With the flowering of the large vihuela in the Sixteenth Century, there arose as though by magic, a generation of musical composers of high artistic quality, which at its time naturally required more skillful interpreters. "The blossoming of our guitarists was one of the greatest glories of which Spain could boast in the Sixteenth Century," says Higinio Angles, "and they shared with the foreign lutenists the honor of having prepared the way for the advent of the monodia (song for a single voice) accompaniment, which the Florentines had given new meaning at the end of the Sixteenth and beginning of the Seventeenth Century.
But there is still more: the Spanish guitarists were the first cultivators on the great scale of the art of variation in which they perhaps preceded our own organists. The great fashion of the vihuelistas, made famous by the works written for the instrument from 1535 to 1576, provided a great influence toward the style of the guitarristas." During the last third of the Sixteenth Century, the vihuela began to disappear from the scene while the guitar, which Vicente Espinel by then had endowed with a fifth string, incorporated the musical practices of a new style, recovering in part the heritage of its sister, the vihuela.
The fifth string was not invented by the celebrated poet and musician, Espinel, but adapted by him. At the same time that four string guitars were being used, other of five strings began to appear, as noted for us by Juan Bermudo in his "Statement of Instruments," which was publish- ed in 1555. Espinel was born in 1549. Bermudo, speaking of the music he himself composed for the guitar said, "This music can be played easily if guitarists will add a fifth string over the fourth." They began to call it the Spanish guitar, and it soon spread throughout Europe. "This is the moment," says Sainz de la Maza, "in which Cervantes praises Vicente Espinel in his Galatea (Cervantes' pastoral novel, written in 1585); when the two currents of the musical and popular cults came to be synthesized in the guitar, and determined its future success.
" The five-string guitar had now displaced the vihuela, and after Carlos Amat, the clergyman Gaspar Sanz, Aragonese by birth, in 1674, published his "Instruction of Music for the Spanish Guitar," which became something like the musical consecration of this instrument, now entirely Spanish.
During the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, the guitar lived under the ordinary and distinguished people at the same time. When Italian music, little by little, began to take possession of Spain's musical atmosphere before the novelty of the pianoforte ( the first version of the piano, appeared at the end of the Eighteenth Century), the guitar appears to have lost ground in the salons, but not before attaining a great victory, that of forming part of the orchestra for theatrical music. That theatrical music was the source of the scenic musical interlude.
?The scenic interlude was a brief Spanish comic opera with instrumental accompaniment, and incorporated popular elements of the period. The scenic interlude helped to form a Spanish musical language that later produced the zarzuela (variety of operetta; musical comedy)" (f. Subira).
At the time that the orchestra with the musical interlude was granting admission to the guitar with the Tirana
(a popular ballad sung with guitar accompaniment) another door opened for the guitar -the instrumental concert. That it could succeed as a concert piece was due to the innovation effected in it by the Cistercian monk, Friar Miguel Garcia, commonly known as "Father Basilio". He introduced the use of a sixth string. Father Basilio was a guitarist of stature, instructor of the kings Carlos IV and Maria Luisa, and also teacher of the famous Dionisio Aguado. Fernando Sor, Dionisio Aguado and Trinidad Huerta, extraordinary guitarists during the early years of the Nineteenth Century, upheld and even raised the artistic status of the guitar, then making it a strong rival of the clavichord and pianoforte in the royal palaces and in the mansions of the nobility.
With the arrival of the war of Independence, a long interruption in the cultivation of music was produced and the guitar disappeared from high Spanish society in order to become an instrument united with the common people in their struggle against the French. In the hands of Sor, Aguado, Huertas and Arcas, the guitar dominated Paris and traveled triumphantly through European countries and America, but in Spain remained among the guerrillas and soldiers as a companion during their marches and vigils, which covered the full length and width of the Iberian map. Certainly, some of the Spanish soldiers, who left in 1807 for Denmark with the Marquis of the Romana, and traveled through France and Germany, carried guitars, which were crossed on their person in bandoleer fashion. This troop became very popular in Germany, as did the guitar, many examples of which remain among the Germans. We do not know if this influenced the beginning of German guitar-construction techniques. The Germans were not much behind the Spanish in the production of guitars; and in quantity alone, they had apparently surpassed them.