Performance Notes for Etude Number One in E minor
By Heitor Villa Lobos (PART ONE)
--Harry George Pellegrin
Considered by many to be concert etudes, the Villa Lobos etudes were often included in recital programs during the 1960’s and 1970’s. For a time it would seem they fell out of favor with many guitarists and were relegated to the more mundane tasks of the pedagogical duties they so aptly demonstrate. While these etudes do indeed discharge these duties with great attention to detail as well as a large dose of panache, they do not occupy the same lofty position in the pantheon of fine repertoire that they once did. Whether one approaches the Villa Lobos Etudes from the pedagogical or the artistic, there are certain suggestions, recommendations and hints that can be imparted to the guitarist that will ease the journey from ‘new piece’ to ‘performance jewel.’ The first musical example (measures one through four) is taken from the Max Eschig (Paris) of 1953.
Please note the right hand fingering as demonstrated beneath measure one. This pattern unless otherwise indicated, will be implemented to arpeggiate the left hand positions/hand shapes in each subsequent measure.
Measure one is a simple e minor chord executed by placing the first finger of the left hand on the B on the fifth (A) string at the second fret and the second finger on the E on the fourth string at the second fret. All other indicated pitches are produced from the plucking of open (unstopped) strings.
This simple hand shape must be prepared this way in order to successfully make and the transition to the hand shape in measure two. Left hand fingers three and four must move immediately to the F sharp on the D string at the fourth fret (finger three) and the C on the A string at the third fret (finger four) and have the opportunity to do so as they are not previously engaged and can ‘hover’ near their targets during measure one. Once fingers three and four have been used to fret the indicated notes, there is a very brief amount of time for the first and second fingers to move to the A at the second fret of the G string (finger two) and the C at the first fret of the B string (finger one.) This is a fairly difficult hand shape for many students to transition. [Below: My fingering added to the Eschig edition.]
Although measure three contains identical pitches fretted in identical manner as measure one, due to the transition to measure four, measure three will be fingered differently. [See first example above and compare the two measures.]
If the first finger of the left hand on the B on the fifth (A) string at the second fret, then finger two would have had to shift two strings over to execute the F sharp on the second fret on the E string while finger one would have had to travel around finger two to execute the D sharp on the first fret of the fourth string. This would feel clumsy—and sound clumsy as well!
Measures five and six comprise a very difficult transition for many students and guitarists with small hands/limited finger stretch. The guitarist is faced with a first inversion E minor chord similar in construct to the root position chord in measures one and three. The basic fingering is the same as that employed in measure three with the addition of the third of the chord (G) fretted on the third fret of the sixth string with the fourth finger. The transition from measure five to measure six is accomplished by sliding the fourth finger up one fret (one half-step) to the G sharp on the fourth fret and a corresponding doubling of the G sharp one octave higher by fretting the third string at the first fret with the first finger. [See example below.]
From measure six to measure seven the guitarist encounters a change in position from the so-called open position to a position generated by barring the fifth fret. The chord arpeggiate din measure six is a simple A minor chord in Grand Barré form. This should be relatively easy to accomplish by all guitarists aside from the true beginners. I have noted that some students have had difficulty with the transition from measure seven to measure eight though. If the basic mechanics of the transition are observed, the transition becomes quite simple. The guitarist should realize first that the first and third finger need not move at all when making the transition from measure seven to measure eight. They remain stationary. The first finger that must move is not so much a movement per se but an addition. The second finger (which was not employed in measure seven) is used to fret the B flat on the sixth (E) string, at the sixth fret. The fourth finger simply moves from the fourth string, seventh fret to the third string, seventh fret. As stated, once the guitarist comprehends the mechanics of this transition, it is simple to accomplish.
See attached pdf for musical examples...
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Asturias/Leyenda Isaac Albéniz
Etude Opus 6 Number 8 Fernando Sor
Etude Opus 35 Number 13 Fernando Sor
Etude Opus 35 Number 22 Fernando Sor
Etude Opus 35 Number 17 Fernando Sor
Lágrima Francisco Tárrega
Adelita Francisco Tárrega
Mazurka in C Francisco Tárrega
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Introduction and Variations on a Theme by Mozart Fernando Sor
Etude Opus 60 Number 3 Matteo Carcassi
Etude Opus 60 Number 7 Matteo Carcassi
Etude Opus 60 Number 16 Matteo Carcassi
Vals Brevis One (Waltz for Agustin) For Georgio Testani Harry George Pellegrin
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