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.
Giuseppe Mazzini’s guitar
The guitar in 19th century