Hispanae Citharae Ars Viva – Anthology of 16th century

Difficulty I, A Difficulty I (from about grade 3)

This is an invaluable collection of pieces, opening the door to a wonderful part of music history and giving today’s guitarist direct access to complex, fantastic and rewarding music. I love this book, first published in 1956, and it has been part of my repertoire for as long as I can remember.

The music is so detailed and intricate yet at the same time very emotional with lots of space and flexibility in performance.

There is a good Preface with historical information about the original instrument and notation, aims of the editor, tuning, tempo and a short note on all of the pieces. The language is a little ‘quaint’ to our modern ear, for example ‘in olden days’, probably due to age and translation. However it is very important to read this to get the most from the music. Pujol uses the original tempo indications in this edition; Despacio – slow, Compas apresurado – hurried (more likely to be rubato than simply fast), Tempo medio – medium tempo.

In ‘Fantasia de consonancias y redobles’ by Milan the music alternates between chord passages and running scale passages to be played respectively despacio (slow) and apriesa (fast). This is indicated throughout and allows you so much freedom to follow the natural flow and momentum of the music.

‘Cancion del Emperador’ is based on Mille Regretz by Josquin, one of the great Renaissance composers, and is a wonderfully gentle and poignant piece with long interweaving phrases and fantastic harmony. In the preface Pujol mentions the differences in note values from this period to today, which is obvious in this piece and should be noted.

The ‘Fantasia que contrahaze la harpa en la manera de Luduvico’ by Mudarra is on my all time favourites list and has a wonderful passage towards the end with the instruction “From here to the end there are some false notes :when played well they do not sound bad”.!

Overall the music is not technical and complicated for the fingers but challenges the guitarist with phrasing, voicing, counterpoint and musicianship. It is just lovely to be able to concentrate on, develop and listen to the music!


B = beginner. Grades 1-3 or roughly 1-3 years playing. I = intermediate. Grades 4-6 or roughly 4-5 years playing. A = advanced. Grade 7 and above, 6 years or more experience.