Benson Musical Instrument Factory Polishing Room / Musical Instrument Manufacturers Archive, National Music Museum, South Dakota
By Dr. Júlio Ribeiro Alves / 12.2015
Professor of Music Theory and Guitar
Throughout its entire history, one of the main limitations of the guitar, if not “the main”, was its lack of volume. The aspect excluded the guitar from the major musical circles, and limited its inclusion as a member of chamber music groups. With the appearance of its modern version the guitar increased its capability of being heard, and expanded its possibilities of inclusion in the music scenario.
The guitar was going through an experimental period related to its construction. Several builders were looking for ways to improve the instrument, and it would be naïve to expect that they would not take the instrument’s limited volume into account. Changes
in the neck, frets, increase in size, as well as the inclusion of an open hole, mechanical machine heads, and the new fan- strutting system have been presented to the reader. However, the information about the person who became known as “the father of the modern guitar” was purposefully reserved for this chapter.
Antonio de Torres Jurado / Wikimedia Commons
The contribution of Spanish guitar maker Antonio de Torres Jurado (1817-1892) revolutionized the field guitar construction, to the extent that it undoubtedly led to the appearance of a distinct type of guitar. Torres was initiated into carpentry at age twelve. It is speculated that sometime in 1842 he went to work for the guitar maker José Pernas in Granada, and in a short time learned how to make guitars. He then opened a guitar shop in Sevilla.
The contact with guitarist-composer Julián Arcas (1832-1882) was especially significant to his career. During the 1850’s Arcas advised Torres to become a professional guitar builder and instigated him to pursue new improvements in guitar construction. The Spanish master concluded that the key was the soundboard. In order to increase its volume, he made the soundboard thinner, and therefore lighter, and fitted it into larger guitars. This type of soundboard arched in both directions, as a result of his bracing system of putting seven light ‘fan-struts,’ pointing at the 12th fret of the guitar in the back of the soundboard, for strength.
The new structure reinforced by the radial lattice below the soundboard improved the distribution of the sound waves. Torres thus abandoned the light and fragile design of the romantic period and increased the size of his guitars to 65cm, which became a model,
and elevated the fingerboard. These changes resulted in a more powerful instrument, with distinct character, richness of timbres, and directed projection.
One could righteously point to the fact that Torres was not the inventor of the fanstrutting system, and that other makers of the period had already used the idea. On the other hand, it is undeniable that Torres refined it from his predecessors. Indeed, it was the major differential that was added to the guitar. At some point, to confirm his theory that the sound of the guitar was a mainly a consequence of the top, and not of its back and sides, Torres built a guitar with back and sides of papier-mâché. Between 1852-1869, and 1875-1892, Torres built around 320 instruments, setting new standards for classical guitar construction that are still taken into consideration in our current times.
The guitar has always been strongly associated to Spain, even though a multitude of outstanding performers and composers came from other countries. After its decline during the nineteenth century, it seems but “right” that Spain would be the place for its rebirth. Arcas’s contribution to this process was not only his advice for Torres to become a luthier. He also taught the person who was the last of the “three sides of the triangle” involved in the modernization of the guitar: Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909).
Francisco Tàrrega (before 1900) / Wikimedia Commons
Tárrega was born in Vilarreal, in the northern province of Castellón. He started playing the guitar still young, at age eight. In fact, his early music studies seem to have been partially a way to cope with a permanent condition in his life. An irresponsible nanny threw him into an irrigation channel when he was a young child. The unfortunate event caused him to impair his eyesight. In 1862, Julián Arcas, on tour, became impressed with the ease that Tárrega displayed on the instrument and offered to teach him, if his parents allowed him to go to Barcelona. Tárrega’s father agreed with the condition that his son would still study the piano.
The period in which Tárrega studied with Arcas did not last long. It finished shortly after the former moved to Barcelona and the latter went on touring again. Interestingly, ten-year-old Tárrega tried to make him known as a guitarist in the bars and restaurants in Barcelona. He was soon sent back home to live with his parents. He ran away from home twice after that, once in 1865 to live with some gypsies in Valencia, and another to go again to Valencia.
By the time he enrolled to study at the Madrid Conservatory in 1874, he was a proficient player in both the piano and the guitar. Sponsored by a wealthy businessman by the name of Antonio Canesa, he initiated his studies in that prestigious institution with a new instrument made by Torres. The unquestionable superiority of that instrument resulted in a new set of possibilities for Tárrega to raise the level of the guitar among other musical instruments.
The collaboration of the triangle Torre-Arcas-Tárrega was essential to the development of the new type of guitar. Nonetheless, Tárrega was responsible for two other important contributions in the establishment of the modern guitar. Firstly, he helped to increase its repertory. Secondly, he reformulated the instrument’s technique.
Tárrega’s chosen path to the renewal of the guitar repertory and to raise the status of the instrument was via transcriptions, as a way to reveal to the musical world that the guitar was able to handle a more consistent musical discourse. Although he also composed close to 80 original pieces for the guitar, he transcribed more than 100 works by composers such as Beethoven, Schumann, Chopin, Verdi, and Mendelssohn and of Spanish contemporaries such as Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909). To current guitarists, the two most known works by Tárrega are perhaps the lyrical Capricho Árabe and the tremolo piece Recuerdos de la Alhambra.
It took Tárrega a long period to systematize the fundamental principles of guitar playing during his process of reformulating the technique of the guitar. He selected what was the best in terms of technical practices for the guitar left by his antecessors and adapted it to the reality of the new instrument. He advocated the use of the guitar on the left leg with a footrest.
The use of the pinky resting on the soundboard was abolished once for all by Tárrega, making possible for the right hand to act free to explore more thoroughly the different tone colors of the instrument. He expanded the concept of fingering favoring the expression of tone colors. During the nineteenth century, guitarists were more accustomed to finger with open positions and open strings, probably in order to compensate the lack of brilliance and amplitude of their instruments. The Spanish master developed a type of fingering that would extend through the fingerboard, similar to the one used in violin technique, exploring a warmer and cantabile sonority, which permitted the guitar to explore more expressively the nuances of the musical phrasing.
One of the most representative aspects of Tárrega’s style of playing was the use of glissandos, allowing the melodic line to be performed without caesuras. The inclusion of the rest stroke in guitar technique is also associated with him. All these technical
improvements, and others, were a trademark of his style of playing, documented by his pupils and admirers.
There is no documentation available to us to make a deeper analysis of the real man and the myth that was left to us. The only exception is a fragment with Tárrega performing one of his own compositions. However, two of his pupils, Miguel Llobet and Emilio Pujol, left a significant number of recordings that are highly relevant to one to understand the influence of Tárrega in the guitar scenario.
Francisco Tárrega was a cornerstone in the process of revitalizing the popularity of the instrument. His name is also connected to an important aesthetic current known as Spanish Romanticism, which rejected the Italian influences in order to reestablish Spain’s
national identity. The Romantic Movement arrived late in Spain due to the political situation in existence. Spain had been ruled under the French dynasty for almost a century and a half, from 1700 to1833. During that period, the Spanish people saw their
national identity being suppressed by foreigner influences (most notably from France and Italy) in the courtly arts. When the despotic king, Ferdinand VII died in 1833, the liberals, and hence, Spanish romanticism returned to its home.
Francisco Asenjo Barbieri (left), Tomás Bretón (center), and Felip Pedrell (right) / Wikimedia Commons
The reaction against Italianism gave rise to the flourishing of the popular zarzuelas under Francisco Asenjo Barbieri (1823-1894), Tomás Bretón (1850-1923), and Felipe Pedrell (1841-1922). The zarzuela was a lyric-dramatic genre, a type of light opera that alternated between spoken and sung scenes. Later it also incorporated operatic and popular song, as well as dance. The term derives from the Palacio de la Zarzuela near Madrid, where the Spanish court saw for the first time this type of entertainment.
Pedrell and his nationalism in turn stimulated Tárrega as well as two important Spanish composers also relevant to this paper: Isaac Albéniz and Enrique Granados (1867-1916). They were composing during a period labeled “Post-Romanticism,” which in Spain is more closely related to the Romantic period. During this time, the Spaniards experienced the costumbrismo, a trend in which literature and painting portrayed a simplified, romanticized interpretation of local everyday life. In poetry, the rebirth of
nationalism was allied to figures such as José Zorrilla y Moral (1817-1893), José de Espronceda (1808-1848), and Ángel de Saavedra y Ramírez de Baquedano, known as Duque de Rivas (1791-1865).
The simplicity of the Spanish life, with its mannerisms and customs was also paralleled in music, with Tárrega exclusively writing for the guitar, and Albéniz and Granados writing for the piano and opera. They formed a national Spanish contemporary school of music, embracing the traditional Spanish idiom, which incorporated lyricism, popularism, and realism.
Albéniz took the guitar as his model and drew his inspiration from Andalucian folk music, without using actual folk themes. He achieved a style that has the traditional Spanish, yet gives an impression of spontaneity. He was a romanticist in its fine aspects and created lyrical masterpieces for the piano. After hearing Tárrega’s transcriptions of his own music, he affirmed that he preferred them to some of his originals for the piano. His books titled “Iberia” contains studies of the characteristic rhythms and effects from different Spanish provinces, developed with a great sense of poetical suggestion.
Albéniz’s Asturias (Leyenda), the fifth piece from the Suite Española Op.47, is without doubt one of the most popular pieces of the modern classical guitar repertory, with numerous transcriptions being made. It is almost impossible for a modern guitarist or guitar student not to have heard or played some arrangement of the piece. Among his works also stand Torre Bermeja (the last piece from 12 Piezas Características Op.92), Mallorca (Barcarola) Op.202, and the other movements from the mentioned Suite Española.
Enrique Granados Campiña / Wikimedia Commons
The art of Francisco Goya (1746-1828) influenced the compositional style of Enrique Granados. Inspired in Goya’s art, Granados concentrated on the romantic and the picturesque, not the realistic and satiric. His opera Goyescas was originally a group of piano pieces. Granados reveals himself a romanticist in its frank melody, pathos, poetical suggestions, and complex harmonic schemes, which are original but relate to the style of Chopin, yet in a Spanish idiom.
Both Liszt and the nineteenth-century German texture were influential to Granados. Nevertheless, the composer had a style of his own, rambling on and making his points by emphasizing repetition, like the Spanish poets, saying the same things in a delightful variety of ways. As he did with Albéniz’s music, Tárrega also transcribed Granados’. Among his works that have been transcribed for the guitar and are popular to modern guitarists are the tonadilla La Maja de Goya, Valses Poéticos, and Danzas Españolas Op.37.
Another Spanish composer who, in spite of a very small production for the guitar, was relevant to the nationalistic production of that country was Manuel de Falla (1876-1946). The citation below, from Falla himself, makes evident that he envisioned a bright future for the guitar. He believed that one of the biggest trumps that composers had at their disposal during that period of reawakening of the guitar was tied to the exploration of harmony and its effects in the instrument:
The guitar as popularly used in Spain represents two distinct musical effects: that of rhythm, which is apparent and immediately perceptible; and that of harmony. The former, in conjunction with certain forms of cadence has been for long the only effect employed in more or less cultivated music, while the imparting of the latter- the effect of which is tonal-harmonic- has hardly been recognized by composers, except Domenico Scarlatti, until recent times in the Ibéria of Albéniz.
Under the influence of Pedrell, who was his professor of composition in Madrid, Falla became deeply involved with the native music of Spain, more specifically the flamenco from Andalusia. His early pieces display a number of zarzuelas and his first prominent work, La vida breve, an opera in one act was written in 1905 and premiered in 1913.
Manuel de Falla (1919) / Wikimedia Commons
The next step in the life of the composer was Paris. Although the city did not have the same appeal for guitarists as it did in the beginning of the nineteenth century, it was one of the main European centers for composers. It was there in the French metropolis that impressionistic composers Maurice Ravel (1875-1937), Paul Dukas (1865-1935), and Claude Debussy (1862-1918) influenced Falla.
Debussy’s admiration for the guitar prompted Falla to compose his only piece for solo guitar, titled Homenaje pour le tombeau de Claude Debussy. It was written in memory of the French composer two years after his death, for issue #20 of the Revue Musical. The piece was the first one written to Segovia, who eventually recorded the piece (although he never included it in his repertoire). Another work that is popularly featured in recitals today is Seven Popular Songs, for voice and guitar accompaniment. In the set, Falla used actual folk songs, but the accompaniments were his own.
Returning to Tárrega, it is important to mention his contribution as a pedagogue of the guitar. Several of his pupils become important concert players, traveling and disseminating his new concept of guitar playing. Nevertheless, he himself never left any
guitar method to the posterity, and others did not write by him, but the books that came to us nowadays under the title “The School of Tárrega”. Because of this fact, such methods should be approached with caution, because they belong from a time in which many people took advantage of the legacy and reputation of the Spanish master.
Among Tárrega’s pupils, two of them are worthy of being included in this discussion, because of their impact in the development of the guitar: Miguel Llobet (1878-1938) and Emilio Pujol (1886-1980). They had distinct musical temperaments. Nonetheless, each one in their own way left a contribution to the guitar world, opening new doors to the subsequent generations.
Sometimes regarded as the “guitarist of the impressionism,” Miguel Llobet was extraordinarily talented and from an early age was supported by his family that had artistic inclinations. He studied with Tárrega during many years and then enrolled in the Barcelona Conservatory were he made friends such as Pablo Casals, Ricardo Viñes and Gaspar Cassado. His debut was in Malaga in 1900. With the support of Ricardo Viñes, Llobet established himself as a member of the musical elite in Paris, and had direct contact with Debussy, Fauré and Ravel, composers who attended his concerts and who influenced his style as a composer.
After 1900, Llobet performed all over Europe, and North and South Americas. He came to live in Argentina for a period, and there he made some of his recordings between 1926 and 1929. Although he was not the first guitarist to record, his recordings were the first ones in which the guitar used the technology of the microphone instead of wax cylinders.
Llobet’s ideals related to the quality of the sound on the guitar differed from Tárrega’s, although he was the latter’s most prominent pupil. His right hand technique included the use of the nails. Tárrega, on the other hand, opted to play with the flesh, regarding the nails as “dead material.” Pujol agreed with Tárrega, and later addressed the issue of tone production in his El dilema del Sonido en la Guitarra. He defended that the use of the flesh made sense because the player would employ the fingertips, which were the most sensitive part of the body, resulting on a sound that was more rounded and pungent.
Pujol’s artistic path included musicology and research. He initiated his career performing folkloric music. In 1900 he began to study with Tárrega, rapidly projecting himself as a solo concert player and composer.
In 1924 he discovered an ancient vihuela in a museum in Paris, and instigated by the instrument started an arduous research on the repertory of ancient instruments such as the vihuela, lute, and Baroque guitar. Max Eschig in Paris, starting in 1925, published
the results of this research and it represented a pioneer example in the process of historical reconstitution that is in vogue nowadays.
Pujol’s legacy made works by Milan, Mudarra, Sanz, Le Roy, and other composers, available to guitar players. In fact, many of the works that came to us through Pujol’s research have become milestones of the guitar repertory. He was also a successful teacher and produced three classics of the guitar literature called Escuela Razonada de la Guitarra. Many pedagogues consider the publication as the most important reference about the early stages of the modern guitar, and it is still adopted in many conservatoires around the globe.
Pujol wrote a biography of Tárrega. He also composed more than a hundred original pieces for the guitar. Composer Joaquin Rodrigo (1901-1999) composed Sarabande Lontaine (1926) to him. Unfortunately, several of his achievements were suppressed by the stellar fame of the most important personage in the history of the guitar in the twentieth century, Spanish virtuoso Andrés Segovia (1893-1987).
Andrés Segovia Torres (1963) / Wikimedia Commons
The contribution of Andrés Segovia to the history of the guitar is so important that his name became associated to the guitar in the same way that Paganini’s is linked to the violin or Liszt’s is coupled with the piano. Throughout his career, Segovia established and pursued the concretization of five goals. He outlined them in issue #32 of Guitar Review, in 1969.
The first was to separate the guitar from the old stigma of being a folkloric instrument. The second was the creation of an original repertory for the instrument. He also envisioned expanding the appreciation for the guitar among the public of philharmonic works. The creation of “unifying medium for those interested in the development of the guitar” was another goal. Ultimately, he sought to secure the future of the guitar by inserting it in the music programs of the most important conservatories of the world.
He was born in Linares, a region connected to the agricultural and mining activities in the south of Spain. His early life is not well documented, but some of the facts lead to the impression that his infancy was not an easy period of his life. While still very young, he was separated from his brothers and sent to his uncles in Granada to be raised there. Apparently, the guitar came into his life after his uncle began to teach him some chords, to help Segovia cope with the distance from his family.
The musical environment of Granada at the end of the nineteenth century was rich and attractive to music students, and favorable to the guitar. Segovia’s early involvement with the guitar was molded by the influences of the Moorish culture, with its mystical
architecture, the flamenco, and the gypsies. In fact, he would skip school to go hear the gypsies play the guitar.
As a teenager, he decided to live by himself, and to study the guitar, music theory and solfeggio. Segovia described himself as a self-taught guitarist in his autobiography. The issue is controversial among guitarists because the biography was written at the climax of his career.
His debut as a guitarist occurred at age sixteen. In 1913, he played at the Teatro Ateneo in Madrid, displaying a technical level that impressed the audience. The repercussion opened several opportunities, and Segovia soon amplified his performing career all over Spain. Cuban-born Ernesto de Quesada (1886-1972) managed Segovia’s performing activities for some time.
In the beginning of the 1920’s Segovia visited Argentina and Uruguay. In 1922, Segovia firmed a contract in Madrid with Quesada for a series of forty concerts in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Mexico. In 1924, Segovia played in Paris. The performance represented a mark to his career. Several prominent figures of the musical scene of the French capital attended the recital and were highly impressed by Segovia’s degree of artistry. As a result, the Spaniard almost instantly became a celebrity.
Historically, it was also a unique time in the lives of musicians, with the advent of electrical recordings in 1925 amplifying the possibilities of the dissemination of their art. Segovia established himself as an international artist performing in Belgium, Germany, Austria, URSS, and the USA. His debut in the USA was in 1928, just one year after his first recordings. His fame even brought him to Japan in 1929.
Federico Moreno-Torroba (left) / Wikimedia Commons
Moved on one hand by his sudden public notoriety and on the other by his decided personality, Segovia made contacts with prominent composers to start writing for the guitar, and in this case, specifically for him. One of such composers was Federico
Moreno-Torroba (1891-1982). He was the last master of the zarzuela in Spain and wrote several works of that genre, from which the most famous was Luisa Fernanda (1932).
Early in life Torroba was exposed to music. His first music teacher was his father, the organist José Moreno Ballesteros, who was also a music teacher at the Madrid Conservatory. The first of Torroba’s zarzuelas, Las Decididas (1912) was written in collaboration with him.
Later he studied at the Royal Conservatory, where he studied composition with Conrado del Campo (1878-1953). In 1924 he married Pilar Larregla. Torroba’s father in law was a composer from Navarra, and he was then closely exposed to the folk music of
Navarra, which influenced his own style of composition.
During the 1920’s he developed a friendship with Segovia that motivated him to compose for the guitar. The piece that has been accepted as the first one that Torroba composed for Segovia was the last movement of the Suite Castellana titled Danza. The date was 1923, although Segovia himself said that it was from 1919. One of his most popular works that has been widely recorded and included in the repertory of several recitalists is Sonatina (1924). Segovia recorded its first movement in 1927.
Torroba wrote for guitar during all his productive life, enriching the guitar repertory of the twentieth century with some eighty works represented by impressionistic pieces, sonatas, sonatinas, suites, dances, compositions for four guitars, and pieces for guitar and orchestra. Among his solo works are Piezas características (1931), Sonata Fantasia (1953), Aires de la Mancha (1966), Castillos de España I (1970) and Castillos de España II (1978).
The year of 1956 was particularly fruitful to the guitar as Torroba composed more than thirty pieces for the instrument, such as Romance de los Pinos, Segoviana, Sevillana, and Sonata y variacíon. His guitar ensemble works were all produced in his mature years. The first two guitar quartets, Ráfagas and Sonata Fantasia II were composed in 1976. Three years later he composed another one, titled Estampas.
The last two works were the quintet Invenciones, and the quartet Sonatina trianera, both written in 1980. The output of orchestral works involving the guitar includes Concierto de Castilla (1960), Concierto en flamenco (1962), Concierto Ibérico (1976), and Tonada Concertante. The latter was written in 1982, the year of the composer’s death.
Aside from Moreno-Torroba, other composers wrote for the guitar instigated by Segovia. Among them were Manuel Maria Ponce (1882-1948), Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895-1968), Joaquin Turina (1882-1949), Alexander Tansman (1897-1986), and Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959). A brief overview of each one and the main works which became the core of a new repertory for the instrument will aid the reader to understand the significance of their contribution to the history of the guitar. Born in Fresnillo, Mexico, Manual Maria Ponce (1882-1948) began to study piano and solfege with his sister Josefina. At age five, he composed his first piece, Dance of the Small Pox, while he was recovering from small pox. He also studied with a certain Cipriano Avila.
Manual Maria Ponce / Wikimedia Commons
In the beginning years of the twentieth century, he moved to Mexico City, were he studied piano with Vicente Mañas and harmony with Vicente Gabrielli. He enrolled in the Conservatorio Nacional, but soon got bored with the pedagogical system there and moved to Aguascalientes. There he taught piano and solfege and bought a grand piano with the money that he earned from teaching.
At age 23 he went to Italy, where he enrolled in the Liceo Rossini in Bologna and studied composition under the tutelage of Luigi Torchi and later with Dall’Olio. From that period are his first piano sonata, four mazurkas, and the two first movements of his Trio for piano, violin and viola. Always looking for improvement, he decided to leave for Germany, where he studied in Berlin at the Stern Conservatoire. There he completed his piano studies guided by Martin Krause.
Ponce performed at the Beethoven Hall in Berlin with great success, but the performance did not change the difficult financial circumstances he was under, leading him to return to his country in 1908. He took over a professorship in piano in 1909, replacing the vacant position left by the death of Ricardo Castro at the Conservatorio Nacional. He remained in the position until 1915. At that point of his life, he had already set his mind on exploring the Mexican folklore as a main source for his compositions.
In 1913 he gave the lecture “Music and the Mexican Song,” addressing the issue of the use of folklore in music and the notion of a national identity among the Mexican intellectuals. Two years later, as a consequence of the delicate political context brought by the Mexican Revolution, he voluntarily went into exile in Cuba. He stayed in Havana, with two friends, the violinist Pedro Valdes Fraga (1872-1939) and poet Luis G. Urbina (1868-1934). Naturally, he absorbed several influences of the music from Cuba and became friends with the leading artists and intellectuals of the island.
In 1916 he performed a full recital of his works in New York. A year later he returned to Mexico, after he was named professor at the Conservatorio Nacional. The fact he enjoyed a solid reputation in his country can be further confirmed by the fact that the National Symphony orchestra played during his wedding to Clementine Maurel in 1917. The Mexican composer became the director of that orchestra until 1919, and devoted himself to composing and teaching piano at the conservatoire, which he did until 1922.
Prolific as a writer, Ponce also got involved with music magazines. He was the director of the Revista musical de Mexico during 1919 and 1920. He also founded the Gaceta Musical, a magazine written in the Spanish idiom when he was in Paris. Later, in 1936, he was editor for the magazine Cultura Musical. Always committed to the folklore of his country, later in his life the composer suggested to the Mexican government the creation of a committee in charge of recovering and cataloguing folkloric music from different regions of Mexico with the objective of being published and preserved. Segovia and Ponce met each other when the former went to Mexico to perform.
Ponce was impressed by the artistry of the Spanish virtuoso. After hearing Moreno- Torroba’s Sonatina at the end of Segovia’s performance, Ponce felt inspired to write for the guitar. The first piece was the Sonata Mexicana. It was not a surprise that the piece was built upon Mexican folkloric themes. Ponce and Segovia nurtured a relationship that lasted their entire lives, and they wrote to each other on many occasions. The correspondences have been edited by Miguel Alcazar and translated into English by Peter
Segal and published by Orphee Editions.
With a well-established reputation in Mexico, Ponce felt that he needed to improve his compositional technique. Eager to study the new musical tendencies of the period, he left with his wife to Paris in 1925. There, he became comfortable composing for the guitar, which he called “an exquisite instrument, containing a singular world, sensitive, delicate, mysterious.”
Ponce’s works for the guitar are precious gems of the early twentieth-century repertory for the instrument. Aside from the mentioned works, Ponce left a representative addition to the guitar literature. Among his most important works are three other sonatas: Sonata III (1927), Sonata romántica (Homage to Schubert, 1929), and Sonata clásica (Homage to Fernando Sor, 1930).
The core of his production for the guitar took place in Paris between 1925 and 1932. Aside from the sonatas, other pieces from this period include Tema Variado y Final (1926), Suite en la Mineur and Variations and Fugue on ‘La Folia.’ (1929), Homenaje a Tárrega, and Sonatina Meridional (1932). The latter marks the end of Ponce’s guitar works in Paris. He continued composing for the instrument in Mexico, and in 1941 he wrote the Concierto del Sur for guitar and orchestra. His last known work, Variations on a Theme of Cabezón dates from 1948, just a few months before his death.
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco / Wikimedia Commons
Italian composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco left a vast number of compositions for the guitar. His production was unparalleled by any other composer of the period. It contains close to one hundred pieces featuring solo works, duets including the guitar, chamber works, and guitar concertos.
Born in Florence, from a Jewish family that had been expelled from Spain centuries earlier, he initiated his education at his home because his father was concerned with the precarious health conditions of the public schools in Florence. At an early age, he was highly influenced by his grandfather Bruto, a lover of Italian operas who constantly sang for the young Mario. At age 14 he composed three suites for piano and at the same year enrolled in the Instituto Musicale Cherubini to study the piano.
After obtaining a degree on that instrument in 1914, he became a pupil of Italian composer Ildebrando Pizetti (1880-1968) for four years, until he received a diploma in composition. An admirer of the literary works, especially William Shakespeare (bapt.1564-1616) Tedesco got inspiration from a comedy in five acts written by Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527) to compose his first opera, La Mandragora. The opera was premiered in 1926.
It did not take long for his works to become noticed and included in the repertory of important performers such as piano virtuosos Walter Gieseking (1895-1956), Ernesto Consolo (1864-1931), and violinist Jasha Heifetz (1901-1987). The composer wrote his
second violin concerto, titled The Prophet, based on Hebrew themes and dedicated it to Heifetz. The work was an expression against the anti-Semitism that was in vogue in Europe at the period. Impacted by the deepness of the work, conductor Arturo Toscanini (1867-1957) invited the composer to come to Milan to look at the score with him.
Tedesco’s trip to work with the conductor was the first step towards a solid friendship. The contact with Segovia occurred in 1932, at the International Festival of Venice. Segovia and Manuel de Falla attended Tedesco’s concert at the festival, and although they had constantly seen each other at the festival, the subject of the guitar was not addressed between them. Indeed, Segovia did not ask directly that the composer write for him. He encountered Tedesco’s wife Clara on the last day of the festival and asked her to let the Italian composer know his desire to play a composition by him.
Tedesco replied to Segovia, but let him know that he had no idea about how to write for the guitar. Segovia sent him a copy of Sor’s Variations on a Theme by Mozart and Ponce’s Variations and Fugue on ‘La Folia’. After studying the two sets of variations, the composer wrote his own: Variazioni attraverso i secoli (Variations across the centuries). Segovia played the piece in Italy for the first time on April 3, 1934, in a program that also included the first Italian performance of Ponce’s Sonatina Meridional. On the following day, he asked Tedesco to compose a four-movement sonata in honor of Luigi Bocherini. In that same year he composed the Sonata ‘Omaggio a Boccherini” Op.77.
Segovia’s pursuit of establishing a new repertory for the guitar led him to ask Tedesco to write another “homage-piece.” This time, the composer in question was Nicòlo Paganini, and Tedesco composed another masterpiece for the instrument: The Capriccio Diabolico Op.85b (1935). The piece portrays two majestic themes that join each other at the last section of the piece, prior to the gesture that quotes the theme from Paganini’s second violin concerto, known as the Campanella. The piece was later adapted for guitar and orchestra.
As a result of the anti-Semitism in Europe, Tedesco left Italy and went to the USA, close to the outbreak of the World War II. It was Toscanini who encouraged him to move to America. In the new country, he embraced the opportunity to compose music for Hollywood, thanks to the help of his friend Heifetz. He also became a teacher of the Los Angeles Conservatory and had among his pupils, composers Henri Mancini (1924-1994), John Williams (b.1932), and André Previn (b.1929)
Three concertos and a serenade represent Tedesco’s output of works for guitar and orchestra. The first concerto was Concerto No.1 in D, Op.99, which he started composing in 1938 and concluded in 1939. It was the second guitar concerto composed in the twentieth century and was premiered by Andrés Segovia in Montevideo. Although the work has been said to be the first guitar concerto of the last century, another one was performed some nine years priors to Tedesco’s, which is pointed out by Corazon Otero: The first guitar concerto of the 20th century is now generally understood to have been written by the Mexican composer Rafael Adame (1906-1963). It was first performed on July 19 1930, with the orchestral part arranged by Adame himself for piano.
The acceptance of Adame’s Concerto clásico as the first guitar concerto of the twentieth century is questionable. The date of its premiere leaves no doubt that it was written before Tedesco’s. However, the orchestra was not included in the first performance of the Concerto clásico, which was not the case of Tedesco’s Concerto in D. Thus, while Adame’s can indeed be considered the first guitar concerto of the twentieth century, Tedesco’s may be regarded as the first one to have been premiered in its original form.
A gap of fourteen years separates the work form his Concerto No.2 in C, Op. 160, which was premiered by Christopher Parkening in California. The last of the concertos, titled Concerto in E Op.201, was written for two guitars during the last years of his life. It was first performed by the Presti-Lagoya duo in Toronto.
Tedesco’s Sonatina for flute and guitar, Op.205 was the only work for that combination. Similarly, he composed only one work for guitar and choir, Romancero Gitano Op.152 (1951), based on poems by Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936). Another instrument that was featured with the guitar and represented by a single work was the piano. The piece was Fantasia Op.145 (1950).
Tedesco’s works for voice and guitar include Platero y Yo Op.190 (1960), written for narrator and guitar, The Divan of Moses-Ibn-Ezra Op.207 (1966), a song cycle in English, and Die Vogelweide Op.186 (1959), for baritone and guitar. The majority of his production for the guitar is represented solo works. Aside from the ones already mentioned, some became more popular among guitarists such as Tarantella Op.87a and Aranci in Fiori Op.87b (1936), 24 Caprichos de Goya Op. 195 (1961), and a work containing several easy preludes and studies organized in two books and titled Appunti Op.210 (1967).
Tedesco also wrote several pieces for a new generation of guitarists in his Op.170. Among them are Cancion Venezuelana (‘on the name of Alirio Díaz’), Cancion Cubana (‘on the name of Hector Garcia’), Cancion Argentina (‘on the name of Ernesto Bitetti’), and Brasileira (‘on the name of Laurindo Almeida’). Tedesco’s last concerto was not the only work for two guitars. He also composed Sonata Canonica Op. 196 (1961), and Les Guitares Bien Tempérées Op.199 (1962). His last work for two guitars was the homage to the memory of virtuoso Ida Presti titled Fuga Elegiaca Op.R210a (1967).
Joaquin Turina / Wikimedia Commons
Another composer who wrote for the guitar who produced guitar works in collaboration with Segovia was Joaquin Turina. He wrote only five works for the guitar. The first three were composed in the 1920’s. The first one was Sevillana, Op.29 (1923), followed by Fandanguillo Op.36 (1925) and Ráfaga Op. 53 (1929). The last two works were written in the next decade. They were Sonata Op.61 (1931) and Homenage a Tárrega Op.69 (1932).
Earlier in his life, he was persuaded by Albéniz and Falla to seek a style rooted in material from Spanish popular music instead of following the compositional models learned from his professor Vincent D’Indy during his studies at the Schola Cantorum in Paris. Written when he was already a mature composer, Turina’s guitar pieces reveal a strong Spanish character. In spite of the modest number, they are a significant part of the solo guitar repertory produced in the early decades of the twentieth century.
The events of World War II brought radical changes to the course of millions of people’s lives around the world. Castelnuovo-Tedesco was just one among several artists and intellectuals who fled from Europe during the war. Others include the writer Thomas Mann (1875-1955) and the composers Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951), Darius Milhaud (1892-1974), Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) and Polish composer Alexander Tansman. The latter was responsible for contributing fine works to the guitar in the last century.
Alexandre Tansman with his first wife Anna Eleonora Brociner / Wikimedia Commons
Born in an upper middle class Jewish family in the city of Łódź, he spent his childhood and adolescence in his country. As part of his education, he learned to speak four languages other than his native Polish (Russian, German, French and English). He started to play the piano when he was four or five, motivated by his family who was musically educated. In fact, one of his aunts was a pupil of famous pianist Arthur Rubinstein (1887-1982), who was from the same city.
Tansman began to compose when he was eight or nine years old. During a period of twelve years, from 1902 to 1914 he concentrated on studying piano, counterpoint, and harmony at the Łódź Conservatoire. In 1915 he left his town and went to Warsaw where he studied composition with Piotr Rytel (1884-1970).
Parallel to his musical studies, he obtained a doctorate in law and philosophy in 1918. A year later he was awarded the first three prizes in a national composition contest in Poland. Ironically, he had submitted the three winning works (Romance, for violin, and Impression and Prelude in B major, both for piano) using three distinct names. The momentum caused by that event led him to move to Paris in the same year.
In Paris, he worked in a bank thanks to his versatility with languages, and soon was well established. Nonetheless, his principal reason for moving to the new country was his music and he was able to support himself teaching piano and performing. He actually toured Germany, Austria, Holland, Belgium, and Switzerland as a concert pianist. In Paris he met composers Maurice Ravel (1874-1937), Jacques Ibert (1890-1962), Darius Milhaud, and others.
The family had to flee to France in 1940 because of the threat of Hitler troops to the Jewish community. The next year, a committee that included Toscanini, Heifetz (the same two who helped Tedesco), and Charlie Chaplin (1889-1977) helped Tansman to immigrate to the United States. Following the path of other artists forced into exile by the war, Tansman moved to Los Angeles. There he found the film industry of Hollywood to be a good opportunity for him, as he could not only provide for his family, but also could work on other compositions.
Most of Tansman’s compositions for the guitar were written for Segovia. His production for guitar was not as large as Tedesco in quantity, but his pieces have become part of the standard repertory of modern guitarists. Among his works are Suite in modo polonico (1962, a collection of Polish dances composed for Segovia, who often performed it), the four-movement Cavatina (1950), Variations sur un thème de Scriabine (1972), Hommage à Chopin (1966), and his last composition for the guitar, Hommage to Lech Walesa (1982).
The astonishing success achieved by Segovia reached composers from several different countries, either living in Paris or introduced to Segovia on one of his tours. The last composer to be included in the discussion about the increase of the repertory through the influence of the Spanish master is Brazilian Heitor Villa-Lobos. He had met Andrés Segovia in 1924 at a reception at the home of Olga Moraes Sarmento Nobre, a member of the Brazilian high-society in Paris. Segovia described Villa-Lobos as a bad guitarist, but an excellent musician:
He made several attempts to begin playing the guitar but then gave up for lack of daily practice, something which the guitar is less ready than any other instrument to forgive, his fingers had grown clumsy. Despite his inability to continue, however, the few bars that he did play were enough to reveal, first, that this stumbling performer was a great musician…
Heitor Villa-Lobos / Wikimedia Commons
Villa-Lobos composed a set of studies that became one of the main pillars of the guitar repertoire of the twentieth century. The 12 Etudes were composed between 1924 and 1929. They were dedicated to Segovia, who wrote the foreword of the 1953 publication by Max Eschig.
After eleven years had passed, he composed the 5 Preludes. At the time he was already considered the main name of Brazilian Musical Nationalism. He was the model music educator in Brazil and had popularized the study of music, making important changes in the music educational system of his country. He conducted a choir of 40,000 students, products of this reformation.
Owner of a renowned reputation in Brazil, Europe and the USA, he saw his ballet Mandu-Carara and the orchestral piece New York Skyline published by Max Eschig in the same year as his composition of the Preludes for guitar. Initially, the composer had
written six, not five preludes. The sixth one mysteriously disappeared. It is believed that it got destroyed at Segovia’s house during the Spanish Civil War. Another speculation for the incident is that it could have been mislaid in a publisher’s office during the process of being printed, or an admirer stole it. The most fantastic explanation suggests that the composer actually composed only five preludes, failing to preserve the set of six pieces typical from the musical tradition. Because of this, he would have invented the existence of the sixth prelude.
Max Eschig published the preludes in 1954. Each one of them contains a subtitle referring to a specific Brazilian musical portrait. The first one honors the figure of the sertanejo, the inhabitant of the arid habitat in the northeast of Brazil known as sertão. It mixes a genre called modinha and evokes an instrument that is related to the guitar, called the viola caipira.
The second had the subtitle “Capadocia (Rogue) and Capoeira (Ruffian)-Homage to the carioca hustler.” The Capadocia describes the genre of the Chôro, while the central section Capoeira shows an African style of dance introduced in Brazil during the period of slavery. The berimbau, instrument used in Capoeira performances, arouses the rhythmic language of the piece.
The third prelude was written in honor to J.S. Bach. Villa-Lobos nurtured a deep fascination and respect for the German composer. Later, that sentiment was maturely expressed in his Bachianas Brasileiras. Like Segovia, Villa-Lobos had a strong personality and was vehemently decided in his ideas. At some point in his life, he did not show any humility when he limited the existence of great composers in the world to only two people: Bach and himself.
The fourth Prelude gives a portrait of the Amazon region, in homage to the Brazilian Indian. In fact, the composer met some Indian tribes in his earlier expeditions through the Amazon when he went to collect sources for his music. The atmosphere of the last prelude describes a different picture of Brazil, emphasizing the Brazilian social life at the beginning of the twentieth century. A romantic waltz featured in the prelude has its seed in the European waltz, keeping the elegance of the classic model in a placid and cordial melody. It reminds one of the urban activities of Rio de Janeiro’s bourgeoisie, people habituated to going to concerts, and theaters of that city.
Villa-Lobos’s musical expression grew from the research of Brazilian music heritage and the ethnic-geographic studies of his land and other countries. In Europe, Wagner, Franck, Puccini, Tchaikovsky, the Russian Five, and others influenced him. His guitar literature denotes specific influences of Bach, Debussy, Chopin and fin de siècle salon music. In spite of those influences, he traced his career with originality and never allowed himself to imitate other composers.
The synthesis of Villa-Lobos’ language for the guitar was expressed in his Concerto for guitar and small orchestra. Finished in 1951, it was originally conceived as Fantasia Concertante for guitar and small orchestra. It became a concerto after Segovia asked the composer to add a cadenza between the second and third movements. Among the guitar production of the Brazilian composer are also Brazilian Popular Suite (1908-1912), Chôros No.1 (1920), Modinha (1925, originally for voice and piano, and adapted for voice and guitar), an arrangement for flute and guitar of the Aria from his Bachianas Brasileiras No.5 (1938), Introduction to Chôros (1929), Sextet Mistique (1917. The guitar is featured with harp, saxophone, oboe, celesta, and flute), and Distribution of Flowers (1937, for female choir, flute, and guitar).
The list of composers who wrote for Segovia includes names such as Arnold Schoenberg (who in 1923 wrote Serenade Op.24, for clarinet, bass clarinet, violin, viola, cello, mandolin, guitar, and baritone) Egon Wellez (1885-1974), Frank Martin (1890-1974), Federico Mompou (1893-1987), Albert Harris (b.1938), and others. Many of the pieces written for him did not come to be known by the public. Example of this is that in 2001, Italian guitarist and composer Angelo Gilardino discovered several manuscripts of works dedicated to Segovia at the Andrés Segovia Foundation in Linares, Spain that were never publicly performed.
Among the discovered works were two written by Catalonian composer and musicologist Jauhme Pahissa (1880-1869): Cançò en el mar (1919, one of the first pieces dedicated to Segovia) and Tres temas de recuerdos (c.1938–39. It reached Segovia only in 1979). Other composers found by Gilardino’s in Segovia’s archives were Cuban Pedro Sanjuán (1886–1976.), Spanish composers Gaspar Cassadó (1897–1966), Vicente Arregui (1871–1925), British Cyril Scott (1879–1970), French Raoul Laparra (1876–1943) and Henri Martelli (1895–1980), and also three composers from Switzerland: Fernande Peyrot (1888–1978), Hans Haug (1900–1967), and Aloÿs Fornerod (1890–1965).
All these names are sufficient to reveal the broad spectrum of composers who dedicated works to Segovia. The list confirms that Segovia was indeed the most notorious guitarist of his time. In more than fifty years of career, he was involved in tours of more than 100 concerts a year, taught in festivals in Santiago de Compostela and Siena, and also made several recordings. From 1949 to 1977, around 40 LPs had been released.
Agustín Barrios Mangoré (1910) / Wikimedia Commons
In spite of Segovia’s large recording production, the first classical guitarist to use the guitar in commercial recordings was Paraguayan virtuoso Agustín Barrios Mangoré (1885-1944). He recorded for the labels Atlanta and Artivas in Montevideo as early as 1914, and also took part of several recording sessions for the label Odeon between 1921 and 1929. He made both live and gramophone recordings.
He was born in San Juan Bautista de las Misiones. Fifteen years prior to his birth, his country lost a war against the Triple Alianza, constituted by Uruguay, Argentina, and Brazil. The consequences of the war to the artistic activities in Paraguay were devastating. There was no financial support and the practice of art music was basically inexistent. In face of this context, it is impressive to realize that Barrios overcame all odds and became one of the most significant guitar composers of the twentieth century.
Agustín Barrios was introduced early to the music of composers such as Tárrega, Sor, and Aguado thanks to his first guitar teacher, Gustavo Sosa Escalada (1877-1943). At age fifteen he was already an accomplished player and received a music scholarship to study at the Colegio Nacional de Asunción. After he finished his studies, he devoted himself to music and poetry.
The limitations of his own country led him to pursue opportunities in other countries in South America. In 1910 he went to Buenos Aires, where he could be in contact with important names of the guitar such as Julio Sagreras (1879-1942) and Antonio Jimenes Manjón (1866-1919). He then traveled to Chile, and Peru, and in 1912 he went to Montevideo, where he was supported by a certain Martin Borda y Pagola, who was a rancher of livestock and an amateur guitarist. In 1916 he obtained great success in Brazil, after a performance in Rio de Janeiro. From that year until 1920 he settled in the Brazilian metropolis of São Paulo.
As an interpreter, Barrios mixed compositions of his own with transcriptions of works by composers such as Bach, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Schuman, among others. He also played other standard guitar pieces such as Capricho Árabe by Tárrega. Barrios returned to Montevideo in 1920, and had to endure the prejudice of Segovia and other guitarists for playing with steel strings. After another short period in Chile and Brazil, he went back to Paraguay with a well-established reputation.
Barrios remained traveling to Argentina and Uruguay until he met the resistance of the guitar public in Buenos Aires in 1928. He was highly criticized for the use of metal strings and for his repertoire. Basically rooted in the aesthetic of the nineteenth century, the pieces of his program were considered antagonist to the new trend promoted by Segovia, which favored a brand-new repertory by composers as it has already been pointed out in this paper.
The rejection in Buenos Aires led Barrios to change his name in order to promote himself. He thus invented the character of Nitsuga Mangoré, “the messenger of the Guarani race… the Paganini of the guitar from the jungles of Paraguay.” He started to perform fully dressed as an Indian, with feathers, and even bow and arrows. Nitsuga was the backwards spelling of his first name. Mangoré was the name of a legendary Indian from the Guarani tribe who resisted the Spanish occupation.
Barrios’s strategy opened up new performance venues for him. After touring in Brazil again until August 1931, he traveled to the French Guyana, Martinique, Trinidad, and Venezuela. In May of 1932 he became ill and only performed again six months later, in Bogota. Following his success in the Colombian capital, he went to Panama, Costa Rica, and El Salvador.
In 1934, he found a new patron, Tomás Salomoni, ambassador of Paraguay in Mexico. The contact finally allowed him to go to Europe, where he stayed from 1934- 1936. On the way to the old continent he performed in Cuba. After his arrival, he performed in England, Belgium and Spain.
In Belgium, he was nervous to perform at the Royal Conservatory of Music because Segovia had played a recital there only three months earlier. He also went to Berlin, yet he never performed there. In Spain, he met Sainz de la Maza and the poet Garcia Lorca. With the approach of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, Barrios returned to Venezuela. Several artists lost their lives in the war, including Barrio’s friend Garcia Lorca and composer Antonio José (1902-1934), who left his Sonata in the literature of the guitar.
The last years of his life were marked by financial struggle, health problems, leading to the diminution of his public performances, until he finally settled down in El Salvador, where he eventually played, but remained more focused on teaching. Barrios was an artist whose identity was in a diametrical opposed position from the tendencies of his time. Nonetheless, the authenticity of his style and his perseverance led him to occupy a privileged position in the history of the modern guitar. Although he composed more than three hundred pieces for the guitar, only about a third of his production has survived. His most celebrated composition is La Catedral, a piece with a lyricism that transports listeners to a world of sadness, conflict, and victory.
The fact that Barrios got nervous to play in Belgium after Segovia is only one example of how the persona of the Spanish icon was intimidating other guitarists during that time. Indeed, Segovia’s stellar career and his achievements were unmatched in his time. On the other hand, he certainly was not the only guitarist of that period to contribute to the establishment of the status of the guitar as a concert instrument. Like Barrios, other performers were important for the dissemination of the instrument’s repertory and responsible for building up a public for the guitar outside of the larger centers where Segovia dominated.
Among the guitarists who developed a more modest performing career, but in no way of lesser quality, are Austrian guitarist Luise Walker (1910-1998), Argentinean Maria Luísa Anido (1907-1996), Uruguayan Josefina Robledo (1887-1931), Cuban Rey de la Torre (1917-1994), and the Spaniards Narciso Yepes (1927-1997), Ángel Iglesias (1917-1977), Daniel Fortea (1878-1953) and Regino Sainz de la Maza (1896-1981). Sainz de la Maza has a special relevance to the discussion because of two factors.
First, he was responsible for the inclusion of the modern guitar in the academia, being named Professor of Guitar at the Madrid Conservatory in 1935. The second factor is that he premiered a concerto dedicated to him, and which became the most popular concerto of the twentieth century: the Concierto de Aranjuez, by Joaquin Rodrigo (1901-1999).
Another guitarist who constantly performed Rodrigo’s masterpiece was Narciso Yepes. In fact, he performed the concerto in his debut in Madrid, in 1947. The Spaniard had a solid performing career, although he was always under the stigma of ‘being the second after Segovia’. He had many guitar works dedicated to him and raised the interest of audiences by performing on a ten-string instrument, which allowed him to expand his arranging possibilities on the instrument.
Joaquin Rodrigo / Wikimedia Commons
Joaquin Rodrigo was a prolific composer. His sight was irreversibly affected by diphtheria when he was only three years old. The condition could have represented a limit to his musical studies. However, he did not render himself and learned to play the violin, piano, and to solfege when he was eight. At age sixteen he was already deeply involved with the study of harmony and composition.
A former student of Francisco Antich in Valencia, he went to Paris where he studied with Paul Dukas. In 1925 he won the National Prize for Orchestra for his piece Cinco piezas infantiles. Although the composer never mastered the guitar, he became one of the most prestigious guitar composers of the last century.
His Concierto de Aranjuez is the most recorded concerto of the last century, which is a very representative fact because it takes into account not only concertos written for the guitar, but for all instruments. It was and continues to be recorded by fine players all over the world. The masterpiece is full of virtuosic passages, demanding a high level of technical control from the player.
Borrowing a term used by Canadian composer Murray Shafer, we can understand the music of Rodrigo as a latent ‘soundscape’ of Spain. Listening to his music, one may be easily transported to an ambiance dominated by the ‘bravura-spirit’ and the passionate
lyricism indigenous to the Spanish culture. That ambiance is also portrayed in his other guitar concertos.
Following Aranjuez, he composed Fantasia para un Gentilhombre (1954), Concierto Madrigal for two guitars and orchestra (1966), Concierto Andaluz (1967), for four guitars and orchestra. Solo guitar was again featured in Concierto para una Fiesta (1982), his last concerto for guitar. Guitarist Pepe Romero adapted a work originally composed for harp and orchestra titled Sones en la Giralda (1963).
In spite of the finest musical quality of his guitar works, Rodrigo’s writing for the instrument at times imposes obstacles for the guitarists, who end up having to make some decisions in order to be able to play his pieces. Among his most known solo works are Invocación y danza (the winning composition for guitar of the Coupe International de Guitare, a contest promoted by the Office de Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française), Tres Piezas Españolas (Fandango, Passacaglia, and Zapateado), Elogio de la Guitarra, En Los Trigales, Sonata Giocosa, and Sonata a la Española.
A major improvement to the guitar occurred with the appearance of nylon strings. The events suggest that the primary reason for the invention was related to the shortage of suitable materials for the manufacturing of guitar strings. With the war, there was a large demand for quality silk and gut to make surgical sutures, directly affecting the activities of string makers. At the same time, gut strings became unavailable because the Germans manufactured them. In face of such crisis, guitarists needed to seek an alternative.
Nylon strings appeared as a combination of the resources of Danish guitar maker Albert Augustine (1900-1967), the expertise of Andrés Segovia and his contact with the chemical company DuPont. Augustine tried using fishing nylon strings on the guitar. With the assistance of Segovia, who happened to be Augustine’s tenant and had been in contact with the company Du Pont, the first nylon strings were developed and started being produced in large scale in 1947. The advantages of nylon strings over those made
from gut are various: they are much more easily and quickly produced, they are more efficient of keeping the pitch, and they are more resistant.
Another development that has aided the popularization of the guitar was the invention of the electric guitar. The instrument may have been partially created to address the main weakness of the instrument: its lack of volume. During the big band era, jazz orchestras of the 1930’s and 1940’s started to have a larger number of players, and then there was a need to make the guitar more audible. Although the repertory of the electric guitar is mainly related to rock, jazz, and other popular styles, the instrument displays the same fingerboard logic as the classical guitar. It is not uncommon to find classical students who initiated on the electrical guitar before developing an interest for the classical guitar.
The status of the guitar in the first half of the twentieth century needs to be understood in context with the emergence of new technologies that irrevocably transformed life on our globe. Improvements in transportation aided performers to be able to reach audiences in different places much faster. This aspect allied to the appearance of the mass media with the TV, radio, and the recording industry expanded the reaching capabilities to a level that was before unimaginable.
- John Moorish, “Antonio de Torres: Father of the Modern Guitar,” in Tony Bacon et al., The Classical Guitar Book (San Francisco, CA: Backbeat Books, 2002), 16-17.
- Emilio Pujol, Tárrega: Ensayo biográfico (Valencia: Artes Gráficas Soler, 1978), 28.
- A. Arte do Violão: “Programa No.1: O Legado de Tárrega,” http://aadv.radio.googlepages.com/zanon_aadv-01.html (accessed on February 18, 2005).
- Wikipedia, “Costumbrismo,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Costumbrismo (accessed on January 20, 2008).
- J.B. Trend, Manuel de Falla and Spanish Music (New York: Alfred A. 1929), 31.
- Silvio José dos Santos, “Guitar Music Composed for Segovia,” Notes Vol. 63, No.1, (September 2006),
- Ronald Purcell, “Miguel Llobet,” in Stanley Sadie, ed., The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd ed., Vol. 15 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 25.
- A. Arte do Violão: “Programa No.1: O Legado de Tárrega,” http://aadv.radio.googlepages.com/zanon_aadv-01.html (accessed on February 18, 2005).
- A. Arte do Violão: “Programa No.3: Andrés Segovia Gravações 1927-1939,” http://aadv.radio.googlepages.com/zanon_aadv-03.html (accessed on February 18, 2005).
- EDQ Blog, “Ernesto de Quesada: Biography,” http://homepage.mac.com/erlin1/iblog/C527043545/E20050811211613/index.html (accessed on February 18, 2008).
- Walter Clark and William Krause, “Federico Moreno-Torroba,” in Stanley Sadie, ed., The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd ed., Vol.17 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 112-113.
- Corazón Otero, Manuel Ponce and The Guitar, J.D. Roberts, trans. (The Bold Strummer Ltd.: Westport, CT, 1994), 22.
- 135Corazón Otero, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco: His Life and Works for the Guitar (United Kingdom: Ashley Mark Publishing Company, 1999), 44.
- Ibid, 46.
- Ibid, 122.
- Ibid, 143.
- Carlos G. Amat, “Joaquin Turina,” in Stanley Sadie, ed., The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd ed., Vol.25 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 904-905.
- Gerald Hugon, “Alexander Tansman,” Patricia Wheeler trans., Musica et Memoria, http://www.musimen.com/tansman_eng.htm (accessed on December 5, 2007).
- Gerard Behague, “Villa-Lobos, the Search of the Brazilian Music Soul” (Austin, University of Texas Press, 1922): 83.
- Vasco Mariz, Heitor Villa-Lobos compositor Brasileiro (Rio de Janeiro: MEC/DAC/Museu Villa-Lobos, 1977): 87.
- M. Peppercorn, Villa-Lobos, Collected Studies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 42-43.
- Turibio Santos, Heitor Villa-Lobos and the Guitar (Ireland: Wise Owl Music, 1985), 31.
- Lisa Peppercorn, “Some Aspects of Villa-Lobos Principles of Composition,” The Music Review 4:3 (1943): 28.
- Silvio José dos Santos, “Guitar Music Composed for Segovia (Review),” Notes, Vol.63, No.1 (September 2006): 201-207.
- Wade, Concise History of the Classic Guitar, 111.
- Richard D. Stover, Six Silver Moonbeams: The Life and Times of Augustín Barrios Mangoré (Clovis, CA: Querico Publications, 1992), 10.
- Stover: 111-156.
- Cecilia Rodrigo Camhi, “Joaquin Rodrigo Home Page,” http://www.joaquin-rodrigo.com/obras.html (accessed on May 3, 2007).