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Publication Date

Winter 12-1-2012

Year of Release



Spanish composer and guitarist Dionisio Aguado lived in anonymity until 1824 when he moved to Paris, a city that after the French Revolution was open to foreign artists. Aguado is known as one of the best guitarists of his time and as a very good pedagogue. His famous method, Escuela de Guitarra, was first published in 1825 and is still in print. In this method, he describes the use of fingernails on the right hand for the sake of a brighter and louder sound. His roommate, the famous composer Fernando Sor, was against the use of fingernails and considered that the tone produced by Aguado was his only problem as a guitar player. The debate about the use, or not, of fingernails was at the forefront at this time period because of the introduction of the six-string guitar. It was not until Segovia's growing fame in the concert hall in the 1910s that the subject was settled in favor of the use of nails. In his method, Aguado also introduced the tripodion, a device he invented that supported the guitar so that it would resonate better without contact with the player's body.

One of his most famous works, the Rondo in A minor was composed and published in 1827 in Paris as part of a collection called Trois Rondos Brillants. It was composed for a guitar with a much smaller fretboard than modern guitars, thus causing the guitarist to perform complicated stretches on the left hand while keeping the fast tempo indicated by Aguado. His extensive knowledge of the guitar is shown on this piece: while the level of technical difficulty is extremely high, the composition fits the guitar very well.

Cuban composer Rey Guerra began studying music at the National School in 1973 and finished in 1982 at the Instituto Superior de Arte where he studied with Leo Brouwer, one of the most well-known composers of contemporary guitar music. Since then, he has achieved international recognition as a performer by winning national and international guitar competitions and releasing eight solo albums. His last album, De Sindo a Silvio (2001), received a nomination for the Latin Grammy Awards, but his application for a visa to travel to the USA was denied, and he was not allowed to attend the ceremony. After this event, he applied for asylum in the United States and moved to Miami where he feels he is finally free to create his art without constricting outside influences.

Un Dia Después best translates to English as "The Day After". The piece begins with a slow, tonally oriented section where Guerra explores left­ hand stretches. Then it develops to a fast section where more chromaticism is heard. Guerra’s use of agogic accents magnifies the contrast between sections and the rhythm becomes the driving force of the work until the A section returns. The recapitulation of the slow section is followed by a chain of suspended chords leading to the gentle end the piece.

Spanish guitarist and composer Francisco Tárrega began his guitar studies at the age of 10 while the guitar was still overshadowed by the piano as a concert instrument. For this reason, his father insisted that he learn the piano instead, but Tárrega ended up successfully studying both instruments. In 1869, Tárrega bought a guitar with superior acoustic characteristics constructed by the famous luthier Antonio Torres. This guitar strongly influenced Tarrega’s view of the compositional potential of the guitar. In 1874, Tárrega entered the Madrid Conservatory of Music and began to earn money as a concert guitar player and teacher. During his time at the Conservatory, he was encouraged by his professor Emilio Arrieta to focus on the guitar instead of the piano. Some of Tárrega's pupils became very famous pedagogues themselves like Miguel Llobet and Emilio Pujol, who later instructed Leo Brouwer. Tárrega's guitar studies are still in use in conservatories all around the world.

The first piece in this set of three compositions in the key of A is a delicate waltz titled the Grand Valz. It presents a theme popularly known as the "Nokia Tune" which is now one of the most heard tunes in the world.

Following is the Estudio Brillante de Alard, which is a challenging study that features non-stop arpeggiation while a slower melody is sustained. The theme of the piece is based on the melody of the Violin Study No.2 in A major, Op. 19. by the French violinist Delphin Alard. This piece is often performed as fast as the player can play, but the original tempo indication is “Andante con espressione".

Written in 1896 in Granada, Recuerdos de la Alhambra is without doubt the most well-known work by Tárrega and one of the most famous pieces in the guitar repertory. "La Alhambra" is a palace that stands on the hill of Assabica, in Granada, Spain and it is a beautiful example of Moorish architecture. The title of Tárrega’s work translates as "Memories of Alhambra", perhaps inspired by a trip to the now famous attraction. The work has been used in soundtracks for movies and television including the HBO show The Sopranos. Many vocal adaptations of this theme have been recorded with the most famous by the English singer Sarah Brightman. The guitar version uses a right-hand technique called tremolo where the thumb plays the bass and harmonic outline while the ring, middle and index fmgers articulate the melody with rapid successive strokes.

British composer Stanley Myers studied music at the Oxford University, and beginning in the early fifties was very active as a songwriter and musical director. His start in the film industry in 1958 came during a partnership with Reg Owen in the movie Murder Reported. After that he wrote 130 film and television scores for which he is most known.

Myers's most famous composition is his Cavatina for guitar. It first appeared in the film The Walking Stick (1970) and brought him an Ivor Novello Award in 1977. With very few changes in the melody, a new version was composed to be the theme song of the movie The Deer Hunter (1978) and became the version played in the solo guitar repertory. The beautiful melodic line is supported by a traditional harmony. In this piece, Myers does not explore the polyphonic capabilities of the guitar, choosing instead to use a single line throughout most of the work and creating chords only in the final section.

Considered one of the best composers for the guitar, Paraguayan composer and guitarist Agustín Pío Barrios did not have his works widely recognized until more than thirty years after his death, when in 1977 the guitarist John Williams released an album consisting entirely of works by Barrios.

Around 300 works for solo guitar were recovered from manuscripts or recordings, and many of them became part of the standard guitar repertory with La Catedral being his most famous work. As a performer, Barrios was compared to Andrés Segovia as one of the best guitarists alive. In 1910 after one of his tours in Argentina, Barrios began to receive more invitations to perform, touring through Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay during the following 14 years.

His pseudonym Nitsuga Mangoré was adopted as means of promoting his career. Nitsuga is an inversion of his first name, and the last name "Mangoée" was chosen after a legendary Guaraní chieftain. The Guaranís are one of the largest races of South American Indians, and their language is one of the two official languages in Paraguay. As a confirmed nationalist, Barrios used an Indian name and was notorious for dressing up on stage as an Indian with feathers and all, to promote not only his music but his heritage.

The Vals op. 8 no. 4 is among his most famous works, and it creates a strong link between South American folk music and the influence of Chopin's music. It uses a system of tuning popularly called "Drop D", where the 6th string is tuned in D instead of the traditional E, giving the guitar an extra whole tone on the lower register. The short introduction presents the basic rhythm of a waltz and, as the piece develops, new techniques are introduced, including a Campanella (bell-like sounding) technique that combines the sounds of open and pressed strings, to explore the unique sonic capabilities of the guitar.

Nowadays it is almost impossible to talk about living guitar composers without mentioning the Tunisian/French composer and guitarist Roland Dyens. In 1988 Dyens was recognized as one of the "100 Best Living Guitarists" in all styles by the French magazine Guitarist (1988). The son of a painter, Dyens is quite concerned with "colors" he wants performed in his music, specifying many indications of timbre, color tones and techniques in his scores. He also includes in his scores many written footnotes with details such as how many seconds to hold a fermata, or on which part of the guitar the player should play a percussive indication, etc.

Dyens’s popularity can be explained by his rather eclectic musical language. His influences are Heitor Villa-Lobos, Claude Debussy, Fernando Sor, French popular songs, American Jazz and South American music. The forms for his works are usually drawn from popular music and his harmonies from jazz. To Dyens, composition and performance are so strongly linked that he considers himself as following the tradition of guitarist-composers such as Fernando Sor, whose pieces are always included on Dyens’s performances, and Mauro Giuliani.

In 1980 Dyens composed a collection of three pieces called Trois Saudades that became his first work published. The word "saudade" is unique to the Portuguese language, and its closest translation to English is "nostalgia".

The Saudade No.1 was dedicated to his former teacher Alberto Ponce; Saudade No.2 was dedicated to Villa-Lobos's wife, and Saudade No.3 was dedicated to Francis Kleyjans, another French guitarist-composer. Dyens’s choice of a word unique to the Portuguese language emphasizes his extensive use of rhythms and melodies derived from Brazilian popular music.

As with the waltz by Barrios, Saudade No. 3 also uses the "Drop D" tuning. The 1st movement of Saudade No. 3, Rituel, features a contemporary language where the pitches are centered around D, but no traditional cadences. Its improvisatory character is a direct reflection of Dyens's manner of always opening up his recitals with an improvisatory piece in order to obtain a sense of the acoustics of the room. The 2nd movement, Danse, on the other hand uses a D mixolydian scale as its foundation. Its title is directly related to the opening theme of the movement and begins with a traditional rhythm from the Northeast region of Brazil called "baião" (also the name of a dance). This movement also develops many extended techniques on the guitar such as the rhythmic independence of the left and right hands.

Joaquin Rodrigo is one of the most well-known Spanish composers of the 20th century. His style draws from traditional and popular Spanish music and is faithful to formal and tonal tradition. He publically admitted that the Renaissance was his favorite period, with the vihuelist Luiz de Milan being his favorite composer. It was to his memory that he dedicated his first guitar work. His most famous work, the Concierto de Aranjuez for guitar and orchestra, is one of the most played guitar concertos in the 20th century. It is also the best example of his style, which Rodrigo defines as "Neocasticismo".

Rodrigo, who was almost completely blind, was actually a pianist and never learned how to play the guitar; therefore, his works usually show a high level of difficulty and push forward the evolution of guitar technique. For this reason, many of the most famous guitar players of the 20th century commissioned works from him. Among his solo pieces for guitar, the Tres Piezas Españolas (Three Spanish Pieces);- dedicated to Andrés Segovia- rank among the most popular and challenging of his works. The first piece is the "Fandango", the second a "Passacaglia" and the "Zapateado" is the last of the three pieces.

The origin of the zapateado as a dance is not clear. There are theories that the zapateado originated as tribal dance from Mexican natives, and that it was introduced to the Spanish colonists upon their arrival in Mexico. The Spaniards claim that the dance evolved from the Spanish court dance "Canarios". Either way, the dance is characterized by a very strong rhythm, punctuated by the tapping of the dancer’s shoes on the floor. It is associated with flamenco dance and music. Rodrigo contended that the roots of Spanish music are associated with guitar music and that flamenco contributed for the popularity of the guitar worldwide. Therefore his choice of a flamenco rhythm to end the Tres Piezas Españolas is very appropriate.

This recital is presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements of a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in performance.


Smith Recital Hall

Library of Congress Authorities

Myers, Stanley. Deer hunter. Cavatina

Dyens, Roland, 1955- Saudades. No 3

Rodrigo, Joaquín. Piezas españolas


recital, classical guitar, 20th century music


Arts and Humanities | Fine Arts | Music | Music Performance

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