Cyclopaedia of Classical Guitar Composers
The Cyclopaedia of Classical Guitar Composers is an ever-expanding
database of information (bibliographic and biographic) of composers
who have composed at least one published score for, or had at least
one score transcribed for, solo, duet or accompanied classical
guitar. At present information has been collected for a small number
of composers and these are all contained within this document. As I
research this database and the number of individual composers expands
each will be given a separate page. Links will eventually be provided for
individual composers' Web sites and a list of their known compositions
for guitar. This database may be used for private research and
non-commercial use with proper reference to the originator. Any other
use must be explicitly authorised. A master
list of guitar composers is also available.
Some useful links for classical guitar web sites and more general
sites on classical music are as follows;
Cyclopaedia of Classical Guitar Composers
| Z |
Isaac Albeniz (1860-1909)
Isaac Manuel F. Albeniz can be said to have created a national idiom
in the medium of Spanish composing. Born on May 29th 1860
in Camprodon, Catalonia, he soon showed great virtuosity
on the piano, giving his first concert at the age of five.
After studying in Barcelona he stowed away on a ship to
Puerto Rico at the age of thirteen. After many years travelling
in South America, Cuba and the US, supporting himself through
recitals, he eventually returned to Europe and studied under
Liszt. After working, and marrying, in Barcelona he settled
in Paris. He died on May 18th 1909 from Bright's disease and
was posthumously awarded the Grand Cross of the Legion
d'honneur by the French authorities.
The music of Albeniz is often heavily ornamented and difficult
but contains characteristic beautiful melodies of a distinctly
Spanish flavour. Much of his inspiration came from the different
parts of Spain he visited and the lively Latin country culture
he experienced. Most of his music was written specifically for
piano but with the undeniably strong influence of traditional
guitar music. Indeed, almost all of his works have been transcribed
for the guitar and hardly seem out of place in this medium.
Some evocative Spanish pieces by Albeniz include Cadiz,
Cataluna, Cordoba, Granada, Mallorca,
Oriental, Puerta de Tierra, Rumores de la
Caleta, Serenata Arabe, Sevilla, Tango
and Torre Bermeja.
Matteo Carcassi (1792-1853)
Matteo Carcassi was a gifted musician who originated from Florence.
He studied piano as a young boy but soon changed to the guitar.
He began a long and distinguished concert career in Germany in 1810
and was soon touring Europe. Amongst the many places he played and
worked are London, Florence and Paris. He achieved some little
fame in Paris where Ferdinando Carulli had established himself as
the leading exponent of the instrument. After Carcassi had visited
Italy in 1836 he returned to Paris as a teacher and published many
of his compositions there. He abandoned his concert career in 1840
and died in Paris on 16th January 1853.
Carcassi's work is familiar in the context of early nineteenth
century guitar music but is notable in being more melodic than many
compositions. He explored various effects and romantic themes and
produced some very demanding pieces. His better-known works are
the Method (Opus 59) and Studies (Opus 60) but he wrote
almost 100 hundred compositions.
Ferdinando Carulli (1770-1841)
In the late eighteenth century one of the primary composers for the
guitar was Ferdinando Maria Meinrado Francesco Pascale Rosario
Carulli. Born in Naples on 9th February 1770, Carulli learned
the basics of music theory from a priest and took up the guitar
in his twenties. It seems that he was largely self-taught and
developed many of the now standard techniques himself. His
performances and teachings were instrumental in the acceptance
of the guitar in the music of the early nineteenth century,
particularly in Paris where Carulli lived from 1808 until his
death on 14th February 1841. With the emergence of other composers
and performers of the instrument from Italy and Spain in the
second quarter of the nineteenth century, Carulli's success was
assured amongst the French upper classes.
Carulli was a prolific composer, having completed over four
hundred compositions. Many of his pieces for guitar are
accompanied by piano and others involve flute, violin and voice
parts. His Concerto (Opus 8) is for guitar and orchestra.
Although his works are in the traditional mold they are notable
for their artistic and technical quality. His famous Method
(Opus 27) from 1810 is still regarded as one of the foremost
training exercises for guitar students.
Mauro Giuliani (1781-1829)
Born in Bisceglie on 27th July 1781, Mauro Giuliani is widely
regarded as one of the early nineteenth century geniuses of
the guitar, being both a virtuoso performer and a competent
composer. After receiving early training in cello and violin
he quickly mastered the guitar and became a local celebrity
in the musical arena of Vienna where he had settled in 1806.
Although his concert performances were well received, often
participating in chamber concerts with other leading musicians
and on 8th December 1813 playing (probably cello) in the very first
performance of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony, he had little
success as a composer in Vienna. He left Vienna in 1819 for
Trieste, Venice, Rome and finally Naples where he died on 8th May
Giuliani's compositions for guitar form much of the early
nineteenth century repertoire for the instrument and number over
150. They reflect the new-found respect for the instrument in
Europe at this time and, although his work is often rigid in its
form, it contains a certain breath of life in both melody and
harmony. His more important works include Opuses 30 to
36 for guitar and orchestra, the series of fantasias
(Opuses 119 to 124) and other frequently used studies.
Enrique Granados (1867-1916)
Enrique Granados was born in Lerida in the Catalonian
province of Spain on 27th July 1867.
His early life as a pianist and composer
were not easy. He played in restaurants to support
himself and his large family. He died at the tragically
early age of 49 just as he was becoming successful. Whilst
returning from America on 24th March 1916 his boat,
the SS Sussex, was torpedoed by the Germans in the
English Channel on its way to Liverpool.
Granados was a composer inspired by the folk music of his
country and was instrumental in the development of what
many people recognise as the Spanish sound in music.
His more well-known works are Goyescas, pieces
inspired by the evocative paintings of Goya and the series
of pieces called Danzas Espanolas.
Joaquin Rodrigo (b.1901)
Joaquin Rodrigo was born in Sagunto (Valencia) on 22nd November
1901, St. Cecilia's day, the patron saint of music. Due to an
epidemic of diphtheria Rodrigo had almost completely lost his
sight by the age of three. He began studying music at age eight
and progressed to the Conservatory in Valencia in his teens.
After studying with Dukas in Paris in the 1930s, he returned
Rodrigo's music is heavily steeped in traditional rhythms and
Spanish colour but combined with a classical aptitude and
tenderness. Although not a player himself he wrote many pieces
for the guitar. Perhaps Rodrigo's
most famous and popular work is the Concierto
de Aranjuez for guitar and orchestra. The sheer depth of
emotion portrayed by the solo instrument in this poetical work
is a monument to Rodrigo's genius. For solo guitar Rodrigo's
works are also of a high technical and emotive quality and
include Por Los Campos de Espana (consisting of En Los
Trigales and Entre Olivares) and Tres Piezas
Andre Segovia (1893-1987)
Born in Linares on February 21st 1893 Andre Segovia is perhaps
the most influential figure in modern classical guitar. His
father intended the young Segovia to follow in his footsteps
and become a lawyer. He tried many times to divert the boy's
attention away from his growing interest in the guitar which
at that time was still regarded with some disapproval. Whilst
studying at the Granada Institute of Music he explored the
instruments past and soon became, under his own tuition,
and great virtuoso. Segovia gave his concert debut in 1909 in
Granada at the age of 16 and his professional debut in Madrid
at the age of 20. After a recital in Paris in 1922 he toured
South America and returned to Paris in 1924 to critical acclaim.
As his popularity and fame grew he was in great demand on
both side of the Atlantic. During the Spanish Civil War he
lived in Genoa and then Montevideo, Uruguay. He was created
the Marquis of Salobrena by Royal Decree in 1981 and died
on June 2nd 1987.
Like Francisco Tarrega the influence of Andre Segovia on the
profile of classical guitar is immeasurable. His transcriptions
of some of the most famous classical works for other instruments
(most notable Bach) and his re-interpretation of Spanish guitar
compositions, combined with his pristine technical ability, have
made him almost solely responsible for the instrument's popularity
in the 20th century. Although primarily a performer and virtuoso
Segovia did turn his hand to composition. The richness of his few
works (such as Estudio sin Luz) only hint at the
possibilities he could have reached in composition.
Fernando Sor (1778-1839)
Fernando Sor was born in Barcelona in February 1778 as
Jose Fernando Macarurio Sors into a respected and comfortable
family. He was introduced to the guitar by his father and
became, by the time he was eight, an accomplished player.
With the intention that Sor would follow a military career
he was accepted for tuition at the monastery at Montserrat
where he continued his musical studies. After his father's
death he was forced to return to Barcelona and rose to the
rank of lieutenant at the military school. About the turn
of the century he found regular employment as a musician
under the patronage of the Duchess of Alba. When the French
army invaded Spain in 1808 Sor showed his patriotism in his
nationalistic compositions but when the Spanish were defeated
he found himself accepting an administrative post in the
French government. When the Spanish finally drove the French
from their country, Sor, like many others, was compelled to
leave spain, never to return. He settled in Paris in 1813
and, apart from the years 1815 to 1823 in London, spent the
rest of his life there. He was in great demand as a performer
playing all over Europe and Russia but gave up touring in
1827 to concentrate on composition.
Sor's works for guitar form much of the modern repertoire
of the instrument. Unlike many composers of the time, Sor
wrote for musical effect as well as technical value. His
pieces contain all the rich melodic methods of the masters
such as Beethoven, Schubert and Haydn with complex contrapuntal
melody lines and often bold key changes and harmony patterns.
His works for solo guitar have been compared to the great
symphonies for orchestra. Sor wrote almost 100 studies for the
instrument and several sets of Divertimenti. Perhaps
his most popular piece is Theme and Variations on Mozart's
The Magic Flute (Opus 9) which is full of life but is
technically very demanding on the performer.
Francisco Tarrega (1859-1909)
So great was Francisco Tarrega's contribution to the techniques
and repertoire of the classical guitar that he has been called
The Father of Modern Guitar. Francisco de Assis Tarrega
Eixea was born on November 21st 1852 at Villareal de los Infantes,
Castellon. After studying under Manuel Gonzalez (known locally
as the blind sailor), Julian Arcas and Damas Tomas his
talent soon came to be recognised. He enlisted at the Madrid
Conservatory of Music in October 1874 to study harmony and
composition. Following a successful career as a recitalist and
teacher throughout Europe he returned to Spain to become Professor
of Guitar at the Madrid and Barcelona Conservatories. Among his
more distinguished pupils were Andre Segovia, Miguel Llobet,
Emilio Pujol, Daniel Fortea, Alberto Obregon and Jose Rey de la
Torre. He died on December 5th 1909 of apoplexy.
Tarrega contributed to the development of the guitar in two ways.
Firstly, he redefined the guitarist's technique in terms of finger
action, sitting position and body posture. Secondly, he greatly
expanded the instrument's repertoire by transcribing many pieces by
classical and Spanish composers for the instrument. On hearing one
of Tarrega's transcriptions of his piano works played on guitar,
Isaac Albeniz is said to have expressed his preference for the guitar
version. He also transcribed pieces by Granados, Schumann, Chopin,
Beethoven, Bach and many others. But Tarrega also composed many
original pieces for guitar and such was his virtuosity on the
instrument that they tax the player and instrument alike. Like many
Spanish composer's of the time his pieces are deeply rooted in
the traditional folk rhythms and dances of Spain and contain a
tenderness and expressiveness rarely matched. Some of his
better-known pieces are Tango, Capricho Arabe,
La Alborada, Marieta and the classical guitarist's
anthem Recuerdos de la Alhambra. His 15 Preludes
include Lagrima, Endecha and Oremus (written
only 15 days before his death).|
Joaquin Turina (1882-1949)
Joaquin Turina was born on December 9th 1882 in Sevilla. After
gaining some success as a musician in his native region, Turina
moved to Madrid where he met Manuel de Falla and was inspired
by the emerging musical nationalism of the time. After studying
in Paris at the Schola Cantorum he returned, in 1914, to Madrid
to follow a successful career. He died in Madrid on 14th January
Turina wrote orchestral, chamber and vocal music and most of it
is typical of the emerging Spanish repertoire of the time. His
better known pieces include Danzas Fantasticas for piano
and orchestra and the lute quartet Recuerdos de la Antigua
Espana. Turina's guitar compositions are rich in their
evocation of the Iberian culture and often take their influence
from Flamenco rhythms and modes. Important guitar pieces by
Turina are Rafaga, Sevillana, Fandanguillo,
Sonata and Homenaje a Tarrega.
Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959)
In the 1920s Paris was bowled over by the composer Villa-Lobos
who had newly arrived from Brazil. As a young man he had wandered
Brazil playing guitar with street musicians and popular artists
as well as undergoing formal musical training. After arriving
in Europe he combined the traditional music of his native lands
with the colourful tonal devices employed by composers such as
Stravinsky and Rimsky-Korsakov. He died in his home town of Rio
de Janeiro on 17th November 1959.
Villa-Lobos was encouraged to write music for the guitar by the
accomplished performer Andre Segovia. The guitar playing of his
youth brought an extra dimension to his compositions; they often
seem improvised or have slightly unorthodox tonal quality. They
are, however, powerful pieces rich in South American vivacity.
His best known guitar pieces are perhaps the Five Preludes.
© 1997-2002 Alastair G. Gunn.