Thursday, February 21, 2013

Guitarist composers and longer forms

I've been mulling this one over for some time and haven't been sure how I want to field this because part of me wants to use specific cases and part of me doesn't.  But the idea I'm thinking about is whether or not guitarists who compose manage to get longer forms to actually work.  Angelo Gilardino it was, I think, who wrote that even among the 19th century masters of the guitar idiomatic expression tended to supercede musical values. 

Ah, here we are!

Until around 1920, original music for guitar was composed almost exclusively by guitarists. Among these, few were able to maintain a balance between musical values and an idiomatic command of the instrument; not even Fernando Sor and Mauro Giuliani—without doubt the most significant guitarist-composers of the first half of the nineteenth century—are immune to such criticism.

Now it's too bad I haven't managed to hear Delpriora's sonata after all this time but recording and licensing aren't simple.  Nonetheless, Gilardino's observation has stuck with me.  It's been a tiny catalyst among others that have inspired me to consider how guitarist composers have handled sonata form, particularly.  Now that we're in the 21st century guitarists have begun to compose more extended forms and have added to the roster of sonatas and fugues, my two favorite forms, and I'm still eagerly awaiting the recording and publication of Koshkin's 24 preludes and fugues.

But with all that still in mind I've been wondering why, as Gilardino put it, few guitarists were able to maintain a balance between musical values and an idiomatic command of the instrument.  I have some ideas about that and I'm even willing to discuss them in polite company but I'm still trying to think through how most politely to say them.  :) 

As musical values and the sonata forms of the 19th century guitarist composers go I have more thinking and studying I want to do.  But I do think the physical limitations of the guitar have played a role in guitarists not striking the right balance, and I think that guitarists avoiding a conceptual as well as physical mastery of playing in all keys is ultimately the most significant problem in the lack of development of longer forms by guitarist composers.  I don't think this is necessarily as true since 1920 (per Gilardino) as it was prior to that time.  I'd like to write more but I've got some Matiegka and ... other guitar sonatas I want to absorb some more.

I've also got a number of recordings I've been soaking up and I'd be remiss if I didn't get back to blogging about Rebay soon this year.  I'm trying to find the right balance between musical values and an actual social life with another even more important aspect of life that involve regular installments of inbound currency, however fiat it may be. 

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