The 17th Century
It is known that king
Louis XIV of France himself played the guitar and regarded it as
his favorite instrument. He had for his teacher one of the most
important French guitarists known to us - Robert de Visée
Jean Baptiste Lully was also a great composer of
that time who played the guitar and composed for the instrument.René
Voboam represented the height of French instrument building (illustration
- guitar on the right) in the seventeenth century, and he made a
guitar dated 1641. It is an example of the more ornate style of
Alexandre Voboam and his son Jean also made guitars
in the seventeenth century.
|The guitar on the left with inlaid mother-of-pearl
was made by Domenico Sellas in Venice, about 1670.
German and Dutch influence
A considerable number of works containing guitar music
were published in seventeenth century Holland, including the work of Isabel
van Laughenhove. But it was in Germany that the instrument achieved its
greatest popularity in Northern Europe.Among the number of German guitars
still in existence, the first known German-made guitar was built by Jacobus
Stadler in 1624. It is typical curved, stripped back and shows strong
Italian influence. A seventeenth century guitar of an entirely different
type was made by a priest, Father John of Apsom. The back of the instrument
is decorated with a crucifixion scene
Spain and Portugal
Although the guitar was less popular in Spain than
in Italy and was not as popular as the vihuela was in the previous
century, some important works were established and a number of fine
guitarists became known in that country.One of the prominent Spanish
guitarists of the time, Francisco Corbera, dedicated his work Guitarra
Española y sus differencias de sonos to Philip IV, king of
Spain from 1621 to 1665. But the most notable Spanish guitarist
of the seventeenth century was Gaspar Sanz.Sanz studied the guitar
in Italy and also organ and music theory. He became an organist
at the King's Chapel in Naples. Upon his return in Spain, he published
three books of guitar music in 1674, 1675 and 1697. The books contain
the author's extensive instructions for improvisation and performance,
using the two methods of playing: strumming and plucking. He believed
the former technique was most suitable for dance music. The tuning
he used was A-D-G-B-E.
||In addition to being a guitarist and
organist, Sanz was also an accomplished composer. Solo music occupies
a large part of his book. Also included are many dances and passacaglias.
Much of his writing is in tablature but there are several short passages
in modern notation.
The next significant
publication after that of Sanz appeared in Madrid in 1677. It was
written by Lucas de Ribayaz. It contains dances based on folk melodies.
Perhaps the most important Spanish composer of
the seventeenth century was Don Francisco Guerau, a priest and musician
in the court of Carlos II. His book, Poema harmonico compuesto de
varias cifres por el temple de la Guitarra Española, published
in 1694, contains fifteen passacaglias and ten dances of various
types including a pavana and a galliard. Inside the book, he gives
a series of instructions on tablature and ornamentation in addition
to some very valuable comments on hand position and guitar technique
which are interesting for historic and pedagogic reasons. He showed
the utilization of the barré and had a great concern with
the right hand position and the position of the thumb of the left
hand. He contributed in the development of a considerably advanced
technique.In Portugal, the monarch John IV (1603-1656) founded the
most comprehensive music library in seventeenth century Europe.
One of Portugal's most outstanding guitarists was Doisi de Velasco.
His first book was published in Naples in 1640. A second work appeared
five years later. Many Spanish and Portuguese works were published
in Italy during the seventeenth century. This indicates that the
greater popularity of the guitar in Italy led Spanish and Portuguese
masters to feel that they could realize higher profits if their
works were printed in Italy rather than at home.
||The guitar was of considerable
significance in Italian musical life at this time and more instruments
of this period have survived there than in any other country. The
most important factor which led to the popularity of the guitar in
Italy and to the enrichment of its literature was the introduction
from Spain of the plucked style of playing the instrument. For that
reason, the guitar in Italy came to be called chitaria spagñuola.
The plucked style of playing the instrument eventually replaced the
strumming of chords that dominated the sixteenth century Italian practice.
The plucking technique was in turn derived from the vihuela technique
that the Spaniards adapted for their guitar.
Once the Italians had adopted the term chitarra spagñuola,
they seem to have gradually widened its meaning so that for the rest of
the seventeenth century it became a general term. The designation "Spanish
guitar" persists to the present day as an extension of the seventeenth
The two essentially different techniques of guitar playing
(strumming and plucking) co-existed in seventeenth century Italy. The
plucking technique was expressed in tablature notation. The strumming
of chords was indicated by a special notation developed by sixteenth and
seventeenth century composers. This consisted of a chart of standard chords,
each identified by capital letters.
Seventeenth century Italian composers were numerous,
and included Girolamo Montesardo whose work is an illustration of guitar
music early in the seventeenth century, and Benedetto Sanseverio, who
composed pieces in the form of passacaglias, chaconnes and sarabandes.
The most famous guitarist-composer of the 17th century
was Francisco Corbetta (Corbetti). Corbetta traveled through Italy as
a concert guitarist and toured the rest of Europe with great success,
his travels bringing him to many royal courts. He was a great virtuoso
and used different types of tablatures to notate his music. The forms
of his compositions varied - toccatas, passacailles, sinfonias and so
on, but the most significant are his suites, which consisted of the Almanda,
Courrente and Sarabande. They were the earliest suites of the Baroque
period and Corbetta grouped his pieces and indicated they were to be played
as a set.
Giovanni Battista Granata was the most prolific of the
seventeenth century masters. His compositions were published in seven
volumes each of a substantial size. The pieces for solo guitar include
preludes, toccatas, correntes and others, and were complex.
Other important Italian composers were Domenico Pelligrini
and Ludovico Roncalli. These composers wrote in tablature systems as the
other composers had done previously in the seventeenth century. Many of
these composers travelled throughout Europe carrying with them the guitar
and its music.
The plethora of Italian seventeenth century manuscripts
and published works is matched by a large number of surviving guitars
found in museums throughout the world. Unlike the guitars from the north
with their rather uniform designs and patterns, the Italian guitars displayed
a great variety of ornamentation.
|Antonio Stradivarius (1644-1737) of
Cremona, the most famous Italian instrument maker of the seventeenth
century, is best known for his matchless violins, violas and cellos,
but he was also known to have built harps, ceteras and guitars, and
two of his guitars have survived to the present day.