Sonata Concertata for Guitar and Violin by Niccolò Paganini (Movement 1: Allegro Spiritoso)

Niccolò Paganini (1782 – 1840) composed his three-movement Sonata Concertata for Guitar and Violin in 1804 during his time in Lucca, Italy, dedicating the piece to Signora Emilia di Negri, the wife of the Marchese Giancarlo di Negri, who was a loyal patron. While most widely known for his virtuosic violin technique, compositional abilities and charismatic personality, Paganini was also a skilled guitarist, composing roughly 140 pieces for solo guitar, 28 violin and guitar duets, as well as many trios and quartets that incorporate the guitar in some capacity. This work was the first sonata that Paganini composed for violin and guitar. Classical period influences can be heard in the balanced musical structure of the piece and the interplay between the two instruments. The first movement consists primarily of harmonies that are reminiscent of the time period, though an unusual modulation from the key of A major to the key of C major occurs in the middle of the piece before modulating back to the original key at the beginning of the final section. Despite Paganini’s prodigious and well-documented violin expertise, the first movement of this sonata features a relatively even distribution of the melody, with the guitar sometimes imitating and taking turns with the violin as opposed to strictly playing an accompaniment part throughout the piece. The violin and guitar also engage in some call and response, simultaneously showcasing the unique expressive qualities of both instruments and demonstrating Paganini’s prodigious capabilities as a composer.


Neill, Edward. “Paganini, Nicolò.” Grove Music Online. Edited by Deane Root. Accessed 23 January 2021.

Paganini, Niccolo. Sonata Concertata, MS 2. IMSLP.

Moore, Edward. “Sonata concertata, for guitar & violin in A major, Op. 61, MS 2.” AllMusic, n.d.


Sonata in A Major, L.238/K. 208: Adagio e Cantabile by Domenico Scarlatti

This piece was composed around 1755 and is one of approximately 555 “sonatas” written by the Italian baroque period composer and harpsichordist Domenico Scarlatti (1685–1757). I write the word “sonata” in quotation marks here because these works are not exactly what we would think of today as sonata form. Instead, many of Scarlatti’s “sonatas” can be described as being in what we think of today as binary form (two main sections, either or both of which are repeated) and typically feature the presentation and elaboration of a specific musical idea. For instance, K. 208 utilizes the anticipatory beat, often by means of suspensions or embellishing tones placed on the last eighth note of a measure, which are then (usually) resolved on the downbeat of the next measure.

As suggested by the tempo indication (Adagio e Cantabile), the melody is highly expressive and lyrical, primarily based on triads, scalar passages and embellishing tones. It is also in binary form, and both sections are repeated, typically with additional ornamentation on the repeat of each section. The first section starts in the tonic key of A major before going to the dominant key (E), briefly straying to E minor, and returning to the dominant, ending the section conclusively with an embellished perfect authentic cadence. The second section begins in the key of the supertonic (B minor), cycles through D minor and E major by means of secondary dominant and secondary leading tone harmonies, before returning to the home key of A major. The second section ends similarly to the first section, with an embellished perfect authentic cadence, this time in the tonic key.

Although K. 208 was originally written for harpsichord, its thin musical texture and relatively compact pitch range lend itself nicely to guitar. Also, although Scarlatti was born in Italy, he spent much of his career in Spain, which perhaps influenced the “guitaristic” sound of his works for harpsichord. As a result, many of Scarlatti’s sonatas have become an important part of the classical guitar repertory, and have been performed by luminaries such as Andrés Segovia, John Williams and David Russell, as well as more contemporary artists including Manuel Barrueco, Ana Vidovic, Scott Tennant, Simon Powis, Drew Henderson and SoloDuo.


AllMusic. 2020. “Domenico Scarlatti: Keyboard Sonata in A Major, K. 208 (L. 238).

Brown, Jeffrey Arlo. 2020. “Every Scarlatti Sonata, Ranked.” VAN Magazine, June 25, 2020.

IMSLP. 2019. “Keyboard Sonata in A Major, K. 208.” Last Modified January 20, 2019.

Powis, Simon. 2019. “Graded Repertoire for Classical Guitar.” New York, NY: CGC Publishing.

Werner, Bradford. n.d. “Domenico Scarlatti.” This Is Classical Guitar.

Zbikowski, Lawrence M. 2010. “Music, Emotion, Analysis.” Music Analysis 29, no. 1–3 (March–October): 37–60.

Last Post of 2020

2020 has been without a doubt the strangest year in recent memory. So much loss, pain, distress, and uncomfortableness, yet also a forced reimagining of some of our most fundamental assumptions about work, education, justice, governance, and, well, life. Prior to the pandemic, although some people worked from home, it was generally the accepted convention that adults went to a place other than home to work and children went to a place other than home to go to school. This basic underlying assumption got completely and totally disrupted this year (maybe for ever). Now, most work is at least partially remote, and perhaps more importantly, more people are open to this possibility than ever before. School moved online or to a hybrid format in many cases, and is in some of these cases continuing to do so. Some people even pulled their children out of school to homeschool them or embark upon other forms of self-directed education.

The pandemic also exacerbated the demographic and economic gaps in our society, showing us loud and clear that the system is not only broken; it’s also doing what it’s designed to do: give outsize profits, preferential care and preferential treatment to the economically, socially, and politically dominant and punishing those who do not fit within these categories by denying, degrading or depriving them of many of the most basic necessities necessary for survival and dignity. In short, 2020 showed us that all is not well with our current models of work, education, governance, and society as a whole. It hasn’t been well during the pandemic, it wasn’t well before the pandemic, but now, hopefully, we are starting to wake up and make meaningful efforts at positive change.

In writing this, I will admit something that might sound controversial, and it is this: personally speaking, I had a great year. I am so grateful for the continued health of myself and my family, being able to continue to work and attend graduate school remotely, and having more time for the things that I really enjoy, such as playing guitar, teaching music, composing music, writing, researching, taking walks, staying home, and living life at something a little bit slower than breakneck speed. You see, I’m an introvert, a self-starter, and thrive when I can work independently in an efficient and focused manner. Not having to commute to work or graduate school for most of the year freed up literally months of my life that I was able to dedicate to numerous exciting and fulfilling projects, some of which may be discussed here in the near future. In addition, working and going to school from home was not new to me, as I was homeschooled for the entirety of my grade school years. My first day of school was my first day of college, and my mom worked and attended college at least partially from home throughout my childhood. In some ways, it’s actually quite nice to go back to that rhythm of working on primarily self-directed projects throughout the day without having to commute anywhere. Yes, there were challenges and unexpected transitions, and I had to act, think, and plan even more resourcefully then in the before times, but all in all, it was (again, on a personal level) a great year for me.

I realize, empathize, and acknowledge all who have had an awful year filled with unimaginable loss and horror and despair and hopelessness, and I am not in any way attempting to minimize or dismiss the suffering that has happened this year. Like most of us, I hope that 2021 will be a better year, filled with health, joy, love, hope and abundance, and that the pandemic will end. I hope that the better angels of our nature will prevail, that things will get better for all of us, and that we will prioritize goodness, honesty, integrity, justice, fairness, peace, intelligence and skill over short term external motivators such as greed, envy, hatred, division, and the root of all of these: fear. It is my hope that with love, courage, hard work and a positive spirit, we can both build on the positive aspects of our collective knowledge and reimagine our future in ways that will benefit all of us. I hope that we practice gratitude, and cultivate empathy, compassion, creativity, and all that is true and beautiful and good. If you’ve made it to the end of this post, please know that I am grateful for you, and grateful that you have taken the time to read the ramblings of a very possibly unrealistically idealistic musician, educator, student and writer. Finally, I would like to wish you all a wonderful New Year filled with health, joy, peace, and plenty of music!

Thank you for reading, and for your continued support, encouragement, and inspiration,


Capricho árabe by Francisco Tárrega

Capricho árabe is another very well-known work by Francisco Tárrega, and a personal favorite of mine on several different levels. It is the rare piece that I equally enjoy playing, performing, analyzing, and listening to. I love how the theme transports the player and listener into a dreamy, sensuous world filled with musical color and emotion. The variations on the theme branch out in creative ways while remaining cohesive to the musical whole, and the piece sounds simultaneously improvised and meticulously composed. From a performing point of view, there is something about playing a work written for guitar by an incredible guitarist that is hard to describe yet deeply satisfying. Fellow guitarists might know what I mean; there is an intrinsic logic to Tárrega’s clearly exceptional understanding of the unique timbres and capabilities of the guitar that just intuitively feels and sounds right. Capricho árabe is guitaristic without devolving into an intellectual exercise or a technical showcase. It is music written for guitar, but not confined to limiting notions of what music for guitar may be expected to sound like.

The title of the piece translates roughly as “Arabic capriccio,” indicating a possible homage to the Moorish roots of the guitar, as well as describing the free and lively character of this work. The piece is in the key of D minor, uses theme and variations form, a possible nod to both folk and classical musical cultures, and starts with a short introduction. The opening measures of the introduction feature a dyad played in harmonics followed by a descending passage starting high up on the neck, at the fifteenth fret of the high E string:

Capricho Arabe, introduction (first 4 measures)

After the introduction and a two-measure transition, the theme first appears in the tonic key of D minor, complete with an accompaniment and bass line. Rest strokes are often used to accentuate prominent notes in the theme, such as where the accent indications are placed in this excerpt of the first two measures of the theme:

Capricho Arabe, main theme (first 2 measures)

The theme later modulates to the relative major and parallel major keys, and utilizes the middle and upper positions of the fretboard (as per Tárrega’s fingering indications), before returning to the tonic key and ending on a short cadential passage. Interestingly, all of the phrases except for the last phrase end on a half cadence. This unusual pattern of cadences gives the piece an unresolved feeling until the very last measure, which tonicizes the original key of D minor by means of a dyad played in harmonics (consisting of the root and fifth in the tonic key), followed by a high, resonant D minor chord that finally resolves the piece on a perfect authentic cadence.