By Blair Jackson
The Guitar Foundation of America has just published the second issue of Soundboard Scholar—its annual “Peer-reviewed Journal of Guitar Studies”—and like last year’s edition, it is brimming with stories that will appeal to guitar-history buffs who like to get into topics in some serious depth. This time out, editor Thomas Heck has three main pieces in his arsenal:
“Henry Worrall (1825–1902): Anglo-American Guitarist,” by Robert Ferguson (editor of GFA’s wonderful quarterly, Soundboard), tells the fascinating story of the role of an English immigrant in the popularization of the guitar in mid-19th century America. The Liverpool-born Worrall grew up mostly in Buffalo, New York, and learned to play several instruments, but became known far and wide for writing and/or adapting a number of pieces for guitar—notably Sebastapol, Spanish Fandango and Spanish Retreat—and for his significant pedagogical contributions, through volumes such as The Eclectic Guitar Instructor, also known as Worrall’s Guitar School. Ferguson’s detailed (and copiously footnoted) piece includes photos and illustrations, a list of Worrall’s works, and a reproduction of a late-19th century edition of the sheet music for Spanish Retreat (described on the original cover as “A Favorite Guitar Solo As Performed At His Principle Concerts”).
More compact, but no less authoritative, is “The Life and Times of Josef Kaspar Mertz: New Biographical Insights,” by Andreas Stevens, who specializes in the history of the guitar in Germany and Austria. Unlike Worrall, who is relatively unknown, J.K. Mertz (1806–1856) is one of the most famous guitarist/composers of the Romantic era, and this article does not recount his full biography, but rather utilizes letters written by his wife, Josephine—long after his death, but only unearthed by Stevens five years ago—that offer fresh information about Mertz as a concert guitarist and composer. Very interesting! (Some of you might be wondering, as I did, what’s with this “Joseph Kaspar Mertz,” as most people seem to write is as “Johann Kaspar Mertz.” Neither is precisely his birth name, we learn in the article, but I won’t spoil the answer to that mystery here.)
The last of the main features in Soundboard Scholar No. 2 is called “Giuliani’s Naples: A Walking Tour,” by Nicoletta Confalone and Grégory Leclair. Mauro Giuliani (1781–1829), of course, was one of the great guitarists and composers of the classical period, and though he spent his most successful years living in Vienna, he lived his last five-plus years in Naples, where his father lived, and which later attracted other members of Giuliani’s family after Mauro died at the age of 47. Confalone and Leclair’s article offers a tour of Neapolitan sites—complete with addresses and a map—related to the Giuliani family. Personally, I love reading about and seeing the places where important people lived, worked or played; it really helps make history come alive (and it makes me want to go back to Naples, which I visited as a lad many years ago). The article also has a helpful family tree (it’s a complicated family!) and “The latest genealogical documentation regarding Mauro Giuliani extended family.”
Both editions of Soundboard Scholar can be purchased from the Guitar Foundation of America website. And all you scholars and researchers will want to know that the publication is always actively looking for articles for the journal.