The Nineteenth Century

The various trends taken by the guitar in the preceding centuries can, in retrospect, be viewed as so many roads and byways that led to one destination - the six single- string guitar. It was not until the nineteenth century that the instrument was to reach the peak of its development. The acceptance of the six single string guitar became universal, spreading not only to every part of Europe but to the American continent as well.

Changes in social conditions brought about by the Industrial Revolution contributed to a growing knowledge of the instrument. Improved means of transportation enabled concert artists to travel more widely than before. Railways were spreading throughout the continent, and extended concert tours gave many guitarists unprecedented opportunities to perform before large audiences. This was the era of great guitar virtuosi whose worldwide concertizing helped lay a firm foundation for the instrument's remarkable popularity in the twentieth century.

In the first half of the century, the renewed enthusiasm for the instrument was centered in Vienna. By this time, Vienna had become a great musical center attracting many musicians from all over Europe. Guitarists were among those who came and their many performances gave the guitar the needed impetus for recognition as a serious medium for artistic expression.

Probably the first important guitarist to settle in Vienna was Simon Molitor (1766-1848). Molitor's numerous compositions include guitar solos and chamber music with guitar parts. Among these are trios for violin or flute, viola and guitar. Such instrumentation were integral parts of the rich Viennese musical life of this period.

Another performer, Leonhard von Call (1769-1815), wrote a great deal of music for guitar which became popular, and a method for the guitar.

Mauro Giuliani

Mauro Giuliani (1781-1829), an Italian, is one of the most important exponents of the guitar and its music of the nineteenth century. Following an extended stay in Vienna, after 1807 he had a great influence as performer. He initiated the trend toward extensive concert tours for guitarists, thus spreading the guitar's acceptance as a serious instrument throughout Europe. In Vienna, Mauro Giuliani's influence on musical life was profound. He initiated concerts of guitar and orchestra. He frequently performed with some of the most important musical figures of his time because of his outstanding technical and musical accomplishments. .

Giuliani's associates included Karl Seidler, Spohr, Loder and Anton Diabelli. Though Diabelli (1781-1858) was both a pianist and a guitarist, of greater importance was the fact that he was a music publisher. It was in this capacity that his association with Giuliani proved particularly profitable. He issued many guitar compositions, including those of Giuliani, and his efforts to promote guitar music had a significant effect on the increased popularity of the instrument. Giuliani's daughter Emilia was at one time credited with the discovery of harmonics on the guitar.

Franz Schubert (1797-1828) played and wrote music for the guitar. Too poor to own a piano, he used the guitar while composing. He wrote many beautiful songs with guitar accompaniment but his most important contribution to guitar literature, however, was the Quartet for flute, guitar, viola and cello.

Many other Italian guitarists followed Giuliani's example by concertizing and publishing their music in Vienna. One of the most important was Luigi Legnani (1790-1877). He developped a technique and virtuosity that were eventually to surpass Giuliani's. Legnani's interest included guitar construction. Many of his suggestions led to valuable improvements on the instrument. As a composer he was prolific. His works numbered up to opus 250 and included a concerto, duos, trios ,variations, Thirty-six Cappricios and a Scherzo.

Matteo Bavilaqua, another noted Italian guitarist, published several works including guitar solos and compositions for guitar and piano, guitar and flute, etc.

Of the Bohemian guitarists, Wenzeslaus Matiegka (1773-1830) was the most important. His music for guitar both solo and for chamber ensemble includes over thirty compositions

Among the German guitarists was Leonhard Schulz who was a player of large stature.

Fernando Sor

The outstanding figure in the group, Fernando Sor, was the greatest guitarist of the romantic era. Son of a Catalan merchant, he was born in Barcelona in 1778 and received a musical education at the choir school of the nearby monastery of Montserrat.

At eighteen, Sor wrote an opera, Telemachus on Calypso's Isle which was produced in Barcelona in 1797.

Sor was called into the army during the confused period of French occupation. When the French withdrew, defeated by Wellington and the Spanish guerilla armies, Sor had no choice but to leave with them. After 1812, he lived in Paris for the most part, where he gived concerts charming all Parisians.

He made his London debut in 1815 where he was the first and only guitarist invited to perform with the London Philharmonic Society. In 1817, he appeared as soloist in his own Concertante for Spanish Guitar and Strings. During the 1820's he went to Germany and then to Russia. He produced three of his ballets in Moscow. At the death of Czar Alexander I in 1825, Sor composed a funeral march at the request of the new Czar Nicholas I. After his return to France, he worked indefatigably as a teacher and composer.

His compositions range to more than 250 or 300 works ranging from salon pieces to complete operas. His best-known major scores were ballets Cendrillon and Gil Blas. Thanks to his dance instincts, he was at his best composing waltzes, minuets, galops, boleros, and so on. For a French encyclopedia he wrote the first authoritative study of such Spanish dances as the bolero, seguidilla, murciana and sevillana. In a more classical vein he wrote sonatas, fantasias, and sets of variations on themes by Mozart, Hummel and Paisiello.

But Sor's crowning achievement is his Méthode pour la guitare of 1830 - easily the most remarkable book on guitar technique ever written. It represents the fruit of forty years experience.

Challenged by the developments in guitar technique and the demands for finer instruments, more and more luthiers sought to keep pace with the changing requirements and to produce instruments that would satisfy them.Johann Georg Staufer (1778-1853) was an outstanding guitar maker established in Vienna. Besides being credited with the invention of the guitarre d'amour, he also gained a reputation for fine guitars.

Johann Gottfried Scherzer (1843-1870) took over the Staufer workshop. Experimenting extensively to improve the guitar's tone and taking advantage of his contacts with physicists to achieve his aim, he became one of the first guitar makers to have approached his work scientifically, producing as a result fine quality concert guitars.

Russian performers

The invention of the seven-string Russian guitar has been attibuted to Andreas O. Sichra (1772-1861). His seventy-five compositions for seven-string guitar became the nucleus of a rich literature for this instrument. He wrote an excellent method for the guitar.Sichra teaching methods and principles produced many of Russia's fine guitarists: Simeon N. Aksenow (1773-1853) who is among those credited with developing the use of harmonics; W. I. Swinzow who was one of the first seven-string virtuosi to perform in large public auditorium.

The preeminence of the seven-string guitar in Russia by no means excluded the six-string type from the country's musical life. Marcus D. Sokolowski (1818-1883) was one of those who mastered the six-string guitar after having started his musical carreer as a violonist and cellist.

One of Russia's finest musicians contributed to the history of the guitar. Nicolas P. Makarow (1810-1890) chronicled his personal impressions of the personalities and musical abilities of the many famous guitarists he had heard throughout Europe. In 1856, he organized in Brussels a competition for the best guitar composition and the best made guitar. The first and second prizes for composition were won by Napoléon Coste and Johann Mertz respectively. The first prize for the best made guitar went to Johann Scherzer of Vienna, the second prize to Ivan F. Archusen of Russia.

In 1823, the celebrated Fench ballerina Madame Hullin Sor, wife of Fernando Sor, came to Moscow to perform several ballets to music written by her husband. Sor visited Russia himself and, in memory of his Russian visit, he composed a guitar duet entitled Souvenir de Russie

Italian Maestro

The proficiency and excellence of the Italian guitar players were such that their influence was felt not only in all Europe and the Americas as well.

Fernando Carulli was born in Naples in 1770 and died in Paris in 1841. At first cellist, he later dedicated himself exclusively to the guitar and became one of Italy's most accomplished virtuosi on this instrument. In Paris, he made a name for himself playing salon recitals, writing his three hundred and sixty compositions, and a method which is still available. He devised a guitar with four extra bass strings (the decacorde). His recitals helped make Paris a formidable center of guitar activity.

His successor Matteo Carcassi (1792-1853) expanded Carulli's technique with a Complete Method for the guitar which became the most widely used study guide of the nineteenth century. Carcassi had come to Paris with successfull recitals in Germany, Italy and England behind him. He was a great virtuose and, with time, his manner of playing replaced Carulli's in popularity.

Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840) is best remembered as violin virtuoso but he was too a formidable virtuoso on the guitar. He wrote almost as much music for guitar as for violin: virtually everything he published during his lifetime contains at least one guitar part. The number of his compositions consists of one hundred forty small solo pieces, a number of sonatas for violin and guitar, quartets for violin, viola, cello and guitar, trios for guitar and two bowed strings. Paganini's interest in the guitar brought him in contact with many of the most important figures in the guitar world, among whom were Zani de Ferranti and Legnani.

Zani de Ferranti (1800-1878) has been described as one of the greatest guitar virtuosi of the time. Hector Berlioz refered to him in his treatise on orchestration. Zani de Ferranti traveled more extensively than most performers of the day. He went finally to America and had the distinction of being one of the earliest acknowledged guitar virtuosi to tour the United States. He contributed several solo compositions to the repertoire. These works include fantasias, nocturnes and various other pieces.

In about the same years, a significant figure appeared in the person of Napoleon Coste (1806-1883). Establishing himself in Paris in 1830 where he associated with important guitarists like Aguado, Sor, Carcassi and Carulli, he performed until 1863 when an accident incapacitated his right hand. His musical compositions number about fifty and he was one of the first guitarists to attempt a transcription of seventeenth century music in modern notation. Indeed, his most important contribution lay in the impetus he gaved to the rebirth of interest in baroque guitar music.

The intense activity in the area of performance was matched by the efforts of instrument makers to produce not only more but better guitars. Among the many important guitar makers of the time, several of the best were member of the Fabricatore family. Gennaro Fabricatore worked in the first half of the nineteenth century and his led a step closer to the modern form of the guitar thast was to be developed later in the century. In Paris, the luthier René François Lacôte becamed one of the most prominent guitar makers of the century.

While the most salient aspect of the nineteenth century was the great number of traveling virtuosi, the use of the guitar in chamber music also became more pronounced at this time. Among the composers who produced such works were Johann Bayer, Joseph Küffner, Johann Kapeller and Johann Kaspar Mertz (1806-1856). Mertz used an eight-string guitar and later a ten-string type.

Wherever the guitar became popular, it attracted the attention of prominent composers who then composed for it. Von Weber (1786-1826) composed for it. Richard Wagner (1813-1883) was known to have turned often to it as an aid while composing, he wrote guitar accompaniments.

Perhaps a salient development in the nineteenth century was one of that might be termed the Renaissance of the guitar in England. Early in the evolution of the guitar, this country had played a role; one, however, which it did not maintain. When London became, in the nineteenth century, a musical center equal in importance to Paris, Vienna and St-Petersburgh, it attracted a large number of guitarists who came to perform and gave the English a wide exposure to the guitar music, thus reviving and intensifying the people's interest in the instrument. Predictably, luthiers thrived in England at this time.

Guitarists of Spain

Spain produced many outstanding virtuosi at this time and it is unquestionable that guitar music flourished in nineteenth century Spain. Yet, the Spanish guitar virtuosi and the Spanish exponents of the instrument achieved their great success outside their native country. Fernando Sor exemplified these emigrant guitarists.

Dionisio Aguado (1784-1849) was an important virtuoso and composer. He was an important pedagogue and his Metodo para guitarra is still considered one of the best methods written in the nineteenth century. It has been translated into other langages and reprinted several times. He initiated the use of a stand to support the instrument while playing it in a sitting position.

Julian Arcas (1832-1882) was another Spanish guitar virtuoso. After touring Spain, he traveled to England and performed at the Brighton Pavilion before members of the Royal Family. His playing was highly praised. He returned to Spain, continued to concertize and has been professor at the Royal Conservatory. No less than eighty of his compositions has been published.

Francisco Tarrega

Probably the most important contribution to pedagogy and guitar technique from Spain is embodied in the works of Francisco Tarrega (1852-1909). These included his compositions which rank among the best in the late nineteenth century.

Tarrega received his first guitar instruction at the age of eight. This was followed by studies at the Conservatory of Music in Madrid where he later taught guitar. He also taught in the Conservatory of Barcelona and made over 100 transcriptions of works by Bach, Handel, Mozart and Schubert. In addition, he wrote many compositions of his own: preludes, studies,waltzes, that exhibit the increased complexity of harmony and technique made possible by his new approach to guitar playing. This new approach involved a major change: the holding of the right hand perpendicularly to the strings instead of being hold obliquely to them.

Tarrega's technique made more convenient the use of the "supported stroke" or "hammer stroke". At any rate, Tarrega's accomplishments were definite and significant aids toward the formulation of modern guitar technique. They helped revitalize the popularity of the guitar, which had declined in previous years. Suddenly, there was a new generation of composers who could interpret Spain to the outside world in its own idiom: Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909), Enrique Granados (1967-1916), and Manuel de Falla (1876-1946). All of them admired the guitar as aficionados, but only Albéniz grew up playing the guitar as well as the piano. Albéniz went on to become one of the great pianists of the century but he wrote for the keyboard as thought it were a guitar. Many of his works are eminently well suited to guitar transcriptions.

After Tarrega's death in 1909, his work was carried on by a circle of gifted pupils, including Emilio Pujol, Miguel Llobet, Daniel Fortea, and Alberto Obregón.

Luthier Antonio Torres

Paralleling Tarrega's achievements were developments in guitar construction. Just as his approach to guitar playing laid the foundation for more advanced practice, so the work of the celebrated guitar maker Antonio Torres Jurado (1817-1892) led directly to the basic form of the guitar in which it is now known. He placed great emphasis on the importance of the top soundboard in the production of tone, and he perfected and was using fanbracing under the soundboard to enrich the sound. However, Pages (the builder Sor and Aguado recommended) was using fanbracing since the 1790's. Panormo used fan bracing in the Spanish style since the 1820's. He used the string lenght to 65 cm, the measure still in use today but guitars in 1800-1810 were 650 scale also. He happened to make 650, but Stauffer was making 647, Lacote made some 650, etc. - depending on the size of the player's hands! It is a standard because everyone copies what Torres did. He standardized a pattern of tied bridge almost identical to that found on all classical guitars today but the tie bridge originated with Baroque guitars, and was standard on all Spanish guitars throughout the entire 19th century.

Torres innovations resulted in the foundation of a true Spanish school of guitar making whose membership eventually included the most important luthiers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. One of these was the Ramirez family.

Other builders

Fernando Sor mentions several builders in his "Method for the Spanish Guita" English Translation of 1836, published by Tecla Editions:

"Mr. J. Panormo made some guitars under my direction, as well as Mr. Schroeder at Petersburgh.... In the goodness of the body or box, the Neapolitan guitars in general long surpassed, in my opinion, those of France and Germany; but that is not the case at present, and if I wanted an instrument, I would procure it from M. Joseph Martinez of Malaga, or from M. Lacote, a French maker, the only person who, besides his talents, has proved to me that he possesses the quality of not being inflexible to reasoning... The guitars which I have always given the preference are those of Alonzo of Madrid, Pages and Benediz of Cadiz, Joseph and Manuel Martinez of Malaga, or Rada, successor and scholar of the latter, and those of M. Lacote of Paris. I do not say that others do not exist; but never having tried them, I cannot decide on that of which I have no knowledge."

In the 19th century, nearly every builder made a different guitar shape, size, and style. Torres picked a combination of existing designs for his guitars - based on requirements given to him by Julian Arcas. Tarrega liked the sound of his teacher Arcas' Torres guitar also - a much smaller, sweeter-sounding guitar than the modern classical today.

Increasing popularity of the guitar on the American continent

The guitar was known in the New World as early as the sixteenth century when the Spanish colonizers sold vihuelas to the Aztec Indians. The coming of Spanish and Portuguese artists undoubtedly did much to encourage this instrument's popularity and, in South America particularly, their activities led not only to the promotion of the guitar but also to its entrenchment in the folk music of many countries.

These developments resulted in an increasing number of known guitarists and guitar makers in South America and North America.

The rising popularity of the guitar created a greater demand for instruments. Later in the 19th century, the increased demand was met by using machines and factory methods in addition to the traditional handcraft.

To some extent, the events of the nineteenth century - the changes in the instrument, the greater opportunities for performers to travel, the wider distribution of the instrument - may be regarded as natural and predictable parts of an evolutionary process. The age old practice of making instruments entirely by hand has been replaced for the first time by machinery capable of mass production.

Many of these changes the events that were to take place in the twentieth century.