Want To Play Spanish Classical Guitar? Listen To This….

In my practice recently I’ve picked up La Maja de Goya again recently, to start burnishing it up, committing it to a secure, multi-dimensional memory (i.e. left and right hand kinesthetic, theoretical, etc) and really understanding, listening to and feeling how I want to play this fantastic piece.

And part of this process now involves listening to not necessarily the piece as played by others, but other similar pieces. Similar works played in their original formats. With a lot of what we call standard guitar repertoire these days, from Spanish composers such as the likes of Albeniz, Granados, de Falla, was originally written for the piano rather than the guitar.

I find this activity gives some great musical insight and inspiration. Rather than just being limited by the guitar and its sounds, it brings a different, more purely musical perspective – how is the pianist, the musician, playing this line, this phrase? How are they treating these chords? You notice things when listening to other musicians, non-guitarists, playing things that perhaps you hadn’t noticed before.

Perhaps somethings have been missed or mistranslated even with transcriptions from piano to guitar that you like in the original and want to reinstate in your interpretation. Perhaps there are different techniques not outlined in the transcription you’re using that you wish to apply in creating a sound, or idea of a sound, that has been revealed to you in listening to the piano original. Perhaps you then create a mix of transcribed piece in front of you and elements you want to include or alter from that transcription.

Those of you who read the blog regularly will know that I travel around a fair bit. All this time sitting in airport lounges, aeroplanes and hotel rooms gives me plenty of time to listen to lots, and lots, and lots of music. Which is great from the point of view of exploring sources of inspiration. So today I thought I’d share with you some of the listening I’ve been doing recently in relation to developing my interpretation of La Maja (and, believe it or not, this doesn’t involve Julian Bream!).

I’d heard from many quarters (including a number of the folks I’ve interviewed on this blog) that the playing of Spanish pianist, Alicia Delarrocha (1923 – 2009), was most definitely worth checking out. On listening it’s easy to understand why – Delarrocha was clearly a musician of incredible ability and plays the music of Albeniz, Granados and the like to stunning effect.

As I said above, listening to some of this playing, for me, really brings a different dimension to the pieces I’ve listened to countless times played by many wonderful guitarists. There’s a real clarity to the lines, the feel, the textures and so on. Lots of food for musical thought with this wonderful woman.

But don’t just take my word for it…..

Here’s a clip of Ms Delarrocha playing Albeniz’s Granada from Suite Espagnola. The clip has a follow-along copy of the score too, which is interesting to see and hear left hand/ right hand treatments in the piano:

And Asturias (Leyenda) also, of course from Albeniz’s Suite Espagnola. It’s so interesting to hear these so very guitaristic pieces in their original setting:

I have absolutely fallen in love with her rendition of Granados’ Danzas Espangolas – I just love the Minueto and Oriental in particular. Here’s a clip of the full 12 from her 1954 Decca recording:

And to round this off here’s Granados’ La Maja de Goya for you: