While compiling this collection of "favourite"guitar pieces, many of which I have played for much of my musical life, I realisedthat not only was it this music which first attracted me to the guitar, butthis is the repertoire that has enticed a world of guitar lovers to theinstrument's special charm and magic.
These pieces, mostly quite brief, and mainly Hispanic inorigin, embody the soul of the guitar.
Perhaps the most popular Spanish music is a handful ofpieces by Isaac Albeniz, written originally for the piano, but played moreoften in transcription on the guitar. In fact, Albeniz did not write any musicfor the guitar, but clearly had his national instrument in his "mind's'ear" when composing for the piano.
Inspired by various regions or cities in Spain, thesepieces evoke the haunting and mysterious character that is Spain in everymeasure. Asturias, named after the northern mountainous province, issubtitled Leyenda (Legend) and may be the musical telling of a mountaintale, that seems to grow more exaggerated with the building of each phrase. Mallorcadepicts the beautiful shimmering island in the swaying rhythm of aBarcarolle (boatsong), as though Mallorca had been set adrift in the Mediterranean.
The writing is very much in the style of the great piano composer, FryderykChopin, and clearly alludes to the fact that Chopin lived for a time in Mallorca.
The city of Sevilla is the heart of "flamenco country". Basedon one of the fundamental flamenco dances, the sevillanas, the lively, rhythmicalopening and conclusion suggest a flamenco" fiesta", but the central sectioninterrupts with the mournful cry of a flamenco singer. These haunting, impromptumelismas, and the suggestion of the tango rhythm, conjure up the dark anguishof the "cante hondo" style.
The twentieth century witnessed an unparalleled revivalof the guitar, owing
mainly to the pioneering efforts of the great Spanishguitarist Andres segovia.
Among the first composers to respond to segovia'srequestsfor new music were
his countrymen, Federico Moreno- Torroba, andJoaquin Turina.
Moreno-Torroba was most famous for his zarzuelas -light, often comic operaswhich were incredibly popular, with their earthy characters and intrigues. Inhis Andante (from the Sonatina), Torroba draws forth a lyricismand sweetness that seems to turn the guitar into a vocal instrument. Incontrast to Torroba's large output,
Turina wrote only a handful of pieces for the guitar, andalmost all are based on flamenco dance forms. The Fandanguillo, op. 36,uses the fandango rhythm stated in the opening measures by drumming onthe guitar, and builds to a brilliant climax through a series of improvisedsounding figures. The dance-form
Soleares takes its name from the Spanish word for"solitude" (soledad), and depicts loneliness through itsrepeated rhythms and dark harmonies.
The Paraguayann guitar-composer Agustin Barrios Mangore,worked in relative isolation in South and Central America, although his musicis full of European classical influences, notably those of J.S. Bach, Chopin,and Tilrrega. His hundreds of pieces can be divided into three main categories-homages to the
Baroque, South American folk-music based pieces, andworks in the nineteenth century Romantic style. It is the latter category inwhich the touching Barcarole, Julia Florida belongs, with its delicatemelodic lines and effusive sentimentality.
Francisco Tilrrega's pivotal influence on the classicalguitar can still be felt today, as he is considered to be the founder of modernguitar technique. Rather shy of concert performing, Tilrrega mainly played forintimate gatherings of friends, and his compositions are primarily briefminiatures, rarely exceeding five minutes in length. The Mazurkas playedhere are modelled after those of
Chopin, but instead of the pianist's brooding longing forhis Polish homeland,
Tilrrega's mazurkas reflect the earthy soul of Spain, andhis deep love for the guitar. Perhaps the best loved piece of the entire guitarrepertoire is Recuerdos de la Alhambra (Memories of the Alhambra).
Inspired by that beautiful ancient palace in the hills of Granada, Tilrregareflects on the delicately carved, intricate filigree in the very walls of thebuildings, through the delicate figurations in this tremolo study. Rosita
is a bright, perky little Polka, that is full of whimsy. Tilrrega makesabundant use of his characteristic glissandi -sliding effects that hereadd to the humour.
In addition to his legendary violinistic prowess, NiccoloPaganini was also an accomplished guitarist. He wrote dozens of pieces for sologuitar, and for guitar in combination with other instruments. The Romanza
is drawn from the Grand Sonate for guitar with violin accompaniment(sic!), which is by far his most intricate guitar writing. The Sonate's
outer movements exhibit the fireworks we usually associate with this composer,but in this tender Romanza, Paganini's melodic gift comes to the fore.
In this arrangement for solo guitar, I have incorporated the violin part, whichwas so scant as to be almost humorous.
Unlike Albeniz, Enrique Granados did not delve into theworld of the gypsies and the cante hondo of flamenco music. Instead, hismusical mind focused on Madrid, and his compositions assume a more aristocraticcharacter, especially in his Goyescas for piano, and the Tonadillas
for voice and piano, inspired by the painter Francisco Goya. However, in the 12Spanish Dances, originally for the piano, a number of Andalusianelements appear; in fact, the subtitle of Danza
No.5 is Andaluza.
Manuel de Falla, on the other hand, embraced gypsy andflamenco musical elements, using them in almost all of his works. TheMiller's Dance, from the ballet The Three Cornered Hat, is theflamenco dance-form the farruca, and in its original scoring creates theeffect of a giant orchestral guitar. It is fitting then, in this transcription,to return the piece to its conceptual home -the guitar.
As the guitar travelled out of Spain to other countries,it not only carried with it its inherently Hispanic musical traits, but alsoadapted to the indigenous music ofitsnewly adopted home. One of the many placesthe guitar settled, and was embraced nearly as a 'national instrument', was Brazil,and it found its way into the hands of that country's most important composer, HeitorVilla-Lobos. Though small in number in relation to his entire prolific output,Villa-Lobos' guitar pieces are among the most important in the repertoire. The Preludes
date from 1940, after the composer had lived in Paris, and are his most oftenplaye