The cadenzas of the first modern guitar concertos

Carlos Ricardo Saeb Valenzuela

This research project explores the resources employed in the cadenzas of the first four distinguished guitar concertos of the twentieth-century. The purpose of this research is to establish the influence and impact of these works in the development of a new idiomatic guitar language. Although the first known twentieth-century guitar concerto is Rafael Adame’s Concierto Clásico (1930), it has been largely ignored and has had no significant influence on subsequent generations. Therefore, the focus of this study is on the following concertos: Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Concerto in Re for Guitar and Orchestra Op. 99 (1939), Joaquin Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez (1939), Manuel M. Ponce’s Concierto del Sur (1941), and Heitor Villa-Lobos’s Concerto pour guitare et petit orchestre (1951). Since none of these composers were guitarists per se, the cadenzas they wrote for the concertos were not subjected to technical limitations or to preconceptions of the capabilities of the instrument imposed by previous guitarist-composers. The present study offers analyses of the entirety of each concerto, with comments on how they have impacted the repertory. The analyses cover harmonic, technical, and historical aspects, revealing how these composers resolved the challenges the guitar concerto—such an unexplored genre—presented. This study focuses in particular on the cadenzas of these concertos in order to understand how the composers demanded virtuosity beyond the preconceived technical limitations of the guitar. The analyses are from the perspective of a performer, providing insight on issues of fingering and execution in complex passages. Through these analyses, the study reveals the importance of these works and their legacy in the expanding of the guitar’s possibilities—both technical and musical—which inspired some of the most important composers of the twentieth century to write for the guitar. Finally, the study provides comments on some of the succeeding works influenced by these cadenzas.

College of Fine Arts at the University of Kentucky

The cadenzas of the first modern guitar concertos

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