(Continue from Jules, why? – 2)
Giulio Regondi did not leave us a guitar method. Just for fun, I looked a bit at his New Method for the Concertina and Rudimenti del Concertinista, hoping it might give hint of his musical insights. Maybe even an explanation of why a guitar virtuoso picked up the concertina?
The preface of the New Method for the Concertina tells us a few advantages of the concertina: “chords of 8 notes are easy” and the “florid counterpoint in two or three parts”. As a keyboard instrument, florid counterpoint is expected, but how big of a chord did he want to play? Let’s look at the some diatonic scale harmonization:
And a harmonization of the chromatic scale:
Would Regondi have included these rule of the octave exercises had he written a guitar treatise?
An important feature of the concertina is the layout of the notes:
As shown above, one would alternate between two hands to play a scale – downward stems are played by the left hand, and upward stems by the right. This “divides between the two hands the work which on other instruments must be done by one hand, hence the capability of the Concertina for rapid execution, for extended intervals and for the endless combinations of three, four and more simultaneous parts.”
This reminded me of the kora, a West African lute-harp that also divide notes into two sides, and just like a concertina, a complete scale is played by alternating notes from the two sides. Going along the train of non-Western instruments, the concertina also has a Chinese connection. The sheng, a Chinese free-reed instrument, was presented at an exhibition in Paris in 1780, and this might have kicked started a trend in Europe to create free reed instruments, such as the harmonica, accordion, and of course, the concertina (check out this clip, about 4 minutes into the program). The article, How the Sheng became a Harp by Carmel Raz discussed in details about the introduction of the sheng into Europe in 18th century (as well as how the Chinese origin of sheng being obscured).
Back to Regondi’s method – after the preface, and paragraphs on how to hold the instrument and producing good tone, the method mentions: “… the peculiar charm of the Concertina is sweetness, delicacy, and flexibility of expression…” What would Regondi have said about the guitar?
A good portion of the method then gets into scale and short harmonic progressions in each major and minor key, not unlike a standard guitar method:
The next section discusses enharmonic keys on a concertina, which produces pretty graphics like this one:
Like many 19th century guitar methods, Regondi’s concertina method devoted a section into the studies of thirds, sixths, octaves, and tenths. The stem directions make these exercises pretty for the eyes, but chaotic for the player:
The same goes for exercises in contrary motion:
What about a page full of contrary motion exercises?
Following the mechanical exercises are etudes that work on sustained note, clarity of voices, ornaments, and staccato. The section on bellow management is interesting, as Regondi explains changing the bellow at the right time is analogous to singers taking breathes in singing. There was a tradition for instrumentalists to learn from singers, and Robert Schumann’s Advice to Young Musicians included a few vocal-related tips (what makes him say #38 though?):
12- Endeavour, even with a poor voice, to sing at first sight without the aid of the instrument; by these means your ear for music will constantly improve.
13- In case you are endowed with a good voice, do not hesitate a moment to cultivate it; considering it at the same time as the most valuable gift which heaven has granted you!
31- Do not miss an opportunity of practising music in company with others; as for example in Duets, Trios, etc.; this gives you a flowing and elevated style of playing, and self-possession.—Frequently accompany singers.
33 – Love your peculiar instrument, but be not vain enough to consider it the greatest and only one. Remember that there are others as fine as yours. Remember also that singers exist, and that numbers, both in Chorus and Orchestra, produce the most sublime music; therefore do not overrate any Solo.
38 – From vocalists you may learn much, but do not believe all that they say.
44 – Frequently sing in choruses, especially the middle parts, this will help to make you a real musician.
47 – Become in early years well informed as to the extent of the human voice in its four modifications. Attend to it especially in the Chorus, examine in what tones its highest power lies, in what others it can be employed to affect the soft and tender passions.
51- Do not neglect to attend good Operas.
On the last page of the method, Regondi provided another vocal-related remark, specifically regarding the vibrato:
“A continuous quivering of the sound during a melody has become prevalent among certain players who perhaps imagine that by imitating in this manner the tremulousness of voice in which so many singers of the present day indulge to a lamentable degree, they are playing ”with feeling.” It must be carefully avoided by all who aim at purity of style and truth of expression.”
Thanks to recording technology, we can get a glimpse of 19th century performance practice. My favorite of such recordings include Joseph Joachim’s rendition of Bach’s Adagio from the G minor Solo Violin Sonata BWV 1001, Joachim performing his own Romance in C , and Adelita Patti’s singing Ah Non Credea Mirarti. Compared to today (or, 20th century?), the 19th century vibrato sounds more like a “trebling voice”, with a more rapid and narrow pulsation. Regondi seemed to have not enjoyed the vibrato in his own time. I wonder what would he think of the modern day vibrato?
The Rudimenti Del Concertinista is a slightly shorter method. Unlike the method, the Rudimenti included etudes and pieces by famous composers that were adapted for the concertina. One of these etudes is for tremolo (he sure loved tremolo…):
Another of these etudes has really long and winding phrase markings (!):
The last etude from the Rudimenti is one of an expansive fugue by Bach, from his C Major Solo Violin Sonata (London Bridge is Falling Down…), BWV 1005. My only question here is… did Regondi play Bach on the guitar?
I tried playing some of these concertina pieces from the method and Rudimenti on the guitar. I could only make one work: an Andante from p.29 of the method. I would like to thank the local Rochester luthier Bernie Lehman for lending me one of his replicas of Louis Panormo to make this recording.