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The Evolution of The Classical Guitar

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Zach McCullough Prof. Duchesne December 10, 2001 Intro to Music in World Cultures The Evolution of The Classical Guitar The concert stage is empty except for an ordinary piano stool and a footstool just under five inches high. About three minutes after the scheduled starting time, a plump, mils-looking septuagenarian dressed in white tie and tails ambles on, carrying a beautiful wooden guitar. He settles himself comfortably on the piano stool, places his left foot on the smaller stool and looks out at the audience with an expression of benign indulgence. The murmur of conversations subsides, and when total silence has lasted perhaps twenty seconds, his well-muscled fingers being to move across the strings. From that moment on, listeners experience a unique and unforgettable enchantment. For this is Andres Segovia, the greatest classical guitarist in the world. - Noel Busch, Reader's Digest, October 1972 This image is one of the more significant moments in the history of the classical guitar. The path the instrument has traveled from the early renaissance to its present day status was by no means a trail marked by public recognition and respect. Andres Segovia is by far the most well known classical guitarist in the world, and he is often credited with bringing the classical guitar into the forefront as a respected musical instrument worthy of composition and solo performance. While he certainly helped push the guitar into the spotlight and advanced its repertoire significantly, Andres Segovia certainly cannot take all of the credit for the respect the guitar commands in today's musical world. ...read more.


As court musician he wrote his first piece of music entitled Guitarra Espanol y Sus Defferencias de Sonos. Corbetta next found himself as the court musician for the now infamous Louis XIV of France. These appointments lead to his working for Charles II of England. Charles II was famous for his immature nature as a ruler. One historian called him "the disgrace of the country and the ridicule of foreigners - the King and his courtiers were entirely given up to gambling and love making." (p. 81 Bone) It was in this atmosphere that Corbetta flourished and did a great deal in garnering respect for the guitar while Charles II did a great deal in garnering disrespect for England. Sir Walter Scott best describes Corbetta's influence in his Memoirs of the Court of Grammont: There was a certain foreigner at court, famous for the guitar, he had a genius for music, and he was the only man who could make anything of the guitar. This Francesco had composed a saraband which either charmed or infatuated every person; for the whole guitarery at court were trying at it, and God knows what a universal strumming there was. The Duke declared it was played to perfection. (p. 81-82 Bone) Francesco Corbetta was instrumental in instilling in the aristocracy the belief that the guitar was capable of performing respectable music. Corbetta's greatest accomplishment, however, was convincing the aristocracy and social elite that the guitar was worthy of commissioning compositions for. ...read more.


And while this on achievement is more than most players hope to accomplish in a lifetime, Segovia's other contributions made him a veritable legend in his own time. (p. 236 Menn) The most important of the "other contributions" that Ferguson is referring to is the impact Segovia had on the repertoire of the guitar. Segovia's talent and sheer technical skill aroused interest from some of the world's greatest composers. As a result world-renowned composers began to write for the guitar and a serious solo instrument. Segovia's collaboration with composers like Manuel Ponce, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Alexander Tansman, Federico Moreno Torroba, Joaquin Turina, Joaquin Rodrigo and Heitor Villa-Lobos improved the repertoire for the guitar exponentially. On top of this, Segovia was also and incredible teacher. His teaching has fostered some of the greatest guitar players of present day. His disciples include Christopher Parkening, Julian Bream, John Williams, George Sakellariou, Alexander Lagoya and Elliot Fisk. (p. 7 Tosone) The most well known classical guitarist currently performing is Julian Bream, a Segovia student. The London Daily Telegraph has that Bream has "established himself as a player and interpreter of the first rank and his guitar as an elegant and expressive instrument." (p. 59 Bone) He and many other contemporary classical guitarists hope to build upon the rich history of the guitar and its artists and to continue to establish it among the ranks of serious concert quality instruments. 1 Francesco Corbetta composed for the five-course guitar. While the five-course guitar of the baroque era is similar to modern guitars it is not identical, however the music is easily translated 2 Also known as Francesco Corbera and Francis Corbet 3 The city of Saragossa is currently known as Zaragossa. ...read more.

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