Guitar Slim Jr. wrote: ↑
Wed Jul 19, 2017 5:53 pm
But it's not really a great example of "solo lute music," as it didn't start life as an instrumental, and already exists in a variety of keys.
As a side note, the short charming lute pieces are the ones I enjoy the most, and there are quite a lot of them! Ronn McFarlane did two full length CDs just of the short Scottish stuff alone, and there are some real gems among them, most of which have been rendered in different keys for different reasons by different people.
Matthew McAllister has arranged a nice set of five of these pieces for performance, and I'm pretty sure that at least two of them are in different keys from the originals.
Incidentally, the literature and the recordings are full of examples of guitarists who not only chose different keys for reasons not typically stated (though we can often make an educated guess at the reason), but who took advantage of guitar techniques that wouldn't have been used at all by a lutenist. As one example from the Baroque period, Parkening's performance of Weiss' famous Passacaglia is the best I've heard on any instrument, yet he not only changes a couple notes, but he uses harmonics. Alexandre Lagoya also did some interesting things with the same Passacaglia which would probably not have been employed by a lutenist. Karl Scheit broke with tradition and arranged Kemp's Jig in E Major rather than the more typical key of D Major, possibly for the same reasons I arranged Packington's Pound in D Minor. I've seen Greensleeves arranged for guitar in just about every minor key available, etc., etc., etc. (a bit of an exaggeration, yes).
Some choices are possibly made to make some ancient music more "appropriate" as performances pieces. I mentioned Guardame las vacas along with the Otra Parte in a previous post (and in one of my first posts on this forum). These pieces present a bit of a challenge to the modern performer because it seems appropriate to perform both the first four variations and the Otra Parte, but how is one to do that logically? The fourth variation of the first four presents such a decisive conclusion that it's a bit jarring to then go on to perform the Otra Part. Also, the first four are in a different key, with no transition making it flow from A Minor to D Minor more naturally.
Many guitarists seem to just throw up their hands in defeat and they omit the Otra Parte altogether. This is an unfortunate choice, IMO, because the Otra Parte is quite beautiful and deserves to be performed just as much as the first four variations.
Segovia was a tiny bit more daring and opted to arrange the first variation from the Otra Part in A Minor, and he placed it right in the middle of the four variations. So he played five of the available seven. Not ideal, but at least the decisive ending comes at the end, and the key transition issue is avoided.
Narciso Yepes arranged the first four variations in D Minor to match the Otra Part, but performed the two sets of variations in order so that the decisive ending occurs right in the middle of the piece. Also not ideal, but at least the key transition issue is avoided.
Alirio Díaz went the other way and arranged the Otra Part in A Minor (taking some liberties with octaves), and put all three variations from the Otra Parte right in the middle of the first four. That's the most logical approach I've seen so far, though I would suggest a more interesting solution (see below).
Angel Romero performs the first four variations followed by the Otra Part, both in their different keys. While this is faithful to the original, it seems doubly problematic, because it not only has the decisive ending of the first set of variations in the middle of the performance, but it has that quirky shift from one minor key to another with no musicologically "sound" transition (pun intended).
Of all of these approaches, Angel Romero's seems to be the most problematic, musicologically speaking, yet only it mirrors the original composer's intent, as far as we're able to ascertain it.
I would suggest another approach: Put both sets of variations in the same key, whether it be A Minor or D Minor (I'd probably opt for D Minor), but then alternate them as follows:
1st variation from the first four played vigorously (like Segovia does)
1st variation from the Otra Parte played a bit more pensively
2nd variation from the first four played vigorously
2nd variation from the Otra Parte played a bit more pensively
3rd variation from the first four played vigorously
3rd variation from the Otra Parte played a bit more pensively
4th variation from the first four played vigorously for a strong decisive ending
This creates a sort of "musical conversation" between the somewhat more decisive statements of the first four variations and the somewhat pensive responses from the Otra Parte. To my knowledge no one has taken this approach yet, but I think it would express this old music in a new and interesting way. True, it strays from the original composer's intent, but so did the the approaches of Segovia, Yepes, Diaz (and probably others I haven't heard).
In making these sorts of choices I don't think that guitarists are necessarily suggesting that they know better than the original composer, and I don't think the original composers, were they alive today to witness such use of their music, would feel anything but pride and surprise that people still love it enough to play it after all this time.