Friday, August 22, 2008

Right and Left hands both get a work-out in this Albéniz classic. Part 1

Yeah, yeah, everyone has played a transcription of Isaac Albeniz' piano piece. It was played-out by the early 1970's, yet it still found its way onto programs as an encore flourish. Once you've mastered it, it becomes almost instinctive, it is so perfect for the guitar. To the new student, it is daunting. As with most 'daunitng' pieces, a careful dissection is all that is required to find what needs to be practiced as far as the technical aspects are concerned. I plan on spending a few sessions on Leyenda becuase it is just so worth it from an instructional standpoint. Who knows? Maybe it isn't so played-out anymore and someone will 'rediscover' this little gem!

Starting at the top. This piece is a pianist's mimicing of the flamenco guitar sound he heard in his native Spain. It is stirring and emotional. This piece demands a romantic and passionate reading. This is rock and roll for the classical guitarist! Like a good thunder storm, the mood is set gradually with a dark, brooding repetitive figure. There are sonic tempests to come! Measure one through four set up the basic theme of the A section of the piece, although the most basic building block is revealed in measure one. In beat one of measure one, the B is both melody and accompaniment. (The middle of the three B's is the one to be accented, the downward-facing stems give away the melody line.) The melody is played on the fifth and fourth string using the thumb of the right hand to give it prominence and weight.

By measure nine we have shifted from a tonic harmonic reinforcement to a dominant harmonic reinforcement. The melody line could be fingered to be played across the fingerboard, but for tonal impact, the melody line stays mostly on the fourth string giving the fatter, warmer (in this case more sinister) sound of the wound string.


In measure 17 we return to the tonic and a form of the original melody. However the character of the melody has been altered by some additional flourish. The B that was pedaled over the melody is now joined by another B one octave higher and the effect to be desired is one of rolled chords. Pitfall: With that high B jangling away with the lower B to reinforce it, it becomes more difficult to make sure the melody is standing out. The two E's on beat one tend not to amplify the tonic, but almost add a muffled effect like a muted snare. (Maybe I'm just too colorful in the way I hear, but to me it feels like we are listening to a flamenco ensemble and rather than just one guitar playing, we have been ADDING guitars and the dancers and the magic of flamenco to the sound.

The right hand must be up to the task of keeping the various elements in their proper perspective; bass-line melody clear and articulated, the accompanying B from becoming strident, the second B from overwhelming them all and that quick, accented E on the fifth string starting in measure 17 sounding like a rhythmic input, not just a flubbed note! Make sure the i and m fingers alternate. Many guys fly through the A section using their thumb and first finger only!

Follow left hand fingering religiously because it was generated not so much to aid performance but to maintain melodic flow.

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