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The three Mixed Classical volumes contain a collection of 48 short pieces in a variety of styles, and dating from a number of historical periods. In selecting these pieces, every effort was made to provide for as wide an exposure to Classical music as possible. Many of these pieces are actually excerpts from longer musical compositions. Most of these pieces are reasonably simple, or contain at least one part that is reasonably simple, thus making these three volumes of music quite suitable for beginners. Many of the tempos have been deliberately slowed to increase the accessibility of this music. A handful of pieces are nevertheless fairly challenging, however, and an even greater number contain at least one part that is fairly challenging. This will assure that these three volumes also contain an appreciable amount of material for more experienced players.
Thirty two of these selections, fully two thirds of the collection, were composed for the piano. Fourteen are choral works, and the other two are of orchestral origin. Twelve are duets, all but two of which were written by Bach. Many of the Bach duets were included in a collection of short learning pieces he composed for his wife ("The Anna Magdalena Note Book"). Nine of the selections contained in the Mixed Classical collection are given in three part arrangements. Four of these trios were written by Schumann, and were included in a collection of short learning pieces he composed for his children ("Album For The Young"). The remaining twenty seven selections contained in the Mixed Classical collection are all given in four part arrangements.
The selections are not presented in order of difficulty, either within each of the three volumes, or from one volume to the next. Neither should it be inferred that the duets are easier to play, since there are fewer parts in the arrangement. On the contrary, some of the duets are quite challenging, while some of the four part arrangements are quite simple. The organizational plan for the three volumes is based on the number of parts in the arrangements, and is the same for each volume. In each of the three volumes, the order of presentation of the selections, expressed in terms of the number of parts in the arrangements, is as follows : 2 - 3 - 4 - 4 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 4 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 4 - 2 - 4 - 4 - 4.
Apart from transcribing from staff to visualinear tablature, very little needed to be done by way of arranging these pieces for guitar ensemble, especially the choral pieces. In some instances, the original score called for the simultaneous sounding of a greater number of notes than the number of parts in the arrangement, which obviously forced the omission of judiciously selected notes. In a very few instances, which will be duly noted, new material was added. Most of these pieces are in one of the eight best keys for guitar music. These are preferred keys because of the pitches of the guitar's open notes, and because music in these keys can be accompanied by the simplest and commonest chords of which the instrument is capable. The eight best keys are G Major, A Major,
C Major, D Major, E Major, a minor, d minor, and e minor. In many cases, pieces contained in the Mixed Classical collection were transposed from the original key into one of these keys. In some cases, pieces were transposed from one of these keys to another, typically in order to make the piece easier to play. Five of the seven pieces that are not in one of the eight best keys for guitar music are contained in the third volume.
Volume II begins with "Air", a simple Bach duet. Notice that throughout most of this piece the phrasing of the two parts overlaps, giving the impression that the lower part is following and answering the upper part. In Beethoven's "Minuet in G", the duet between the melody and interior parts of this three part arrangement makes extensive use of the long-short rhythmic pattern given by compound meter. The simple bass line that accompanies this duet, on the other hand, consists entirely of notes sounded on the main beats. "O Lovely May" by Brahms is marked by interesting shifts of rhythmic flow among the parts. This piece was excerpted from a choral score that included a piano accompaniment. Only the choral parts have been given here. Handel's "Messiah" is arguably one of the greatest musical compositions ever written. It is a collection of choral pieces, vocal solos with orchestral accompaniment, and orchestral pieces. It showcases and is widely regarded as a paradigm for the logic and beauty of the music of the Baroque era. The overture to this masterwork (an overture is an introductory piece), the first of two sections of which is given here, was written for string orchestra. The sustaining power of the orchestral strings, as well as the superior upper range of the violin, make the string orchestra a very effective medium for this highly emotional music. Whatever has been lost in the translation to the guitar ensemble format will be more than made up for by the increased accessibility to this music that the guitar ensemble arrangement given here will provide.
"Minuet in d minor", a reasonably fast-paced duet by Bach, has a very Baroque feel about it. This piece, which should be played in a legato style, is somewhat demanding in terms of fretting requirements, particularly for the upper part. The familiar melody of "Ode To Joy", the theme to Beethoven's 9th Symphony, was given as an exercise, one octave lower, in Melody Guitar. In the original score, Beethoven's choral and orchestral arrangement for this melody was very titanic and very complex. The simple three part arrangement given here consists of the melody, Beethoven's own contrapuntal bass line, and an interior part which I fashioned as best I could to suit the purpose. Chopin's "Theme" is a delightful piece that makes use of some strange but curiously effective dissonant harmonies. Since this score ends with a full measure of rest, a repeat of the score requires the precise counting of beats through a prolonged period of silence. Saboly's "Touro-louro-louro", a Renaissance choral piece in Madrigal style, is one of the most challenging pieces in the entire Guitar Ensemble Core Catalog, but also one of the most rewarding.
In the Bach duet "Bouree", the upper part on several occasions sounds the note at the octave fret of the first string (the octave fret is the twelfth fret), which is well into the guitar's upper register. This piece, which demonstrates that music in a minor key doesn't always sound solemn and mournful, must be played with great rhythmic precision, and should be played in fingerstyle. Schumann's "First Loss" has been transcribed into a three part guitar ensemble arrangement in an unusual manner, and is an excellent study piece for counting out rhythms for music in 4. In a number of measures, simple two-note melodic turns are broken up between the two lower parts, with the interior part sounding notes on the second beat of the measure, and the lower part sounding notes on the third beat of the measure. In several other measures of this piece, syncopated rhythms are developed in the two lower parts. "Come, Gentle Spring" is a Haydn choral work with the characteristic sound and feel of music from the Classical period. Notice the pedal note in the uppermost part (an inverted pedal), which sounds continuously through four and a half measures toward the end of the piece. In the original score, this was in fact one long sustained note in the soprano part. Since notes cannot be sustained anywhere near as long with an acoustic guitar as with the human voice, a re-sounding of the pedal note on every main beat seemed the best possible adaptation. "Italian Folk Song" by Tchaikovsky is a very simple piece, at least for the three lower parts, which imitate the sound of a simple rhythm guitar accompaniment (interestingly, since the piece was written for the piano). Notice how the mood and flow of this music change considerably when the melody takes off on operatic-sounding runs of notes toward the end of the piece.
Two unusually long runs (one a full five measures in length, and the other more than three measures in length) figure prominently in "Air in G Major", a Handel duet. The key to interpreting this piece effectively is to play the runs in as legato a manner as possible. The melody in Grieg's "Waltz" is very Hungarian-sounding, and employs a couple of quick pull-offs for which the first note (called a grace note) is of very short duration. Notice the sharp contrast between the rhythm guitar style accompaniment developed in the first section of the piece, and the striking effect of the rhythmic unison of all four parts in the second section. Despite its name, "Chorale", like virtually all of Chopin's music, was written for the piano. Some of the harmonies in this piece sound strangely dissonant, but their intended effect becomes apparent when they resolve into more familiar-sounding harmonies. The volume concludes with "Allon, Gey Bergeres" by Costeley, a lively Renaissance choral piece which carries well in the guitar ensemble format.
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