Important Anniversaries of 2018 – Debussy


written by Irene Gómez, specially written for the Strings By Mail Articles

Claude Debussy – 100 Years of his Death

Browse and shop Debussy related sheet music for pieces referenced in this article

Since the past two years I have brought to this section of Strings By Mail, relevant facts that have been important for the development of artistic, musical or even social thinking in our culture. This is why in 2016 we went through Shakespeare and Cervantes 400 years of passing away and the music of their time. Last year, we spoke about the commemoration of 500 years of Luther’s Reform and its influence in music. During this agitated 2018 we have to join through this space, the numerous celebrations that are being remembered through concert programs and all medias, the passing away of Claude Debussy 100 years ago and the birth of beloved Leonard Bernstein 100 hundred years ago. Many musicians are taking this year to bring up to audiences Bernstein’s important output, that during his life was somehow overshadowed by his genial conducting!

Irene Gomez - Some Important 2017 Anniversaries

Irene Gomez

In order to give the deserved space to each one of them we will spread the anniversaries of this year into two articles, starting by Claude Debussy and hoping to bring soon a semblance of Leonard Bernstein in the next delivering. For now I hope you will enjoy refreshing some aspects of French composer Claude Debussy that are exposed below:

Some insights on Claude Debussy

(b. August 22 1862 in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, d. March 25, 1918 in Paris)

Debussy lived during the period named “Belle Époque”, the time between the last years of the XIX century and 1914, just before the beginning of First World War. The “Belle Époque” was then the French name to designate a special attitude towards life leaned on certain frivolity, hope and the “joie de vivre”. The looking for freedom and auto-identity and somehow the growing interest for “exotic” cultures, the love for nature, and irreverence marked the spirit of those years. During these years many inventions that we know today were created (phone, movies, cars, the first planes).

It was a time of contrasts and ruptures giving birth to new schools of thinking. In the field of visual arts, The “Impressionists” left their classical practice focused in the form and perfection of shapes to turn into more subtle ways to express their vision of the world, which by the way was deeply enlarged. (Impressions, Soleil levant, by Claude Monet, was the work that by an ironic critic gave birth to the new aesthetic movement). In literature, Proust, and poets like Baudelaire and Mallarme (symbolists) created new ways to express their perception of reality using enigmatic metaphors, not exempt of spirituality. In the field of music the representing names of the French School (contrasting with the German School with Liszt, Wagner, Strauss) included the great melodist Gabriel Faure (the first who made the music on the piece Pelleas and Melisande by Meaterlinck, 1898), Emmanuel Chabrier, Vincent D’Indy and Paul Dukas.

In this rich context Debussy developed a personal language built on impressions and evocations. His music unified music and poetry with a nonpredictable rhythm, but one that follows a natural breath according to the musical idea; melodic lines with pentatonic scales and Greek modes, and the harmony seen as a tool of coloring. This made of him a most inspiring composer who influenced future artists in all fields until present days. He has been designated as one of the most influential composers of the XX century, along with Stravinsky and Schoenberg.
He loved Japanese art (like Monet and some other impressionists did) and he loved Spanish music as well. In fact, his famous “Soiree dans Grenade” (Evening in Granada) from the Suite “Estampes”, was inspired by the habanera rhythm (or tango andaluz). His music, that for our ears may sound so fantastic and evocative, was not so clearly understood by the audiences of his time, being habituated to perfect cadences. His music definitely opened a new way to expression for musicians in the times ahead.

Debussy for Guitar

While Debussy has not written for guitar, his language of arpeggios and clear melodic lines has made it possible to transcribe some of his works, such as La fille aux cheveux de lin or Reveries, in a very idiomatic way to our instrument. It is worth here to mention Eric Satie, Debussy’s counterpart and friend, who wrote music with similar harmonies in short pieces such as Gymnopedies some of them playable on the guitar.

On the Spanish side Manuel de Falla, a big admirer of Debussy, wrote a unique and well respected composition for guitar: Hommage au Tombeau de Debussy, (played for the first time by Emilio Pujol at the Conservatoire of Paris on December 2, 1922). Some parts of his orchestral works have also been transcribed with good results. The piano music of other composers of this era, specifically Isaac Albeniz and Enrique Granados, have also found good means of expression in transcriptions for the guitar. Original works by Federico Mompou with his Suite Compostelana, and Antonio Jose with his Sonata (clearly inspired by Ravel, the other great exponent of Impressionism) both represent on a high level the subtle mind of this French school. Works of Turina, Ponce and Rodrigo were also pervaded with the impressionist style. And in closer decades, Japanese Toru Takemitsu stated his veneration for the Debussy’s style, composing pieces such as Folios, Equinox, All in Twilight, and In the Woods. Thus, the guitar actually enjoyed the creation of new music under the influence of the great Debussy. One of the favorite quotes by Debussy was: “Music is the silence between the notes.”

Classical guitarist Irene Gómez regularly contributes to Strings By Mail through her teaching and performance videos as well as articles. She is a Strings By Mail Sponsored Artist, teaches guitar at the National University in Bogotá, Colombia, and performs worldwide.

Important Anniversaries of 2019 – Brouwer & Villa-Lobos


Specially written by Irene Gómez for the Strings By Mail Articles.

Browse and shop Leo Brouwer Sheet Music

Browse and shop Heitor Villa-Lobos Sheet Music

In past years, this series celebrated worldwide anniversaries such as the 400 years of passing of Shakespeare and Cervantes and the publishing of the first books for vihuela, 100 years of the death of Scott Joplin and the passing of Claude Debussy, to name just a few.

This current year is a special one for musicians, and guitarist’s in particular to celebrate. The 80th birthday of maestro Leo Brouwer, one of the most creative artists in the recent guitar history, is undoubtedly deserving of celebration. Maestro Leo Brouwer was born in March 1939 in la Havana, Cuba. His tremendous output, where each piece is a challenging but rewarding jewel of deep beauty, is widely known and loved.

Irene Gomez - Some Important 2019 Anniversaries

Irene Gomez

In addition to his huge guitar catalogue, his works include chamber music, guitar concertos, music for films, and arrangements of popular songs. His creativity has been relentless, seeing him constantly releasing new works during his active schedule as a conductor and guest professor of multiple faculties around the world. It is quite awesome to witness his existence in our times, and to be able to say Happy Birthday maestro Brouwer! Thank you for what you have done for guitar in this century.

And it would be a fault for this article to not mention that 60 years ago one of our fathers of modern guitar, Heitor Villa-Lobos (1885-1949) left this physical world. His amazing, or I would dare to say “amazonic” heritage, was deeply related to the great forest and diverse environs of Brazil’s vast territory. This Brazilian sense, that was personified in him, persists in his creations, which are among the most valuable for guitarists and their repertoire. This would be a good year to bring us back to review his hearty Preludes, Bachianas, and Choros, among others.

Perhaps some among us will program concerts with the music of these two geniuses of our instrument: Brouwer and Villa-Lobos.

Certainly, this is a special year for guitarists and this is an opportunity to invite you to browse the interesting catalogue Strings By Mail has with music of these wonderful artists that we celebrate this year, artists we celebrated in previous years, and new artists less known, but worthy of exploration.

Classical guitarist Irene Gómez regularly contributes to Strings By Mail through her teaching and performance videos as well as articles. She is a Strings By Mail Sponsored Artist, teaches guitar at the National University in Bogotá, Colombia, and performs worldwide.

Previous Irene Gomez anniversary articles:
2016 2017 2018



written by guest blogger, Irene Gómez (Strings By Mail Sponsored Artist)

Classical Guitar-crop

Recently, some classical guitar magazines featured Joaquin Rodrigo’s Aranjuez Concerto. You can also find a play along version of this Aranjuez Concerto here. This reading reminded me of those almost parallel guitar concerts written in great part after Andres Segovia´s request between the 30’s and 50´s for composers to create guitar concertos. Those were years of the unprecedented career of this guitarist that positioned the guitar in a high place in the world of classical music. Here is a browsing of memories of that time:

The Aranjuez Concerto, paradoxically was not related to Segovia. It was born as a result of a casual lunch in 1938 between Joaquin Rodrigo, his wife the pianist Victoria Kamhi, the Marqués de Bolarque, and the guitarist Regino Sainz de la Maza in San Sebastian, Spain, in which the composer promised to write a concert for Regino Sains de la Maza. He subsequently premiered the Aranjuez Concerto on November 9, 1940, with the Barcelona Philarmonic Orchestra conducted by César Mendoza Lasalle, and was greatly received. He recorded the concerto around 1947-48 with the Spanish National Orchestra under the baton of Ataulfo Argenta. Guitarists such Manuel Diaz Cano performed the concert in Turkish , and Rey de la Torre made the premiere of this concert in New York in 1959 with the Cleveland Orchestra. The concerto was also starred as a ballet especially by the company of legendary Spanish choreographer Pilar Lopez.

Segovia requested with restless insistence to his fellows composers to keep writing music for guitar solo and guitar and orchestra. On his list there were composers like Juan Manem , Moreno Torroba, and Turina among many others. For a while he played with much success the concert of his Italian friend Mario Castelnuovo Tedesco, who he had met in 1932 in Venice during an international event of contemporary music. Castelnuovo accepted to write several pieces for guitar including some quintets. Among his first pieces that Segovia played we can mention Homage to Bocherini and ´Variazioni a traverse I secole´. (Variations through the centuries). Castelnuovo concerto in D major Op. 99, (play along version here) was written around 1939, year in which the composer left Italy to live in USA where he developed a career as a film composer in Hollywood. The same year of 1939 Segovia performed the concerto in Montevideo and became a very constant work in his concert programs. At the same time he asked Mexican composer Manuel Ponce to write a concerto that he was expecting to perform in the same evening along with the one by Castelnuovo Tedesco!

After several years of communicating with the composer and suggesting changes in each movement (and even advising what should be the best way to send the scores, etc), Segovia finally premiered the Concerto del Sur by Manuel Ponce (play along version here) in Montevideo (his homeland at that moment) on October 4th 1941. This concerto was also a great success and the concert received outstanding reviews from critics and audiences. Both artists had met in 1923 when Segovia played for the first time in Mexico. Since then, Ponce wrote an important number of works for guitar that became an important reference for guitarists.

Heitor Villa-Lobos also offered to the guitarist of Linares the Estudios for guitar written around 1929 when he was in Paris, and years later in 1940, the Six Preludes. In 1951, he composed a “Fantasia concertante” for which Segovia requested that the Brazilian composer to add a cadenza. The concerto was premiered by Segovia with the Houston Symphony Orchestra on February 6th1956, under the conducting of Villa-Lobos himself.

This concerto also became very popular and after the index taken by the Indiana University there are at least 50 recordings registered of this concerto.

Rodrigo and Segovia likewise developed a deep friendship and their families spent time during their travels where they coincided mainly in North America and Spain. The composer dedicated many works to Segovia, such as ‘Tres piezas españolas’ (Fandango, Passacaglia, Zapateado). In 1951 he asked Rodrigo to compose a concerto for guitar and orchestra. Victoria Kamhi, in her book ‘In the hand with Rodrigo´ stated that after the great success of Aranjuez concerto he did not feel great desire to compose another concert. However he thought over it and he decided to create a Suite on themes collected by Gaspar Sanz, the Spanish composer from the baroque period. The title would be Fantasia para un Gentil Hombre (Fantasy for a Gentleman) – (play along version here) and he would also dedicate this work to Andres Segovia as a tribute expressing his great admiration for the guitarist. The Fantasia´s movements are: Villano-Ricercare, Españoleta y Fanfare de la Caballeria de Nápoles, Danza de las hachas, Canario.

At last, Segovia premiered Fantasia para un Gentil Hombre on March 5th 1958, with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Enrique Jordá.

On that evening, Segovia closed the first part playing the Fantasia and opened the second part of the concert playing some Solo guitar pieces by Bach, Villa-Lobos and Albeniz. The orchestra finished the program with Ralph Vaughan Williams, Symphony No. 5. (dedicated to Sibeius). Rodrigo composed a great number of concerts for guitar like Concierto para una fiesta, Concierto Madrigal, (2 guitars) Concierto Andaluz.(4 guitars).

The years of the apparition of these emblematic concertos opened the path to universal composers such as Malcolm Arnold, Lennox Berkeley, (concertos dedicated to Julian Bream), Maurice Ohana, Jacques Bondon, Leo Brouwer, Ernesto Cordero and Zamuel Zimman, to mention just some of the large number of magnificent worldwide composers who have now devoted their inspiration to this ensemble.

Classical guitarist Irene Gómez regularly contributes to Strings By Mail through her teaching and performance videos as well as articles. She is a Strings By Mail Sponsored Artist, teaches guitar at the National University in Bogotá, Colombia, and performs worldwide.


Victoria Kahmi, Hand in Hand with Rodrigo, Latin American Literary Review Press

Miguel Alcazar, The Segovia-Ponce Letters, Editions Orphee Columbus

Corazon Otero, Manuel Ponce and the guitar, The Bold Strummer Ltd.

Alfredo Scande, Don Andres and Paquita, the Life of Segovia in Montevideo, Amadeus Press

Frederic V. Grunfeld The Arts and times of the guitar, The Bold Strummer Ltd.

Important Anniversaries of 2017

written by Irene Gomez, specially written for the Strings By Mail Articles

Browse and shop Sheet Music for pieces referenced in this article

Last year when we commemorated 400 years of the deaths of Shakespeare and Cervantes, the cultural world had a great opportunity to approach with new perspectives the work and lives of these two magnificent writers. Academic and cultural institutions had a terrific occasion to celebrate. For example, my students and I studied the 16th century laud and vihuela repertoire and we created concerts where the music of Pisador, Valderrabano, Milan, and Dowland alternated with the reading of sonnets and excerpts from both writers. This was a very enriching experience for all of us.

Irene Gomez - Some Important 2017 Anniversaries

Irene Gomez

Also during 2016, the music world commemorated the death of Enrique Granados (1867-1916), who left an output of subtle Spanish music, mainly for piano and orchestra. Fortunately for guitar players, some music has been transcribed, bringing out even more the essence of the sounds of Spain and providing some of the most respected and memorable pieces in the guitar repertoire.

The year 2017 is already running in quick steps, but we can still give a glance to meaningful facts and amazing people, learning from them and their times.

500 Years of Luther’s Reform

In the middle of the Renaissance era, the Catholic Church was the head of power and the Pope was the representative of God on earth. In October 1517 in Wittenberg, Martin Luther (1483-1546) questioned this extreme power in his “95 Theses.” Luther addressed many topics in this document, but he primarily criticized the practice of selling indulgences to people seeking salvation.

Luther’s writings spread very quickly in Europe, setting in motion a social and cultural revolution known as the Protestant Reformation.

Some of Luther´s ideas influenced the history of music. Besides translating the Bible from Latin to German, Luther also defended the idea that the congregation should participate in the liturgy by singing chorales, some of them based on established Latin melodies, which they could recognize and understand by singing in their own language. Most of the texts therefore were taken from the Bible. These changes became the new traditions and opened a new Church, influencing ways of thinking and functioning. His ideas were implemented, with some variations, in countries such as France, Switzerland, and England.

Johann Sebastian Bach is perhaps the most prominent example of a composer who related his own life and music to the principles of the Protestant Church. His vocal works (sacred and secular) and instrumental music are pervaded by the chorales and hymns from his faith. To discover the sources of his music is an interesting challenge for any musician who wishes to interpret Bach’s music.

Gioseffo Zarlino Birth Anniversary (1517-1590)

The 500th anniversary of the birth of Gioseffo Zarlino, a Venetian theoretician, composer, and organist known mainly for his book “Le Institutioni Harmoniche,” can help to personify a musician contemporary of the Reformist movement who remained on the Catholic side.

For the Catholic Church, music remained a critical aspect of devotion. Flemish composers such as Adrian Willaert (1490-1562) and Cypriano de Rore (1515-1565), both musicians at the Basilica of Saint Mark in Venice, became representatives of this religious esthetic. Together with Palestrina (1525-1595) in Rome, they created magnificent masses and motets. In Italy the inclusion of splendid paintings and sculptures by artists such as Michelangelo became a powerful distinctive trait. In Spain, Cristobal de Morales (1500-1553), Francisco Guerrero (1528-1599), and Tomas Luis de Victoria (1548-1611) also expressed in their music the highly devotional religious spirit of their time.

Scott Joplin 100th Anniversary (1868-1917)

On the 100th anniversary of his death, it’s very special to remember Scott Joplin, the great African-American composer who was pivotal in the history of American music and passed away on April 1, 1917, in New York.

Born in Texas just after the Civil War, he showed great musical talent at a very early age, studying and composing for the piano. Named “The King of Ragtime,” he created a new style of playing and through his hundreds of piano compositions (“Maple Leaf Rag” and “The Entertainer” among many others) he created a new American authentic identity. He was interested as well in “big formats” of music, composing the opera Treemonisha (1910) that was not fully staged until 1972. Joplin’s original orchestration for the opera was lost, and composers such as Gunther Schuller and Rick Benjamin have produced orchestrations.

To conclude this summary of anniversaries for this year, we must include the 200th anniversary of the death of writer Jane Austin (1775-1817), whose novels depict the English society of the so called Georgian period, including the music and dances of those years. She grew up in a very supportive family, and started to write in childhood. She obtained recognition during her lifetime and her novels (especially “Pride and Prejudice”) continue to be printed and have been represented in TV and movie productions. Musically this was a time of great composers for the guitar, including Mauro Giuliani and Fernando Sor, who spent some of his most successful years in England. He arrived during the latter years of Jane Austin’s life, becoming a prominent member of English society of the time.

I hope that noting these anniversaries will motivate you to learn more about these thrilling people and events that left indelible marks on our cultural life.

Classical guitarist Irene Gómez regularly contributes to Strings By Mail through her teaching and performance videos as well as articles. She is a Strings By Mail Sponsored Artist, teaches guitar at the National University in Bogotá, Colombia, and performs worldwide.

Some insights on the history and use of metronome


Classical guitarist Irene Gómez regularly contributes to Strings By Mail through her teaching and performance videos as well as articles. She is a Strings By Mail Sponsored Artist, teaches guitar at the National University in Bogotá, Colombia, and performs worldwide.

Sources mentioned in this article:

L’ecriture du geste, conversations avec Cécile Gilly, Gedisa Editorial

Early Music, David Martin, Oxford University Press (through Jstor)

The Musical Times, Standley Howell, Musical Times Publications (through Jstor)

The Interpretation of the Music of the 17th and 18th Centuries, Arnold Dolmetsch, Dover Publications, Inc. Mineola New York


Items mentioned:

Seiko Quartz metronome SQ50V

Korg KDM2 metronome

Sona MM-1000 / SM1000


Metronome image:

Metronome – Something about metronomes… they’re reassuring to me. – picture shared from James Lee @


Celebrating Shakespeare, Cervantes and the Music of Their Era


written by Irene Gomez, specially written for the Strings By Mail Blog

2016 promises to be a great year for those who love literature and theater. The commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra should be a wonderful opportunity to re-familiarize oneself with, or to discover for the first time, the work of these magnificent writers.

Browse and shop Sheet Music for pieces referenced in this article

Check out these latest Strings By Mail Repertoire Series Videos by Gohar Vardanyan of music from this era:
Coranto: Heigh Ho Holiday by Antony Holborne
Lady Hammond’s Alman by John Dowland

While deeply immersed in constant conflicts and intrigues due to religion, economic, and political power in Europe during those times, art occupied an important place. Both artists arrived to represent the highest expression in the Renaissance era, expressing the particular richness of the English and Spanish cultures.

In regard to William Shakespeare (1564-1616), there has been a curtain of mystery around his existence and works. Philosopher Francis Bacon, or writer-poet Christopher Marlowe, have been some of the supposed writers to whom Shakespeare’s works have been attributed. Despite these presumptions, Shakespeare has been considered the most important English writer of all times. Some of Shakespeare’s characters were politicians or rulers, who despite their power, expressed regrets, doubts, and fears in self-dialogues, thus exploring a wider scope of human expression. Hamlet’s famous soliloquy “To be or not to be” (act 3, scene 1), has been one of the most popular phrases in the history of theater, remaining in the popular culture even to the present day. His Sonnets are of the most exquisite beauty, and they speak equally on subjects about the meaning of life, nature, youth, love, and death.

In the field of music during Shakespeare´s time, the consolidation of ‘consorts’ or ensembles, in which people reunited for playing together (playing in the same group of instruments like viols, ensembles, or in ‘mixed’ or ‘broken’ ensembles, using viols and lute for example), ingrained a unique feature in English musical life. There was also good interrelation with popular or folk music. The lute was the national instrument, and John Dowland was its greatest composer. Dowland, through his more than 80 pieces including songs, lute-songs, ayrs, ‘pavans’, ‘galiards’, and ‘Almands’, climbed to a high point of expression, with a personal touch of ‘melancholy’, a mood which was rather a trendy topic at that time. Perhaps, his most recognized work is ‘Lacrimae Pavane’, taken from the song ‘Flow my tears’ of his Second book of Airs. Dowland has become a constant source of inspiration for musicians including composers of our time. Alongside Dowland, other great composers, such as Francis Cutting, Antony Holborne, or Francis Pilkington, left wonderful collections of pieces for lute that we can utilize to enlarge our guitar repertoire.

On the other hand, the Renaissance Era in Spain had a different perspective, and Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, (1547-1616) revealed aspects of his cosmopolitan country and its people through amazingly witty long and short novels. His descriptions and dialogues are lively portraits that, with constant humor and naivety, expressed the political and social situation during the ‘Spanish Golden Era.’ His classic work, ‘Don Quixote de la Mancha’ (1605), had immediate success. And while waiting for a second part, some apocryphal editions appeared, until the Second Part was at last published by Cervantes in 1615.

The most important musician contemporary to Cervantes was Tomas Luis de Victoria (1548-1611). However, Spain gave to the world an impressive number of important musicians, mainly during the first half of XVI century. The vihuela (vihuela de mano), became the favorite instrument for composers who worked under different courts in Spain and Europe. And certainly, the still new printing possibilities helped to spread important collections of original pieces and transcriptions. This fact helped to develop the instrumental technique of following the polyphonic vocal style of the time, but also adding specific aspects creating variations, or ‘diferencias’, on well known songs.

In this form of composition, it was possible to concentrate on the technique, allowing players to develop virtuosity using chords (consonancias) and scales (redobles), and indications on the speed of music specifying the ‘tempo’. One of the first books of vihuela was published in 1536 by Luis Milan, printed in Valencia and named “Libro de musica de vihuela de mano intitulado ‘El maestro’”. This book was followed by Luys de Narváez´s book, ‘Los seis libros del Delphin de música de cifras para tañer la vihuela’ (1538), and by ‘Tres libros de música en cifra para vihuela’, published in Sevilla in 1546 by Alonso Mudarra. In 1547, Enríquez de Valderrábano published in Valladolid, his “Libro de Música de vihuela intitulado ‘Silva de Sirenas’”. Diego Pisador published ‘Libro de Música de vihuela’ en Salamanca in 1552, and Miguel de Fuenllana wrote “Libro de Música para vihuela ‘Orphenica Lyra’” in Sevilla. Finally, Esteban Daza and Antonio de Cabezón (keyboard composer) published respectively: ‘Libro de Música en cifras para vihuela intitulado ‘El Parnaso’” (1576) and ‘Obras de música para tecla, arpa y vihuela, Madrid, 1578.

With all of this in mind, 2016 could be an inspiring year to enjoy Shakespeare and Cervantes heritage while playing more music of their era!



Feros, Antonio. Gelabert Gonzalez, Juan Eloy, España en tiempos del Quijote. Madrid, Taurus, c 2004
Sache William L. English history in the making. Readings from the sources to 1680. Xerox College Publishing, 1967
Trevesyan, George Macaulay. A shortened history of England. A Penguin Book, 1988
Burton, Robert. The essential anatomy of Melancholy. Dover Publications Inc. Mineola, New York
Price, D.C. Patrons and musicians of the English Renaissance. Cambridge University Press, 1981.
Wainwright, Jonathan and Holman, Peter. From Renaissance to Baroque: change in instruments and instrumental music. Ashgate Pub. Ltd, 2005
Bloom Harold, Shakespeare, The Invention of the Human, Riverhead Book, 1999 or Shakespeare, La Invención de lo Humano (traductor: Tomás Segovia) Grupo Editorial Norma, 2008
The Lute Society of America

Classical guitarist Irene Gómez regularly contributes to Strings By Mail through her teaching and performance videos as well as articles. She is a Strings By Mail Sponsored Artist, teaches guitar at the National University in Bogotá, Colombia, and performs worldwide.

Irene Gómez Classical Guitarist