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Hi classical heads!

Don't pay to much attention to the title, which is a bit humoristic but you'll understand reading the following.

Today I went to a big HMV-like, CD store, and had a look at some CDs in the classical music corner, and one among the guitar ones caught my attention : it was a CD by a female classical guitarist (I don't remember her name). On the track list featured a repertoire of Spanish classics : this was apparently a CD for a large popular audience you know, so nothing sophisticated, only standards of classical guitar. And obviously, there was Spanish Romance, which in French has 2 titles Romance (original sheet music title) and Jeux Interdits ("Forbidden Games", from the title of the film in which it was the soundtrack theme, and made it famous in France since then). This worldwide known piece is anonymous, and normally it is mentioned. And here, guess what I saw written next to the title? Spanish Romance (Fernando Sor)!!! o_O

I know some music historians think it could have been written by Sor. And once during a concert, before playing it, French guitarist Emmanuel Rossfelder while introducing this piece said that "it is anonymous but some think it could have been composed by Fernando Sor". Of course, maybe Sor composed it. But so far, no-one has found evidences to prove it. Sor is one of the masters I like to play, but if another guy, even a less talented one, like a simple hobbyist, did compose this wonderful piece of music, please let's be fair and keep mentioning it is anonymous!

As we say in French : Leave to Caesar what belongs to Ceasar!

What's your opinion?

 

(note : while I'm typing this post, if someone has indeed proved Sor wrote Spanish Romance, please ignore my this discussion!)

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From Wikipedia:

Early Published Versions

[edit]Antonio Rubira

An early publication of the work, known as "Estudio para Guitarra" de Rovira was published by J.A. MEDINA e HIJO in Argentina in 1913, or — with complete certainty — before 1925 (which is the date when the publisher ceased activities)[5]; which is attributed to guitarist Antonio Rubira. Guitarist and composer Isaías Sávio (Montevideo, 1900 — São Paulo, 1977) published information which also cites Antonio Rubira as author (see "Violào e Mestres" Junio, 1966 / Sào Paulo, Brasil.[6]): Sávio gives information that Juan Pargas (who knew Rubira) gave the Estudio de Rovira to the guitarist Juan Valles in 1876 (1878?). Sávio also mentions that the work became popular in Buenos Aires, and began to be published by some, such as Spaniard Pedro Maza, and that the work appears in the method of Mascaro and Reissig (published in Montevideo in 1919), on page 14, with the title "Conocido por Estudio de Rovira"[5]. Publishing company Ricordi of Argentina currently publishes the piece and attributes authorship to Antonio Rubira[7].

[edit]Manuscripts

The earliest manuscripts of the song documented so far, are from the late 19th century: one attributing authorship to Antonio Rubira[8]; and an unsigned version which shows a note at the bottom stating "Melodia de Sor" (Sor's melody)[9] arguably attributing the piece to Fernando Sor, though the style is vastly different from Sor's work. A noticeable difference between these manuscripts and the famous version of Yepes is the inverted arpeggio. Both manuscripts, though believed to be from the late 19th Century, have not been formally dated, and are not believed to be in the handwriting of the alleged authors, but rather are believed to be copies made by students or musicians (also note that Fernando Sor died in 1839).

Ukrainian folk song Nich Yaka Misyachna (Beautiful Moonlight)[10] could be a precursor of the song. Although some correlation can be made between Beethoven'sMoonlight Sonata (especially the arpeggio), the Romance guitar piece and the Ukrainian folk song, the latter has enjoyed much success through Eastern Europe andRussia, while being vastly different from the Spanish/Argentine song and its various arrangements. Notably, since European music is largely governed by the same harmonic principles, similarities between unrelated original compositions are not only inevitable but ubiquitous

 

I have heard both the tale of Spanish origin and the tale South American origin.  I remain happy with credit going to "anonymous".

Pascal - Would that be: Laissez 'a Ce'sar ce qui appartient 'a Ce'sar ? I'm still trying to learn French.

m

Yes it is Michael. You can also say it using impersonnal form (that doesn't exist this way in English : "Il faut laisser à César...". And most people also use verb "rendre" (to give back). Good luck with French, which I guess is harder to learn than guitar! You can contact me if you have any further questions or issues.
Getting back to Romance, it's always interesting to find out information about the history of a piece of music - and this one particularly.

I posted a thing about a year ago about learning the history of a piece in order to understand how best to play it. Since we all enjoy making the music, I believe it only adds to the experience to understand the composer, what he had in mind (and heart), the time period, how people lived, what was going on in the area, and everything we can surrounding the piece. That way we are, in a way, transported to the time and life of the piece, not merely sitting in our current world trying to catch a glimpse of the feelings he tried to convey all those years ago.

If you are willing to experience a bit of it, why not experience it all?

Yes, French is "sublimly difficult" for me - I love it. I've been at it for almost 3 years now and I should have mastered it by now (ha ha) but look forward to learning more every day. Hmmm, I guess you can say the same thing about the guitar. Except I have been at that for 45 years.

Merci, mon ami

Avec plaisir! :)
I share your opinion : the more I know about a piece of music and its composer, the better I can understand it, study it and then, play it. It's very important to me, and whatever the style of music. For instance, I did this way when I discovered Robert Johnson blues, or Scott Joplin rags, some years ago. But I guess it is even more obvious in classical music, because you put the composer forward before your own performance. That's why I felt upset to see Sor mentioned as the composer of Romance. I found that unrespectful, not the great Sor of course, but the unknown composer. If it had been written on an home-made transcription on the web it would have less mattered, but here it was on the tracklist of a CD aimed to a large audience.

Robert Johnson and Scott Joplin - I have studied and, more importantly, have experienced them both and I agree completely. Very good example of what we are talking about. As with your reference to Sor: Understanding RJ leads to realizing that a lot (maybe most) of what passes as blues is anything but. I believe this results in us, who are carrying the music forward, to keep the intended spirit alive.

At the risk of entering into yet another discussion on a young Michael Chapadelaine being thrown out of a Segovia master class, it does make one feel a bit like a fox in a hen house when we change the music a little here and there to incorporate it into our own style and feeling and to help capture an audience. But then we realize that the masters never played anything the same way twice and it takes us back to understanding that "feeling" originally intended while using the notes as a vehicle to express those feelings.

I'ts the journey, not the end that matters.

Michael, you're reading my mind! Yes the journey is much more exciting than the end. I've got more than 20 years of guitar learning but seriously started classical guitar last Spring, and I've been feeling like started from scratch once again - which very exciting too! Even if it's quite hard for me sometimes, and if it's very rewarding when you know a piece so well that you can play it anytime, anywhere, I guess there's no better thing than the time you spend study it. I feel like the piece I'm studying then looks like a kind of companion, an acquaintance, a friend, a parent or a lover, depending on the piece of music, my mood, etc. It really feels like a growing relationship, an experience in life you see. The goal is to master that piece, but when I've achieve that, I most of the time turn to another piece to work on and I feel like this is the end of a relationship, in good terms but the end still. Of course, a 'finished' piece is always nearby, in my repertoire.

I've noticed that variations, personnal or not, are present in classical music. My teacher confirmed that point and told me that, besides the masters adding their own 'touch' as you said, the composers even rewrite some parts or lines of a given piece of theirs. When I started studying the challenging 'Fandango Variado' by Aguado, I first worked on a scanned music sheet from a very orld edition. Then I bought a recent edition, with clearer and easier to follow fingering indications. But both editions were similar regarding the notes. Then, as this fandango is a bunch of variations on a given theme, in order to get it in mind and not get lost, I started searching for audio or videos of it. For each version I found, there were slight differences from the original, or at least the 'official' score I have. These are not dissonnant differences, just 'complementary' or 'alternative' notes or patterns you see. Then I asked my teacher, and he told me composers are used to changing some details from time to time, when they got new ideas, and that explains slight differences from an edition to one another. This is the same by the way for the Prelude n°1 by Villa-Lobos that I'm currently studying. I've got the 'official' score that is played for official auditions here, but then they are differences between versions played by great guitarists such as Segovia, Williams or McGuire  for instance. Differences in a few notes, but also in nuances, expression, tempo changes etc.

About 'Romance', French guitarist Emmanuel Rossfelder usually plays it without the famous inverted arpeggio, but using... tremolo! I'm not fond of this change (just a matter of personnal taste) but I find that very original, and attractive, entertaining if you want your audience not say "oooh! he's gonna play Romance again! too easy!". Anyway, this shows that classical music isn't a cold, still style of music as many people think.

I'm curious - do you also develop your own introductions to your pieces? I really enjoy doing that. Once I learn a piece, completely, I like to come up with an introduction that augments or disguises (for well known pieces, it's fun to come up with an intro that fits, but doesn't convey the piece to come. When People realize what you are playing, they really seem to perk up and enjoy it). Same with endings. I believe I learn more about the guitar, about music in general, and am able to apply my own feelings to the piece. These "tags" usually last 2 to 8 measures.

Hey, maybe I can write a music book that contains nothing but intros and endings?

Aha! yes indeed, the music book is a good idea!

I haven't tried yet to "customize" classical pieces I play, except a few variations on resgueados, or chords picked all together by right-hand p-i-m-a fingers that I sometimes dont play quickly one note after the other (kind harp picking effect, hope you see what I mean) instead of all four notes at once. But it depends on the piece for this instance, and how I feel it. Another example : on Romance, I often end the piece by playing the last chord with open 6th string plus the 3 high string played with natural harmonics, 12th fret. But there's nothing personnal actually here : it comes from a version I heard played by French guitarist Alexandre Lagoya. Classical guitar is still a new world to me, even if I've started studying Villa-Lobos's preludes for example. I feel too much technically unable, and humble for the moment to 'dare' to try my own variatons like doing my own intros or other 'extravaganzas'. But I'm not against it of course. To my mind, classical music isn't that straight and closed to adding your own touch to a piece. The composer is put forward for sure, but the only vector is the player. I think composer leave 'tracks' and hints to guide the player who should follow them and why not go a step forward regarding his/her own feeling and vison of a given piece (sorry, I'm talking with my own images, I'm not that keen on musicology jargon!). Then then the combination of the two, composer + player lead to the piece of music to bring to people. Without the any of the two, a piece of music is nothing but a cold sheet of paper. Nuances, tempo variattions, fingering etc are for the moment the only things I try to experiment when I play, always following the original score, but trying to give my own version with the little knowedge I've gain on technique, music, my mood, emotions etc.

I'd also add 2 things, for those who think that it's "mandatory to respect the sheet music" :

1. In a rencent interview, Milos Karadaglic said that each time he plays, it's a new challenge and that he never know where he's going because he doesn't rely on one way to play a piece, but on instant emotion. That's why he would play differently a given piece each time. For those who'd doubt about that, I recall that Milos Karadaglic is certainly put forward in the media, but so far he's been the first to be signed by Deutsch Grammophon... And his influences are Segovia, WIlliams, Beam... So he's not really just fashionable I guess ;)

2. Abléniz : everyone knows his "Asturias". This major piece of classical music repertoire is not an original piece for guitar, but a transcription from a piano piece. Guess what : when Albéniz heard it played on guitar, he found it sounded great on this instrument, and wished he had written it for guitar and piano initially! So I guess this is an obvious example to show that a piece should not be 'frozen' on paper.

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