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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 III begins with "Musette", a clever Bach duet containing syncopated rhythms, numerous damped notes, a bass line which alternates up and down in octaves, and passages in which the two parts play in unison. In the guitar ensemble transcription given here for "Fur Elise", a well known Beethoven piece, the interior part in particular is very syncopated. This is an excellent study piece for counting out rhythms for music in 3. "Come Thou Holy Spirit", a choral work by Rachmaninoff, is rather different-sounding in places, but strangely beautiful on account of that difference. Rhythmic unison of the parts (homophony) is used to good effect in this piece, which ends in a very slow final cadence. In the original notation for "Let Nothing Ever Grieve Thee", a choral composition by Brahms, the melody crosses over from the soprano part to the alto part, and then back again. This unusual feature is preserved in the guitar ensemble arrangement for this music given here. In this lovely piece, the parts weave in and out to form an interesting musical tapestry. A repeat of the score, however, reveals that the end of the piece, at least in the form in which it is given here, does not resolve very well back to the beginning. This is the only piece contained in the Guitar Ensemble Core Catalog for which that is the case.
"Aria" is a simple Bach duet that calls to mind the formal air of an early 18th century European court function. This music demands a legato interpretation, and would best be played on the guitar in fingerstyle.
"Allegro" by Haydn, on the other hand, is a very energetic and assertive piece of music, and would best be played on the guitar with a flatpick. The melody part of the guitar ensemble arrangement for this piece is the most challenging of the three parts, especially since it includes a few melodic turns that can only be played by backpicking the notes between beats (backpicking a note means sounding that note while moving the flatpick in an upward direction). Curiously enough, Schubert's "Sanctus", a slow-paced choral piece set to a religious lyric, sounds rather like a popular song. The beautiful harmonies developed in this piece can best be emphasized by playing each of the parts in as legato a manner as possible. Chopin's "Prelude" is a very effective piece in the guitar ensemble format, and should be flatpicked for the best possible effect. Backpicking is required for the notes immediately preceding beats in the duet between the top two parts. The correct timing for these notes requires a quartering of the beat.
"Bouree" by Bach is an interesting duet in which the two parts cross one another repeatedly. In Beethoven's "Trio", the passages containing simultaneously damped notes in all three parts contrast noticeably with the remainder of the piece, which is of a considerably less agitated nature. The syncopated notes in the bass part lead the music through the passages in which they are sounded, and should be emphasized accordingly. "The Wild Horseman" by Schumann is one of many piano compositions in the Guitar Ensemble Core Catalog that translates so well into the guitar ensemble format, it almost seems to have been written for guitars rather than for the piano. This piece consists of two brief melodies, the first in the top part and the second in the bass, both of which are set to simple block chord homophonic accompaniments. Like "Sanctus", "Praise Ye The Lord", a Saint-Saens choral work, does not sound like it is set to a religious lyric. This piece sounds more like inspirational music of a more secular persuasion. It is a beautifully crafted melody which, given an appropriate lyric, and possibly omitting the internal repeats, would probably make an excellent school song.
"Polonaise" by Bach, the last of the twelve duets contained in the Mixed Classical collection, is also one of the easiest and most enjoyable to play. This delightful piece features a fascinating melody, a drone bass, and a surprising final cadence to an inverted chord. For the lower of the two parts, the sixth string must be tuned down a whole step to D, an octave below the open fourth string. Mendelssohn's "Cast Thy Burden Upon The Lord" is a hymn-like choral piece that is just as pleasant and solid-sounding in the guitar ensemble format as it would be if it were sung by a choir. Actually, the damped rhythms of the bouncing cadence in the sixth measure are probably better suited to the guitar than to the human voice. "De Profundis", Latin for "Of The Deep", demonstrates that not all of Mozart's music is light and carefree, even though his lighter-hearted work is on the whole much better known. Here he has used a simple homophonic structure to express a profound musical idea by employing a gripping progression of harmonies. The "Hallelujah!" chorus concludes the second portion of Handel's "Messiah", but is normally included at the end of the first portion as well. The first portion, also called the Christmas portion, is the most frequently performed of the three portions. When "Hallelujah!" was first performed before royalty around the middle of the 18th century, the king stood in homage to this powerful music, and naturally everyone else followed suit. Thus was born the tradition of standing when this well known piece is performed in public. In the guitar ensemble arrangement given here, the key has been lowered by a whole step in order to simplify the fretting requirements for this piece, and in deference to every brave tenor who ever attempted to sing this music in the original key.
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