Cellist Pablo Casals used to say that ‘The most perfect technique is that which is not noticed at all’. There were times, however, when some technically challenging music was necessary in order to either adapt to new instruments or give a next step that would allow a different style to emerge. It was the case with the guitar in some moments in history, when the instrument had to adapt either structurally or stylistically to new trends, and we can see the emergence of sets of pieces and studies that would follow these changes in order to either adapt or prepare guitarists for the challenges of the coming times.
The guitar by Austrian luthier J. G. Stauffer used in WGC Heritage is of a kind called ‘Legnani model’, due to the collaboration between the Italian guitarist-composer Luigi Legnani with the Austrian luthier. This instrument presented some structural changes that would help delineate the way the guitar would be constructed for times to come. The ‘Legnani model’ became very famous and popular in Europe within a very short period, and Legnani, himself a luthier later in life, took it to a next step developing it even further.
In 1822 Legnani wrote his 36 Capricci op. 20, probably inspired by Paganini’s famous 24 Capricci op. 01, which in its turn brought important developments in violin’s technique. Written in all major and minor keys, Legnani’s Capricci explore not only ‘obvious’ virtuosity such as fast scales and arpeggios, but also more subtle technical and musical aspects of guitar playing, such as left-hand bars and unusual phrasing. The three Capricci presented in WGC Heritage bring a bit of each aspect: Capriccio #5, in D, is a kind of celebration of the ‘Legnani model’ guitar, as the very first note of the piece is the very last note possible to be reached on this guitar (a D), showing off its tone qualities even in extreme positions; Capriccio #22, in Cm, explores a technical aspect (left-hand barrées) and the texture of accompanied melody, bringing the cantabile skills of the performer to proof while sustaining very tense positions on the left hand; and Capriccio #36, in E, the very last one of the series, is a timeless challenge of fast combinations of scales and oddly constructed arpeggios that bring the guitarist’s technique to its limits.