Classical Music for Guitar
Classical Music for Guitar

Classical Music for Guitar

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Classical Music for Guitar by Karl Wolff

Available on Apple Music/iTunes

  • Karl Wolff/Guitar
  • Stephen Aron/Guitar
  • Laura Campbell/Flute

Music by

  • Carl Phillip Emanuel Bach
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Mauro Giuliani
  • Napoleon Coste


The German keyboardist Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, who lived from 1714 to 1788, was the son of Johann Sebastian Bach, the great composer, organist and harpsichordist whose works exemplify the late Baroque era. One of the four sons of J.S. Bach that followed in his footsteps, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach was a highly successful musician, holding a position at the court of King Frederick the Great in Berlin from 1738 until 1767 when he moved to Hamburg to succeed Georg Philipp Telemann (16811767) as music director of the five principal churches of that city.

Under the tutelage of his famous father, C.P.E. Bach studied harpsichord and clavichord during his early years and eventually adopted the piano as his primary instrument. A prolific composer, producing over 200 works, C.P.E. Bach wrote symphonies, sonatas and other instrumental works in the Rococo and early Classical style of the 18th century. This style of writing is marked by lyric phrases and light ornamentation that put aside the polyphony and thorough bass of the late baroque as a compositional tool in favor of a single melody accompanied by a bass line or chords. In an effort to clearly define the style in which he played, C.P.E. Bach wrote his Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments. It is from this book on keyboard interpretation and technique that the ornamentation and interpretive suggestions for the sonatinas I've transcribed are taken.

For the most part these pieces are written in two lines with some added ornamentation in both the treble and bass lines. There are a variety of ornaments available when interpreting these pieces and fortunately they are very clearly described in Bach's essay. He also goes to considerable length to define when and how to use these ornaments.

In Sonatina No. 2, the attitude for the piece is majestic and the actual tempo is not as important a concern as is giving the piece the appropriate feeling. At a slow tempo guitars have little sustain meaning that melodic lines need ornamentation at various times to stay vital and smoothly connected.

Regarding tempos for these two pieces let me quote Bach from the performance chapter of his essay:

"In general the briskness of Allegros is expressed by detached notes and the tenderness of Adagios by broad, slurred notes. The performer must keep in mind that these characteristic features of Allegros and the Adagios are to be given consideration even when a composition is not so marked, as well as when the performer has not yet gained an adequate understanding of the effect of a work."

By "detached" Bach does not mean staccato, but clearly articulated notes slightly shortened. This style of attack works well for Sonatina No. 3 because it so clearly delineates individual notes in each line, even at a quick tempo, making for clarity and briskness. By comparison the slower Sonatina No. 2 requires as much sustain as possible between notes and some strumming of suspended and dominant chords to give a graceful air. Ah, but we are warned to be careful not to play too slowly or too lightly.

"There are many who play stickily, as if they had glue between their fingers. Their touch is lethargic; they hold notes too long. Others, in an attempt to correct this, leave the keys too soon, as if they burned. Both are wrong. Midway between these extremes is best. Here again I speak in general, for every kind of touch has its use."

Bach's advice leaves us little room for confusion regarding the interpretation of his own works. Bach goes on to say that embellishments improve mediocre compositions, that without them even the best melody is empty and ineffective and the clearest content clouded.

"No one disputes the need for embellishments. This is evident from the great numbers of them everywhere to be found. They are, in fact, indispensable."


The Fantasia in C minor, K 475, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart dates from 1785. This grand composition is remarkable for its exceptional variety of rapidly changing moods, daring modulations, and pianistic stylization.

I first transcribed this work for two guitars so that one guitarist played Mozart's left hand and the other guitarist played his right . This seemed the best way to go. It seemed logical enough, but during our first rehearsals for the recording we quickly became aware that a more balanced trading of parts not only made the piece more interesting to play, it also added subtle nuance and variety to themes when they were repeated. The opportunity to equally share the rich and varied material over the full range of both guitars was irresistible.

Mozart's Fantasia opens with an enigmatic, lengthy and powerful introduction in a minor key that modulates to a lyrical melodic passage in major with both players alternately taking the melody. The allegro movement that follows opens with boisterous "left hand" octaves for one guitarist and crescendoing dissonances for the other that lead into rapid descending harmonies played by both. The movement modulates freely to an ending with an almost melodramatic chromatic cadenza. The third section, a lyric andantino also trades passages between both instruments, again giving each player the opportunity to shine. The pui allegro section of this movement is yet another dramatic exposé in chromaticism and fastmoving arpeggios, followed by a recapitulation of the opening on an even more mysterious sounding finale that closes this perfectly balanced work.


Beethoven first studied music with his father, Johann, a singer and instrumentalist in the service of the Elector of Cologne at Bonn. He continued his music studies with Neefe, Haydn, Schenk, Albrechtsberger and Salieri. His chief patron was the Elector at Bonn, until 1794, when he found patrons among the musicloving Viennese aristocracy and soon enjoyed success as a piano virtuoso, playing at private houses or palaces rather than in public.

When early in 1827, Beethoven died, 10,000 people are said to have attended the funeral. He had become a public figure, as no composer had done before. Unlike composers of the preceding generation, he had not been a purveyor of music to the nobility, he had lived into the age indeed he helped create it the age of the artist as a hero and the property of mankind at large.

The bagatelle in A minor, popularly known as Für Elise is possibly the most frequently played and requested of Beethoven's shorter solo piano works. It isn't surprising that this expressive, intimate and much played composition has been transcribed for solo guitar numerous times, and is popular with classical, flamenco and electric players alike.

I simply couldn't resist arranging this piece and found it addictive to play in spite of the numerous times I've heard it. This arrangement requires some retuning of the guitar to play it as it was written. Getting inside this piece by playing it, to experience its perfect structure and expressive nature clearly demonstrates why it has become the classic and much loved composition that it is.


Guitarist/composer Mauro Giuliani is known to have had an association with Ludwig van Beethoven. Giuliani, also a cellist, performed in the premier of Beethoven's seventh Symphony.

The Opus 85 Grand Duo Concertant for flute and guitar was published in 1817 by Artaria in Vienna. It is a large work of four movements and about 22 minutes length. This piece has been a frequent favorite on recital programs for flutist Laura Campbell and myself for a number of years. It's grand classical sonata form and style, relevant to the better known Mozart and Beethoven, make it a very good addition to this recording.

Giuliani's duets with other instruments are highly regarded; one reviewer wrote of his variations for flute with guitar accompaniment; "one can remark that the title is not wholly correct, inasmuch as the guitar is not accompanying, but rather concertante throughout and is of significant difficulty."


The final piece on this program is Les Soirees d' Auteuil by Napoleon Coste who was born in the village of Amondans in France on June 27th, 1805. Les Soirees d' Auteuil are the final two pieces in his collection entitled Souvenirs Book II. The lyric Serenade followed by engaging Scherzo, a work originally written for the seven string guitar, represent Coste's departure from the more established style of sonata form prevalent in the classical era to more romantic pieces that in some way represent his impressions of the locale after which they were named.


Stephen Aron has been described by the New York Times as "cultivated and musical" He performs regularly throughout the US and Canada and has recently released a 3CD set of the complete Chopin Mazurkas in new original arrangements on solo guitar. Other recordings include two for voice and guitar, Shine On Harvest Moon and In My Heart (a collection of sacred hymns) and a solo guitar recital disc entitled Sketches.

Aron is Chairman of Guitar Studies at the University of Akron and founder of classical guitar studies at Oberlin Conservatory. He's a frequent guest at Guitar Foundation of America Conventions, Stetson International Festivals, Portland Festivals, Eastman Festivals, Rantucci Festivals, Appalachian Festivals, Yale Guitar Extravaganza, the Ithaca College Guitar Festival, the National Summer Guitar Workshop and the Piccolo Spoleto Festival.


Laura Campbell has given numerous performances throughout the US and appeared as a soloist at the New York Composers' Forum, Southeast Composers' Forum, and the Syracuse Society for New Music.

Campbell can also be heard on Morning Light and Visions with harpist Myra Kovary, Baroque Music for Guitar (with guitarist Karl Wolff and Cellist Chris White) and contemporary music recordings, Evocations from Capstone Records and Michael Gandolfi's Pinocchio recorded by The Society for New Music on Innova. Campbell is Instructor of Flute at Colgate University, principal flutist of the Colgate Orchestra and Instructor of Chamber Music at Wells College.


Karl Wolff's transcriptions and performance are imbued with a rare, physical understanding of musical theory instantiated on the fingerboard. He has performed with the Cornell Orchestra, the Ithaca Opera Orchestra, the contemporary music ensemble Sati, pianist Dave Brubeck, violinist Ken Fung, flutist Laura Campbell, cellists Chris White and Sera Smolen, among others, and has given numerous solo performances throughout the United States.

Wolff has taught guitar at Cornell University, Wells College, Empire State College, and several community based conservatories in New York State. His recordings and transcriptions are available through Clear Note Publications.

  • Recording sessions on location with a Rode NT4 Microphone
  • Edited with SONY Sonic Foundry & CD Architect
  • Mozart July 10, 2004 Akron, OH
  • M. Giuliani January 10, 2005 Aurora, NY
  • CPE Bach, N. Coste, L. Beethoven April 30, 2005 Columbus, OH

Audio Supervision: Richard Cogger
Project Editor: Janet Best

Cover graphic detail: Edward Jacob von Steinle The Lorelei (1864)

© Clear Note Publications 2005

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