An Annotated Bibliography of Guitar Methods, 1760-1860

Article excerpt

An Annotated Bibliography of Guitar Methods, 1760-1860. By Erik Stenstad - vold. (Organologia: Musical Instru - ments and Performance Practice, no. 4.) Hillsdale, NY: Pendragon Press, 2010. [xix, 210 p. ISBN 9781576471852. $65.] Bibliography, index, chronological tables.

This is the fourth volume in the Orga - nologia: Musical Instruments and Perfor - mance Practice series from Pendragon Press. While all three previous volumes have dealt with the flute and specific aspects of flute playing, this fourth volume concentrates on guitar method books from roughly 1760 to 1860. The middle range of this period, from around 1800 to 1840, comprises the core of the classical guitar repertoire, with composers found frequently on any modern guitar recital such as Dionisio Aguado (1784-1849), Matteo Carcassi (1792-1853), Ferdinando Carulli (1770-1841), Mauro Giuliani (1781-1829), and Fernando Sor (1778-1839). That all of these virtuosi produced method books- often several editions of method books-is surprising. In fact, the sheer quantity of pedagogical works for guitar during this period will surprise many: Stenstadvold counts over 300 tutors by some 200 authors; reissues and later editions bring the total to over 400 from the period. A large number (over 250) of these sources are French, and the author postulates that this number indicates not only the popularity of the guitar in Paris during the period in question, but also the fact that it was never accepted into the Conservatoire and thus lacked an authorized manual. So the guitar was at once enormously popular and, even at this early date, somewhat neglected by the musical mainstream.

While many readers may be primarily interested in the tutors of the major guitar composers mentioned above, the bibliography contains information on sources going back into the late eighteenth century, a period that has only recently come under scrutiny in the guitar world. Music for fourand five-course guitar has been studied in some depth from its origins in the sixteenth century to its gradual fall from favor in the late baroque. But the key transitional period where the five-course guitar becomes the six-course and the six-string or modern classical guitar has been relatively little-studied. In addition, the period from the 1830s to the 1850s, when the guitar's popularity as a salon instrument was on the wane, has also been neglected. So the bibliography serves to frame the core of the classical guitar repertoire from the early nineteenth century with preceding and succeeding eras rarely visited by modern scholars and performers.

Stenstadvold had some important decisions to make at the outset here and anyone approaching this text needs to know his parameters. By "guitar" he means primarily the six-string instrument usually tuned in fourths with a third (E-A-d-g-b-e#) or its direct predecessors, the five- and sixcourse guitars. All were often called in the period under question the "Spanish guitar." Instruments with similar names but dissimilar origins, most notably the wirestrung cittern common in England and North America called the "English guitar," are not included here. Nor are other instruments often confused with the modern guitar such as the Russian seven-string guitar, various Portuguese guitars, or the "guitare allemande," all of which stem from different organological backgrounds. He does include variants of the modern instrument that have music in an identical style and were often played by the same performers, such as the ten-string guitar, the harpolyre guitar with three necks, the guitar-harp, harp-lute, and the lyre (basically a lyreshaped guitar), all of which were popular for brief periods in the early nineteenth century. None of these instruments, even the six-string one, is exactly like a modern classical guitar, being smaller and softer than modern concert models. But the similarities in tuning and technique mean that they are as interchangeable as, for example, a modern concert grand piano and an early nineteenth-century salon piano. …


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