MUSICOLOGY



THE GUITAR IN THE 19TH CENTURY

THE ITALIAN "BEL CANTO" STYLE
INSTRUMENTS OF THE ERA


Between the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century the "baroque" guitar, a widespread instrument for its versatility, was used as a solo instrument or to accompany voices with chords. It underwent a notable transformation from the point of view of its construction.

With the mutation of musical aesthetics, the means for sound production also mutated. Guitarists felt the need to increase the bass register of the their instrument by adding at least a sixth string and the reduction of the "cori", double strings, to single strings, in order to more clear and be able to bring out the accompanied melody. The proportions of the body, slightly larger, allowed more sound production, that among other things permitted the first correspondence between the orchestra and the guitar - itself an orchestra in miniature given its notable possibilities of timbre.

A large part of the music writing for the guitar - but not only- spread throughout Europe in the 1800's in the Classical and Romantic Periods, can be ascribed to the atmosphere created by "Bel Canto". Moreover, important treatises on lyric art by authors such as Manuel Garcia (1847) and Enrico Delle Sedie (1876) show in an eloquent manner just how fundamental it was that the performer be able to move the "affetti" (feelings) of the public. This is to say that by starting with the characterization of a personality or of music considered abstractly and emphasizing it in a quantitatively controlled way, feelings could be communicated to a given audience.

A serious approach to musical rhetoric of the time, in the original and pure sense of the term, can be conducted first of all by studying the basic instrumental treatises for keyboard by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1753/87 and 1762), for violin by Leopold Mozart (1787) and for flute by Johann Joachim Quantz (1752), testimony, for example, to how the italian style of composing and interpretation was studied, imitated, as well as proposed in a number of extremely relevant pubic and private concerts.

The modern proposal of music and original instruments avails of the precious indications found in these and many other books. Important specifically for the guitar are the fundamental didactic methods which were published between the end of the 18th century and in the first decades of the 19th. Unsuspectingly, we discover the hypothesis of interpretive work and the allowing of expressive liberty that is suggested by the testimonies from the time as performance practices: they come out to lead us into a dimension of music in a way that is both conscious and convincing.



 


 


The musician

Giuseppe Mazzini’s guitar

Performances

Recordings

The guitar in 19th century

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