Recordings: Fernando Carulli

The Italian Fernando Carulli (1770 – 1841) was born in Naples and started his musical career on cello. At the age of twenty, he discovered the guitar and developed to a famous guitarist, being an autodidact. As soon as he settled down as a guitarist, het started composing and produced almost four hundred works for guitar solo and ensemble.

In 1809, he moved to Paris, the then World capital of Music. There he performed on stage, wrote compositions and enjoyed himself perfectly amongst a crowd of fans and upper-class guitar students. His presence in Paris attracted other guitarists such as Matteo Carcassi en Fernando Sor.

Besides a lot of programmatic music, Carulli composed a great number of small pieces that were perfectly suited for beginners on the guitar. Further he devised his Méthode Complète, a guitar study method that has been in use up to this time. In this way he found the gap that he experienced himself, the lack of professional guitar teaching. He founded his own publishing company in order to get his works published.

His cooperation with the luthier René Lacote led to the design of a six-string guitar that was immensely popular in those days.


The Andante by Ferdinando Carulli was once my first “longer” guitar pieces. I found it in Frederic Noad’s The Classical Guitar. SO, I have “known” Carulli for a long time.

Despite his popularity in his lifetime, Carulli has no particular spectacular reputation in the repertoire of the classical guitar like Sor, Giuliani and Aguado. His pieces often appear in collections of beginner’s repertoires such as the Carulli Brevier by Kreidler, published by the Schott publishing house.

As a result, part of his music suffers from a kind of sonatina syndrome, well-known with more advanced pianists. Sonatinas were often beginners’ pieces from the first piano lessons. Many pianists may remember Sonatinas as relatively easy pieces that nevertheless required a lot of effort to master and were less musically rewarding than the larger works.

Many people will recall the music school’s public performance evenings. I played them myself and was also present as a listener. I still remember the brave attempts of the participants to present something on stage despite their nerves. Well, on those performance evenings in the past, Carulli was a much-played composer with his Sonatina-like pieces.

Initially, I underestimated his music as well when I wanted to make recordings of it to practice for the heavier recording work. Then you notice the challenge: How do you play music that is perceived by everyone as a constantly rattling sewing machine in a way that pleases and amuses an audience?

Thus, I came across aspects that had been forgotten, such as accurate rest playing, phrasing and variation in sound. A few guitar lessons on those pieces showed unexpected performance possibilities. I am honest, I have not yet been able to process everything in the recordings, because the microphone nerves also played a role. Yet a nice set has been rolled out. Most of the pieces come from Carulli’s École de Guitare Op. 241.

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