Luigi Legnani (1790-1877) was an important guitarist/composer of the early nineteenth century Italian Romantic school. In addition, he was also a highly skilled singer, violinist, and luthier. Legnani’s guitar compositions represent the logical next step after Giuliani; fully evocative of the operatic vocal style characterized by Rossini, and technically adventurous in much the way Paganini’s compositions were for the violin, although not to the same degree. His contributions to guitar literature form an important link in the chain of compositional and technical development during the nineteenth-century. This study is in two parts. The first will present as concise a biography as possible, particularly regarding Legnani’s concert itineraries, contributions to guitar construction, and relationship with Paganini. An examination of little-known contemporary reviews of his performances will serve as a means of both documenting his concertizing and developing a concept of Legnani’s performance style. The second part, an annotated performance edition of selections from Legnani’s most famous composition, 36 Capricci per tutti i tuoni maggiori e minori, opus 20, will provide a basis for the understanding and successful performance of Legnani’s music by modern guitarists. In conclusion, Legnani’s unique contributions to both guitar composition and construction are reevaluated, and an up-to-date list of compositions appended.
James Douglas Goff