Online Exhibits@Yale

Guitarists and Guitar Music

Dame en Habit De Chambre

Guitar Iconography Collection



Dame en Habit De Chambre
Tinted engraving
[18th century?]

This tinted engraving of an unknown musician is one of three items on display from the Guitar Iconography Collection, which comprises four boxes of images of lutes, guitars, and banjos, as well as the musicians who played them, ranging from baroque engravings to sheet music covers and magazine illustrations from the 19th and 20th centuries. Although the majority of the musicians depicted are men, a significant number of female guitarists also appear. The original source of this engraving is unknown.

Letter to Giovanni Ricordi

Miscellaneous Letters and Documents Collection

Mauro Giuliani
Letter to Giovanni Ricordi
October 13, 1827

Mauro Giuliani (1781–1829) was an Italian guitarist and composer. This letter is addressed to his publisher, Giovanni Ricordi (1785–1853). Giuliani complains—at great length—that Ricordi has neglected to answer his two previous letters, and that he has failed to fulfill a variety of promises, such as sending Giuliani twelve copies of each of the Giuliani works he has published. Giuliani discusses his future publications (and the payment he expects) and his dealings with other publishers, and he acts as an intermediary for another composer named Mascia (perhaps Giuseppe Mascia, 1808–ca. 1870).

Our summary of this letter is based on a complete translation by Mauro Calcagno (Yale Ph.D. 2000), Associate Professor of Music at the University of Pennsylvania.

Giovanni Ricordi was the founder of a major music publishing dynasty. Over the next century, the Ricordi firm published famous works by Donizetti, Bellini, Meyerbeer, Verdi, and Puccini, among others.

Unidentified musicians

Guitar Iconography Collection

Unidentified musicians
[19th century?]

This photograph is one of three items on display from the Guitar Iconography Collection, which comprises four boxes of images of lutes, guitars, banjos, and the musicians who played them. A striking number of the images from the 19th and early 20th centuries associate the guitar with African American, Latino, or Muslim musicians, who are frequently portrayed in ways that now seem condescendingly exotic or openly racist. The photograph displayed here is thus an interesting outlier; it depicts an eminently respectable group of well-dressed and apparently prosperous white musicians—probably a family at home—that includes a guitarist.

Arrangement of J.S. Bach, Sarabande, from unaccompanied violin partita in B minor

Misc. Ms. 342
O’Meara and Plamenac Funds

Andrés Segovia
Arrangement of J.S. Bach, Sarabande,
from unaccompanied violin partita in B minor
From a collection of guitar transcriptions by Segovia
(Manuscript, mostly from the early 1920s)

Andrés Segovia (1893–1987) was the most celebrated classical guitarist of the early and mid-20th century. Famous around the world for his concerts and recordings, Segovia enlarged the guitar repertoire with many commissions and arrangements. This manuscript contains one original composition by Segovia, as well as his transcriptions of works by Bach, Handel, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Franck, Kreisler, MacDowell, and Moreno Torrola. We have chosen to display his arrangement of the Sarabande from Bach’s Partita No. 1 for unaccompanied violin, BWV 1002.
This is not the only Segovia material in the Gilmore Library’s special collections. We also have a set of letters between Segovia and the guitarist Sophocles Papas, as well as manuscripts of works composed for Segovia by Villa-Lobos (displayed in this exhibit), Castelnuovo-Tedesco, and Ponce.

Estudo No. 5

Misc. Ms. 396

Heitor Villa-Lobos
Estudo No. 5
(Manuscript, 1929)

The eminent Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887–1959) played the guitar himself, and guitar works are a major part of his output. The Estudo (that is, Etude) No. 5, composed in 1929 and dedicated to Andrés Segovia, is an example. Three decades later, Villa-Lobos wrote a guitar concerto for Segovia.


Misc. Ms. 429
Schweitzer and Friedman Funds

Jack Vees
for Ben Verdery
(+ classical practice guitar w/dig. delay)
(Manuscript, 1998)

Jack Vees (b. 1955) is a composer, bass guitarist, and the Director of the Yale Center for Studies in Music Technology. He wrote Strummage for a special practice guitar that consists of little more than a wooden stick, strings, and a pickup. It lacks the usual resonating chamber, but Vees provides for a very different sort of resonance: a digital delay of 18 seconds. The delay repeats the music twice, making a solo performance sound like a guitar trio. Dynamics are controlled by a volume pedal. The manuscript includes computer-generated musical notation as well as handwritten instructions and diagrams.
Vees is one of many composers—including several from Yale—who have written pieces for Benjamin Verdery, Professor of Guitar at the Yale School of Music. Verdery released a recording of Strummage on a compact disc called Soe-Pa, which takes its name from a work by Ingram Marshall, former Professor of Composition at the Yale School of Music. The Gilmore Music Library holds the manuscripts for both Strummage and Soe-Pa.

Guitarists and Guitar Music