In this section you will find a colourful collection of compositions for ensembles with guitar as accompanist. This page includes some biographical data of the composers, for the scores, refer to the Music page.
The French composer and lutenist Nicolas Vallet (ca. 1553 – 1626) was a Huguenot and was persecuted because of his belief. He avoided political problems in France after the St. Bartholomew Day in 1572, seeking refuge in Amsterdam, an imposing metropole in those days. There he established a dancing school and formed an ensemble that played at weddings and other festivities. Unfortunately, his business was not always successful, causing him to lose all his possessions including his clothing. Fortunately for him this mishap was not structural, later on the financial tide turned for the better.
In Amsterdam, Vallet published amongst others Le Secret des Muses in 1613, an interesting collection that provides a good impression of the lute culture in the Low Countries. The collection includes arrangements of popular songs, religious hymns and various dance forms.
Writing a biography of Thomas Robinson is not an easy job, because we do not have a lot of facts about his life. His life span, 1560 – 1610, is historical speculation. Fortunately, he left a few clues on the front pages of his compositions that enable to date a few facts. Thus, we know that he worked as a music instructor at the Danish court in Copenhagen and Elsinore.
His most famous work, The Schoole of Musicke, was published in 1603 and was considered a standard instructional work for instruments such as the lute, the bandore and the viola da gamba.
Schubert was the son of a teacher and received a liberal education, including singing and playing the violin, piano and organ. In 1808 he became a member of the court band and the Stadtkonvikt (also known as the still existing Wiener Sängerknaben). Soon he became orchestra leader and deputy director of the orchestra of the Stadtkonvikt.
He studied composition and contrapunto under Salieri (the made up “bad guy” from the movie Amadeus) and under his influence, Schubert started to write his first compositions (small string quartets, piano pieces and songs).
In 1813 he finished his Erste Symphonie in D major. At the end of 1813 he became assistant teacher in his father’s school. The new job stimulated composition: in this period, he composed amongst others his first Mass in F major (1814), his first important song Gretchen am Spinnrade (from Goethes Faust; 1814), the ballad Erlkönig (text by Wolfgang von Goethe, written in 1815 and one of the over 245 songs in that period), Symphonies 2 – 5 (The Fourth Symphony Tragische is best known) and the little Sonatas for violin and piano.
Because of financial support from his friends, amongst others Mayrhofer and Franz von Schober, Schubert could completely dedicate himself to music. Von Schober introduced him to the singer J.M. Vogl, who broke many a lance for Schubert’s song, the maiden performance of these songs usually occurred on music nights amongst friends, the so called Schubertiads.
Schubert had a life full of troubles. His retiring and timid nature were not advantageous for a job as a public servant. He had little luck with his applications. He experienced the sad fact that a lot of artistic fame and recognition only comes posthumously: only one of his many concerts was successful.
He died in 1828 in Vienna. After his death his music became popular, as a consequence in 1888 his body was transferred from the humble Währinger Friedhof to the Zentral Friedhof in Vienna.
Fernando Sor (1778 -1839) was born in Barcelona and was one of the leading guitar composers of the Classical Era. He had an adventurous musical life that started comparatively peacefully at the church choir of the Montserrat Convent close to Barcelona. During the reign of Napoleon, he served as a captain in the Spanish army and sided with the French emperor. The British were not amused, so Sor was forced to flee to France when the British seized power on the Iberic Peninsula. Paris became Sor’s home.
In the French capital, an active guitar scene had grown. In Paris he celebrated his greatest success as a guitarist and composer. People soon forgave him his political choices and appreciated his music. His concert tours brought him all over Europe, he even visited Russia. In his last years he was forgotten and he passed away in solitude.
In 1830 he published his didactical work Méthode Pour la Guitare, a quite advanced method for those days, that was translated in several languages.
Louis Spohr (1784 – 1859) was a German violin player and composer who competed with Niccolo Paganini for the honour of being the greatest violinist of their days. Spohr also was a friend of Ludwig van Beethoven.
Spohr was quite successful with the organisation of music festivals. As a conductor he introduced the baton (which was feared by the members of the orchestra). As a composer he conceived a large oeuvre of orchestral and chamber music, unfortunately largely forgotten nowadays.
The Spanish composer Julian Arcas (1832 – 1882) was a renowned concert guitarist in his days and composed a lot of music in the Spanish idiom. Arcas was born in Almeria and passed away in Malaga. He got his guitar lessons from his father and at his turn he was the teacher of Francisco Tarrega. Arcas himself contributed to both the classical and flamenco genres.
On one of his concert tours, Arcas played before the British royal family at the court of Queen Victoria. In 1870 Arcas called his guitar concert career quits and started an own business in Sevilla where he helped the famous luthier Antonio Torres with a few hints for his guitar design.
The musical talent of Gabriel Fauré (1845 – 1924) became obvious in his early youth. At the age of nine, he attended l’ Ecole de Musique Religieuse of Louis Niedermeyer in Paris, causing him to move from his native region in the southern part of France. Niedermeyer wanted to reform the church music in France that was rather bombastic and theatrical, his pupil Fauré would play an important role in this pursuit.
Fauré composed for piano, church organ, chamber music ensemble and choir. Besides a lot of church music, he wrote more secular works like operas and ballets.
Pjotr Ilitsj Tsjaikovski
Pjotr Ilitsj Tsjaikovski (1840 -1893) is one of the major composers from the Romatic era. He left a considerable oeuvre of orchestral works, ensembles, chamber music and choral works.
Carlos Gomes (1836-1896) was born in Campinas, near Sao Paulo. He was a very musically gifted child, so it was quite logical that his parents pushed his musical education. He studied at the Rio de Janeiro conservatory and became a celebrated opera composer. As a prize for one of his compositions, he won a study trip to Italy, the land of the Opera. His stay in Italy wone him some reputation in Europe. Unfortunately, his stay in Italy appeared to be a money pit, causing him to run off to the Brazilian state of Belem. They liked him over there and gave him the post of director of the local conservatory. He passed away in Belem in 1896.
Antonio Carlos Jobim
Antonio Carlos Jobim was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1927. He was supposed to become an architect. Music, however, tempted him and he became one of the legendary representatives of the Bossa Nova movement, although he showed a great love for Jazz as well. That yielded him the nickname Brazilian George Gershwin. Jobim became famous for the first time by his cooperation with Vinicius de Moraes and later played in and composed for many other ensembles.
The Brazilian composer Joao Pernambuco was also known as Joao Teixeira Guimaraes (1883 – 1947). At a young age he learnt to play the viola caipira, a small steel string guitar, the Brazilian national instrument and he got in touch with the music from the street. After his parents died, he landed in Recife as an orphan. Here he made a living with various jobs like a blacksmith.
In Rio de Janeiro he became well known with compositions of national musical forms like Jongos, Valses, Toadas, and Cancoes. Because he was illiterate, he had to trust that his partners scored and published his music under his name. Unfortunately, many broke this trust and quite a few top hits were published under other names, so Pernambuco did not see a penny from it. Heitor Villa Lobos helped him a bit, scoring and publishing a number of Pernambuco’s songs under the name of the composer.
Ritchie Valens (1941 – 1959) made the Mexican folk song La Bamba world famous in 1958, even though it as just a B-side of the single Donna. The song was an example of Chicano Rock, rock music with Latin-American influences. Ritchie Valens would not enjoy his fame very long, in 1959 he died in an air crash together with Buddy Holly and his band.