Gaspar Sanz (1640-1710) ‘Laberintos Ingeniosos’ / Xavier Díaz-Latorre, baroque guitar


Not so well known to the average classical music lover but a momentous figure to classical guitarists and aficionados of guitar music is the Aragonese composer Gaspar Sanz (c.1640-c.1710) (Aragon is an autonomous district within Spain). This recent release on the Cantus label titled 'Laberinto Ingeniosos' (Ingenious Labyrinth) is devoted entirely to the colorful and infectiously high-spirited music of Sanz. Xavier Díaz-Latorre plays the five-course baroque guitar and percussionist Pedro Estevan adds the spice with authentic percussion instruments of the Spanish baroque.

Sanz's importance to and influence upon guitarists began in 1674 when he published his 'Instruction on Music for the Spanish Guitar'; his authority has lasted to this day. A sequel was published the following year, and a third edition appeared shortly after that. These three volumes contain some ninety compositions for the instrument and are Sanz's only known contributions to the guitar repertory. Taken together with the pedagogic contents of his manuals, modern scholars have gained invaluable insights into the practice of baroque guitar performance.

The Baroque guitar of Sanz's time was strung in five courses, or pairs of strings. The lower two courses were commonly tuned in octaves and the instrument itself was tuned in fourths, which is still the practice on today's modern guitars. The music on this program was published in 1674 and 1675, a time when the guitar was attaining a status comparable to the lute. Sanz's technical methodology and his compositions themselves greatly advanced the sophistication of guitar performance. He placed more emphasis on right hand techniques - plucking rather than strumming - facilitating runs, slurs, trills and the creation of a contrapuntal texture. Together with this, his expanded use of modulation and dissonance made the music more harmonically interesting.

If you are listening to the album sample in the sidebar, you're enjoying an improvisation on a jig, Passeos por el cuarto tono. These two performers are marvelous musicians and Cantus' engineering is excellent. Overall, this is an enlightening and enjoyable glimpse of the guitar at the dawn of its time.

In the video, the musicians on this album perform live the final selection on the program