The First of Two Sample Programs
Music for the Classical Guitar
Six Fantasias in the Form of Pavans
Luis Milan (1500 - 1561)
Luis Milan lived in Valencia Spain and wrote an important collection of music entitled "El Maestro" in 1535. It contained several dozen pieces written for the vihuela. The vihuela is the earliest direct link to the modern classical guitar. Its body had a feminine waist and a flat back. Its shorter strings came in pairs much like the modern 12-string guitar.
Milan was a polished courtier, an accomplished poet and musician, and well traveled for his day. He had spent time in Italy. In the introduction to his book he states that, "the six fantasies which follow resemble in melody and composition the very pavans they play in Italy: and since they resemble them in every respect, let us call them pavans."
He also states that, "They must be played rather quickly." This direction seems quite contrary to our contemporary understanding of Pavans. Although rare in Spain, there are numerous examples of the Pavan being a slow, stately court dance. Its ultimate development came in the music of the England during the half century after Milan's death. I think it is best to think of these pieces as primarily being Fantasias. In substance they seem more related to the vocal polyphony of Palestrina than they do of the music of William Byrd or John Dowland.
Dominico Scarlatti (1685 - 1757)
Andante K. 11
Adagio e cantabile K. 208
Allegro K. 322
The Italian Dominico Scarlatti was the son of a successful Opera composer. His fondness for the high life, despite his lack of means to sustain one, led him to accepting a position at the backwater Portuguese court in Lisbon in 1720. While there, he composed what has come to be regarded as a truly remarkable collection of music.
The more than 500 "Essercizi per Gravicembalo" (Exercises for Harpsichord) were dedicated to his patroness, the daughter of the king, Princess Dona Maria Barbara. When she married the heir to the Spanish throne, Scarlatti accompanied her to Madrid where he remained for the rest of his life.
Scarlatti's "Sonatas", as he called them (meaning music that is made for the sake of the sound alone, as opposed to being an accompaniment to words), are an aural construction reflecting the reality of his immediate world. Stylistically they are quite divorced from the Baroque trends of the rest of Europe. Whatever pedagogical intent he may have had for them is deeply buried in the exploration of pure music for music's sake.
Scarlatti's biographer Ralph Kirkpatrick has noted, "Surely no composer ever fell more deeply under the spell of the guitar. The very harmonic structure of many pieces that mimic the guitar seems to be determined by the guitar's open strings and its propensities for modal Spanish folk music."
Sonata, (Opus 15)
Mauro Giuliani (1781 - 1829)
Adagio, con grand espressione
Finale, Allegro Vivace
Like many other Italian virtuosos at the time, Giuliani was drawn to Vienna were he lived from 1807 to 1819. The city dominated the European music scene for many decades. Here he rubbed shoulders with Beethoven, Schubert, and countless other music luminaries of the day.
His dazzling performances on the recently streamlined six-string guitar made him the city's darling. (The early 19th century guitar was a smaller version of today's concert instrument, much like that time's piano compared to the grand piano that developed later.) His 150 guitar compositions were widely distributed by the foremost publishing houses in Europe. Many of them were transcribed for the piano.
Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven developed the classic three movement Sonata and its "Sonata Allegro" form with numerous works for the piano, violin, and orchestra. Guiliani's Opus 15 is one of mere handful in the literature for the classical guitar. Many of his other pieces were written as a showcase for his prodigious guitar skills. Opus 15 is a work of considerable musical substance.
Under somewhat dubious circumstances, Giuliani was forced by the police to leave the city in 1819. Apparently his superstar lifestyle was a bit much for the tight collared authorities. He returned to Italy were died in obscurity and poverty.
--- Five Minutes ---
Pavane Pour une Enfante Defunte *
(Pavane For a Dead Princess)
Maurice Ravel (1875 - 1937)
The position of the French composer Maurice Ravel in the annals of music is enviable. His music commands admiration and respect of both scholars and audiences. It's also been well served by the recording industry.
The characteristics of Ravel's unique style are a fondness for a carefully constructed structure, clear rhythms, biting dissonance of closely adjacent notes, extended harmonies, and a preference for Hispanic elements and early dance forms.
This Pavane for the piano was first performed in 1902. It was Ravel's breakthrough work. It's enormous popularity and brisk sheet music sales led Ravel to eventually arrange the piece for orchestra.
In Ravel's own words, "Do not attach more importance to this title than it has. This is not the funeral mourning for a girl who has just died, but the evocation of a Pavane which could have been danced by a small princess in the days of old, at the court of Spain." Perhaps a more revealing title would have been "Pavane for a Princess from a Long Time Ago."
(Homage, written on the death of Claude Debussy)
Manuel de Falla (1876 - 1944)
Manuel de Falla left his home town of Cadiz on the Atlantic seacoast of Spain to attend the conservatory in Madrid under the tutelage of Felipe Pedrell. Along with being an accomplished pianist and composer, Pedrell was a highly influential, pioneering musicologist who advocated the use of folk music sources for the inspiration of art music compositions. He also initiated a revived look at the largely forgotten heritage of Spanish Renaissance polyphony. His long list of notable students included Albeniz and Granados.
After winning two competitions for piano performance and opera composition in Madrid in 1905, de Falla left for Paris where he stayed for the next seven years. He soon formed a close friendship with Paul Dukas and Claude Debussy. They were both instrumental in fine tuning de Falla's orchestration skills.
On the short list of true masterpieces in the classical guitar repertoire, this stunning miniature funeral march in the rhythm of a Habanera is especially revered. It is a notable example of de Falla's very precise musical notation of articulation and dynamics. Originally entitled "The Guitar!" (with "Homage for Claude Debussy" as a subtitle), it was written in Granada in 1920 fulfilling two requests of the composer.
The renowned guitarist Miguel Llobet had been pursuing him for a piece for some time. A newly founded journal, "La Musicale Review" wanted works for a Debussy memorial issue. The piece appeared in that magazine alongside ten other musical tributes to Debussy, including works by Stravinsky, Ravel, Satie, and Bartok.
In it we find quotes of Debussy's "La Soiree dans Grenade" and "Iberia". Later de Falla orchestrated this piece and included it in a suite of four orchestral "Homenajes". The suite also included pieces for the conductor Enrique Fernadez-Arbos, as well as his mentors and friends Dukas and Pedrell. He conducted the premiere of this work in 1939.
It unfortunately turned out to be his last public performance. As Spain's civil war ended, the country was in shambles, and the winners were indebted to the Nazis. Like many other Spaniards, de Falla left for Argentina were he remained until his death while World War II savaged Europe, and Franco exacted revenge on his defeated opponents.
En los Trigales, (In the Wheatfields)
Joaquin Rodrigo (1901 - 1999)
Joaquin Rodrigo is the composer of what has become the most frequently performed and recorded concerto in history. The "Concierto de Aranjuez" for classical guitar and orchestra premiered in 1940 for guitar and orchestra. It's one of the few classical works to attract interpreters from outside the genre. Best known among them is Jazz trumpeter Miles Davis' rework of the piece for his successful recording "Sketches of Spain."
Rodrigo has also left us a large number of pieces for solo classical guitar. This 1938 composition was eventually grouped with some other randomly written pieces to form a suite entitled "Por los Campos de Espana" in 1956. It evokes the Spanish countryside in the region of Castilla la Vieja.
Diphtheria left Rodrigo blind at the age of three. His early music studies were at the Conservatory in Valencia. Following the well beaten path of his predecessors, he studied in Paris under the direction of Paul Dukas for five years.
Mallorca, (Opus 202)
Isaac Albeniz (1860 - 1909)
Issac Albeniz was a child prodigy performing on the piano at the age of four in Barcelona and at seven in Paris. At thirteen he entered the Conservatory in Madrid. His studies were soon interrupted for a multi-year journey that took him through North and South America.
After his return to Europe, he spent two years in Budapest studying with Franz Liszt. By 1893 he had settled in Paris. Here he was heavily influenced by Debussy, Faure, and the great French pedagogue (and composer), Vincent d'Indy.
Mallorca is an island off the eastern Mediterranean coast of Spain. Albeniz's 250 solo works for piano contain many of these tone poems celebrating specific Spanish towns. This one comes in the form of a Barcarola. It's a traditional Venetian boat song whose 6/8 rhythm imitates the waves against a boat as it moves through the water.
Spanish Dance *, (Opus 37, No. 5, "Playera")
Enrique Granados (1867 – 1916)
Granados' early studies included work with Pedrell in Spain. They were followed by two years at the Paris Conservatory. He preferred life in Barcelona.
Although he didn't pursue broad recognition, his opera "Goyescas" (based on his piano suite of the same name) was a huge artistic and financial success. Ultimately it was staged in New York. His success there prompted President Wilson to invite him to play at the White House. Granados obliged and changed his travel schedule.
On his return voyage home, his boat (the British steamer Sussex) was torpedoed by a German U-Boat. The story goes that although he made it to a lifeboat, his wife did not. Granados got back into the water to search for his wife. They were not rescued.
The Second of Two Sample Programs
Music for the Classical Guitar
Robert Johnson (1562 – 1626)
Robert Johnson was the last of a distinguished line of lutenist/composers that worked in England between the years of 1580 and 1635. The lute is an early cousin of the classical guitar. Its pear shaped body has a round back, and its shorter strings come in pairs.
Henry VIII and his daughter Elizabeth I were lute players, and through their influence the lute became the instrument of choice at the royal court. Robert Johnson was one of the wealthiest and most widely known musicians in England at the time. He enjoyed unusual simultaneous commissions from King James I and Prince Henry. Johnson is the only composer known to have written for Shakespeare's plays.
The Pavin was a slow, somber processional dance. Court dances were favored vehicles for composers of the time. They were intended to please the ears as much as they were meant to move the feet.
Six Original Nocturne Melodies, (Opus 4a)
M.A. Zani de Ferranti (1801 – 1878)
The Souvenir Andante Sostenuto
Melancholy Larghetto Espressivo, with Variation, Allegretto
The Desire Andantino Con Moto, with Variation, Allegro non Troppo
The Joy Allegro
The Hope Andantino Grazioso
The Regrets Andante Mesto
The Nocturne is an important musical genre that emerged from Europe during the 19th century. Felix Mendelssohn's title “Songs Without Words” is perhaps the most concise definition that can be offered.
They are based on vocal melodies and mannerisms, but are presented on an instrument other than the voice. Their name is thought to come from the nighttime entertainment gatherings that were held in small rooms and salons in which piano music played a large role.
John Field, an Irish pianist/composer, who traveled throughout Europe acting as a manufacturer’s representative for a leading brand of pianos, is credited with publishing the first set of Nocturnes in 1814. Chopin’s first Nocturnes followed in 1831. This set of six was published shortly thereafter in Paris. They fall squarely in the romantic tradition.
Zani de Ferranti was an Italian violin prodigy who switched to the guitar as a teenager. As a concert artist, he performed frequently throughout all of Europe and conducted what is thought to be the first tour of the United States by a European guitarist, playing with great success in New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Richmond.
Five Preludes For Guitar
Hector Villa-Lobos (1877 – 1959)
Homage to Social Life Poco Animato
Homage to the Brazilian Indians Lento
Homage to Bach Andante
The Stuttering Melody, For the Rascal of Rio Andantino
Homage to the Brazilian Country Dweller Andantino Expressivo
Hector Villa-Lobos was one of the 20th century's most significant and prolific composers. He's credited with some 1,500 pieces. They run the gambit of works for full symphony orchestra to small chamber ensembles.
Born in Brazil, comfortable as a street musician, trained as a cellist, and educated in Paris, his works draw heavily from the European classical tradition, the popular contemporary music of Brazil, and the folk melodies of Brazil's native Indians. He was also a competent, if somewhat unorthodox, guitarist.
These five Preludes for classical guitar (published in 1940) are pretty tame products from a composer during the mid-twentieth century. In fact they lack the modern edginess that characterizes his earlier set of twelve guitar studies. Nonetheless, his Preludes occupy a huge, nearly unrivaled, place in the modern guitar's repertoire.
The original manuscripts for the Preludes were presented to the French firm Max Eshig for publication. Villa-Lobos' subtitles were omitted. According to the Villa-Lobos and his wife, there was also a sixth Prelude that has been lost. The composer felt it was the best of the set. I think that accounts for the fact that the set does not seem to work when played in its published order. In my opinion the original fifth Prelude does not pack the punch needed for a good ending. I have reversed the order of the published set. To me, it seems more emotionally powerful.
--- Five Minutes ---
The 1st Suite for Uuaccompanied Cello, (BWV 1007)
J.S. Bach (1685 – 1750)
Minuets 1 and 2
No composer in history has exerted more influence on the generations following him than J.S. Bach. In his own day, he was widely regarded as the finest organist not just in Germany, but all of Europe. There were no close contenders for second place. His powers of improvisation were legendary and unparalleled.
In his position as a church organist, he produced a large body of religious music that reveals a deeply profound spirituality. In between church positions, he was employed at the court in Cothen. Here he composed a number of “The Great Sixes.” These stunning collections of secular music include the “Six Brandenburg Concertos”, the “Six Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin”, the “Six Keyboard Partitas”, the “Six French Suites”, the “Six Flute Suites”, the “Six Orchestral Suites”, etc. The depth of musical understanding shown in any one of these sets is staggering. Taken as a whole body of work, the result for the ordinary musician, the gifted virtuoso, or the talented composer alike is mind boggling.
My favorite of these sets is the “Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello”. This is Bach at his most human. The movements in these works are quite closely connected to the rhythm and meter of the dances from which they are derived, as opposed to acting as a mere departing point for his considerable intellectual powers as dances are in other of his works.
The improvisational Prelude sets the character of the suite. With the first dance, we have the slowly forward strolling, four beats to the bar, Allemande. It's followed by a series of triple meter dances, each very different emotionally. The Courante has a majestic feel. The slow, seductive Sarabande forms the heart of the suite. The Minute gives us an air of lightness and the reinvigorating Gigue concludes the work.
Bach himself transcribed the 5th Cello Suite for the lute. The 1st Cello Suite was first transcribed for the guitar in its entirety in 1965 by John Duarte. Later transcriptions followed, and today there are several to choose from. I have taken the best of several (and added a little of my own approach) to form the transcription presented today.
El Polifemo De Oro (Four Fragments for Guitar)
Reginald Smith-Brindle (1917 -2003)
Inspired by F. Garcia Lorca’s poem “The Riddle of the Guitar”.
Ritmico e Vivo
The musical language of El Polifemo de Oro (translated as "The Cyclops of Gold") is uncompromisingly forward looking. Many artists from all disciplines in the first half of the twentieth century were desperately seeking to stretch our thoughts about what is acceptable as art. With musicians, these efforts centered initially on broadening our concepts of harmony and tonality.
The Serialists were a group of composers that used new methods for writing music. Traditionally, only seven notes (a couple of which are altered occasionally) are used to create a harmonic center for a piece of music. With Serialism, all twelve notes are used, and none can be repeated until they all have been utilized. The effect is a sort of unsettled randomness.
This piece is based on a poem by the Pulitzer Prize winning Spanish poet F. Garcia Lorca. The poem (The Riddle of the Guitar) uses the guitar's soundhole as imagery for the one eye of the Cyclops and makes the creature a golden color after the finish that many Spanish guitar makers favor. It reflects the fascination that both Lorca and Smith-Brindle had with flamenco.
Smith-Brindle was trained as an organist. His works for the guitar are notable for the utilization of a wide range of tonal colors. As a player, it's easy to imagine one self pulling and pushing organ stops as the piece progresses.
Assorted Jazz Standards *
Georgia On My Mind Hoagie Charmichael
Cry Me A River Arthur Hamilton
Don't Get Around Much Anymore Duke Ellington
More than one historical commentator has stated that America’s finest contribution to world culture has been jazz. Enjoy the infection ryhthmns, lush harmonies, and gorgeous melodies.
* Transcriptions and arrangements by Chris Anderson (as are the written comments on the pieces).