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Villa Lobos' Etuce One (Part Three)

--Harry George Pellegrin


There is one quirk in 1970’s performance practice that I must address. 

In the original edition there appear these measures:




Note that the two measures are repeated across the chord change rather than individually as every other change in the piece is executed.  While this is as it appears in the original manuscript, many performers changed the repeat to follow the rest of the piece:




            I have great faith in Sr. Villa-Lobos’ compositional skills as well as Max Eschig Editions’ staff to correctly engrave from manuscript for the greater part. I include these paragraphs to indicate what many noted performers played (and, indeed, a ‘correction’ my teacher Albert Valdés-Blain, made to my copy.)  The reader may incorporate or discard as he or she may wish. 






The final three measures of this etude offer the guitarist a challenge and a great opportunity.  The challenge?  Deciphering and executing the harmonics as indicated.  The opportunity?  A chance to perform a truly lovely finale to this extraordinary piece of music.  The first stumbling block to overcome is purely one of notation. While I find the Max Eschig edition of the Etudes and Preludes to be definitive, they were engraved during a different age.  Note the way strings are indicated – encircled capital letters. This is can be justified to be an ambiguous method to indicate strings as it does not take into account that the guitar may be tuned to an alternate tuning.  Of course, for this piece of music, the guitar is not, but in such an instance, it would be misleading. [For example, if the guitar were to be tuned in drop D tuning, how would the performer know quickly which d string the editor intended?] 
A more modern way of indicating the correct harmonic and where it should be played would be to engrave the passage as shown below – with encircled Arabic numerals and fret numbering as is found in most modern editions containing similar passages.  The Max Eschig engraving is very precise though, once one is acclimated with the method.  The diamond shaped note-heads indicate what the fretted pitches would have been at that fret – NOT the pitches produced (or even an octave variant thereof.)  This takes a bit of mental imaging the first few times through.  I have included strings and fret indications over the old Eschig engraving. This could have been engraved with actual produced pitches, but I believe the reader will follow the numbers I have added correctly:


Many also substitute a harmonic ‘e’ at the twelfth fret in the penultimate chord to mirror the harmonic atop the final chord.  There is more than one possible fingering for those two final chords of the cadence.  Timbre will decide for the performer which is the better choice.  Choice of fingering will also decide whether to observe the single harmonic or to either eliminate it or have both a harmonic ‘e’ and a harmonic ‘b’ capping their respective chords
A note on practice for this piece:  The key to musical and technically proficient performance of this etude depends upon stringent practice at very slow tempo.  It is all too easy to ‘practice’ this piece too quickly as speed disguises mistakes (accent, rhythm, and pitch as well as poor tone) making them almost inaudible. Repetition of these ‘mistakes’ will reinforce the error, make the erroneous reading sound correct in the ears of the performer and—possibly the worst aspect—be very hard to correct.  Once memorized, an error is very difficult to forget! Practice the etude slowly enough that the rhythm remains constant, all accents can be executed to the performer’s taste and according to plan.  Dynamics should be incorporated as soon as the piece can be successfully completed at the slowest tempo.   Speed comes through accurate repetition at slow speeds.  Tempo should only increase as the piece becomes comfortable for the performer at the level of the previous tempo increase.  This is just common sense practice technique and should be the method used with any new repertoire and to dwell more o the subject is outside the purview of this article.








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Album Review



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A CD collection of classical guitar favorites plus five selections from 'Suite for Guitar' by Harry George Pellegrin.

 "I picked the selections for this CD from the large number of  pieces that I have continued to enjoy over the many years that make up a lifetime, including both student pieces as well as recital-fare.  The intent of this album is not to try to dazzle, but to evoke memories."


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
Mazurka in G        Francisco Tárrega
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
Vals Brevis Two (Dark Horse Waltz)        Harry George Pellegrin
Vals Brevis Three (The Last Kiss) For Veronica M. Pellegrin        Harry George Pellegrin
Vals Brevis Four (Summer Afternoon, Bronx, 1962, For Coco)        Harry George Pellegrin
Snowfall 12.21.2008        Harry George Pellegrin


The Store  A neat collection of guitar-related items

Enjoy these exercises and come back next week for more! If you've enjoyed these exercises and sessions, please consider buying a copy of my book or my new album!

The Classic Guitar Method: Now in one volume, much of what the novice classical guitarist will need to know to lead him or her to the recital stage. From proper instrument care and maintenance to the necessary technical skills, musical mind-set, and the standard repertoire—all exposed and explored with enough detail and insight that the student will wish to keep this book handy years to come as a ready reference source.

With the aid of a good teacher, the student will rapidly progress through The Classic Guitar Method attaining technical proficiency and musical eloquence.

This method stems from the need to incorporate a number of schools into a single cohesive curriculum. Years of honing a logical approach to the guitar and the creation of music culminate in this volume. As a self-proclaimed Disciple of Valdés-Blain , much of that famed teacher's focus can be found in Mr. Pellegrin's method.

ISBN: 978-1-4116-9442-2

Published by PAB Entertainment Group, P.O. Box 2369 Scotia, New York 12302

Please go to www.lulu.com to order.