Saturday, January 29, 2011

Verano Porteño - Anders Miolin

Fortunately for us, triskaidekaphobia is not a concern for Anders Miolin, the guitarist performing Verano Porteño in today's video, nor for Ermanno Chiavi, the luthier who built Miolin's 13 string guitar. The arrangement is no doubt Miolin's - arrangements for 13 string guitars are just as rare as such instruments - and while it is, I believe, derivative of the arrangement by Baltazar Benitez (which itself is derivative of the arrangement by Sergio Assad), advantage is taken of the additional range of the 13 string guitar through broader broken chords which open the sound of the piece. It makes for beautiful music.

As beautiful as the music is, I must admit it was the guitar that captured my attention. It is very interesting and I believe unique. There are harp guitars with 13 strings but what makes the word "harp" applicable to such instruments are the unfretted sympathetic or diapason strings which vibrate harmonically with the fretted strings as they are played and occasionally are plucked themselves to add a particular bass note. All thirteen strings on the Chiava instrument are fretted, although the lowest strings have only three fretted positions. The additional strings and frets extend the range of the guitar from the usual three plus octaves to a full five octaves. The strings may and do still vibrate sympathetically but they also may be fretted to provide a fuller range of low bass notes although any rapid fingering on those lowest strings must challenge the musician.

I think there is more opportunity for the combination of guitar, musician and Verano Porteño. I hope Mr. Miolin will listen carefully to Piazzolla's quintet version of the work and, with a clean sheet of staff paper, create an arrangement which will break the bonds of Assad/Benitez and truly show what Mr. Chiavi's instrument can do.

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