Virtual Class with José María Gallardo del Rey at Música en Compostela – Part I

Our last post described the Música en Compostela International Spanish Music Festival. The guitar classes were offered online this year. This post describes the first of two classes which were live-streamed on December 17, 2020. Enjoy!

In José María Gallardo’s first class, he started with a performance of Spanish dances by the seventeenth-century composer, guitarist, theologian, poet and philosopher, Gaspar Sanz. Starting at 9:20, you can hear Gallardo’s interpretation of these dances – Españoleta, Gaillarda, Sarabanda, Passacailla, and Canarios – each evoking a different part of Spain, from the flamenco rhythms of the southern Spain in the Españoleta to the courtly Sarabanda (southern roots but typical of the high plains of Castile) to the lively Canarios. The Canarios hails from the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa where Spanish ships bound for Latin America usually stopped to replenish supplies. The influence of popular songs from Latin America can be heard as the Canary Islands were a cultural meeting place between the continents.

Gallardo credits his first teacher, America Martinez, with his solid technique which proved a great foundation for his later studies with José Tomás. He felt fortunate that he never had to drastically change his technical approach to the guitar given his excellent early instruction. We had not heard of America Martinez before but apparently she was an admired maestra at the Conservatory of Sevilla. If you know more about her, please add this to the comments below!

In his discussion, Gallardo emphasized the importance of being a musician first and then a guitarist. A musician, he explained, needs to develop buen gusto (good taste). A musician should be interested in all aspects of culture in order to contextualize the music played: poetry, literature, visual arts, theater, dance, etc. The musical score, he explained, is not the music; it is the path to the tesoro (treasure) which is the performance of music.

When playing music by Santiago de Murcia (, Gallardo demonstrated different ways to add interest to a repeated section (33:45) for example, with a cross string trill rather than a single string ornament. One should play with the ornaments, he advised, demonstrating with a snap of the fingers at about 53:50. His masterful performance of a piece by Murcia can be found at 54:09.

When discussing the Capricho Árabe by Tarrega, Gallardo emphasized the underlying pulse of Arabic music (1:43). He pointed out that the guitar was the same instrument played by Flamenco and Classical guitarists in the late nineteenth century, when Torres was building his iconic instruments at the end of the nineteenth century. During this period, there was a much closer relationship between guitarists of these different traditions as they were playing the same instruments and shared a similar approach to the guitar.

Much of Gallardo’s discussion focused on finding ways to play Spanish music that brought out the folkloric underpinnings of music – music that would have been heard on the streets and in the bars. We found it interesting that in post-colonial Spain, it was the music of vanquished peoples that proved most characteristic of Spanish music. In 1492, King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile were hardly paying attention to Columbus lost at sea. They were united in a campaign to expel Arabs and Jews from southern Spain. Gypsies too were oppressed under Spanish rule (there is a long and complicated history there), but in the nineteenth century, it was Gypsy music (Flamenco) with its Arabic and Jewish influences, that proved to be the most Spanish.

We’ll post on the second day of classes soon!

One thought on “Virtual Class with José María Gallardo del Rey at Música en Compostela – Part I

  1. From Maestro Gallardo: My teacher América Martínez was a brilliant performer and profesor and she studied with Fortea, Sainz de la Maza, Pujol and Segovia. I was so fortunate to have her as my “musical mother.” After studying with her, and in Santiago de Compostela where Andrés Segovia, José Tomás, and José Luis Rodrigo taught, it is such great honor to be there teaching now. I send you my best wishes.


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