Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Salute to Giuliani

It's all about control, man. Yeah, I'm a control freak. You should be one too--in fact, you have to be a control freak to play guitar with any degree of musicality.

If you've played Mauro Giuliani, I don't have to tell you what a terrific composer he was. He wrote in what I consider to be the classic 'classical' style, utilizing themes from Rossini's operas and the little gem from Handel's 'Harmonious Blacksmith' that spawned this tiny variation. This is a fairly simple piece that can and is (usually) played in a student's third year with the instrument. I know a few recitalists who still play this piece, not because of its razzle-dazzle factor, but for its musicality. Listen to John Williams' rendition on his Virtuoso Variations recording for Columbia Records. It has a subdued razzle-dazzle. It's a neat piece.

What makes this particular variation interesting is the rests. John Williams, wonderful player, student of Segovia, master of the instrument, he still lets those bass notes in the variation ring through the ensuing rests!



I am sure that Giuliani wanted silence in the bass part when he penned those little sixteenth rests. Ink was precious in those days... Successfully performing those rests is a combination of both right and left hand technique. Obviously, once the note is plucked, you'd think the right hand technique was just about a done deal. Well, yes and no. Yeah, you've made your choice for volume and tone of attack, but something else is needed. First look at what you'll need to do with your left hand. Getting your finger off the C# (first beat, first measure) will result in a short duration for the note. How about the A that commences the second beat? Getting your left hand finger off an open string.... Not such a beast. Here's where right hand technique comes in. I use the fat side of my thumb to dampen the string after the initial attack. It works.

Making sure those rests come across as rests--bits of silence--makes the variation really have a bit of snap and crispness that is lost when the notes are allowed to ring. Try it.

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