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Richard Strauss (1864 – 1949)
Strauss's music amounts to a huge body of symphonic and operatic work written over 60 years. Full of vitality, endlessly melodic, brilliantly orchestrated, it begins and ends in the romantic tradition, but for the most part expresses something more modern and individualistic, not without controversy in its time. Variation of style and structure is drawn from the descriptive (literary) nature of compositions, and an extraordinary inventiveness enlivens the scenes, moods and situations. Strauss said once that he produced music the way cows give milk, and indeed his music rarely seems contrived.
Strauss wrote 15 operas on a variety of subjects and across the whole spectrum of drama. He acknowledged being enchanted by the soprano voice, and his writing for it highlights many of the works, including Adriane auf Naxos (composed in 1912). The opera has been described as 'sparkling', which sums it up well, and passages influenced by Bach, Mozart, Puccini, and Wagner add to the interest. The storyline is a play within a play, the second part being the mythological 'Opera' staged in the story. The three pieces transcribed* are from this Opera.
The guitar arrangements
All classical guitar pieces are compromises. The instrument has only six strings, the left hand four fingers able to be used, and with the right hand it's rare to use more than three fingers and the thumb. So, despite the amount of noise possible, it's inevitable that passages occur where either harmony, bass or fragments of counterpoint that would be beneficial are left out. In particular, the higher up the neck music is played the simpler it tends to be, if harder to play, and unless the low bass is an open string there wont be any.
So I think the main part of attaining a fair transcription (better to be called an arrangement if the original musical structure is not strictly followed, as in this case) is determining how a good compromise can be reached. Melody, counterpoint, bass and main harmonies demand inclusion, and register is important. One may generally assume the original score can't be improved on. However, if the music may sound well on guitar, and the above elements can be incorporated without the playing becoming very difficult, something enjoyable to play and worthwhile listening to should be able to be achieved.
Overture; 'A golden time …'
Here the Mozart influence, better, inspiration, is wonderfully evident. A gentle waltz time (only the first section of the overture is transcribed) carries the colourful harmonies, strong melodic threads and connecting flourishes that stamp both pieces. The aria is alluded to in the Overture several times, which as you would expect, is intricately woven with the hints themes later to be established in the Opera. It has a kind of 'jazzy' freedom, and it's always miraculous to me that composition so involved can retain its musical line, here done in Strauss's inimitable way. The aria, sung not far into the Opera, has the perfect inevitability of Mozart, but again it is Strauss. As explained, keys have been changed to suit the guitar.
Chorus and Aria
This selection from the finale has features well worth trying to translate. The device of having a strong chorus, in the style of a Bach chorale, stated and then counterpointed by a solo voice in a restatement, is potent, and that in the opera the chorus (of the three nymphs) isn't immediately followed by the accompanying aria (of Ariadne) means the latter comes as a moment of surprising beauty. Neither parts are complicated, and lovely arpeggios, a feature Strauss's music, often impart the assured progressions.
A problem was to capture the distinct register of the soprano voices, some statements of which would seem non-negotiable even without knowing the soprano voice was a passion of Strauss's. This could only be done, as intimated above, with some simplification. However the sound was worth working for, and fortunately the repetitive nature of the piece allowed for sections to be played at various registers to good effect, the higher producing the excruciating soprano harmonies.
Also, the original is in Db, so by raising the key a semitone I was able to utilise the guitar's D tuning as a full sounding configuration on which to arrange the piece. I'm fond of harmonics and open strings (in fact, arresting sounds in general) and used them where appropriate (or as sometimes, necessary).
* Overture; 'A golden time'; Chorus and Aria
“A Christmas Medley” contains engaging treatments of three well-know carols: “Here We Come A-Wassailing”, “The Huron Carol” and “I Saw Three Ships”. Special effects (harmonics, percussion and snare drum effect) help keep students engaged and interest and colour. Merry Christmas!
When we're in love, that heady, jazzy feeling makes us want to dance...The cello part has an extra version (free) that is an octave higher for those of you who are really, really in love...
When we're in love, that heady, jazzy feeling makes us want to dance...
When we're in love, that heady, jazzy feeling makes us want to dance - check out this live performance!
"Across the desert" has a middle eastern flavour. It starts off gradually then builds in intensity and excitement, like a caravan journey through the desert and the subsequent arrival at an oasis. The camels are racing at this stage!
Joseph-Maurice Ravel (1875 - 1937) was a French composer known especially for his melodies, orchestral and instrumental textures and effects. Much of his piano music, chamber music, vocal music and orchestral music has entered the standard concert repertoire.
Maurice Ravel (1875 - 1937) was a French composer known especially for his melodies, orchestral and instrumental textures and effects. Much of his piano music, chamber music, vocal music and orchestral music has entered the standard concert repertoire.
Joseph Haydn (1732 – 1809), was an Austrian composer, one of the most prolific and prominent of the Classical period. He is often called the "Father of the Symphony" and "Father of the String Quartet" because of his important contributions to these forms. He was also instrumental in the development of the piano trio and in the evolution of sonata form.
Beethoven, Ludwig van
The Moonlight Sonata
Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor ''Quasi una fantasia'', popularly known as the Moonlight Sonata, was completed in 1801 (at the age of 31) and dedicated to his pupil, Countess Giuciella Guicciardi, whom he later confessed to have been in love with. (It is hard to conceive how she would have felt having something this beautiful dedicated to her.) Already struggling with deafness, Beethoven was yet to write his greatest works, which as you are no doubt aware, are among the most famous ever composed.
The Sonata is a beloved piece because of its haunting Adagio, with which it begins. This is directed to be played with sustained slowness and very quietly, becoming at the loudest mf or ''moderately loud''.
For guitar I have dropped the key to Am (which I notice other transcribers for guitar have also done: music is restrictive enough for that sort of coincidence to be expected) since this allows a liberal use of the open A and E strings (in the bass), particularly for the E which grounds the tense diminished scale passage before the recapitulation. It also (serendipitously) keeps most of the more difficult passages at the bottom end (the low fret range) which guitarists become familiar with first.
The piece has a signature rhythmic device which is first encountered at the end of bar five. Hard on the heels of the last note of the final triplet a sixteenth note sounds before a half note of the same pitch in the next bar. There is no dynamic change. How best to play it? I think, like everything involved in playing guitar, once you have basic techniques in place the best thing to do is what feels most natural and gives the sound most faithful to the score. In this case I play the last triplet note with the (right) thumb and the sixteenth note with the middle finger (medio), followed by the half note with the middle finger also (all of which I've marked), but another way may be preferred.
Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791) was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. Mozart is among the most enduringly popular of classical composers, and many of his works are part of the standard concert repertoire.
Here's a bright and lively guitar solo inspired by the joyful sounds of African soukous music. Simple harmonies and happy melodies. This piece gives its own twist with the quirky rhythms. Enjoy listening and playing.
Bach, Johann Sebastian
This classic air by Bach is a popular selection for both weddings and concerts.
Handel, George Frideric
This famous piece is part of Handel's Water Music suite. It makes a wonderful processional.