July with Giuliani: Op. 48, No. 1

Brian Barone’s July with Giuliani kicks off today. I thought it’d be fun to take part, so here I am. Below is a video of my interpretation. This was recorded after working on the piece for about an hour.

Musical Observations

The mood of the piece should largely be determined by the first measures tempo and dynamic markings. Vivace suggest a reasonably quick tempo with a light, lively character while Mezzo-forte suggests a nice, strong sound. Light with a full sound.

The form of the piece is simple binary. Though editions vary (see here, here, and here), I think this piece is very certainly in cut time. The suspensions on strong beats and the general feel of the piece lends itself to two beats/impulses for each measure and the harmonic rhythm of the entire piece aligns with that.

The repeated notes in the pick ups into measure one are particularly expressive, in the same way the last two beats of measure two into the first beat of measure 3 (repeated G’s) are expressive. I would like to hear more of a crescendo into the C on the downbeat of measure 1, then the resolution of of that first suspension nice and quiet. Same for measure four: crescendo through the repeated G’s into the downbeat and relax into the suspensions resolution. Each suspension should have an accent on the dissonant note and a relaxation (diminuendo) into the resolution – that should be the main feature of the open bars.

The pick to measure five to measure eight is the next section and changes character a bit. Name the bass sticks out to me. We’ve gone from quarter notes to half notes in the bass and that’s very striking.

The large ascending gesture from measures 9 to 12 begs a crescendo, followed by a diminuendo from measures 12 to 15. Again measures 9-15 changes the bass, and Giuliani is kind enough to mark sF for us on every beat during this section. That’s significant, he wants that chromatic bass line to come out, so let it! I think it’s also important to let the melody sing out, but to my ear the focus during this section is in the bass.

Measure 16 changes the character yet again, and the bass returns to the quarter notes from measure 1. To my ear this creates a bit more tension in the music as the bass picks up, this tension is resolved during the final measures. There should be a crescendo through measure 16 (again repeated notes in the melody!) in preparation for the curiously loud ending.

The ending is very striking to me, usually pieces end quiet, but this one Giuliani marks loud. There should still be a bit of ritard starting in measure 17. I put it on beats three and four, but that’s open to interpretation as well.

On the Technical Side of Things

Lots of shifts, and the fingerings in the editions linked above are very good. I would say to use guide fingers wherever possible, but also don’t forget to prep fingers over strings as that does help. The first measures are more easily accomplished if you leave a half bar down. Whatever the fingering, the goal is to get a very legato, connected sound. Change fingerings as necessary to achieve that.

So how does my interpretation stack up to the above observations?

It’s not great. I would classify the playing above as mediocre at best. The suspensions and resolutions need more subtle accents and resolutions. I think the overall tempo is okay (maybe a bit quicker), but it needs more lightness. Some technical difficulties need to be smoothed out, but that comes with time more than anything else (needs more than an hour of practice). In general, I think the interpretation is not refined enough. Part of the greatness in the classical style is the subtlety, and I don’t have that captured yet.

Posted on in Classical Guitar Tips


  • giuliani's lonsome one
    giuliani's lonsome one

    Not as bad as I’d expected.

    But still, your playing can use a lot (A LOT) more phrasing. The rallentandos in the first section are a good idea, but you’re still constraining your playing far to much. There’s too much fear of parting from:

    * “the beat as written in the score”, or
    * “the false idea that a quarter note is a quarter note”, or
    * “100 years of modern misinterpretations of rhythmic strictness”, or
    * “the false idea, that works of the classical era somehow need strictness of beat”.

    The rallentandos are there, but your placement of them is almost ruler-defined. Come on! The whole first part must be singing: a, a, g#, and g must be played accelerando, running into a steep rallentando, and fermata on the g; before commencing the next phrase… But when? I’ll tell you when: whenever the heck you like, play with the audience: suspense!

    The very beginning can be far more dreamy. Keep alternating fermata(f), non-fermata (n):
    c (f), c(n), c(f), b(n), b(f), a(n) going into that lyrical accelerando. etc.

    (Remember that there are many grades of fermata: many grades of “keeping a note longer”. )

    The second section, with the bass notes sounds terrible. Where’s the big build up? Missing completely. I can hear a metronome ticking there. Please, please! Never ever use a metronome, if you care about interpretation, as something more than just moving your fingers.

    I don’t know how these suggestions will come across.
    Those are my suggestions and thoughts and I suspect they might seem out of context for you. Oh well…

    I’ve been playing 19th century works, almost exclusively for really quite some time now (paired with research into performance practice of just that period, etc.).

    This blog was recommended to be by a college, to see what modern american students are up to these days. (It’s so so…)
    In terms of this style of music: you can still bring out so much more. That is hopefully a inspiration.

    Don’t forget to find your style of music: is it contemporary? is it latin american? is it French Baroque? is it German Baroque? is it 19th century? is it…

  • giuliani's lonsome one
    giuliani's lonsome one

    You wrote:
    “Part of the greatness in the classical style is the subtlety, and I don’t have that captured yet.”

    That sounds like something your teacher must have told you. (Poor ol’ Stanley…)

    The modernist movement thinks that the classical era is all about subtleness of interpretation. What a hoax! It’s their way of justifying their playing of classical style in almost only “strict rhythm”.

    I’d rather say this: classical style is all about lyricism.

  • giuliani's lonsome one
    giuliani's lonsome one

    Get a head-start: Try learning from this:

    Recommended to me, from my Dutch friends…

    Even this performance could have more phrasing etc.; but Izhar’s finally beginning to understand a bit about interpretation.
    (He’s miles ahead of your Stanley Yates and … well virtually all other players I’ve heard.
    But I know 2 people who are even ahead of Izhar: almost unknown, no CD’s, and I doubt that will change, though the one guy is always talking about it. But they are the craziest connoisseurs you’d ever come across!)

  • giuliani's lonsome one
    giuliani's lonsome one

    Oh, and even if it’s not the type of guitars I like… I still think Zoran Anic is really doing things with this Caprice by Luigi Legnani:

    Welcome to the realm of the… oh so rare… almost true musicians!

  • giuliani's lonsome one
    giuliani's lonsome one

    Thanks! I’ve just read my own stuff here and feel some of it must come across as really pretentious. Sorry if it does: that was not my aim.

    Thanks for your humbleness. (In your comment and the way you classify your own playing.) Only a humble musician is still open to true learning. Only an always humble musician can become a true musician. (I should keep it in mind!)

    • Christopher Davis

      It’s okay, I understood your intention was to help. I try to set aside my ego for comments on my playing that are helpful. It’s nice to get comments that are really in depth like this.

      I have a lot of trouble letting go when I play. So I tend to try and control everything, especially in 19C music where I’m not so comfy. This works for some things, but obviously not for everything.

      I definitely identify more with 20C music.

  • JPD

    “Zoran Anic is really doing things with this Caprice….”

    Indeed he is. Rubato is one thing, distortion is another. It’s not senseless distortion — there seems to be a mind involved — but is it beautiful? No. It’s erratic and abusive. The meter is being made the victim of gratuitous violence.

    To hear this played by Eduardo Fernandez is to hear it played with brilliance and taste. It’s too bad there’s no online video of EF playing this, nor an MP3. I don’t know if his old recording of the Caprices is still in print.

  • Ian Duffy

    Who is that playing on the link to Guitarmania? I don’t get whether the poster is being sarcastic or not, but I quite like the playing.