoya.
What a legacy! As a solo player, she performed the 1948 France premiere of JoaquÍn Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez (which was broadcast on the radio), and caused a sensation when she played at Wigmore Hall in London in 1951. A year later she married Lagoya, and over the 15 years that followed, the Duo Presti-Lagoya truly set the benchmark for the many guitar duos that have followed them—they toured relentlessly and also made a number of recordings that still hold up brilliantly today. Rodrigo and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco were among the composers who wrote pieces specifically for their duo.
Presti also wrote several works, the best-known being Danse rhythmique in 1962. As there is precious little extant video of Presti performing (solo or with Lagoya), we turn to a modern interpretation of Danserhythmique by the fine Italian guitarist Cinzia Milani, whose wonderful album A Tribute to Ida Presti was one of my favorites in 2017. In fact, in September of that year we posted a Video Pick of the Week featuring a different version of Milani performing Danse rythmique. This one, however, is tucked in the middle of 15-minute homage to Presti shot at the 30th Convegno Chitarristico in Modena, Italy, in October 2017. We have it cued to Danse, but there are also Presti-related pieces from Milani’s album before and after it (including Lagoya’s Caprice, right after it). I recommend you check out the entire segment.
As a bonus, too, check out this scratchy but compelling recording of Presti playing Albéniz’s Prelude/Asturias. It’s blindingly fast in the uptempo passages but exquisitely lyrical elsewhere; an interesting interpretation, for sure! —Blair Jackson