We get so much sheet music sent to us by various publishers year ’round—literally hundreds of pieces in every setting imaginable (solo guitar, multiple guitars, guitar-flute, guitar-harp, etc.)—but we don’t have the space to write about the great majority of them in our four quarterly issues each year.
So, just as we occasionally write about classical-guitar album releases regularly in this online space, we also occasionally announce recent print music releases. As with the CDs, these are not reviews per se (some will be reviewed in the magazine, but frankly most will not), but we think it’s important to at least get the word out about what’s being offered to guitarists out there. Where possible, we’ve linked the titles to the publisher’s website or some other outlet where it can be purchased, and stated the degree of difficulty (if provided by the publisher or it’s obvious). —Blair Jackson
Aaron Larget-Caplan is fast becoming perhaps the greatest guitar advocate for the music of John Cage (1912–1992). Having previously arranged Cage’s Six Melodies(originally written for violin and piano) for violin and guitar, he has now put together a collection of Cage piano pieces arranged for solo guitar. As Larget-Caplan notes, the collection “features five early and mid-career compositions by John Cage, dating from 1933 through 1948. . . The compositions required little adjustment from the originals, mainly in the form of register modifications, and fit very well on the guitar. All phrase and dynamic markings follow the published originals. Very few left and right hand fingerings are included in the publication, to allow the performers their own realizations. All of the works retain their original keys and are presented in chronological order.”
If you still think of Cage as either a peculiar modernist or wispy minimalist (or both), you will probably be surprised by the warm and sonorous nature of many of these pieces. In its piano version, for example, In a Landscape, almost sounds like it could be a lovely evocation of a Japanese woodblock print, with its delicate, unfolding melody and elegant and mesmerizing short scalar runs, which resemble a koto in parts. Two of the Three Easy Pieces (all very short) look back at Baroque and/or early classical music. Dream (watch below) is quiet, tender, contemplative. The other two works are “A Room” and “Chess Pieces,” each interesting and attractive as piano works, and no doubt on guitar as well.
The Editions Peters website promises a Cage Piano Music Arranged for Guitar CD later this year, so we’ll keep an eye out for that for sure.
More than 70 works, most of them short and originally written for the vihuela during the 16th century, are collected here. Luys Milán, Luys de Narváez, and Alonso Mudarra are the marquee names—each is represented by a number of Fantasías and other wide-ranging works. The book is meticulously annotated, with detailed descriptions of how the composers intended their pieces to be played (the helpful Preface notes that it was rare for composers in this era to provide such instruction, but was common among these Spanish gentlemen), so notwithstanding the choices that Paolo Cherici had to make in transposing score intended for the 12-string (six-course) vihuela de mano to the modern six-string, players should be able to play these pieces remarkably similar to the way they were written more than 500 years ago. The required skill level would appear to vary, but likely would allow intermediate players a chance to play many delicious pieces from the Spanish Renaissance.
This version of Milán’s Fantasía XI, played by the fine German guitarist Karmen Stendler, is not the Cherici transcription from the book, but at least gives a sense of what the piece is like.