Guitarra MagazineGuitarra Magazine HomeGuitars of SpainGuitar HistoryGuitar CatalogGuitar MuseumGuitar Photo Gallery
GUITAR HISTORY
From pre-Christian times to the era of the vihuela, there was a period of slow, incessant development across successive generations and stages of civilization of the desire to wed singing to the accompaniment of musical instruments. In Spain, the Andalusian musicians of the caliphate (government of a supreme ruler, and players and troubadours of the upper Middle Ages) continued to strive for musical excellence, which was more and more required for the poetry, feelings and diversions of the people. In the words of R. Tagore, "the poetry of songs without music lacks soul."

This same desire led directly to the evolution of instruments capable of expressing the type of music each period and atmosphere required. With the great musical value, which these instruments attained, a greater development of the music itself resulted, which was enriched by the unending contributions of the Spanish artists.

In the fifteenth century, after several centuries of living with the guitar, vihuela, lute, and bandurria (an old musical string instrument resembling the lute or guitar), each of which could be played well either solo or in ensemble, the vihuela began to gain ground in the instrumental field as the favorite instrument in the courts of Aragon and Castilla.

At that time, dances were performed in the salons. The "alta" and "baja," two dance forms much approved of by society, were played on the vihuela. One such dance was written by Francisco de la Torre to be performed in the court of the Catholic Kings. This "danza alta" for three vihuelas, and other Spanish dances of similar appeal, were much praised throughout all of Europe.

The fantasy, sensibility, and genius of the Spanish spirit bore optimum fruit with several eminent Spanish musicians who flourished between 1440 and 1480. Three such musicians were Bartolome Ramos de Pareja, Francisco Guerrero, and Juan Vazquez.

Juan Vazquez, in his time, won just fame as the author of beloved Christmas carols which were then widely played by the vihuelists; "Vos Me Mataste," "Los Brazos Traigo Cansados," "Serrana, Donde Dormiste?", "Torna," "Mingog, A Namorarme," "Con Que Me Lavare" and "De Los Alamos Vengo."

According to Sainz de la Maza, Juan Vazquez, in the prologue of his "Summary of Christmas Carols," clearly explains the aesthetic plan which guided him in the elaboration of his songs: "The musicians of our time accord serious, somber music to the churches in order to inspire devotion within us and lift our spirits to contemplation of the Creator; and compose light, for the recreational moments of afflicted souls. Thus, they dress the characteristic spirit of their works with the most fitting form and music. Cristobal Morales, a shining light in Spanish music, who developed in a short period, is an excellent example of this type of musician; as is Seville's Francisco Guerrero, who has so capably penetrated the secrets of music.

And so, in effect, the vihuela, and also the guitar, perfectly suited all parts of Spanish society. When not in the Church, in the Court, in the private dwelling, or in the public or private recreation, the vihuela was played either alone, with other instruments, or as vocal accompaniment in the same manner that the lute was played in various European countries, Three famous women, Maria Estuardo, Diana de Francia, and Margarita de Navarra, played the lute so well that it is certain they left a favorable impression on the refined musical sensibility of their time. The lute was a symbol of love and gallantry.