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CARCASSI, Matteo (1792-1853)

Born in Florence, this virtuoso guitarist apparently served in the Napoleonic armies, if the Journal des débats is to be believed: Carcassi ‘made France, which he had served as a soldier, his adoptive homeland and his country of predilection’. This information was subsequently taken up by Le Ménestrel, whose journalist adds: ‘In his personal life, he possessed the most amiable character, exemplary morals, and remarkable rectitude and judgment.’ Carcassi was initially a pianist, but later made a name for himself as a guitarist. He settled in Paris (probably in 1820), often toured England and Germany, and participated in the extensive development of the guitar, which was beginning to be widely played among the bourgeoisie. He taught pupils at his home in the rue de Richelieu and composed dances, as well as many fantasias and variations on operatic arias. Fétis praised their ‘fairly good style and passagework that is out of the ordinary’, while L’Indépendant said of the dances that ‘everything is easy to perform and is as pleasing to musicians as to dancers’. Carcassi knew how to put his instrument through its paces without demanding great technical prowess. His pedagogical fibre appears in his 25 Études and his Méthode complète pour la guitare, in which he attempted to ‘facilitate the study of the guitar by adopting a plan capable, in the clearest, simplest and most precise way, of inculcating thorough knowledge of all the instrument’s resources’. He advocated the use of a footstool and the position with the guitar resting on the left thigh, two principles which have since been systematically taken up by performers.

    Work - 1
  • Au clair de la lune chanté dans ‘Les Voitures versées’ varié pour guitare ou lyre op.7 (Matteo Carcassi)
  • Theme - 1
  • Strings – The guitar in the nineteenth century