Narciso Yepes plays Joaquín Rodrigo’s Fantasía para un Gentilhombre

Spanish guitarist Narciso Yepes plays Joaquín Rodrigo’s Fantasía para un Gentilhombre (English translation: Fantasia for a Gentleman); Madrid, 1987. A beautiful interpretation.

Yepes is using his ten-string guitar here.

Movement 1. Villano y ricercar

The first movement opens with the melodic Villano that passes back and forth between the solo guitarist and the orchestra repeatedly. This is the form of the other movements of the work. The music also hints subtly at themes used in the subsequent movements. The second part of the first movement, called Ricercare, is a short piece contrasting with Villano and entirely based on a two-bar phrase, repeated in the form of a complex fugue or ricercare.

Movement 2. Españoleta y fanfarria de la caballería de Nápoles

The second movement returns to a more lyrical theme with the Españoleta, which has a particularly haunting tune with rich accompaniment of the strings. The contrasting middle section of this movement, Fanfare de la Cabellería de Nápoles (Fanfare for the Cavalry of Naples), brings in rapid, discordant drum beats along with the accompaniment of the guitar and spectral fanfares for trumpet and flute. The Españoleta is then reprised to conclude the movement.

Movement 3. Danza de las hachas

The third movement, Danza de las Hachas (Dance of the Axes), has an energetic dance beat, largely supported by a crescendo from the orchestra. This lively, short movement is in effect an interlude linking the more mournful part of the Fantasía with the more up-beat final movement.

Movement 4. Canario

The fourth movement, Canario, brings in music that Sanz wrote in the style of a folk dance originating in the Canary Islands. Rodrigo pays homage to the music’s origins by imitating a bird call toward the end of the movement even though the Canary Islands were so named because of the wild dogs prevalent there (canis) and not because of birds (canaries). The movement was covered by Emerson, Lake & Palmer for their 1978 album Love Beach.

Fantasía para un Gentilhombre is a concerto for guitar and orchestra by the Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo. The concerto is Rodrigo’s second most popular work after the famous Concierto de Aranjuez.

The concerto contains four movements: 1- Villano y ricercar, 2- Españoleta y fanfarria de la caballería de Nápoles, 3- Danza de las hachas, 4- Canario. They were based on six short dances for solo guitar by the 17th-century Spanish composer Gaspar Sanz[1], taken from a three-volume work (1674, 1675, 1697) now commonly known as Instrucción de música sobre la guitarra española (Musical Instruction on the Spanish Guitar) (Donis 2005:75). Most of the movements retain the names that Sanz originally gave them. Rodrigo expanded on Sanz’s themes to produce a work lasting more than 20 minutes.

In 1964, Yepes performed the Concierto de Aranjuez with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, premièring the ten-string guitar, which he invented in collaboration with the renowned guitar maker José Ramírez III.

The instrument made it possible to transcribe works originally written for baroque lute without deleterious transposition of the bass notes. However, the main reason for the invention of this instrument was the addition of string resonators tuned to C, A#, G#, F#, which resulted in the first guitar with truly chromatic string resonance – similar to that of the piano with its sustain/pedal mechanism.

After 1964, Yepes used the ten-string guitar exclusively.

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Notes


[1] Gaspar Sanz (1640–1710) was an Aragonese composer, guitarist, organist and priest born to a wealthy family in Calanda in the comarca of Bajo Aragón, Spain. He studied music, theology and philosophy at the University of Salamanca, where he was later appointed Professor of Music. He wrote three volumes of pedagogical works for the baroque guitar that form an important part of today’s classical guitar repertory and have informed modern scholars in the techniques of baroque guitar playing.

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