Sym­phony 40 (1st Mvt)

Guitar Techniques - - Contents -

Brid­get Mer­mikides ar­ranges and tran­scribes one of Mozart’s most best-known pieces for clas­si­cal acous­tic gui­tar.

In this is­sue we re­turn once again to a work of the mu­si­cal ge­nius Wolf­gang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791). By the time he wrote his Sym­phony No. 40, com­pleted in 1788, Mozart was in his early 30s and had pro­duced an enor­mous body of stun­ning works - in­clud­ing 40 sym­phonies (He com­pleted the 41st be­fore his 40th), a sim­i­lar num­ber of con­certi for one, two and three pianos, bas­soon, vi­o­lin, flute, harp and horn, 20 op­eras and hun­dreds of other works – so his tech­ni­cal abil­ity and cre­ative force were at a peak. Sym­phony no.40 is an epic work in four move­ments whose pop­u­lar­ity has en­dured over cen­turies, and has had an in­flu­ence on many com­posers, in­clud­ing Beethoven. Here I’ve ar­ranged the first (and most fa­mous) of the four move­ments with its pow­er­ful and much ad­mired tragic theme. A core work of the Clas­si­cal reper­toire, Sym­phony No. 40 (and of­ten the first move­ment on its own) has been recorded and per­formed count­less times over the last two cen­turies, and is em­bed­ded in pop­u­lar cul­ture ap­pear­ing in many films and TV shows wher­ever that dark clas­si­cal vibe is re­quired.

I’ve changed the orig­i­nal key of G mi­nor to D mi­nor with drop D tun­ing to help this piece to work ef­fec­tively on the gui­tar, and the low D nicely re­in­forces its sombre char­ac­ter. I’ve also ab­bre­vi­ated the struc­ture of the first move­ment’s ex­tended sonata form to make it more ap­pro­pri­ate for a solo gui­tar per­for­mance, but there’s plenty to get your

Sym­phony no.40 is an epic work in four move­ments and has in­flu­enced many sub­se­quent com­posers in­clud­ing Beethoven.

teeth into here. In­ci­den­tally, if you caught the Clas­si­cal Har­mony ar­ti­cle in GT226 this pro­vides an ex­cel­lent case study to see all those con­cepts in ac­tion. As al­ways, be pa­tient learn­ing this ar­range­ment, so you can get the tech­ni­cal con­trol re­quired. There are also some awk­ward mo­ments, so con­sult the tab cap­tions to help you best ap­proach them.

In the first few bars fin­ger­ing is in­di­cated for both hands to get you started. On the last half beat of bar 9 I use a ‘hinge’ barre – the F pulls off onto the E note us­ing the first fin­ger as a full barre but the tip of the fin­ger stays off the sixth string so as not to mute the low D. The fin­ger is then in place to press down a full 5th fret barre at bar 10. Same thing hap­pens on the last beat of bar 11 into bar 12. The same kind of hinge barre is also used in bar 15 but the other way round; the barre lifts off on beat 3 for the open E note but the tip of the fin­ger re­mains in place on the bass note Bb to keep it sus­tained to the end of the bar. This is typ­i­cal tech­nique on the clas­si­cal gui­tar when we are deal­ing with poly­phonic writ­ing, and si­mul­ta­ne­ous voices have dif­fer­ent note lengths. It’s a strug­gle some­times but we should al­ways try to give notes their cor­rect val­ues in or­der for the mu­sic to sound good and make sense! This is why find­ing the most ef­fec­tive fin­ger­ing is so im­por­tant.

I hope you en­joy learn­ing this won­der­ful piece of mu­sic, and I’ll see you next time with an­other clas­si­cal mas­ter­piece ar­ranged for solo gui­tar.

Mozart: one of mu­sic’s finest ever com­posers

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