Saturday, November 6, 2010

10-String Guitar Recital

My friend Stanley Alexandrowicz will be playing a guitar recital 8 p.m. Saturday Nov. 13 at the Paul Robeson Center for the Arts, 102 Witherspoon St., Princeton. The program consists of half 19th Century music and half more recent works. One of the first things that interested me about Stanley when I met him over 20 years ago was his rigorous scholarship, a seemingly fathomless curiosity and knowledge of guitar repertoire and classical music history in general. Performing with him--either in historical or newly written music, sometimes even my own--is always a thrill.

In this concert, he'll be using a 10-string guitar favored by many 19th century guitar virtuosos. I had never heard of such thing until he brought it up recently. He sent me an explanation that he had prepared for other curious musicians and I'm including some excerpts here:
By the mid 1830's MOST of the virtuoso guitar composers were adding a string or two for enhanced harmonic/sonic possibilities. … By the END of the Romantic period, nearly ALL of the great virtuoso guitar composers had found that ten strings would serve their needs. … As I explored the 19th C. repertoire, I realized that MANY of these pieces just don't "sound right" on the modern guitar. For example, one piece I found ONLY needed a low D as part of its structure—but if I tuned the sixth string [normally tuned to E] TO low D, the fingerings to get the low E were impossible! So with ten one can have all the options.
Stanley goes on to talk about how this style, used by guitar builders of the "Viennese/Russian" school, was overshadowed by the popularity of the Spanish style guitar, largely due to the influence of world-acclaimed virtuoso Andres Segovia.
Even the SIZE of the guitar fingerboard was influenced—Segovia had big, FAT fingers, so a wide … fingerboard became standard.
But with the rise of interest in historical accuracy, guitarists are rethinking the reliance on the 6-string model and finding that some of the 19th Century compositions really require the extra low strings. He also implies that the interior construction, and thus the sound of the instrument generally, is better than the Spanish model.

Composers on Stanley's Nov. 13 program include Ivan Padovec, Napoleon Coste, Witold Lutaslowski, Vaclav Kucera and Manuel Ponce. For more information call 609-924-8777 or visit The Arts Council of Princeton website.

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