[PDF] Molinaro, Simone - Fantasia XIV

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[PDF] Molinaro, Simone - Fantasia XIV

Post by benbeuming » Thu Jan 03, 2019 9:46 pm

There is a shared feeling among lute virtuosos to consider the music of Simone Molinaro technically arduous and difficult to play. The same can be said of the many guitar transcriptions of these lute pieces. I wonder if this is the reason why I can not find one guitar transcription of Molinaro in this Forum? That it is technically difficult to play Molinaro may be true for some of his works, but certainly not for all the Fantasias, Gagliardas, Canzonas or Saltarellos. I believe that the degree of difficulty to a large extent depends on the way the process of transcribing the music for guitar is perceived. I like to illustrate this with the Fantasia XIV for lute (published by Molinaro in 1599).

In general one could say that the compilation of the original instrument, together with the selected key, the specific tuning of the strings ( if relevant) and the composition itself forms a unique musical entity. Changing one or more of these elements has serious consequences for any transcription.
When I start transcribing lute music for guitar my approach is as follows:

Step 1: Original key; guitar with original lute tuning.
My starting point is to stay as close as possible to the original. Fantasia XIV is written in tablature. The key is F-sharp minor and the tuning of the lute is similar to that of the guitar with exception of the 3rd string: from g to f-sharp (see facsimile below, showing the first measures of the Fantasia XIIII). The transcription I made of this version (see PDF Fantasia XIV Molinaro fis minor; no fingerings yet) does not feel good. Many spots are arduous. Already the second measure gives technical problems. This option, as I see it, does not fit well for the guitar.

Step 2: Change key; but keep guitar in original lute tuning.
Change to E-minor seems to be best option. The pitch can be easily adjusted with a capo. However, using the lute tuning does not really support the sonority (open strings) and does not improve the playability. By changing the key, the effect of an open f-sharp string has gone.

Step 3: Change key; use standard guitar tuning.
I was surprised how well E-minor together with the standard guitar tuning responded to Fantasia XIV. And for a struggling intermediate as myself it is now relatively easy to play. As if the Fantasia was written for guitar in E with a strong open g for the middle voices!

Kind regards,

Ben Beuming

(Please visit my website beumingguitar.com where you may find more playable guitar transcriptions of Molinaro and other Italian and Netherlandish lute composers of the 16th century)
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Re: [PDF] Molinaro, Simone - Fantasia XIV

Post by kingkong » Thu Jan 24, 2019 8:56 am

Thank you for your thoughtfully edited arrangements. Your website, to which you have kindly alerted me, was also definitely worth the visit and will continue to be so.

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Re: [PDF] Molinaro, Simone - Fantasia XIV

Post by pogmoor » Thu Jan 24, 2019 12:46 pm

Nice arrangement and a thoughtful discussion of the arrangement process. However, playing through the E minor version, I noticed a few layout problems, especially with the distribution of rests. In bars 21, 22, 27, 76 and 79 you seem to have unnecessary rests, presumably inked to using more voices than needed. This also seems to be the problem in bar 81 where the E in the middle voice would be better written as a quaver rendering the quaver rest unnecessary and a similar problem with the middle voice in bar 105. Bar 91 is difficult to follow and I'm sure the notation there could be simplified. Lastly, in bars 48 and 102 there are clashing rests that need to be moved apart.

To add to the discussion of the arrangement process, your assertion that the lute original is in F sharp minor assumes that the lute is tuned in E like the guitar. In fact it is thought that lutes were more often tuned in G, a minor third higher, which would suggest that the piece might sound in A minor on the lute. My understanding, however, is that at this time (the close of the 16th century) pitch standards and the modern idea of keys had not been established and that the need to play pieces in particular keys was not recognised. Certainly in the English repertoire from this time you find versions solo lute pieces for different instruments (eg the bandora and the lyra viol) in entirely different keys - to suit the instrument rather than the music. My approach, therefore, is to arrange pieces in keys that suit the guitar recognising that I am not trying to imitate the lute, but to provide a way of expressing the music on the guitar. In this case I would play your piece in E minor without a capo.

I also find that, for later pieces in renaissance tuning where the instrument has gained extra courses, a solution to making a successful arrangement may sometimes be found by transcribing the piece into notation at a minor third below how it sounds on the lute and then transposing it up a fourth.
Eric from GuitarLoot
Renaissance and Baroque freak; classical guitars by Lester Backshall (2008), Ramirez (Guitarra del Tiempo 2017),
Yamaha (SLG 130NW silent classical guitar 2014).

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Re: [PDF] Molinaro, Simone - Fantasia XIV

Post by benbeuming » Thu Jan 24, 2019 11:28 pm

Thank you so much for your interesting, thorough and detailed observations. First of all, let me start with the last section of your resumé. I completely agree with you in your approach-to-transcriptions to lower the interval in some cases and then to transpose it up with another different interval. From my own experience it not only works for the lute, as you mentioned, but also for keyboard transcriptions.

About your first observations (the use of rests in a few bars), I am sure you're right on some details but less sure on others. However I feel it's important to realize that transcribing a tablature-notation, with limited information about duration of notes (especially related to middle voices) always will imply a certain amount of personal interpretation based on what you think is the best way to express the spirit and dynamics of the music.

The middle section is the most interesting part. Here I am confused. We know that in the 16th century in Italy the standard practices related to music notation, pitch level, tuning and selection of keys were rather different from present-day practices. My starting point of the Fantasy XIV is the tablature notation of Molinaro (1599). Six courses with some specification where to put your left hand fingers. No information about the tuning, key or pitch. So how to translate the tablature into standard notation for the 20th century classical guitar (tuned in E)? It is not to difficult to recognize in the tablature the characteristics of f# - minor as the 'concealed-key'. How it sounded for Molinaro we do not know. Probably not as f# - minor. Probably much higher.

My conclusion is that we both like to play the Fantasy in E-minor, but what we hear will be different, caused by not-using a capo or by putting a capo in II or III position. In my transcription I have suggested to put the capo on III. I play E -minor but I hear G - minor. and that might be the key Molinaro had in mind if he lived in 2019. :wink:

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