GASPAR SANZ Canarios
Here’s a Baroque gem that boasts a unique Spanish rhythmic drive guaranteed to get your fingers moving and feet tapping. Bridget Mermikides arranges for modern classical guitar.
This month, Bridget Mermikides transcribes for modern classical guitar a Baroque piece that boasts a unique Spanish rhythmic drive.
This month we are tackling a work by the Baroque composer, guitarist and polymath Gaspar Sanz (1640-1710). Born in Aragon (a community in north-east Spain), Sanz graduated in theology but later studied organ and Baroque guitar; an instrument favoured from the 17th to the early 18th century that you might recognise from paintings such as Vermeer’s The Guitar Player. Smaller in length than the modern classical guitar, it generally consisted of five strings (each of them with two courses), with a tuning from high to low of E-B-G-D-A. These latter two strings were often tuned (or included a course) an octave above the fourth and fifth strings of a contemporary guitar. The E-B-G-D-A tuning and fingerstyle approach (with both plucking and strumming), means that much of the Baroque guitar’s repertoire has been readily adopted by the classical guitar. Sanz invented a chord notation system (similar to the ‘Nashville’ Roman numeral idea still in use today) and his set of three instruction books published in 1697 are now a staple of the contemporary classical guitarist.
Canarios is taken from his first volume of the three-book set, Instrucción de Música Sobre la Guitarra Española (written in 1674). Although it is part of the ‘classical’ repertoire, remember that this is a dance form, with a very Spanish flavour, so rhythmic drive is vital. You can hear this in the 6/8 metre, which switches from two groups of three (eg bar 7) to three groups of two (bar 8). This sort of metric device is known as a hemiola (think of the opening of Bernstein’s America from West Side Story) and that rhythmic feel should be absorbed and communicated in performance. The harmony is simple, so the spirited rhythmic drive and deft melody are central. This will sound good at any speed, but a brighter tempo is most appropriate. So pay attention to plucking hand fingering and string crossing – as addressed in the tab captions. This is a beautiful piece to learn and also might open up your awareness to the rich diversity of styles through the ages that are available to our instrument.
A briGhter tempo iS moSt AppropriAte. pAy Attention to pluCkinG hAnd finGerinG And StrinG CroSSinG
Sanz surrounding by harp, cello and guitarist nymphs