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Re:A New Approach to Guardame las vacas: Opinions? (2 viewing) (2) Guests
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TOPIC: Re:A New Approach to Guardame las vacas: Opinions?
#3000
Altophile (User)
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A New Approach to Guardame las vacas: Opinions? 1 Year, 2 Months ago Karma: 0  
Hello all,

This weekend I spent some time trying to solve something that has puzzled me about Guardame las vacas for a while now. I have several arrangements of this piece, and I found it puzzling that some arrangers and performers include anywhere from one to three extra variations beyond the four that I learned when I started playing guitar using Frederick Noad's books.

What I've learned, which folks here probably already knew, is that Narvaez wrote two sets of variations, the one with four, that everyone plays, and then another, the otra parte, with three more in a different key. I read a nice article in Soundboard by Nelson Amos (Vol. 27, No. 1) in which he discusses this, and I'm glad to be enlightened about the reasons for the differences in arrangements and the difficulties with each approach.

Nelson Amos is not fond of folks who take liberties with this piece, but recognizes the oddity of performing the first set of four variations that has such a decisively resolved ending, and then performing the otra parte, which is somewhat pensive, lyrical, and lacks the sort of strong ending that characterizes the first set of variations.

The approaches to solving this problem have been varied. Segovia borrows only the first variation from the otra parte and places it in the middle of the first four, which works pretty well, though he had to transpose it to A minor to make it fit. Diaz takes all three variations from the otra parte and places them in the middle of the first set, again transposed to A minor to make them fit musically, which seems to work even better than Segovia's approach. Yepes plays all variations in order, but transposes the entire piece to d minor, and his tempo is a bit too slow, IMO. Angel Romero also plays all variations in order, and while his performance of the first four variations is exquisite, I think he plays the otra parte a bit too fast, which doesn't fully develop its lyrical qualities. Yepes' and Romero's approaches just don't work for me, though, with the otra parte at the end, even though they seem to be more in harmony Narvaez's intent. (What was he thinking?)

As a side-point, every arrangement I have has differences in certain measures that suggest that pretty much everyone has taken some minor liberties with octaves.

I would like to get your feedback on a new approach, that came to me yesterday as I was contemplating this wonderful work. My idea would require that the 3 variations from the otra parte be arranged in A minor for it to work musically, just as Segovia and Diaz had done, but I wouldn't take liberties with octaves unless I had to, and, most importantly, I would like to suggest a performance in the following order:

1. Variation 1 of first 4 (strong statement)
2. Variation 1 of second 3 (pensive statement)
3. Variation 2 of first 4 (strong statement)
4. Variation 2 of second 3 (pensive statement)
5. Variation 3 of first 4 (strong statement)
6. Variation 3 of second 3 (pensive statement)
7. Variation 4 of first 4 (strong ending with satisfying resolution to the whole)

I’ve been playing it this way in my head, and it seems to work pretty well to my mind's ear. This approach would not only allow the performer to play all seven variations as a well-rounded whole, but it would allow him/her to play the variations as a sort of conversation, i.e. a strong statement, pensive statement, strong statement, pensive statement, etc., with a decisively strong conclusion.

I can sympathize with Nelson Amos's pet peeve a little (taking liberties with this historically important piece), but (a) it really is musically unsatisfactory, to my ears at least, to perform the otra parte after the first set of variations, yet (b) the otra parte is beautiful and really enhances the attractiveness of the work. So, for me, the otra parte should be performed, but in a way that makes musical sense. Diaz's approach is pretty good (the best among the approaches I've seen), but I wonder if mine might work at least as well, if not better?

Granted, my approach will seem jarring at first, as we're not used to hearing the piece that way, but, aside from Amos's pet peeve, are there any other musicological considerations that argue strongly against it? I can't be the only person who's ever thought of this, yet apparently I'm the only one promoting it!

~Sean

Addendum on 07/28/16: I may have discovered why Narciso Yepes arranged all 7 variations in D minor. I've listened to the otra parte in A minor a la Segovia et. al. and in D minor a la Yepes et. al. and I find that the otra parte seems to sound better in D minor. Perhaps this also answers my question above, i.e 'What was he (Narvaez) thinking?' Maybe he was thinking that while it might make more musical sense to have both sets in the same key -- assuming he meant them to be performed together -- the first set happens to sound better in the higher key (I assume C minor on he lute?) while the second set sounds better in the lower key (I assume F minor on the lute?). Could the answer be that simple?

So this raises another question for our resident musicologists: Would it be acceptable to switch back and forth from A minor to D minor when performing such variations on the guitar? Obviously Segovia and Diaz didn't think so, but some perform both sets as a whole, the first in A minor and the second in D minor (e.g. Angel Romero, I think), so if the transition is deemed acceptable at the level of whole sets of variations, then could it be considered acceptable if the variations are performed as I outlined above, i.e. as a sort of musical conversation? I'm having trouble hearing it this way in my mind's ear
 
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Last Edit: 2016/07/28 21:41 By Altophile.
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#3008
tenvec (User)
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Re:A New Approach to Guardame las vacas: Opinions? 1 Year, 1 Month ago Karma: 1  
Hello, Sean,
The vihuela repertoire is not my forte, but there is probably somewhere on the internet a scholarly(hopefully) account of why there are two sets of variations.
Within the lute repertoire, e.g., even Dowland's output, there are cases of the use of different keys for the same piece, and of course, different composers coming to the same 'folk' piece may use different keys.
As to whether mixing the two sets all done in the same key is permissible, two answers will appear in the musical world, one is a simple 'no', the other is, what does it sound like?
James.
 
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#3009
Sten (User)
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Re:A New Approach to Guardame las vacas: Opinions? 1 Year, 1 Month ago Karma: 4  
Hi guys,

I really like vihuela music, and I often play Guardame las vacas. I stick to Emilio Pujol's arrangement in the collection Hispanae Citharae Ars Viva, with the first four variations in A minor and the last three in D minor, and I play them in that order.

Sten
 
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Last Edit: 2016/08/02 06:21 By Sten.
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#3010
Altophile (User)
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Re:A New Approach to Guardame las vacas: Opinions? 1 Year, 1 Month ago Karma: 0  
Hi Sten,

Thank you for your comment.

What do you think of the idea of alternating the variations as I outlined in my initial post?

I can appreciate your approach, which seems to be in harmony with Narvaez intent. I still consider it unsatisfactory, though, because it has the odd result of placing the strong, resolute ending (variation 4 from 1st set) in the middle of the performance, which just doesn't seem to work, at least not for me.

~Sean
 
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#3011
Sten (User)
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Re:A New Approach to Guardame las vacas: Opinions? 1 Year, 1 Month ago Karma: 4  
Hi Altophile,

I see your point, but I still prefer playing the way I do. I think that variation 1 in the 2nd set comes quite nicely after variation 4 in the 1st set, a beautiful transition, a kind of wake-up call. But playing your way could maybe be fine, too.

Sten
 
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