Print Music Review: Quality and Variety in Books of 19th Century Spanish Music

España Romantica (3 volumes for solo guitar)
edited by Mario Martino
Ut Orpheus, 40, 42, and 64 pp.
By Steve Marsh

These three volumes are each subtitled Anthology of Guitar Works by Spanish Masters of the 19th Century. The editor, Mario Martino, has assembled a collection of guitar works by a handful of Spanish guitarists who were composing throughout the second half of that century. For the editing of the music of these three books, the first printed editions were used, and any obvious errors, omissions, and inaccuracies in the originals have been corrected by Martino.

Volume one of the series is marked Easy to Intermediate and features 26 works by seven composers, with the music presented in approximate order of difficulty. The collection gets off to a pleasant start with three little pieces by the Catalan guitarist Jaime Bosch. These are followed by three works written in the manner of exercises, taken from a guitar method Bosch published in 1891. Bosch is featured once more later in the book with the much more flamboyant Ballade.

Jaime Bosch (1825–1895)

After a further congenial trio of pieces by Tomás Damas, the overall musical quality is raised by four lovely miniatures composed by a name perhaps more familiar to guitarists, José Ferrer. This composer is represented three more times in this first volume with two Nocturnes and the deservedly popular La Danse des Naiades. Elsewhere in the album are two pieces by Jose Broca (one-time tutor of Ferrer): a fairly bland Andante and a mazurka titled Una Flor, which more than makes up for the previous piece. There are also two useful studies by Antonio Cano—a Vals and Minueto by Julian Arcas, an extremely attractive and lengthy set of variations on a waltz theme (one of the highlights of the album) by Tomás Damas, and finally an Andante Sentimental and the lovely El Sueno by José Vinas; this latter one is usually played in a tremolo style, but here is presented in a non-tremolo fashion.

Below: Italian guitarist Max Coradduzza plays José Ferrer’s popular Danse des Naiades, an intermediate work:

There are a couple of errors: On page 7, bar 9, the left-hand fingering is incorrect, and on page 14, bar 9, the first B should be a G. Most of the music is very melodic and intellectually undemanding.


The second volume is a different matter entirely. Volume one is aimed at the student market and, from a performance viewpoint, the amateur concert; this next book, marked Advanced, has fewer pieces—ten in total—but they are much more substantial than in the previous book, and most would be suitable for the professional concert platform. Six of the composers featured in volume one appear again in this book, the only new name being Juan Parga, whose six-page Recuerdos de Cadiz concludes the volume.

Anyone with a fondness for the music of the 19th century will find this album a treasure trove of musical gems. All the music is high-quality, with several compositions standing out above the rest—especially the lovely (albeit sentimental) Andante by Julian Arcas and Arcas’ highly energized Polaca Fantastica. Also of note is Jose Broca’s Pensamiento Español, a fiery piece with a lovely melody line. For tremolo enthusiasts, El Delirio by Cano and Fantasia Original by Vinas both make extensive use of this effect.

Below: Javier Riba plays the sentimental Andante by Julián Arcas (1832–1882, an advanced piece:

In the third volume, all the previous composers surface once more, with the exception of Ferrer but with the addition of Matias de Jorge Rubio, who is featured once with his brief, but entertaining Fandango. This third book is headed Folk and Flamenco Pieces, but the 14 works are geared more toward the flamenco side of things, with styles represented including boleros, tangos, fandangos, jota, solea and seguidillas. Once again, the quality of writing is very strong, and aficionados of flamenco should find this a most enjoyable collection. Unlike the previous two books, the technical standard in this one volume is rather broad, with the easiest piece—Bolero (Arcas)—being around the intermediate standard, and the most difficult ones—Polo y Solea (Parga) and the three-movement Las Delicias de Mi Patria (Cano)—heading into advanced territory.

These three publications are models of superior presentation, with easy-to-read printed scores produced on off-white good-quality paper, and all three bound with an eye-catching front cover featuring the painting Woman with a Parrot by the 19th century Spanish artist Raimundo de Madrazo y Garreta. Some of the left-hand fingering is questionable, particularly in the more advanced pieces, but anyone skillful enough to take on this material should be more than capable of working out their own fingering.

(Note: The videos above are not necessarily reflective of the transcriptions in this three-volume set, but are offered here as examples of two of the pieces that are included.)