Preludio (en re mayor) by Miguel Llobet

Classical guitar Preludio (en re mayor) is a very short work by Miguel Llobet dedicated as a Pequeño recuerdo a la precoz guitarrista María Luisa Anido (a small memento for the precocious guitarist María Luisa Anido). The dedication was written in Barcelona and is dated September 7, 1916, at which time Miss Anido was only nine years old. Llobet did not take her up as a student until seven years later when she was sixteen. That would indicate Llobet met Anido while performing in Buenos Aires and sent her the composition via post after returning to Barcelona.

Despite the strong likelihood Preludio (en re mayor) was more of a capricious exercise than a serious composition, it exemplifies the bane of the guitar repertoire. Guitarist-composers excel at writing interesting short works (although usually longer than this one) that leave you begging for more. But they rarely are able to develop these short works into longer compositions. The prevalence of the preludio is overwhelming. Guitarists are left to ask Prelude to what?. Every time I play a prelude I want to know what comes next and am left hanging. At least Barrios was able to work his phenomenal Preludio (Saudade) into La Catedral.

Another maddening aspect of preludes (as well as some other forms), is that they are all titled Preludio. You have to concoct ways of distinguishing one from another. Although I added en re mayor as a parenthetical subtitle, that is not part of the name of the piece. Also, Llobet wrote at least two preludes in D major. How is one to distinguish one from the other by title alone?

Gripes aside, Preludio (en re mayor) is a worthwhile study and piece of music. As my source, I used a 1923 edition from the Argentine publication La Guitarra (No.2, Dec. 1923) by Juan Carlos Anido (María Anido's father). I've omitted right hand fingering, which for this piece is highly idiosyncratic. I've altered some of the left hand fingering from the Anido edition that didn't make sense (e.g., why would you use finger 1 instead of 4 for the slide in measure 2?). I have retained fingering that may seem questionable at first, but is clearly intended to facilitate transitioning from one position to another. For example, the first time you play the passage in measure 2, you end with finger 3 instead of finger 1 so that your hand is already in the fifth position to start measure 3. When you repeat the same passage in measure 4, however, you end with finger 2 so that your hand is in the sixth position, in place to flow smoothly into measure 5.

Anido's edition is in 2/4 and doesn't list a tempo. Given that the entire piece consists of sixteenth note sextuplets, I've changed the time signature to the equivalent 6/8, obviating the need to notate sextuplets. Also, I've suggested a tempo. I've written the left hand instruction in English. l.h. alone[1] means you should play legato with the left hand only, refraining from plucking the strings with the right hand.

Figure 1. Impossible Measure 5, Anido Edition
Fifth measure of Preludio (en re mayor).

It's impossible to play the first F♯ in measure 5 for the duration notated.

Figure 1 shows an impossible note I had to change in measure 5. The F♯ sixteenth note tied to the quarter note is an impossibility. In order to let the note continue to sound, you must keep finger 4 in place. Yet, halfway through the measure, you must move finger 4 to play the C on the first string, causing the F♯ to stop sounding. I'm not sure what the original intent of the notation was, but it's clear the mistake has been copied blindly by many. I have corrected the error to show the F♯ sounding up until the finger holding the note moves.

Measure 7 also contains an impossibility. The Anido edition notates a slur between the G and D in the middle of the measure while at the same time maintaining a barre at the fifth fret. You can't pull off the G to a D while barring at the fifth fret. Even if it was intended to indicate legato in the sense that the G should continue to sound while you pluck the D, there are better ways of notating that (and it's the default way you'd play the passage anyway). I've removed the slur to avoid potential confusion.

The last change I made was to shorten the barre in the final measure to not cover the last note; and I added vibrato to the final note. Even though the final note can be played while maintaining the barre, you end up stopping it with the flat of your finger instead of the tip. Also, your stretched hand prevents you from giving the note character with, for example, vibrato. Furthermore, the preceding notes maintained by holding the barre may obscure the final note. Playing the note by itself clearly punctuates the end. Do not hold the vibrato too long as if the note also had a fermata. Use the minimum amount of vibrato required to give the note character before it expires.

Barre and Position Notation

The more I read late 19th-century and early 20th-century Spanish guitar music editions that use Arabic numerals for barre notation, the more I prefer that approach. I maintain a set of LilyPond functions and macros that will produce output with Arabic numerals even though my source files use Roman numerals. I haven't switched over to the system as my default because there remain additional details to sort out pertaining to harmonics, fractional notation for partial barres, pivot barres, and so on. This piece is notationally simple enough, however, to use as a test case for the alternative approach. I think it makes the page look cleaner and therefore more readable. Consequently, I've also made available the alternate version using Arabic numerals.

Sheet Music
Roman NumeralsArabic Numerals

Revision History
Revision 1.1.02023-06-09 

Corrected string numbers and enhanced curvature of slur for slide in second half of measures 1 and 3.

[1] mano iz. sola in the Anido edition.