July 1941
volume LIX
number 7
page 497-498

Guitar Duos

By George C. Krick

GUITARISTS HAVE SADLY NEGLECTED one phase of guitar performance which not only gives much pleasure but also helps to furnish considerable variety to concert programs; and that is the playing of duos for two guitars. Modern composers of guitar music may also be held responsible for this neglect since, in comparison with the numerous guitar solos published in recent years, the output of music for two guitars is almost nil.

When we speak of guitar duos we do not refer to simple melodies played on one guitar while the so-called second plays a chord accompaniment using the three common chords with an occasional bass run. We are suggesting a composition wherein all the resources of both instruments are used to present a complete musical picture.

We admit that there is a certain amount of glamour attached to the title, "Guitar Soloist", and some may not be willing to share public applause with others. But we must concede that much more can be done on two guitars than on one, and from a purely musical standpoint a high class duo played by two competent artists should prove more satisfying to the listener than a guitar solo. This, of course, does not refer to the superlative performances of a Segovia or Oyanguren.

To become successful as duo guitarists both players should have adequate technic, be good readers, be willing to devote many hours to joint practice and never forget that "teamwork" is most essential. When we examine the music available for two guitars, we cannot overlook the fact that the only numbers worth while are those written by composers who were practical guitarists and who were thoroughly aware of the possibilities of the instrument as well as its limitations. A composer of music for piano or violin cannot successfully write for guitar unless he has made an exhaustive study of the instrument, learning all positions in order to obtain the proper tonal effects and to become aware of its technical intricacies.

Modern Composers of Duos

Guitarists who contemplate joining others to play duos will find both the classic and modern compositions that we have selected most interesting for mutual enjoyment and concert performance. William Foden has done some excellent work in his Ballerina Valse and in two volumes of "Duets." The first book consists of ten original duets of medium difficulty, and in the second we find seven original pieces written in the style of Bach, and also a short overture for three guitars. Heinrich Albert composed a series of "Duets" that are well worth while. The first and second are rather easy, the third and fourth of medium difficulty, while the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth require advanced technic. The Romanza for two guitars by Daniel Fortea also is quite interesting. Emilio Pujol, the celebrated Spanish guitarist, has to his credit three arrangements for two guitars, namely: Intermezzo from the opera, "Goyescas", by Granados and Tango Espanol and Cordoba, both by Albeniz. These three beautiful numbers are quite difficult, and their performance requires technic of the highest order.

Classic Composers

Among the composers of the classic period we must mention Leonhard DeCall, whose "Opus 20", "Opus 24", and "Opus 39" are gems in the literature for two guitars. Ferdinand Carulli evidently was quite fond of writing for two guitars, and of these compositions his "Opus 96 - Three Serenades"; "Opus 128 - Six Nocturnes"; "Opus 48 - Duo"; "Opus 34 - Six Duos" and "Opus 227 - Nocturne" are the most interesting. Ferdinand Sor, in his "Opus 34", "Opus 38", "Opus 41", "Opus 53" and "Opus 63", has displayed the same supreme mastery of composition for guitar that we find in his other works.

Mauro Giuliani, a most prolific composer of guitar music, also left a number of compositions for two guitars, among which the "Duo, Op. 35" and "Variazioni Concertante" are undoubtedly the best. Others from his pen require the use of the "Terz Guitar", an instrument that was also favored by J. K. Mertz when writing his "Guitar Duos." The guitar virtuoso and composer, Adam Darr (1811-1866), was for some years associated with another accomplished guitarist, Frederick Brand. Both were cultivated musicians, and together they gave guitar recitals in the principal cities of Europe. For this purpose Darr composed "14 Duos" that compare favorably with any that had been written before or since that time. These duos were in manuscript at the time of his death, but were later published by the German Guitar Society.

In all of the duos mentioned, both guitar parts are of equal importance and of almost equal difficulty; and we hope that, after reading these lines, some guitarists will feel encouraged to join others in enjoying some of this beautiful music.

"The American Guild"

In the early part of the year 1902, in the city of Boston, a small group of Fretted Instrument Teachers formed a national organization, since then known as the "American Guild of Banjoists, Mandolinists and Guitarists." Its object is "to promote, advance and maintain the artistic and musical interests of the fretted instruments, in their literature, music and trade. To encourage a high standard of excellence in all literature pertaining to these instruments, in their history and pedagogy. To strive to increase the average of ability and competency in teachers and students and to give annual concerts to demonstrate the merits of the banjo, mandolin and guitar." Since then the "American Guild" has held annual conventions in most of the large cities throughout the country; and, in the concerts and recitals given in connection therewith, some of the greatest artists on the fretted instruments have demonstrated their artistic worth.

Today the Guild has three classes of members Professional, Trade and Associate - and is steadily growing in numbers. Its activities have contributed largely to the present popularity of the fretted instruments. This year's convention will be the fortieth; and it is to be held in Niagara Falls, New York, on July 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th. Aside from the business session, the scheduled events include an artists' recital and a grand festival concert where outstanding soloists, mandolin orchestras, banjo bands and Hawaiian guitar groups will appear. Several afternoons will be devoted to contests for soloists, duets, quartets and orchestras; and cups will be awarded to the winners. A street parade of marching bands and floats is announced for the first day; and, last but not least, the trade exhibit showing the latest improvements in instrument construction, sponsored by the leading manufacturers of banjos, mandolins and guitars, promises to be more comprehensive than ever. Advance reservations indicate a record breaking attendance.