Thank you for dignifying my rant with your intelligent and thoughtful comments.
Indeed, the first question you ask is what was the composer's intention. With publishers, you never know. Leo Brouwer supposes that Eschig's nephew edited and fingered his editions (plus the copyist's mistakes). When you see Leo, ask him for the corrections to the Estudios, it's surprising which are the bad notes. With Eschig, if Segovia's name wasn't on it, no one would have bought it (even if it was the only edition at the time), especially Segovia. I guess the way to go would be to find a facsimile of the original score. Who knows if Villa-Lobos actually wrote "Allegro non troppo"?
And even if you find the facsimile, who knows how much of the edition was later approved by the composer? Have you ever seen the original, handwritten version of the Martin "Quatra Brevis Pieces"? Eliot Fisk got it and played it for us one year, he let me have a copy. The original is nothing like the published version; but the publisher and the artist that Martin worked with (Was that Karl Scheit?) put a real effort into collaborating with the composer -- putting it on the guitar and developing the composer's musical ideas. It wasn't some random event. You have to assume that the later, published edition is the final approved one.
And the Duarte "English Suite". Segovia made up his own version, even though he knew nothing about English folk melodies. Of course Duarte had to go along with it, English Suite was his ticket. But when the English hear Segovia's English Suite, they choke. Who do you believe? Better play the Segovia... Unless your teacher is English, from Manchester. Then, you better learn both.
With Villa-Lobos, you have to assume a certain level of respect. But, if you've ever been interviewed for a newspaper article, you know that you are lucky if they just get the spelling of your name right. Who knows where "Allegro non troppo" came from. Or if they even had a metronomic concept in mind: in 1920, rhythm was much more fluid (and sophisticated), a concept of time that seems strange to us now. These days, everything has to be note-perfect and beat-perfect; and virtuosic. They lived in a different world.
And who do you believe? I studied the Preludes with Rey de la Torre. The fact is, Rey was the only guitarist who ever played the Preludes for Villa-Lobos. You have to assume that what Rey plays is approved by the composer or in some way reflects the composers wishes. However, what they they say is: "Villa-Lobos didn't say anything when Rey played for him; so you have to just assume that he liked it".
I had the same experience when I played the Aranjuez for Rodrigo. He didn't say much (except, "more sound!", what every guitar player lives for: "put it on 11!"). But his wife was there, she liked it, that says something, he wrote it for her. So when I play Prelude No. 1, I am married to Rey's fingerings, articulations, tempos, dynamics and phasing: what I have to do is find these things in myself. With the Aranjuez, I have to assume that I was on the right track and not stray too far.
As noted, I made a slip and typed Prelude instead of Etude. In the old American Institute for the Guitar, in NYC, someone had put up a sign "Remember, NO PRELUDE 1!", a reference to the "Remember, NO STAIRWAY!" sign in Wayne's World. Personally, I like Stairway. It is an eighteen-page piece that takes about twelve weeks to teach, a page a week, more or less. I use the the original 1972 edition. And, a big plus, I don't have to think-- just count. You just get an extra stand or spread it out on the floor. [That is 12 weeks x $__/hr = ... a new set of tires! Good ol' Stairway.]
You try typing the complete sequencing to V-L Etude No. 1, see if you can remember your name by the time you finish. But, I think this makes my point:
1) the sequencing is continuous. I like the way flameproof divides it into beats, pipi pmia maim pipi. But don't just practice the beats, practice across the beat, connecting. If the fingers don't come out before they are needed, you are always behind the impulse, the attack is always late. This gives a very spooky and disturbing unarticulated sound that most guitarists don't seem to mind. I must be the only one who can't stand to listen to an unarticulated sound, namely most guitar playing. The top five players in the world seem to agree on this, why can't we?
2) the sequencing is so elaborate that we are almost better off playing p-i-p-i. But, for some reason, Villa-Lobos specifies, in the only fingerings given the entire volume, pipi pmia maim pipi. What was he thinking? What was I thinking?
I was thinking that there is a concept called "Latin American". Villa-Lobos' is considered "Latin American". Latin America does not exist on the map. It is what happens when you combine a European instrument with classical traditions with indigenous Indian sounds and rhythms of the African Diaspora. In religion, this is called "voodoo", when you combine religions. The film Black Orpheus (Orfeu Negro), directed by Marcel Camus (1959), from the play Orfeu da Conceição by Brazilian poet Vinicius de Moraes, which retells the Greek story of Orpheus during the Rio de Janeiro carnival -- sort of a Halloween when the world and underworld are closest and the door sometimes opens -- combines elements in this way. And whoever composed the title song knew of the music of Villa-Lobos.
[I had an idea for a Master's thesis on the music of Ginastera, the Latin American effect in terms of this sort of voodoo, how the three cultures form the Art of the Fantastic. There is a wonderful pianist, a Ginastera student, in town. But they wanted me to take more guitar lessons, like I hadn't had enough guitar lessons, nine summers with Oscar Ghiglia, seven years with my teacher. I thought the music was more interesting. How you play it on the guitar is just an overlay. But they thought I needed more lessons. Like a Bachelor's with 150 credits on it isn't worth anything. What do I need a Master's for? I can hire Masters. I have eighteen of them, even some Julliard's.] But, I digress...
Villa-Lobos came from a normal family that wished he would go into a normal field of work, like doctor or lawyer. It was the fourteen year-old Villa-Lobos (correct me if I'm off, this is a parable that I use to get my students onboard with Villa-Lobos; we call these "Kevin-factoids", at my house) who ran off to learn guitar from the gypsies. I expect when they gave up on the doctor-lawyer thing, he had to learn his counterpoint, but it was overlaid on the native sounds, sounds found "in nature". Villa-Lobos could actually play the Etudes, slowly, an accomplishment for anyone. In Latin America, there exists what is called "The Art of the Fantastic", something that could be but seems impossible. This is found in the literature, fine arts -- and in the music of Villa-Lobos.
Etude No. 1 in Em seems to incorporate the impressionism of Debussy (listen to La Mer, waves of sound; the unifying device is that each wave repeats) with folk sounds, I-IV-V7 harmonies as well as gypsy/jazz sounds, and African drumming sounds -- interesting cross-rhythms set against the four-four counting. AND THEN, overlay these sound ideas on top of the guitar right hand -- with its quirks and seemingly overcomplicated kinesthetic tendencies -- and you come up with a real can of worms. If you had to learn the fourteen steps of the articulated sound I outlined above, you would take up the banjo. [See, the banjo joke isn't even funny anymore.] That's why, by the time you get to Etude No. 1, you hope to have learned your sequencing. So the only time you have to look down there is when you start missing notes. And, lastly,
3) it is so much fun to play, who cares.
I had a Brazilian student, a seventeen year-old named Luciano, who played the Fourth Lute Suite of Bach for me. I never told Luciano how to play his music. In the conservatory, they never tell you how to play. You are expected to be a mature adult and do your job of applying the unwritten conventions of articulation, dynamics and phrasing as implied in the score. And if you are someone like me, who "plays from the heart" [Thank you, Dr. Paranov.] they respect the music too much to try to bend you from your path. But when I drove Luciano to Hartford to take a lesson from my teacher, when I thought he was ready, Luciano came out saying, "He told me that I was playing my samba rhythms and that the secret of Bach was free counterpoint played in four-four time." Oscar calls these "handfuls of jems", free counterpoint outside of time, played in time. That was a lesson for both of us, but it was not my job to tell Luciano how to play, just to get him ready. Besides, I had to leave something for the next guy. And Luciano was having so much fun, I didn't have the heart to take wind out of his sails, left that for someone else.
What I find interesting in this discussion is the references to Diaz and Carlevaro. That sort of legend will be lost to the next generation. Who cares about what I have to say, let's hear more about them.
I have to get some lunch now, will attack this post again later. Thanks for listening.
Kevin Collins, Amherst, Mass, USA All rights reserved.