Mentees will be assigned to a mentor(s), and will have regular conversations working towards established goals. These goals may include traditional lessons, conversations about repertoire development, advice on next career steps, etc. All mentees will receive a full scholarship to come together from June 21-26, 2021 for Guitar Summit at the 2021 GFA International Convention and Competition. In addition, all mentees will have the opportunity to produce a video performance of a piece by a composer of color, commissioned by the GFA. For more information and application, please see the GFA website here.
Campbell Diamond performs the Rondò pour guitare seule, Op. 129 (1946) by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895-1968). This comes from via GuitarCoop and their fantastic YouTube Channel. First time I’ve featured the excellent playing of Campbell Diamond. He’s won many competitions, has studied with many of the greats, and is currently based in Canberra, Australia. You can read more about him via his bio page. Beautiful sweeping phrasing while pulling off the virtuosic textures of this wonderful work. Always love listening to Tedesco, really one of the best composers who has written for the instrument. You can find the sheet music at SMP: Rondo Op.129 by Tedesco.
Goran Krivokapić plays Sonata para guitarra by Antonio José (1902-1936). Sound by Sascha Etezazi and video by William Lepp via the GFA Online Convention 2020 and is dedicated to Sabrina Vlaškalić. You can find the sheet music via SMP: Sonata para guitarra by José. Movement and video times:
- I Allegro moderato (00:00)
- II Minueto (07:25)
- III Pavana triste (10:03)
- IV Final (15:01)
Many listeners will be familiar with Jose’s well known Sonata para guitarra which is one of the most significant sonatas in the repertoire. I just listened to the whole work on the recent Michael Kolk album I reviewed. Great playing by Krivokapić with clear thematic and motivic cohension and some beautiful phrasing throughout. Virtuosity to spare! There is a great write up on the work by Graham Wade via this Naxos album:
Antonio José (1902–1936) was praised by Maurice Ravel as a composer who would ‘become the greatest Spanish musician of our century’. But José’s arrest and execution near his home city of Burgos in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War cast his music into a subsequent obscurity which has only recently been remedied. A monograph about his life and work has been published by the municipality of Burgos.
Considerable interest was aroused by the discovery in the late 1980s of the Sonata, which Antonio José finished on 23 August 1933. One movement was given its premiere in Burgos by Regino Sáinz de la Maza in November 1934. Sonata offers further perspectives on the expansion of the guitar repertoire during the early 20th-century Spanish musical renaissance. The work established Antonio José’s reputation beside those of his distinguished contemporaries who respected the guitar as an expressive medium. José’s Sonata is a composition requiring virtuosity as well as emotional depth and insight.
It can be observed with historical hindsight that José’s Sonata is a remarkably original and inventive work, written in a period of very few precedents for guitar in this genre. By 1933 Moreno Torroba, Ponce and Turina had indeed presented various pieces in sonata form to Andrés Segovia, but it is by no means certain that José was acquainted with these compositions.
The first movement contrasts the lively lyricism of the opening statements with meditative slow chords and answering arpeggio patterns. This leads to a passage characterised by urgent pedal notes sustaining a short burst of three-part chords before the return of the opening section and a modified recapitulation. In these final pages, the previous musical substance is taken through various modulations before concluding with a resounding chord of E major.
The Minueto retains the 3/4 metre of its traditional 18thcentury predecessors, but otherwise assumes an entirely 20th-century vocabulary. Though the essence of its opening theme is straightforward, its harmonic basis is complex, leading to a rainbow of modulations through diverse keys and labyrinthine sequences. Similarly Pavana triste, written in 3/2 time, brings a new language to an ancient dance form. At first dotted rhythms suggest a certain lightness of atmosphere but the predominant mood of the movement turns out to be melancholic rather than lyrical. Once again, intricate harmonic progressions lift this dance to new expressive heights reminiscent of Rodrigo’s use of traditional musical structures to create fresh and meaningful vehicles for modern music.
Final begins with strummed chords characteristic of the Spanish guitar. Their function is not to provide Andalusian associations but to establish part of a compelling framework for statements of the first movement presented in modified rondo form. This structure supplies a powerful means of presenting familiar material from new perspectives while achieving a unifying effect between the first and last movements. After much harmonic divagation, the work ends decisively on the chord of E major, one of the most convenient and appropriate keys in keeping with the guitar’s usual tuning.
I receive regular emails from my followers asking how they should organize their practice session so here’s a lesson on how to practice and learn music in general. This lesson is mainly for beginner and intermediate students as well as those new to the classical world. Of course, it all depends on your level and unique individual development but I’ll cover a broad overview of some concepts. Having a dedicated and qualified teacher will help you stay on track, choose materials, and focus your energy on what needs work. Follow your teacher’s advice but I hope this gives you some ideas to consider.Overview of a Basic Practice Session
Practice the sections in the order presented below. Practicing in this order will promote good technique and mental health. Depending on your level you may dedicate more time to certain sections. This is a basic outline for an intermediate student. Absolute-beginner students will not necessarily follow such an organized format (more on that below).
Technique & Etudes – Start with a technique routine and preferably have it memorized so you can pick up the instrument and get to playing without fussing. Practice your technique first so all the playing afterward is influenced by good hand positions, sound, accuracy, and relaxation. A basic intermediate technique routine might include elements such as scales, arpeggios, slurs, barre, stretch, and finger independence exercises. The more advanced you are the more techniques you’ll need to maintain. My technique book has recommended routines for various levels: Beginner, Late-Beginner, Early-Intermediate, Intermediate, Late-Intermediate, Early-Advanced. Your technique section can include etudes but sometimes etudes will be part of the below section on learning, especially if it includes a technique you’ve never tried before.
Learning (method books, etudes, sight reading, fretboard knowledge, research) – This section can involve anything that requires concentration. It’s a time to expand your mind and hands and widen your knowledge or technique base. Beginners and intermediates will often be working through some method books for this section. Method books might focus on how to read in various positions, learning new scales or chords, rhythm work, etc. More advanced students might be researching historical performance practices or ornamentation. Maybe a new technique will be explored such as damping/muting in the right hand. Advanced players will sometimes work on beginner methods to learn about pedagogy and approaches to various problems. There are endless method books to explore in the classical world or even jazz. You can check out my education series at Werner Guitar Editions.
New repertoire – I like to always be learning at least one or two new pieces. They might be easy material or very difficult. New content expands our knowledge and challenges us to work through new musical ideas and fingerings. I’ll often be preparing pieces for way in the future. I’ll be playing it at 10% of the normal speed since I won’t need to play the piece for a few months. I may only work on the two difficult bars of a piece. Dealing with the hard parts before even thinking about playing the rest will help when I dive into it later.
Concert repertoire – It doesn’t matter if you are playing concerts, recording pieces, or practicing alone, this is repertoire you are memorizing and playing at your highest level. This is the pinnacle of your playing and should be material you want play very well and confidently. This is serious practice time, so be organized and solve problems. It’s not a time to ‘just play’, it’s a time to resolve any musical or technical issues.
Enjoyment & Reward – In this section you should play some manageable pieces that you can play well without too much concentration or effort. Or anything that makes you feel good. You want to end your practice session feeling positive and to remember how far your progress has come. I often play some pieces that I’ve known for years or even from childhood. Never end your practice session in frustration, play that easy piece that you love even if you’ve played it thousands of times before.Tips for Context and Various Levels
Practice times – The quality of your practice is more important than the amount of time. I’d rather my students practice well for 10 minutes a day, every day of the week rather than 2 hours of rushed practice only on Sundays. Consistency, quality, and daily practice is best. Remember, practicing is problem solving not just playing. Below I recommend some practice times but, seriously, who cares? Practice well as often as possible, that’s all you need to know. Don’t over-practice, focus on the topics your teacher recommends. This will help you improve faster and more efficiently. If you practice for hours and add tons of additional material you might not be accomplishing what your teacher recommended or in the proper steps they’ve ordered for you. Keep it short and focused and repeat the same routine later in the day if you want to practice more. Quality of practice is very important because if you practice poorly you will only solidify poor playing habits. Increase your practice times as you become more knowledgeable and able to keep the quality high. Trim your times to cater to quality.
Beginners – Keep you practice sessions short, enjoyable, and to the point. Don’t worry, just play everyday and play as well as you are able. The majority of your practice will be from a single method book that keeps you on track and provides all the material you need. Don’t worry too much about having a massive technique routine as method book pieces are generally little technique exercises in their own way. If you have a difficult time being motivated to pick up the instrument, start with something you enjoy first. Whatever encourages you to play. Enjoy yourself, that is the most important thing. If you want to do extra, go watch some professional players play and watch their posture, hand positions, and listen to their beautiful phrasing. 15-20 minutes is fine for absolute-beginners but raise it to 30 minutes or more if you want. Just make sure you are practicing well.
Late-Beginners – At this point you can start taking the technique routine a bit more seriously as you’ll want to secure a foundation of technique and start expanding your skill set. Accomplishing a smooth legato and musicality is important. 30 minutes or more would be great.
Early-Intermediates – Time to start organizing your technique routine to include all the techniques that will be required and needed to be maintained. If you have any issues that are left over from being a beginner, start dedicating time to fixing them. 40 minutes or more would be ideal but you can still get away with 30 minutes if need be.
Intermediates – Your technique routine should now be fully established and etudes will start becoming an increasing area to focus your skills and diversify your technique. Also, going through multiple method books and systematic studies of the entire fretboard will be important. The reading requirement is going to start getting serious so include some reading methods into your practice so you can devour material more quickly. Many students don’t progress past this point if their reading skills are weak as learning new pieces will be too time consuming and drain your concentration. 45 minutes to 1 hour is preferable but only if it’s quality practice.
Late-Intermediates – Time to get everything in order. Technique, reading, musicality, knowledge, and relaxation. Tension issues are likely to cause injury at this level. 60 minutes or more of practice is recommended. You may want to take a solid break after 30 minutes and then start again later to make sure your concentration and quality remains high. Taking a solid break may also help you avoid injury.
Early-Advanced – At this level you hopefully have figured out the practice session and found your groove. If not, review the last levels or find a teacher fast to make sure you haven’t formed any bad habits or skipped over anything. Keep learning new stuff all the time, if you can’t find it in classical guitar books go to jazz books, devour anything and everything. I remember buying new method books every week, classical, jazz, bluegrass, folk, rock, anything that would teach me something new. I wanted to know everything. You may wish to start going through entire opuses of etudes such as all of Carcassi Op.60, or Giuliani’s Op.1, Part 3 studies to see if any of them give your trouble. It’s a time to find weak points in your playing and resolve them. 1.5 to 2 hours or more is recommended and likely needed; take breaks!
Advanced – I’m assuming anyone who reaches the advanced level has figured out the practice session and has had some great teachers to help them. Advanced etudes will be very important at this level. Exposing your own weaknesses and improving them will be key to your success. I’ve started picky etudes that I’m horrible at and then recording them for YouTube to force me to resolve issues in my playing. You have to let go of your pride and any thoughts that suggest you are advanced, we are all just students and need to remember that at all times. Remain open to ideas, accept critiques with open ears and never take offence. We need to re-evaluate constantly and challenge ourselves. Practice as much as life allows but don’t let your bad habit persist (we all have them, even the best pros).Additional Musical Courses/Information
Throughout your practice sessions and your personal development new courses and information may be required. Serious students that are on a career path or exam system will need to complete additional courses along the way. More causal students can cover these topics with their teacher in the lessons or ‘on the side’. But there is no substitute for learning about music away from your instrument so you gain an awareness of the larger musical world.
Music Theory – Understanding the language of music is essential to becoming an advanced musician. Imagine trying to write books if you don’t know how to read or understand language! It’s an amazing world that will change your perception of music forever.
Musicianship – Working through ear training, sight singing, rhythm training and more will ensure you know music in your mind and body. You’ll be able to look at a piece of music (without your instrument) and know how it generally goes. It will help resolve blind spots in skills, especially for guitarists who are usually very preoccupied with their instrument.
Music History – Learning and listening to music will give you an awareness of the broader world of music. This will give you stylistic awareness appropriate to the era of music you’re performing. In general, students who have taken a good music history course (with listening exercises) will phrase better, listen better, and be more stylistically aware. They will sound more musically mature overall.
Chamber Music – It’s very important to play with other musicians, especially non-guitarists. There is a whole set of separate universal skills that musicians use to communicate with each other. I have learned more from playing chamber music with my ensemble partners than I did in lessons! It’s as if you absorb all their years of musical experience as you play, rehearse and communicate.
Secondary Instrument (piano recommended) – As a guitarist, learning piano really expanded my musical awareness and ideas about how to organize music. The instrument is so logical and straightforward that I could not hide behind the difficulties of guitar technique. Not that piano is easy, the music gets difficult quickly and the multitasking is incredible. On piano I had to be a solid musician. Also, piano reading is also on a whole other level, I feel I expanded my reading capabilities and multitasking skills by leaps and bounds. Good for the brain.A few more tips on practicing for beginners
Happiness in small goals: Making your practice sessions enjoyable will be key to long-term musical success and development. When experiencing difficulties, break up the piece or exercise into small manageable goals at a speed you can accomplish successfully. Even if you only play a few notes at a time, playing successfully will improve your skills and give you a feeling of accomplishment.
Isolate difficulties and solidify strengths: Balance your practice sessions by working on difficulties as well as maintaining easy material you can play well. Playing at a high quality level as often as possible will help develop a solid foundation. Work on your difficulties near the middle of your practice session and finish with something you can play well. This will ensure you end with a positive feeling of success.
Practicing is Problem Solving: Practicing is different than just playing the guitar. When you practice you need to identify problems or elements you wish to improve and solve them immediately. Simply playing the guitar will not make you a better musician. If your teacher says you should practice for 30 minutes a day, be sure you are actually practicing for 30 minutes not just playing.
Combine repetition with thoughtful practice: Although a certain amount of repetition is required to establish your skills, balance repetition with thoughtful reevaluation. Sometimes, improvement will occur by reexamining your posture, hand positions, or elements not directly connected to what you are studying. Having a qualified teacher is very helpful. They can identify problems before you repeat it a hundred times. That said, aim to be mindful at all times about what you are doing.
Reexamine your posture and hand positions often – Small adjustments in a number of places in your setup can make a big difference. Beginners need to constantly reevaluate.
Consider ergonomics on classical guitar – Beginners and intermediate students should closely watch for strange contortions and anything that is not ergonomic. Using a mirror can help.
Good days vs bad days: Actually, I don’t believe in good or bad practice days. All days are good opportunities to practice something. On days when you are having trouble focusing or executing material cleanly, slow down your speed and use a metronome until you are playing well. You may have to play at half the speed you intended but you can still get in some quality practice.
Play slowly: I’ve rarely encountered a student who practices as slowly as I think they should. Practicing ultra slowly will ensure you are playing with your best hand positions, sound, confidence, relaxation, accuracy, and more. The majority of your practicing should be at very slow tempos. Once you can play something well at a slow tempo, you can speed it up while keeping an eye on the quality level.
Dive deeper into musicality – Students can get super caught up in their own technique and progress but remember to strive for better phrasing, dynamic shaping, and overall musicality.
Page markers: Use page markers (sticky tabs) on the pages you are practicing so you can quickly flip to the next piece or exercise.
Keep it simple: Even the most advanced players will practice simple open string exercises but will do so at a very high quality level. Quality practice helps to improve your playing so keep the exercises and pieces simple enough that you can accomplish them at your highest potential. You don’t have to prove yourself to anyone. You‘ll only improve if you set realistic and manageable goals.
Play the melody on its own – If you can’t play the melody nicely on its own, how can you play all the notes? Learn to play the melody nice and legato first and introduce the rest of the notes after.
Listen to more music (not just guitar) – You must increase your awareness of the larger musical world. Guitar is great but it’s only a small niche and won’t inform you of all the musical eras diversity. Listen to piano, strings, symphonies, Bach cantatas, voice, lieder, and more.
Treat and reward yourself – Make your practice session an enjoyable and special time of your day. Have a treat or nice coffee or juice, buy that nice music stand and metronome.
Trust your teacher: If your teacher recommends something contrary to what’s on this site, please trust their advice. Your teacher knows what’s best for you and your personal and unique development. Learning from books and online videos can be helpful but the real work is done through long-term communication with teachers and other musicians that know you well and want to pass on their expertise.
Johan Löfving performs Les Soirées d’Auteuil Op.23 by Napoléon Coste (1805-1883) via Siccas Guitars and their great YouTube channel. Great to see this video of Löfving after doing a review of his amazing new album last week. I don’t know the works of Coste very intimately but this is a particularly nice two movement work with a Serenade followed by an exciting Scherzo at 4 minutes in.
Coste has a very orchestral quality to his writing, sometimes containing a spaciousness not common to guitar but it’s often contrasted with thick and full writing and some intense virtuosity. As I mentioned in the review post last week, Löfving’s large dynamic range and constants between beautifully phrased melodic sections and extroverted explosions make him perfectly suited to this music and one of my favourite players of recent times.
Preludio No.7, Op.28 by Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849) – Arranged by Francisco Tárrega (1852–1909) for Classical Guitar. Free PDF Sheet Music and TAB, comes with both a notation-only edition and a TAB edition. Left hand fingering. The level is mid-intermediate (Grade 6). PDF download. Tarrega made a number of arrangements of Romantic composers and quite a few of Chopin. If you want to follow the piano version and original intentions of Chopin you can eliminate some of the glissandos and harmonics. The extra bass notes make sense to keep the sustain going. This one is free but if you want you can support the site here.
Free PDF Sheet Music & Tab – Includes both notation-only and tab editions in one PDF.
My video and lesson includes Tarrega’s fingering and glissandos which you can choose to include or not depending on your preference. YouTube Lesson Link.
Huge thanks to Matthew McAllister for playing from my score. It’s such an honour to hear my edition played by one of the world’s greatest professional guitarists. His musicality is beautiful here and has a perfect sense of space and pacing. This comes via his amazing YouTube channel. He gets rid of lots of the glissandos which I actually prefer!
Drei Tentos from Kammermusik (1958) by Hans Werner Henze (1926–2012)
These famous short works for solo guitar come from Hans Werner Henze’s larger work Kammermusik (chamber music) written in 1958, and originally dedicated to Benjamin Britten. Kammermusik is a 12-movement chamber piece for tenor, guitar and eight instruments set to texts by the poet Friedrich Hölderlin. There are also three songs for tenor and guitar that come with the solo score of the work. The Drei Tentos (and Kammermusik) were premiered by guitarist Julian Bream and tenor Peter Pears, and are frequently performed alone as modern guitar repertoire. Henze’s compositional style changed over the years but the influence of the serial music around him and his loosening of the style with richly melodic lines, beautiful orchestration, and sensible musicality contrasted the music of his contemporaries. I love the ultra clear texture, pure sound on the guitar, and motivic richness of these works.
Sheet Music via SMP (comes with the three songs):
Henze says of the Drei Tentos:
An encounter between Germany and Greece in the vision of a poet who has clouds of madness around his head, and who stammers in fragments, with beautiful, seemingly dislocated phrases. – Hans Werner Henze on Kammermusik 1958 via Vivien Schweitzer, NYTimes
Like the other sections of the score, these three tentos or ricercares sound much as I imagine Greek music must have sounded and are characterized by the interplay of thematic structures and harmonic textures found throughout the piece as a whole: each of them functions as a nucleus that provides material for the rest of the piece. – Henze, Hans W. and Spencer, Stewart, Bohemian Fifths: An Autobiography (Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 1999).
Bream’s recording with score (the recording is properly licensed on Youtube, not sure about the score)
As David Truslove write in the notes of this Naxos album:
Henze’s Drei Tentos, three intermezzos, like the Drei Fragmente nach Hölderlin were also originally part of Kammermusik 1958 and are short, very approachable pieces that feature in every professional guitarist’s repertoire. The first piece, essentially lyrical, is characterized by a terseness of material based on a recurring four-note motif, with a high tessitura and a dynamic level that rarely rises above pianissimo. The second features driving rhythms that propel the semiquaver movement forward in the manner of Stravinsky. Lyricism returns in the third, this time with melodic contours of Neapolitan origin.
John Duarte’s album notes to recording by guitarist Alice Artzt
The titles of the three interludes have some relevance to the ‘messages’ of songs they separate. The first “Du schönes Bächlein, despite its constant change of time-signature, has a serene flow and a crystalline clarity; it bubbles and chatters its way into the guitar’s highest register – a little brook that is not deep enough to touch the guitar’s lowest depths. The second, Es findet has Aug’ oft, is a curious, dissonant piece gathering energy as it progresses from a hesitating and discontinuous opening; though fragmented, the middle-section offers an almost songlike line. Henze has lived in Italy since 1953 and the third Tento is a ‘thank you’ to his host country – as Falla’s Psyche was to France . . . . This last Tento, an amiable contrast to the second, is a sunny little work that makes use of a Neapolitan song of Henze’s. – John Duarte, Album note to 20th Century Guitar Music, performed by Alice Artzt, guitar, Hyperion LP A66002, 1981
More reading: You can read much more about the pieces via this great masters paper: Julian Bream’s 20th Century Guitar: An Album’s Influence on the Modern Guitar Repertoire by Taylor Jonathon Greene. Check out pages 86 to 92 Musical elements of Drei Tentos
This lesson comes from my book Classical Guitar Repertoire Lessons Grade 4 – Six pieces at the grade four level with dedicated lessons preparing you for each piece.
Lesson: Lagrima by Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909). YouTube Video Lesson Link. This iconic piece is part of many professional guitarist’s repertoire, so congratulations on reaching this level. You will notice some difficult sections in this short and sweet work, but don’t get discouraged. I’ve taught this piece to many students, in fact I make every grade 4 student play it. Since it is such a popular work, there are thousands of examples of students playing in on YouTube and at recitals. I assure you that the difficulties can be overcome with patience and practice.
My lesson covers: Some note and scale review for fingerboard knowledge. Playing the melody to help your phrasing and to orient yourself before playing all the accompaniment. Three ways to practice the difficult part from bar 5-7.
Thibaut Garcia plays Concerto in Mi minore Op. 140 per Guitare et Orchestra (c. 1820) also called Petit concerto de société. by Ferdinando Carulli (1770-1841). This comes via Seicorde Magazine and their YouTube channel at the XIV Moscow International Festival Guitar Virtuosi with Svetlanov Symphony Orchestra and conductor Valentin Uryupin. Movements: Allegro (1:11), Largo (8:40), and Allegro (11:42).
To my knowledge Carulli only wrote two concertos that include guitar, this Op.140 and the Double Concerto Op. 8 (Flute, Guitare et Orchestre), c. 1809. I’m surprised this doesn’t get played more often as it’s a successful work overall with clear separation of the orchestra and the guitar making the balance work. The largo probably has the best guitar writing as the faster movements have so much arpeggio figuration and technique work common to the era. But Carulli is always a bit better than I expect him to be. Nicely played by the excellent Thibaut Garcia who is seems at home in the setting, nice and relaxed with refined phrasing and some very virtuosic flourishes.
This lesson comes from my book Classical Guitar Repertoire Lessons Grade 4 – Six pieces at the grade four level with dedicated lessons preparing you for each piece.
Lesson: Estudio in E Minor by Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909). YouTube Video Lesson Link. A nice melody with a full arpeggio accompaniment. This piece explores and develops barre technique and is a good preparation for Lagrima by Tarrega which will be the next piece. I give a lesson on playing the melody on its own and three ways to practice the barre. It is a good idea to approach tricky barre passages in a variety of ways: Pause and Prepare, Shape Recognition, and Destination Points.
I’ve featured Swedish guitarist Johan Löfving a number of times so it’s great to hear his new album. He’s joined at the end by the Consone String Quartet and castanet player, Nanako Aramaki, for Boccherinl’s fourth guitar quintet. It’s an exciting programme of Romantic guitar repertoire framed by two fandango movements showcasing the influence of Spanish folk music.
When I was younger my guitar heroes were John Williams (for refinement), Julian Bream (musicality) and Kazuhito Yamashita (extroverted creativity), but I can add Johan Löfving as one of the modern players that combine their abilities with the new level of playing we are seeing today. Löfving is a real inspiration in terms of playing style. The thing I love about this album and his playing is his ability to go from sweet and refined sounds to completely extroverted extravaganzas. He is fearless and yet controlled. This is evident from the first track with his performance of Aguado’s Fandango Variado, Op.16. He showcases some beautiful phrasing and really ramps up the excitement while going through Aguado’s variety of rhythms of the fandango. Same goes for his interpretation of Giuliani’s Sonata Brillante, Op. 15 where he shows a wide range of articulations and dynamic contrasts all wrapped into refined classical phrasing. I absolutely love his performance of Regondi’s Introduction et Caprice, Op. 23 where he showcases his virtuosic abilities. His smooth musical lines of the introduction contrast so deeply with his final displays of virtuosity and unreserved fanfare during the caprice. He really opens up the work, brilliant!
Fantastic recording of Boccherini’s Guitar Quintet No. 4 where he’s joined by the Consone Quartet and the castanet player Nanako Aramaki. The quintet is a wonderful way to end the album and bridges the listener into a larger musical world that included the guitar. The final Fandango is amazing and you’ll never want it to end. If you’ve seen my many features of Löfving and his playing in Flauguissimo Duo you’ll know chamber music is clearly close to his heart and it’s easy to hear on this album.
Löfving is playing an original French Tribout, 1850 (anonymous) guitar restored by James Westbrook. The sound of the recording is fairly live and natural which I really appreciate. Recorded at Trinity Church, Weston, Herordshire, with some distance and room ambience but lots of clarity too. From warm silky tones to clear and glassy articulations, the recording allows plenty of room for Löfving’s large dynamic and aesthetic range. So big shout out to producer and engineer John Taylor and to executive producer Adam Binks.
Fandango! Music for Solo Guitar and String Quartet by Johan Löfving has charm, refinement, and virtuosity all wrapped into one album. Sweetly arched phrases to sharp articulations are beautifully played on a 19th century guitar. After a number of engaging solo performances Löfving embraces Boccherini’s quintet in top form. General listeners and critics alike will praise the performances for their musical creativity and refinement. Löfving’s ability to fearlessly give it his all while maintaining the musical phrase makes the album exciting and irresistible. Highly recommended and clearly one of the best albums and players of recent times.
- Dionisio Aguado (1784–1849): Fandango Variado, Op. 16
- Mauro Giuliani (1781–1829): Sonata Brillante, Op. 15
- Napoléon Coste (1805–1883): Les Soirées d’Auteuil, Op. 23
- Fernando Sor (1778–1839): Étude Op. 31, No. 10
- Giulio Regondi (1822–1872): Introduction et Caprice, Op. 23
- Luigi Boccherini (1743–1805): Guitar Quintet No. 4 in D Major, G. 448
Sungmin Lee plays Preludio from Sandy’s Portrait by Sergio Assad (b.1952). This comes via his great YouTube channel. I’ve been meaning to feature Sungmin Lee for awhile and his nice performance of this Assad piece is a great time to do it. Lee has been active on YouTube since he was just a young steel-stringer and he still performs and does tutorials of popular tunes on steel string today. But around eight years ago he started posting more classical playing and now he’s a pro on both. Great performance of this nice prelude including a very heartfelt inner section. Beautiful phrasing and solid rhythmic momentum. You can find the sheet music on SMP: Sandy’s Portrait by Assad.
Rene Izquierdo plays Prelude from Cello Suite No. 1, BWV 1007 by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) . This comes via Izquierdo’s great YouTube channel. Here he’s trying out a new guitar (only #23) by new on the scene luthier Ric Larsen. Great playing by Izquierdo with a steady forward drive and nicely arched phrasing.
Sheet Music: Prelude BWV 1007 by Bach – I offer a few editions of this work: a free unfingered edition, fully fingered notation edition, tab edition, and two non-editorial editions of the entire suite so players can compare their scores to the originals. Enjoy.
This lesson comes from my book Classical Guitar Repertoire Lessons Grade 4 – Six pieces at the grade four level with dedicated lessons preparing you for each piece.
Ejercicio in E Minor from Coleccion 12a de Ejercicios by Jose Ferrer (1835-1916) – YouTube Video Lesson Link. This is another great piece for the grade 4 level that utilizes a full range of the guitar from the 10th position to the 1st. Because this is the same key signature as the last piece by Bosch I go over chords shapes instead of scales to cover some fretboard knowledge. I also talk about the phrasing and dynamic shaping of non-chord-tones and do a walkthrough of the piece.
Lamento in E Minor, No.5 from Six Pièces Faciles, Op.89 by Jacques Bosch (1825 – 1895) – YouTube Video Lesson Link. This is a great piece for the grade 4 level that utilizes a full range of the guitar. I go over some scales for fretboard review, talk about playing the melody on it’s own, the glissandos, and then do a walk through of the piece.
20th Century Guitar Sonatas by Michael Kolk
Artist Website: michaelkolkguitar.com
Produced and Engineered by Drew Henderson
2020 Michael Kolk
Great to hear a new album by one of my favourite players, Canadian guitarist Michael Kolk. 20th Century Guitar Sonatas features four compelling sonatas written for the guitar: Sonata para guitarra by Antonio José (1902-1936), Sonate in a für Guitarre by Ferdinand Rebay (1880-1953), Sonatina for Guitar by Cyril Scott (1879-1970), and Sonata No. 1 para guitarra by Carlos Guastavino (1912-2000). From Spain, Austria, England, and Argentina, the sonatas were composed between 1927 and 1967. Modern, but very listenable, these are works that all guitarists need to be familiar with. The album was recorded at the now, guitar famous, Church of Saint Mary Magdalene in Toronto, ON, which you might know from various Naxos recordings. Sound quality is fantastic, as always from Drew Henderson.
Most listeners will be familiar with Jose’s well known Sonata para guitarra which is one of the most significant sonatas in the repertoire. Some might know Cyril Scott’s Sonatina written for Segovia. However, Ferdinand Rebay’s Sonate in a für Guitarre is recorded here for the first time and the Guastavino is generally underplayed. Rebay has a number of high quality chamber music and solo works despite being a violinist and pianist himself. I’ve seen his repertoire popping up more and more often. Here’s a bit of info from Graham Wade via this Naxos album of violin and guitar works (also by Kolk): “Rebay became interested in composing for the guitar following his friendship with Jacobus Ortner (1879–1959), professor of guitar at the Musikhochschule, and through his niece, the concert guitarist Gerta Hammerschmied, the dedicatee of many of his guitar works. He composed about 600 pieces (296 of which are kept in the Abbey of Stift Heiligenkreuz collection) for solo guitar, guitar chamber music in various combinations with other instruments, lessons for beginners, solo songs, children’s songs and choral parts with guitar accompaniment.” The sonata clocks in at around 14 minutes and includes a great set of variations as the inner movement. Beautiful playing by Kolk filled with lovely phrasing and sharp contrasts and articulations.
I’m a fan of Kolk’s playing for his modern musical approach that offers all the virtuosity and musicality of any of today’s top players but in a balanced and presentable way that does not interfere with the momentum and structure of the composition. For mature repertoire such as sonatas, Kolk’s playing is a perfect match. In huge works such as José’s 20 minute sonata the ability to stay focused and not wander away from the form of the work is essential. Kolk is able to successfully piece together the various themes and interjections into a solid whole.
Kolk has been playing some of these works for years. I’d already heard his performance of the Sonatina for Guitar by Cyril Scott from back in 2016 (1st movement below). You can watch all the movements (I, II, and III) via his Youtube. This work features a rich harmonic texture influenced by impressionism but with occasional dissonant bite and focused contrasts. Kolk really highlights the motivic lines while mixing them into the overall texture. He also highlights some wonderfully silky and fluid phrasing here.
I’ve only heard Sonata No. 1 para guitarra by Argentine composer Carlos Guastavino a few times but after hearing this recording I’m pretty convinced it’s a great work and needs to be heard more often. In some ways the work is easy listening and delivers a pleasing Argentinian flavoured 20th century work but not without unexpected twists and turns.
20th Century Guitar Sonatas by Michael Kolk features four of the guitar’s most significant sonatas performed by one of the great players of today. Beautiful and virtuosic playing is balanced with focused and intelligent interpretations. This album will interest general listeners, instrumental performers, and critics looking for solid recordings of sonatas by a top performer. A must-listen recording for any guitarist not familiar with the repertoire. Highly recommended.
Canadian guitar duo Steve Cowan and Adam Cicchillitti give a virtual recital of 20th Century French Music in Québec, Canada. This comes via Cicchillitti’s YouTube channel. Beautiful playing and great program of arrangements. Playing starts at 1:25 into the video.
- Bruyères (Prelude no. 5 Book II) – Claude Debussy (arr. Steve Cowan)
- Prelude from Tombeau de Couperin – Maurice Ravel (arr. Henderson-Kolk)
- Modéré from Sonatine for piano – M. Ravel (arr. Adam Cicchillitti)
- Angelico from Musica Callada – Federico Mompou (arr. Adam Cicchillitti)
- Secreto from Impressiones intimas – F. Mompou (arr. Steve Cowan)
- Perpetuum Mobile from Harp Sonata – Germaine Tailleferre (arr. Cicchillitti)
- Retazos – J. Evangelista (arr. Cowan-Cicchillitti)
- i. Recordando
- ii. Marcha lenta
- iii. Alegre
- iv. Fluido
- v. Escalas
More info via their YouTube description:
This concert was filmed live at l’Entrepôt in Lachine, Québec. The virtual recital was part of a series with Concerts Lachine and organized by artistic director Richard Turp. Due to the ongoing coronavirus quarantine, artists across the world have had entire seasons canceled, and this series aimed to put musicians back on-stage albeit without a live audience.
With the exception of the work by José Evangelista, the programmed repertoire focuses exclusively on composers that spent the bulk of their careers in Paris. In fact, only the work by Evangelista was written originally for guitar. The piece Retazos or “fragments” was commissioned by Scottish guitar virtuoso David Russell but was deemed unplayable on solo guitar. As a result, Steve and I spent a number of years arranging the work and then performing it across Canada. In 2019, we recorded Retazos with the Canadian record label Analekta on an album of exclusively Canadian music. You can purchase our album “Focus” here.
The other pieces on the program by Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy and Federico Mompou were originally written for piano, while the work by Germaine Tailleferre was originally for solo harp. We chose these pieces based on the contrast in moods and the intimacy of the musical language, which we felt were suited perfectly for guitar. Feel free to like, share and comment on the video below, we would greatly appreciate it!
João Luiz plays Hermetiana by Sergio Assad (b.1952). This comes via his YouTube channel. I love these causal yet virtuosic home performances by Luiz. Great musicality, laid-back, yet wonderfully zippy. Here’s what he said about the piece via YouTube (I’m very curious about those 24 studies):
I am thrilled to present the unofficial premiere of one study from Sérgio Assad’s masterpiece 24 studies for guitar. Sérgio is one of my guitar heroes and biggest influence, and I am honored to have the 24 studies written for and dedicated to me! The second piece is a Prelude I wrote in 2017, with influences from Blues, and Northeast Brazil’s Baião.
Rondo, Op.241, No.34 by Ferdinando Carulli (1770-1841) – YouTube Video Lesson Link. Although there are no new techniques or musical elements to learn in this Rondo by Carulli, the level of activity in both hands is much higher than any piece encountered in my books so far. A rondo is a form of music where a theme is repeated throughout the work with contrasting sections intervening. I’ve marked the sections on the score with rehearsal marks: A, B, C, D, and E. The theme, A section, appears three times. The Form, or section order, is: A – B – C – A – D – E – A
Recognizing Scales & Arpeggios – It’s important to recognize the type of musical texture you’re playing so you can either sustain notes as chords or chose to play a melodic single line. Remember, all the textures may contain melody so continue to phrase accordingly.
- During scales or melodic material, play a single line as legato as possible.
- During arpeggios, leave your fingers down to sustain all the notes as full chords (some upper notes are melody).
- Mixed passages may combine both textures, so you might have an arpeggio with passing non-chord tones (notes that are not part of the chord).