Early Romantic Guitar Ensemble:
voice, duo, piano, flute, etc.


Sections Below:

Guitar Concerto
Guitar Duet
Guitar Trio / Quartet
Guitar and Flute, Violin, Cello and Oboe
Guitar and Piano
Guitar and Voice

Much guitar music in the 19th century was written for ensemble. An examination of any library with original 19th century guitar facsimile scores will reveal that around a third to a half of the scores were ensemble pieces. The scores available represent a sampling of what was available in those days: guitar solo, guitar duet for 2 normal guitars, guitar duet for terz guitar and normal guitar, guitar trio and quartet, and very many works for guitar with other instruments: guitar and flute, guitar and violin, guitar and oboe, guitar and cello, guitar and forte-piano, guitar chamber music (guitar with 2 or more wind or string instruments), with the guitar being normal or terz guitar in many cases. It strikes me immediately that if these scores are representative of the era, then the 19th century guitarist was very much an ensemble player who commonly worked with violinists, cellists, flutists, pianists, and other guitarists.

The terz guitar was apparently very popular for ensemble playing, since a large number of scores with terz guitar can be found. The terz guitar was often used for duets with terz and normal guitar, or terz guitar and forte-piano. This popularity was presumably due to the capacity of the terz guitar to project well due to its higher pitch (any parent will tell you that a high-pitched child can be heard over 100 adults talking at a restaurant). See the Terz guitar page on this web site for further information: More about Terz or Tertz Guitars...... I own a terz guitar replica; it is good to have such an instrument not only for the many 19th century duets, but also to play Renaissance Lute and Vihuela music at original pitch.

Working with other musicians can be incredibly rewarding and interesting. It is possible to achieve greater musical ideas with two or more instruments, and to better separate the parts. Ensemble work expands one's musical ability and exposes the guitarist to wider playing styles and challenges. Good ensemble music should have interesting parts that are fun to play even solo, that really become more interesting when all players work together. Audiences also often find ensembles more enjoyable than solo recitals.

19th Century guitar ensemble music generally falls into the following categories.

Guitar Concerto and Chamber Music

It is often difficult to find other string players, in the combination to perform concerto or string ensemble music, but there have been a number of notable works composed for guitar with orchestra, orchestra parts, or string quartet.

Mauro Giuliani concerto works are available from Tecla: Complete Works of Giuliani. Editions include 3 guitar and orchestra works: opus 30, 36, 70. Works for guitar and string quartet are:

Op. 65: Variations on "Nel cor pi¨ non mi sento" and Polonaise.
Op. 101: Variations on "Deh! calma, o ciel".
Op. 102: Variations on "Nume perdonami".
Op. 103: Variations on a favourite waltz.

Tecla also carries the Molino Trio: ..Sheet music link..

Chamber music is basically when there are 3 or more instruments, for example, flute, guitar, and cello. Many such works are available for free PDF download from REX.

Guitar Duet

Guitar Duets were very popular, and any classical guitarist exploring the 19th century repertoire should fully explore the many fine duets available. Sor and Giuliani were able to fully implement this medium because of their superb compositional skills which allowed them to write with more voice independence and additional harmonic structure.

Most guitar duets are for two normal guitars, but some duos exist for one Terz guitar and one normal guitar. See the Terz guitar section of this web page for more information. Terz guitar music can sometimes be played on a normal guitar with a Capo at the third fret, but this can be awkward or impossible especially if the terz guitar score utilizes the full upper range of the guitar.

Tecla: Complete Works of Giuliani offers 6 volumes of Giuliani duets. Volume 24 presents several excellent arrangments of famous operas that most people recognize if they have ever seen a Bugs Bunny cartoon, or a TV commercial - I have played these and they are a hoot! Some of the editions are for one Terz guitar, and others are for two normal guitars; which volumes this affects this is explained on Tecla's web site.

Tecla: Sor Complete Works has the complete Sor duets. The pieces range from easier, but musically effective, pieces for amateurs on up to virtuoso guitar works that Sor and Aguado and Sor and Coste performed in concert duo. Many of the duets are among Sor's later works where his musical maturity was at its peak. The complete works of Sor for guitar duet are available on two CD's from Naxos, in the series Naxos Complete Works of Sor, available at most any on-line music retailer, for only $5 each - these two CD's are among my favorites. The duo pieces of Sor equal or excel the quality of his solo works.

A volume of Mertz duets is available through Mel Bay Music Publishers - this is written for one normal guitar, and one Terz guitar (or normal guitar capo 3).

Napoleon Coste duos for two normal guitars are oriented toward intermediate to advanced guitarists, available through Mel Bay Music Publishers Publications; volume 7 is guitar duets.

Carulli wrote many duets for 2 normal guitars. Several fine Carulli duets, including several of his best works which have been recorded by Bream & Williams, are available for free PDF download from REX - which includes several easy as well as very advanced concert works. OMI has others. There are many Carulli duos in print, but unfortunately, the ones in print are mostly the easier pieces which are not as musically interesting, but they are more accessible to players of moderate ability.

Filipo Gragnani is another composer somewhat in the style of Carulli, who wrote very nice duo and trio music. A number of other composers have duo material available, too numerous to mention here.

Guitar Duo Notes by George C. Krick - an interesting article from 1941 about the value of duos, and selected repertoire.

Guitar Trio / Quartet

Two excellent trios of 19th century music, which I have played before, are by Leonard von Call and another by Filipo Gragnani. A superb trio suite by L'Hoyer is also available. A Zani de Ferranti trio is in print, rather advanced. There are of course many arrangements for 3 guitars, but not much original period material in print. Drop me an email if you know of others, especially if you have a copy of the rumored to exist Carulli pieces for 3 guitars.

Guitar and Flute, Violin, Cello and Oboe

Guitar and flute goes very well together, as evidenced also by the large amount of music written for this combination. The Giuliani duets are probably the best of the genre - there are two volumes available from Tecla: Complete Works of Giuliani.

Other flute / guitar music is available from Legnani, Carulli, and many others.

The violin, flute, and oboe generally share the same music notation and range; by writing music which stays clear of the high / low note limits, composers were able to release music for guitar and violin, flute, or oboe. The Giuliani duos can be played on flute or violin, and a volume of Coste music is available for violin, flute, or oboe.

Clearly, the best violin and guitar music goes to Nicolo Paganini. Despite the virtuosic reputation of Paganini, his chamber music is quite accessible; the solo violin caprices push the boundaries of technique, but the violin / guitar music is well within reach. Many of the guitar parts are not very difficult. Paganini was a guitarist, who wrote over 100 guitar works, in addition to the many violin / guitar pieces. The guitar is a natural accompanyment to the violin. Many CD's of Paganini's guitar / violin works are available.

A volume of outstanding cello and guitar duos by S°ffren Degen (1816-1885) was engraved by Jens Bang Rasmussen using the original facsimile manuscripts in Copenhagen, Denmark. The book can be purchased directly from Jens; in fact I bought Dengen's complete works from Jens Rasmussen. Tecla Editions also has a few of the Degen pieces on line.

Guitar and Piano

Vast amounts of piano and guitar music were published in the early 19th century. This instrument combination was very popular in that time period. This repertoire represents much of the finest and most representative music of the period. Today, very little of this music remains in print because as any guitarist who has tried a duo with a modern grand piano today will tell you, without amplification, the guitar is drown out completely. It simply doesn't work as a combination on today's instruments.

In those days however, this combination was effective. The 19th century piano was very different from today's piano: its tone was more similar to the guitar, it was not as loud overall, and it was smaller. This was the five-octave Viennese fortepiano, as played in Mozart's and Schubert's day - the era of Carulli, Giuliani, Diabelli, and numerous other guitarist-composers who wrote for guitar with piano. In those days, a Stauffer guitar could easily play on par with a piano.

Very few people today have access to a 19th century fortepiano. In order to play the music, the modern guitarist needs to use amplification, perhaps using a microphone and PA system, or a synthesized piano with a fortepiano patch, as a reasonable compromise today. The pianist can also keep the soft pedal depressed for the most part.

As the Duo Firenze - Pamela and Robert Trent - demonstrate in their recording "Italian Nocturnes", using period instruments, guitar and piano are a very effective combination (this is a superb CD by the way). As the Trent's explain in their CD notes:

"Fortepianos (c.1780-1839) with their small, hollow, leather covered hammers help produce qualities which add up to a type of instrument that sounded much more like a guitar than does its modern relative. The guitar in the early nineenth-century had similar articulatory qualities. Thus, the potential for the guitar and fortepiano to either give the aural illusion that it is one large instrument, or to create sharp contrast while playing a simiar texture, explains yet another reason why the combination of guitar and fortepiano was such a popular one."

An article by Charles Ward for the Houston Chronicle on 10/13/03 titled "1825 piano revolutionizes enjoyment of Schubert", discussed the recent discovery and concert using an unaltered "1825 piano by the Viennese builder Conrad Graf." The key points as related to guitar and piano duos are the differences in color vs. today's grand piano, the capability of the instrument for tonal variety, its lower volume, and a second soundboard for damping volume during accompaniment. Key quotes from this article follow:

"Many of today's pianists view key early 19th-century repertoire as muscle music -- pieces to show off the power of the modern grand piano and the technique that can make it roar ...The chamber-music ensemble 'Context' .. presented the Houston debut of its "new" 1825 piano by the Viennese builder Conrad Graf. Members of Saturday's audience in Rice University's Stude Concert Hall needed only to hear the slow movement of the Wanderer to comprehend the aesthetic distance that separates modern piano playing from the norm of Schubert's time.

By using the Graf piano's extraordinary capacity to soften dynamics, pianist Brian Connelly turned the Adagio into a revelation. For the first time I sense how jolting funereal music from the time of Beethoven and Schubert can be. The muffled sound intensified the pathos in ways modern pianos never can. Found in a mountain summer home in Italy, the Graf piano is an extraordinary discovery, as Connelly explained in introductory remarks.

Graf was one of the most important piano makers in early 19th-century Vienna. Beethoven, Schubert and the rest of the pantheon knew his instruments. He built roughly 3,000, but now, Connelly said, only 80-100 survive. Many are unplayable. This Graf, however, was found in almost pristine condition; it needed no restoration. Only the strings and a few other parts had to be replaced.

... Graf's pianos were notable for the variety of sounds they produced... This one has five pedals for a variety of effects (both sustaining and dampening sound). It also has a second soundboard that fits over the strings to provide a subtle restraint on sound when accompanying... As both accompanying and solo instrument, the Graf was endlessly fascinating. Its capacity for color and character made seemingly every moment intriguing. In the violin pieces, melodies played by both instruments, whether unison or in octaves, had exceptional variety of character.

... True, in terms of power, it was at its upper limit in the 1,000-seat Stude Hall, and its upper range didn't have the ring our ears are used to with pianos. But its capacity for expression and color was stunning. From the familiar opening rush of repeated chords, the Fantasy seemed a new piece, both comforting for its familiarity and challenging for what it suggested about how revolutionary such a piece might have seemed in its own time..."
- Charles Ward for the Houston Chronicle on 10/13/03 titled "1825 piano revolutionizes enjoyment of Schubert".

Guitar and Voice

The tradition of guitar and voice was very well established. Fernando Sor primarily made his living as a vocalist and voice teacher for 7 years in London. Mauro Giuliani was a highly accomplished vocalist as well, who also self-accompanied. Luigi Legnani was an opera singer and a guitarist. And so forth. In this era of opera and vocal music, the presence of voice and guitar music is an integral part of the time period.

Tecla: Complete Works of Giuliani has two volumes of guitar and voice material.

Fernando Sor's surviving vocal works are his early Seguidillas and More Seguidillas. The Seguidillas contains 12 pieces: 9 for guitar and voice, 2 for piano and voice, one with guitar or piano and voice. These pieces were written during Sor's very early Spanish period before his exile to Paris. Whereas most of Sor's music sounds more French in character, the Seguidillas are distinctly Spanish. Each piece is relatively short, and the guitar parts are not difficult: easily within the ability of most intermediate guitarists. This is an important work in the 19th century guitar repertoire for vocals.

The Tecla Vocal Music catalog has a number of 19th century voice and guitar works:

English Romantic Songs and Ballads contains a good selection of 17 songs in English from the early 19th century, with guitar accompaniments from the period. This is notable because foreign language rendition is difficult for most vocalists who are not professionals. These pieces are nice, whimsical, practical selections that the average guitarist and vocalist can master. All the music is from the early romantic period, English popular music of the day, written in notation.

Songs for Voice and Guitar contains 33 pieces from the era. The selections are well-chosen: well-known guitar composers Sor and Giuliani are represented, as well as other notable pieces such as two Schubert arrangements by Coste including Ave Maria, and many lesser-known but interesting works. This presents music from several countries, including Brazilian, Mexican, and Puruvian pieces from the 1830's. There are 7 Scottish and English pieces in English (or with English translations available), 7 songs in German, 9 Spanish, 5 Italian, 5 French. Two of the English pieces overlap with the other book unfortunately. The pieces vary in difficulty, but none of them are all that difficult. A practical book for the average musician wanting to explore a range of music from this era.

A very comprehensive article on vocal music of this era is Songs with Guitar from the Age of Napoleon by John McCormick.

The Composers and their Songs by John McCormick lists sources of music in the various libraries worldwide.


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