#58 Ernest Shand

The guitar has always been my true love, and although I have been having an affair with the mandolin in the past few years, I just can’t help myself and fell in love with the Portugues guitar. As I was busying looking for the method, A Complete Method for Portuguese Guitarra by Havelock on the interweb (anyone has a copy to share?), a short biography of the late romantic English guitarist, Ernest Shand, just pop out of nowhere – he was introduced in Strings, A Fiddler’s Magazine (October, 1895), as Shand has just been “appointed an examiner of the Guild of Violinists.” I like this bio a lot. It describes a young Shand while he was still alive. It mentioned about how he learned the instrument, pieces he studied, and his score collection, and his notable performances. He was also still writing his method.

GUITARISTS, at least those who can really be called such, may be counted on the fingers of one hand, and amongst contemporary artists, the subject of our sketch must surely take a high place as a performer and teacher of a beautiful instrument now rarely heard in our concert rooms.

I say heard advisedly, because the guitar as now played by the majority of students, principally young ladies, is treated as hardly anything more than a toy, as in most cases a few chords, as a rule tonic and dominant, are relegated to it as an accompaniment to an easy song.

Mr. Ernest Shand who was born in Hull on January 31st, 1868, us a guitarist of no mean order. At an early age he studied the violin, but discontinued it after six years of practice. In 1886 he adopted the stage as his profession, and it was during that period that he first took up the guitar. His father taught him the rudiments of the instrument, but beyond that he has never had a master; perseverance and assiduous practice have been the only ones.

Having previously studied harmony and laid down a method of practicing, he devoted four hours a day to the instruments, his profession occupying nearly all the rest of his time. Like many amateurs he tried to begin at the end instead of the beginning, and having found in a music shop Aguado’s Rondos, op. 1 (3 sonatas, about the most difficult compositions ever written for the guitar), yet not knowing at that time that anything easier was to be had, he determined to master these beautiful, but difficult compositions.

His thirst for more music grew apace, and finding that Messrs. Schott and Co. published a list, he soon added these to his store, thus extending his knowledge of the capabilities of the instrument.

About this time he met Mme. Pratten, and it was by her advice that he studied more closely tone and expression; for hitherto execution had been his sole aim.

Mr. Shand has studied the works of Giuliani, Aguado, Sor, Regondi, and all the classical masters, and advises every student of the guitar, who would play it as an instrument and not a toy, to do likewise. He has a large collection of music for the guitar, including Giuliani’s three concertos for guitar and string quartette, or piano, which are now out of print. He has composed a large number of compositions for the guitar, eleven of which will shortly be issued by Messrs. Schott and Co. His first “air varie,” and arrangement of “Songe d’amour,” are published by Messrs. Schott and Bosworth, respectively.

Mr. Shand is now writing a method for the guitar on entirely new lines for beginners, which he believes will be of very great help in removing those obstacles so formidable to young students.

He has played in public at the Winter Gardens, Buxton; Pavilion, Southport; and the Siciety of Artists’, Birmingham. The Birmingham Post, of May 27th, 1895, said:- “He is an artist who exhibits remarkable skill in his solos.”

Mr. Shand has just been appointed an examiner of the Guild of Violinists.

#57 The Lick

Made some long drives over the weekend with my buddy Mike, and as the driver, he also had full control of what we listened to. He showed me a live reggae show that he enjoys: Rockpalast Live 2019 by Richie Spice and the Element Band. While I loved how tight the band and the arrangement was, my biggest question was: did Richie Spice know about “the lick” too?

In my undergraduate years, the famous (or infamous) video of the lick came out. That’s where I learn about the very cool song Baby Come Back by the Players. In music, “a lick” is a short melodic idea. There is much discussion on the differences between a lick and a riff on the interweb. I don’t have a conclusive answer but it seems to be a consensus that a lick is usually used in passing in a solo (such as Chick Cirea’s solo in Spain (right at 6:11-12), whereas a riff tends to be a recognizable part of a song (like the melodic hook you think of when I say Smoke on the Water)

“The lick” is a particular melodic idea that is so commonly used by (mainly jazz) musicians, to the point that someone could make a (fun) video out of it. And ever since I have watched the video, I can’t help but notice it whenever “the lick” is being used. I have even joined The Lick Facebook page and contributed a few times of my own discovery from listening.

Santana’s Oye Como Va is a famous song that used “the lick” prominently as the main part of the composition. So is that the lick being used as a riff?

Back to the first question: I doubt Richie Spice knows about the lick. It’s probably his good musical sense that helped him hear and develop this little melody that “expands the same tone” with a nice contour: ascends by steps, descends by two skips, but over shoot, so that it ascends back up by step, which happens to bring the melody back to the open note. You can here Richie Spice used “the lick” as an ad-lib vocal filler in between lyrics to full effect.

My favorite “discovery” of the lick usage is of course from the classical guitar literature: measure 54-55 of Cancion, the third movement of Suite Venezolana by Venezuelan composer Antonio Lauro:

I know it’s a stretch, and Lauro probably didn’t know “the lick”, but I can’t help it!

#55 Adagio from Concierto de Aranjuez

From RoboCop (2014). Early on in the movie, a guitarist tried out his newly installed robot-arms. He was playing the Adagio from the Concierto de Aranjuez, by Joaquín Rodrigo. Apparently, the robot-arms don’t work if emotions are evoked. But how does one play without emotions?

Listening to Leo Brouwer’s arrangement of the Adagio (second movement) of the Concierto de Aranjuez (from the collaborative album Leo Brower Con Irakere), I was reminded of two arrangements of the same piece performed by jazz musicians: Concierto de Aranjuez (Adagio) by Miles Davis (on his album, Sketches of Spain, arranged by Gil Evans); and Spain by Chick Corea. In my junior (or sophomore?) year, I played a non-degree recital, and put together a quartet of friends – a bassist, a pianist, a percussionist, and myself – to play Spain. We basically did the Chick Corea version: began with the Adagio as an introduction, then launched into the main part of the song.

I have never looked up other versions of the Adagio, but sure enough, it has been rearranged numerous times. I went through a few versions listed on Wikipedia. The Modern Jazz Quartet rendition (with Laurindo Almeida as soloist) stays fairly close to the original, as is the one by jazz harpist Dorothy Ashby. Ashby’s version intrigues me though, as she played the whole piece as a harp solo. Buckethead’s simple arrangement lets the melody takes its course, but listening to Santana wailing over a reggae one-drop is interesting to say the least…

Of course, I would have to include the effortless performance by Paco de Lucía. Unlike all the other recordings, Paco de Lucía performed the complete concerto (not just the Adagio), and apparently learned the whole piece by ear.

And there are two versions I would like to mention that are not on the Wikipedia list: the first one is by the Brazilian guitarist Dilermando Reis. On top of playing a steel string guitar, Reis took a “Liberace” approach and shortened the movement to merely four minutes. Contemporary guitarist Don Ross also played the Adagio on a steel string guitar, but in addition, he had Carlo Domeniconi turning pages, and gave a “finger style treatment” to the cadenza!

#53 Leo Brower con Irakere

Visited the Bop Shop the other day, and thought I would spend some time to dig through the classical guitar and “world” sections. It turned out I did not check any classical guitar records at all, because there were already too many cool “world” records I would like to buy. Of the 4 records I purchased (out of 9 that I picked out originally), I was most enthused by this one – who can say no to a jazz record by Leo Brower (sic)?

I spent some time googling around to confirm there isn’t a musician with such a similar name to the maestro. Perhaps it’s a clever publicity trick for a musician to make some quick money? There’s gotta be something I don’t understand here…

It’s not the first time I saw the maestro’s name mispelled. And speaking of mispelling, I was one lucky bidder of the beautiful Casiotone CT 701 many years ago. I got this keyboard a lot cheaper than its usual price, because the seller mislabelled “701” as “710” on Ebay. I still have the keyboard (as one friend puts it, never sell any gear you own), and hope to use it in my future synth band.

Back to the album – everything aside from the misspelling is terrific – the lineup, musical selections, and arrangements. There are some classical guitar music being rearranged into a band format (such as Canario, Danza Caracaterística, La Catedral) , but this album from 1978 is just otherworldly. Every piece evolves unexpectedly, and I can’t really explain too much. Here is a documentary, with footages of the concert (this album must be the complete recording). Brouwer was shredding on Aranjuez, and conducting with his guitar in hand!

Here is a brief info about the album.

#52 Jules, why? – 3

(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:

Rudimenti, p.23

And a harmonization of the chromatic scale:

Rudimenti, p.24

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:

Method, p.3

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:

Method, p.5

The next section discusses enharmonic keys on a concertina, which produces pretty graphics like this one:

Method, p.9

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:

Method, p.13

The same goes for exercises in contrary motion:

Method, p.18-19

What about a page full of contrary motion exercises?

Rudimenti, p.20

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…):

Rudimenti, p.36

Another of these etudes has really long and winding phrase markings (!):

Rudimenti, p.38

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.

#51 Obituaries for Giulio Regondi from The Musical World

Below are two obituaries of Giulio Regondi published in The Musical World on May 18, 1872 (p.315) and May 25, 1872 (p.332) respectively. The original is actually quite readable. I just typed it out for my own reading convenience.

May 18, 1872

It is almost two years since the above well-known name was no longer met with in concert announcements, nor its amiable bearer’s gentle face seen in those places, where formerly his exquisite talent delighted every one. The great artist is no more – he died on Monday, the 6th inst., after a severe and painful illness of more than eighteen months’ duration. Giulio Regondi’s unrivalled talent will not be forgotten by those who had the good fortune to hear him play; to others. It will become manifest by many of the compositions he has left. Giulio Regondi would have been a great performer on whatever instrument he might have chosen for the expression of his thorough musical mind; his refined taste would have elevated the poorest medium for the production of musical sounds. Neither the guitar nor the concertina are concert instruments which could be considered graceful; but, in his hands, they spoke with an eloquence never to be forgotten. We only will refer to his charming concertina solo, “Les Oiseaux,” which he used to perform so often to admiring audiences. Giulio Regondi’s talent was manifested very early. He played at public concerts when he was only ten years of age. Some few years later, he was travelling with his friend, Joseph Lidel, in Germany, where they played at Darmstadt, Frankfort, Carlsruhe, and then went to Vienna, playing repeatedly at the Imperial Court, besides giving, with immense success, twelve concerts, in which the son of Mozart also assisted. Not less enthusiastic was Signor Regondi’s reception in Prague, and afterwards in Dresden. That in England he was on musical tours with many of the greatest artists, is well known. He was of the kindliest disposition, ever ready to acknowledge talent in others; and many were the occasions on which his own talent generously assisted any good and charitable object. Signor Giulio Regondi’s funeral took place last Saturday at Kensal Green Cemetery. According to his own particular wish, it was conducted in the simplest manner, in the presence of only a few intimate friends of the deceased. Three mourning coaches accompanied his remains, from his residence in Portman Place, to Kensal Green Cemetery. The mourners were: – Father White (his confessor), Mr. Binfield, Mr. Gaisford, Mr. Boleyne Reeves, Dr. D’Alquen, Herr Lidel, Herr Oberthur, Mr. G. Forbes, Mr. Theed, Mr. Johnson, and Mr. Bosen. A private brougham followed, in which were Mrs. Culpin and the Misses Lidel. A beautiful wreath of”immortelles,” white lilies and pansies, the offering of the last-named ladies, was laid on the coffin, which, at Kensal Green, was met by a few attached friends, among whom was a gentleman who came up from Brighton especially for the purpose, and a lady, the wife of one of the mourners, who, at the conclusion of the ceremony, had a white rose tree planted on the grave. Father White performed the funeral service, and the coffin bore the simple inscription: –

May 25, 1872

It has often been said that the world knows nothing of its greatest men. This is hardly true with regard to the admirable musician and artist who has just left us. The world does know something of Giulio Regondi, though by no means all it might have known. Man is the creature of circumstances; and circumstances were against him, otherwise he would have had a place among the most illustrious sons of art – a place for which he was fitted by supreme endowments. Such a man should not “join the majority,” without the tribute which is his due, the more because, owing to the despotism of events, it was not paid during his life; and we are, therefore, glad to present our readers with an article contributed by one of his personal friends, and most ardent admirers. The details that article communicates will not fail to be read with interest, especially by amateurs who were discerning enough to recognise, during his lifetime, all the merit of the man.

        Our valued contributor, Mdme. Fauche, writes: –

        On Monday, at twelve o’clock, on the 6th of May, 1872, in a small house near Hyde Park, died Giulio Regondi. He was known to the world as a wonderful musician; but that is not the only light in which he merits to be remembered. His first recollection of himself was in a grand old house at Lyons, where he resided with a man who called himself his father, and who gave instruction in the Italian language. Dr. George Young, a physician of repute in London, and brother to Charles Young, the tragedian, was travelling to Italy, but stopped at Lyons to take lessons and improve himself in speaking Italian. In the course of his study, Regondi constantly expatiated on the talents of his son.

        Dr. Young heard Giulio play the guitar, and was both charmed and astonished. He advised Regondi to take the bot to London. It was probably with this object in view that the poor bot was made to practise five hours per day; while the father left home early and only returned to dinner late. The outward door of their apartment was kept locked to prevent the bot from leaving the house, where he remained always alone, and a neighbour, residing in a room adjoining theirs, was induced to watch and report on the boy’s practice. According to that report he was placed at the father’s bedside to make up whatever time he was said to have missed during the day.

        The boy had not remembered having left the house, when a man appeared who measured him for a suit of clothes, in which he went to a public concert where he performed. On that occasion Regondi carried him arrayed in a velvet tunic, ornamented with gold, and a velvet hat and white feathers. On looking at the audience from the back of the stage, the bot was too frightened to move, and Regondi took him and his guitar in his arm and placed them on a stool in the front of the stage. As soon as the piece of music was finished the house rose to applaud and encore, upon which Giulio ran off the stage in alarm. With difficulty he was caught and made to play again.

        He said that he had been sent for more than once to play with the Duc de Bordeaux, but whether in passing through Paris to England, or in England, is not known. He also said (to the writer of this sketch) that, some years later, he became intimate with a gentleman who professed to be the son of Louis XVI (who is thought to have died, and was buried in the prison where the Royal family were confined). This intimacy led to a proposal that he should marry the pretender’s daughter, a proposal which gave him no little discomfort, until a letter from the younger lady explained that, from her father’s destitute state, she felt it her duty to accept an offer she had received, which would ensure him independence for life. On the testimony of several professional gentlemen, who knew Giulio on his arrival in London, he was not seven years old. Mr. Charles Neate was one of those gentlemen, also the late Mr. Tomkinson. His success both in public performances and private society was complete. He made two tours in Germany – one with Mdme. Dulken, the other with Mr. Lidel – in both instances with great triumph. He spent several days at the country seats of the English aristocratic families and went with Regondi to private houses for an hour’s performance, and constantly received a much higher remuneration in presents than the sum for which he was engaged (twenty pounds).

        He believed there must have been several thousand pounds in the finds when Regondi left England with his earnings. At the termination of one London season, Regondi gave Giulio a five pound note, and sent him to prepare for their “season” at Brighton, which they had regularly attended since coming to London. After waiting until his pecuniary resource was exhausted, without receiving any reply to many letters he had addressed to his father, the poor boy drooped and would have died from starvation but for the care and thoughtfulness of his hostess. He was roused by her to the necessity of learning “how to live.”

        It was many years after this event that Regondi “wrote for money, saying he was dying!” Giulio sent for him to London, where he spent the last years of his life. The first medical men in London – Ashley Cooper was one – saw him from time to time, each visit being paid two guineas, besides a daily attendance from his regular physician. We must turn back to the great musical event of his life – the invention of “the concertina” by Mr. Wheatstone. This clever man of science required an artistic mind to bring the instrument into life. Regondi being shown the ingenious masterpiece, was asked what could be done with it. He replied, “My son will bring out its powers if anyone can do so.” The lad did indeed give it life. He did indeed study it! He published a “Method” or “Guide Book,” which gave clear, concise rules for pupils which no master since has been able to improve upon. It is not too much to say that Giulio Regondi’s performance can never be equalled. All he did has died with him. No other equally great musician, with the same scientific talent would likely to devote year after year to the enormous amount of practice which he bestowed on his fingers. And when will an individual arise possessing the taste and refinement which perfected this wondrous union of means to an end? He was a fine linguist, speaking and writing French, Italian, and English with rare purity. He spent but little on his own person, but to those whose age required comforts beyond their means to obtain, or wherever he saw sickness or sadness, he poured forth his earnings with generous sympathy. It is delightful to record the affection and care with which he was watched and attended during the last twenty months of intense and constant sufferings by his professional friends. Every medical treatment and known remedy was applied during his illness. A subcutaneous injection of morphia, continued for several months twice a-day, relieved his sufferings.

        He was a rare creature, and, like all such exceptionally organized men, his experience in life partook of more grief and pain than of enjoyment and pleasure. May a higher state of existence be his portion.


These details, while of extreme interest, are of extreme sadness, but the fate of Giulio Regondi is only another illustration of the sorrow which waits upon genius. We join in the concluding aspiration of our correspondent’s letter. Canning called the New World into existence to redress the balance of the Old; and were we not instinctively sure of an Hereafter, it would be necessary to create one.

#50 Jules, why? – 2

(continue from Jules, Why? – 1)

Another mystery about Regondi: why did he pick up the concertina? And, if he needed a second instrument, why the concertina? It’s so unfair: Regondi ended up writing two concerti and a method book for the concertina, but not for the guitar.

(At least there are pictures of young Regondi with a guitar. I don’t think I have ever seen a picture of Regondi playing the concertina.)

Was Regondi’s adoption of the concertina a complaint to the guitar’s shortcomings? Low volume, limited repertoire, lack of works composed by “big-name composers”, inability to utilize distantly related key areas and chromatic keys (“We Hate the Guitar” by Erik Stenstadvold gave a lot more insights in how negatively the guitar was viewed in 19th century Europe in general).

In his article in Grove Music Online, Thomas Heck mentioned Regondi played an 8-string guitar, which was quite common for a lot of 19th century guitarists – Carulli, Legnani, Coste, Mertz. The 8-string guitar does extend the guitar’s range, but it doesn’t practically solve any of the issues mentioned above. Was playing the 8-string an intermediate step to picking up the Concertina? Fortunately, Regondi did not give up the guitar entirely – he would play both instruments in concerts. So, the love for guitar was still there.

I got more insights from the obituaries for Regondi published in The Musical World, as well as the radio show, Wheatstone, His Sighing Reed, and The Great Regondi—BBC Radio4 Programme. Charles Wheatstone was an English scientist who also invented instruments. And when he needed a music virtuoso to be the “ambassador” of his newly invented concertina, he asked Regondi’s foster father A. Regondi if he knew such a musician. A. Regondi happened to have a very musical son.

That might answer why little Giulio have picked up the concertina. Although I make it sound like little Regondi was being exploited by his foster father (as always), he was indeed offered an exclusive chance to try out a new instrument. Guitar was on the decline as Regondi grew up, and perhaps Regondi (or the foster father) saw the opportunity to be a pioneer and spokesman of a newly invented instrument as a possible alternative to a declining guitar career . The concertina also projects better than the guitar, and could be played in a bigger venue with a bigger audience. The louder volume of the concertina probably also explains why did Regondi compose two concerti for the concertina but none for the guitar.

Anyhow, just out of curiosity, I also looked at Regondi’s New Method for the Concertina and Rudimenti del Concertinista to see if his own writings would provide further perspectives. While Regondi did not compare the guitar to the concertina in his method books, the method book does offer a lot of interesting things about the concertina and how Regondi thought of music.

(continue to Jules, Why? – 3)

#49 Jules, why? – 1

One of the most beloved pieces in the classical guitar repertoire is the tremolo standard, Reverie, Op.19, by Giulio Regondi (1823-1872). I have mentioned him a bit in previous posts, where I talked about the first tremolo piece and Madame Sidney Pratten. With much delay, I have finally decided to collect my thoughts and write a short post about this wonderful musician.

A few commonly known information about Regondi (at least to guitarists): a child prodigy guitarist with golden hair, settled in London when he was 8, Fernando Sor’s dedicated his op. 46 Fantasia “Souvenir d’ Amitie” to Regondi when the latter was 9, picked up the concertina later in life, toured Europe with both instruments, and now being remembered as one of the best guitarists and concertinists (is this a real word?) of 19th century England.

Giulio Regondi in Ireland by Thomas Lawrence is a wonderful document that discusses Regondi’s tour with his foster father A. Regondi in Ireland from 1834 – 1835. Not only are there many previews/reviews of Regondi’s concerts and repertoire at the time (the concertina is part of his concert at this time), but it also showed a glimpse of his fine character:

“While Giulio was in Brighton preparing for the next season, his father absconded with their amassed fortune of £2,000…”

“… after waiting until his pecuniary resources were exhausted [five pounds that he had been given for his trip to Brighton] and without receiving any reply to many letters he had addressed to his father, the poor boy drooped and would have died from starvation but for the care and thoughtfulness of his hostess…

“… Giulio ironically received a letter from his foster-father, the older Regondi, saying that he was dying and needed money. The compassionate Giulio responded accordingly and brought him to London where he tended to his father’s needs for the remainder of his life.” 

One particular concert mentioned was interesting: Regondi performed on both guitar and concertina, and a Mr. Holland presented his “Achromatic Oxy-Hydrogen New Ionian Microscope”. The first google search results will show an article from the Magic Lantern Gazette, with many amazing pictures of microscopes.

Guitar Review also had a three-part article series, “Giulio Regondi – Guitarist, Concertinist or Melophonist?” by Douglas Rogers (from issue #91, 92, and 97). These articles included a lot of Regondi’s concert reviews, and a few things that strike me include:

  • a review from The Musical World (June 26, 1852) mentioned “… just before the conclusion, for a heavy thumderstorm occurred at the time, and one of the strings of the guitar broke, which was rather impropos to the talented artist.”
  • Regondi played a melophone: “invented in Paris by a watchmaker named Leclerc and could be described as a free reed hurdy-gurdy”. A picture shows a hybrid instrument of guitar and concertina… makes sense as Regondi’s weapon of choice, right? Later in the article, it refuted the possibility of Regondi playing the melophone.
  • Regondi played a “melophonic guitar”: “an improvement upon the common Spanish Guitar. This instrument certainly deserves every encomium, for effecting that which no other guitar was ever made to achieve, namely, a sustained, even tone, not only on the metallic strings, but also on the higher ones…”

The end of the third articles says “The name “Melophonic guitar” did live on, however, and underneath “(To be continued)”, but I am not aware of a follow up article…? A google search brought me to www.harpguitars.net, which included a melophonic guitar with a description:

“The brothers D.& A. Roudhloff were prolific makers in London who copied both the styles of Panormo and Lacôte with equal success. The “improved Melophonic Guitar” was a popular model offering two extra strings in the bass, a short playing string length of 599mm, and was built either with the traditional rosewood back and sides or in solid pine for the belly, back and sides. -Ian Watchorn”

The melophonic guitar made by the Roudhloff brothers in 1841 (see pictures 1 and 2) is an instrument with two extra unfretted bass strings, hence being listed on Harpguitar.net. This echoes Regondi’s entry on Grove Music Online written by Thomas Heck:

“…Here he also met the Polish guitar virtuoso Marek Sokołowski, whose seven-string instrument may have prompted him to go a step further and take up the eight-string guitar.“

Theguitarmuseum.com shows a 6-string Roudhloff guitar with an X-bracing. Was the X-bracing the improvement to the traditional guitar? When did Regondi switch to an 8-string guitar (there’s a review from the Guitar Review article saying he performed on a 6-string guitar)?

As usual, the more I dig into things, the more questions I have. Aside from what these articles have discussed, two things regarding Regondi perplexed me. One of them is shown in the portriat of Regondi above: what was that thing he wears on his pinky? Sor would anchor his pinky on the soundboard, just like Regondi did in the picture. That’ is kind of alright, as earlier in the 19th century, the right hand ring finger was not a main part of the guitar technique. From today’s perspective, that is counterintuitive, as the pinky-anchoring would restrict movement of the ring finger. Even though the guitarist might not anchor his/her little finger through a performance, wouldn’t this pinky support slip? Did other 19th century guitarists also wear a pinky support? Was Regondi born with different hands from others that gave him extra flexibility, such that he can wear a piece of “bling-bling”? To stand out from other guitarists? To show off his flexibility?   

And there’s the second question: why did Regondi pick up the concertina?

(continue to Jules, Why? – 2)

#46 Dilermando Reis, Darcy Villa Verde

Nothing captivates me more than Brazilian music. For the longest time, I had a hard time deciding whether Garoto or Luiz Bonfa is my favorite. But amongst all Brazilian guitarists, Dilermando Reis holds a special place in my heart , as his repertiore contained numerous romantic waltzes. Now one can find so many of Reis’s recording on Youtube, but back then, I spent quite a lot of money buying his CDs. Reis played a lot of Brazilians dances and choros, and wouldn’t be considered a classical guitarist at his time (not to mentioned he played a steel string guitar), but his repertoire included quite a lot of classical pieces. His technique was also definitely of the classical guitar tradition. His hyperromantic approach made his playing so unique – excess vibrato, rubato, portamento, extreme tone colors, and… some just can’t be explained.

He must be familiar with Tarrega, as he played Tarrega’s arrangements of Nocturne by Chopin and Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven, as well as Tarrega’s own Adelita. He also played Choro #1 by Heitor Villa-Lobos, Excerpt from Op.10, #3 by Chopin, Estrellita by Manuel Ponce, Spanish Romance, Guitar Concerto #1 by Radames Gnattali, and La Catedral by Agustin Barrios, and an arrangement of the second movement from the Concierto de Aranjuez.

Often times, I wish I was born 50 years earlier, so I could witness (or maybe even meet?) great artists from the past. But what’s better than “meeting an artist” by playing his/her music? And I have heard stories from friends who were so excited to meet their musical idols, only to find out there’s nothing great about them other than their music. Perhaps it’s best to not realize our dreams, leaving room to romanticize.

Much of what I know about Reis came from the book Choro: A Social History of a Brazilian Popular Music by Tamara Elena Livingston and Thomas George Caracas Garcia, The Brazilian Guitar of Dilermando Reis, by David Jerome, as well as Jerome’s article in Soundboard magazine, vol. 31 no. 1, 2005.

There is a Chinese proverb – 溫故知新 – that roughly means, by reviewing what one has learned, he/she would reach new understanding and gain new knowledge. And that’s exactly how I feel by reviewing these sources regarding Reis – born in 1916 (very close to 1915…), Reis was associated with the “old fashion way”, “the country”, and “nostalgia”. He studied with Americo “Canhoto” Jacominio, who was a left-handed guitarist and played the “standard” right-hand guitar without re-stringing (Elizabeth Cotten and Jimi Hendrix come to mind). Reis lived with Joao “Pernambuco” Teixeira Guimaraes, and played in Pixinguinha’s group (per Joao Pernambuco’s recommendation?). Apart from teaching, Reis frequently performed live on the radio. He was also closely related to Brazilian president Juscelino Kubitschek.

What’s completely “new” to me from David Jerome’s article is the students of Reis – Bola Sete (1923 – 1987) and Darcy Villa Verde (1934? – 2019). I knew Bola Sete primary as a jazz guitarist who had performed with Vince Guaraldi (what is that “lute-guitar”?!). But I have not heard of Darcy Villa Darcy at all. That lead to a search on him.

Villa Verde had only one out-of-print recording, but luckily there’s a live recording from 1971 on Youtube. Coverted from a casette tape, the sound quality was not the best, but one can still hear his virtuosity. He performed a program which included a piece by Domenico Scarlatti, a minuet by Haydn, Turina’s Rafaga, Lauro’s Waltz No. 3, Villa-Lobos’s Prelude no. 3, his own arrangement of Felicidade, and an arrangement of Canarios with orchestral – kind of like Rodrigo’s Fantasia para Un Gentilhombre. Verde’s arrangement of Tom Jobim’s Felicidade was extremely entertaining, with an elaborated percussion breakdown. His interpretation of Villa-Lobos’s Prelude no. 3 used some pretty extreme tone color – an influence from Reis?

Almost all materials related to Villa Verde on the internet are in Portugese. Thanks to Google Translate, I learned more about him from a obituary: his virtuosity won him a competition in Paris, where he had a chance to study with Ida Presti. He also performed at Georgetown University and the Carnegie Hall. I couldn’t find much about his studies with Reis, but he played by ear, and was “was a pioneer in promoting the instrument in the media, appearing on TV shows”. On his radio show, renowned Brazilian guitarist Fabio Zanon played a few recordings of Villa Verde (see the track listing here).

#43 Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten – #8 Her students – Arthur Froane, Albert F. Cramer

(portrait of Arthur Froane)

(continue from Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten – #7)

In Stewart Button’s thesis, Guitar in England 1800-1924, Arthur Froane (1861-?) is part of chapter four – The Pupils of Ernest Shand and Madame Sidney Pratten. It wasn’t clear if Froane was a student of Madame Pratten. Froane was more likely a student of Shand – he performed Shand’s compositions often, and his book, The Guitar and How to Study It, is designed to be use alongside Shand’s Op.100 Improved Method for the Guitar. I have included him anyways, since he’s part of the Pratten mafia. Just as Madame Pratten and Shand, Froane’s right hand position involve anchoring the little finger under the sound hole. There was not much said about his playing, but

“His purity and strength of tone, correctness of technique and clear execution, combined with good, expression and perfect finish leave little short (sic ) as complete an artist as one can wish to hear… It is a pity Mr Froane’s performances are not more numerous, and that he does not go further a field” (Button, p.181-182)

The CSUN Digital Archive contained a letter written to Vahdah Olcott-Bickford by Froane in 1943 . It showed that Olcott-Bickford was inquiring Froane about Shand, possibly to prepare for her performance of the Shand’s concerto in 1947? Froane only remember their last encounter with Shand involved a game of billard, but it seemed like he did not know Shand died in 1924. Froane seemed like a well-rounded musician, as he accompanied Shand on his concerto several times, as well as studied the mandolin, played with a mandolin guitar band, and conducted the group when necessary.

In his letter, Froane mentioned about another student of Madame Pratten – Albert F. Cramer (1865-1931. Coincidentally, both of them were A.F.?). Again, Stewart Button’s thesis provided information of Cramer: he enjoyed

  • accompanying, and had ccompanied Adeline Patti (a vocalist we studied in the 19th century performance practice class) at the Royal Albert Hall
  • performing duets – “teamed up with Shand and started to give concerts together” (Did they play together though? If so, what pieces?)
  • performing quartets – when Shand left for Australia, Cramer formed a quartet with guitar, mandolin, mandola, and bandurria.

Cramer had a studio where he taught guitar, mandolin, and banjo. Apparently, he also taught ukulele/banjuke, and Hawaiian guitar

B.M.G., Vol. XXII., No. 241, May 25, 1925

Cramer also had a guitar method from 1930 (?):

And a Hawaiian guitar method that was still available in 1967:

B.M.G. LXV No.750, October 1967

Button’s thesis has the only picture of Cramer I could find so far, in which he’s playing the Hawaiian guitar:

From Button’s thesis

Another piece of info from Button’s thesis was suprising and disturbing:

Button p.187

In Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten, Harrison mentioned Madame Pratten performed the guitar part to Cowen’s cantata, The Corsair. The Corsair was from 1876, and Harold from 1895. Guitar entrances are marked on the score of The Corsair, but not the Harold. Was it customary for Cowen to include the guitar in his large large scale vocal works? What about other British composers? Why did Cowen not mention the guitar at all in his autobiography, if the guitar was regularly employed?