ISAAC AL­BÉNIZ

Granada

Guitar Techniques - - Contents -

Brid­get Mer­mikides de­vises a de­light­ful solo ar­range­ment of the Span­ish com­poser’s best­known tune, in­spired by this Andalucian town.

Isaac Al­béniz may not be a well- known com­poser, even though his As­turias is widely recog­nised. But among clas­si­cal gui­tarists he is a hugely im­por­tant fig­ure, hav­ing com­posed works that are at once tech­ni­cally ex­cel­lent, emo­tion­ally pow­er­ful and seem to cap­ture the very essence of Spain and the gui­tar. It is there­fore ironic that Al­béniz never wrote for the gui­tar. He mainly wrote for the piano ( he was a piano vir­tu­oso of great ac­claim, and stud­ied un­der Liszt) and also com­pleted four op­eras.

How­ever, he was very much in­spired by the sound of the gui­tar and its role in Span­ish mu­sic, em­u­lat­ing its strummed chords, arpeg­gios, pedal tones, spread voic­ings and or­na­ments. It is there­fore quite nat­u­ral that gui­tarists such as Tár­rega, Llo­bet and, most fa­mously, An­drés Se­govia tran­scribed his works from piano to the gui­tar. Al­béniz was re­port­edly very pleased with the re­sults, too.

Granada ( Ser­e­nata) is the open­ing piece in Suite Es­pañola ( Op. 47), the very beau­ti­ful suite of eight works for solo piano, each in­spired by a dif­fer­ent re­gion or city in Spain. I rec­om­mend you lis­ten to them all.

Granada is named af­ter the city of the same name in An­dalu­sia, and home to the won­der­ful Al­ham­bra palace ( which, in­ci­den­tally, in­spired Tar­rega’s fa­mous Re­cuer­dos de la Al­ham­bra tremolo work). Granada was the last of Spain’s cities un­der Arab rule, and there is a dis­tinct Moor­ish in­flu­ence in the work, par­tic­u­larly in the mi­nor sec­tion ( bars 41- 120) with its aug­mented 2nd leaps ( from D# to F#) and its

Al­béniz was in­spired by the gui­tar, and he em­u­lated its strummed chords, pedal tones, arpeg­gios, spread voic­ings and or­na­ments.

or­na­mented melodic ex­pres­sion. Al­b­eniz had a great affin­ity with Granada, and he in­tended to ex­press the deep spir­i­tu­al­ity of Arab cul­ture in the work, and the re­sult­ing sublime melody – with its con­trast­ing sul­try mid­dle sec­tion – is ut­terly hypnotic.

I’ve trans­posed the orig­i­nal key of F ma­jor down to E ma­jor in stan­dard tun­ing to make it more id­iomatic for the gui­tar. How­ever, don’t be fooled by the re­laxed at­mos­phere; this is a se­ri­ous chal­lenge to per­form. The melody needs to be legato – like a vo­cal melody – and to achieve this while play­ing the ac­com­pa­ny­ing chords re­quires both mus­cle mem­ory and fret­ting- hand stamina.

So please take your time to learn this, break it up into sec­tions and treat each one as an in­di­vid­ual project, and be sure to use the tab cap­tions to help nav­i­gate the con­sid­er­able tech­ni­cal de­mands. Once you’ve de­vel­oped some stamina and mus­cle mem­ory, you can piece to­gether sec­tions, and work up to a full per­for­mance. But there’s no need to rush… it will all be worth it in the end.

Isaac Al­béniz: helped de­velop clas­si­cal gui­tar

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