Mauro Giuliani – 24 Exercises for Guitar, op. 48, complete preface by Brian Jeffery

Mauro Giuliani (1781-1829) was one of the most brilliant guitarists of his time and a fine composer for the instrument. He lived in Vienna in the time of Schubert and Beethoven, as well as in Italy.

These 24 Exercises for the guitar, op. 48, are among the best known of his works and a fine collection. They come from that tremendous period in Giuliani’s life when he had just arrived in Vienna. They are brilliant in every way: every piece is intensely musical, uses the resources of the instrument fully, and every note counts, nothing is wasted. Consider, for example, the subtlety and beauty of no. 15.

Like Carcassi’s 25 Etudes op. 60, the collection can be seen as a whole, because it uses contrasting keys from piece to piece and because it builds up to a grand climax at the end of the last piece. But it is perfectly acceptable to play the pieces as individual items.

The Esercizio was first published in Vienna in mid-1813, under the title of Esercizio per la chitarra, contenente 24 pezzi della maggiore difficoltà, diversi preludi, passaggi, ed assolo (Exercise for the guitar, containing 24 pieces of the greatest difficulty, including various preludes, passaggi, and solo pieces).

It is extremely interesting that the original title-page says that the pieces are not merely exercises as solo pieces, but that they include “preludi, passaggi”, that is to say, music which can be played as a prelude to something else, or as a “passage” from one item to another. Passaggio is a technical term which is practically untranslatable, meaning a piece which shows some conspicuous or brilliant feature, modulation, or ornamentation or decoration.

The original edition gives quite a lot of position indications and some open strings, but no other fingering. This is an economical type of fingering. For example, the first note of no. 11 is marked “II”, which must mean that the note is to be stopped with the fourth finger on the fifth string, because otherwise there would be no purpose in the indication. In this edition, no changes have been made to the original fingering, and no new fingering has been added.

Usually in this music a dot on a note does not mean staccato, but rather not slurred. It usually appears on a note which immediately precedes or follows a group of slurred notes and distinguishes it from them, to indicate that it is to be plucked separately and not slurred. A fine example of its use is in no. 4, where the distinction between slurred and unslurred notes is very carefully notated and is essential to the interpretation of the piece. Sometimes the dot becomes a wedge, but whereas in some piano music of the time there is indeed a distinction between dot and wedge, in the case of this music of Giuliani there appears to be no difference in sense: rather, it seems that it was just a vagary of engravers’ practice.

The dynamics in opus 48 are interesting and very carefully notated, very practical and specific. See for example the carefully marked crescendo and diminuendo in no. 2, and the sfs in no. 6 and in no. 7 bars 16-19. In this edition, the original dynamics have all been kept.

No. 5: the slash in the final chord may mean that it is to be arpeggiated.

No. 6 is very like Giuliani’s Studio op. 1, part one, no. 17, which is specifically marked to be played with the right hand thumb and index finger only, so this piece also is probably intended to be played in that way.

No. 14, bars 7-8: this passage, going up to the very top of the compass and then down to the bass, reminds one of violin music.

No. 16 is very similar to a passage at the end of the guitar part of the first movement of Giuliani’s first concerto in A op. 30.

No. 24 bar 10: the words “col dito pollice” mean with the right hand thumb. This is too obvious to apply to the bass notes. Therefore it applies to the upper notes, that is to say in this bar play the C (the first upper note) with the right hand thumb and thereafter all the Cs in this bar, and similarly in the next bars.
In no. 24 the final bars are long drawn out, perhaps to bring this collection to an end as a whole. This would give support to the idea of performing op. 48 as a whole. These final bars are rather similar to, and in the same key as, the end of Giuliani’s Grande Ouverture op. 61 of a few years later.

For more studies by Giuliani, please see his Complete Studies published by Tecla (TECLA 0105).

The music of this edition was engraved by Alexander V. Trukhin.

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Copyright 2006 by Tecla Editions. Errors and omissions excepted.