On Escarramán

On Escarramán


Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco wrote Escarramán based on Spanish Renaissance dances referenced in an intermezzo of Cervantes. I explore these 16th-century forms of the Galliard, Pavane, Canario, Villano, and Romance/Villancico and develop possible interpretive choices. The reader is given concrete interpretive ideas and familiarised with Escarramán, the dance forms, and a general investigative approach that is applicable to future study of a wider variety of stylized dance forms.


Table of Contents:

My approach

Critical Questions

Initial Thoughts

What I Wanted to Achieve

How is this useful for myself and others when developing an artistic approach?

The Figures Involved


  1. Gallarda
  2. El canario
  3. El villano
  4. “Pesame dello…”
  5. “El Rey don Alonso el Bueno”



A note on style:

Styles of dance will be capitalized, e.g. Pavane, Galliard;

Dance steps will be italicized, e.g. cinque pas;

Movement titles will be capitalized and italicized, e.g. Gallarda, El canario, ‘El Rey don Alonso el Bueno’;

Direct quotations will use double “” and not single ‘’ so as to not to be confused with ‘Pesame dello’ and ‘El Rey don Alonso el Bueno’.

I urge you to follow along in the score if possible.


My Approach


Critical Questions

Initial Thoughts

I had hoped to match each dance to a counterpart in name and aspects of musicality. This turned out to be a significant amount of wishful thinking. Only the first two movements, Gallarda and El canario, bear a strong resemblance to their original dances with El villano having ambiguous characteristics. ‘Pesame dello’ and ‘El Rey don Alonso el Bueno’, however, are clearly each influenced by a certain dance form and it would be a significant finding to conclude which they were related to.

What I Wanted to Achieve

Within each movement the goal was to first gather as much critical information on the performance specifics of each dance. This in itself was a challenge given that Spanish historical forms have perhaps not been given the same degree of attention as the German ones, with the added task of identifying those named dances.

Nevertheless, with this information in hand, I planned to characterize the movements across as many relevant domains of interpretation as possible: meter, rhythms, form, phrase length, instrumentation, tempo, and articulation, in addition to the quotations and idiosyncrasies Castelnuovo-Tedesco occasionally adds to his music.

Good judgement is then required to gauge the relevance of each musical dimension to the dance in question and whether to apply it. The contrasting problem is then encountered with all the information present, one has to make specific choices informed by the summative character and not one element. The goal is then twofold: specify which element of the dance is informing each interpretive aspect and gather as complete a picture as possible to present the entirety of the information as an interpretative dimension.

The artistic product was initially planned as a presentation but came to include this essay out of necessity. The presentation has the advantage of prepared musical examples to facilitate the audience’s more immediate understanding. Outlining the intricacies of the research would have to be kept for this essay, in order to respect the details that could not be given as much time in the limelight and have abbreviated my artistic product. 


How is this useful for myself and others when developing an artistic approach?

My journey into the dance forms of Escarramán was done with the aim of cataloguing not only the findings but of the creative process in applying that information. For guitarists, the benefits of my findings are obvious in expanding the range of sources on a lesser-known work of Castelnuovo-Tedesco upon which future scholarship can be built. It is not necessary for a guitarist to accept the interpretive conclusions, but rather to digest them and begin that process for themselves. It is both a blessing and a curse that so much guitar repertoire is unexplored and I don’t pretend that Escarramán has given up all of its secrets.

For a non-guitarist, I hope this can serve as an example of how to immerse oneself in pursuing an interpretation of a stylized dance, so that one may understand the philosophy of my approach in addition to the results. While it is possible to develop an interpretation without going so deeply into the roots of a piece, my studies of Escarramán only multiplied my enjoyment and solidified the base on which I could impart my artistic personality.


The Figures Involved

A key component of the foray into Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Escarramán was becoming familiar with his key biographical details. They served to direct my curiosity when at a dead end, without which I would not have thought to comb through the works of his contemporaries such as Respighi or Falla or focus on certain decades of popular Italian song.

Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco was born in Florence in 1895 and rose to prominence as a pianist and composer before writing a single note for the guitar. A trip in 1932 to Venice led to his meeting Andre Segovia, who became the dedicatee and editor of a significant number of Tedesco’s works for guitar. Castelnuovo-Tedesco moved to America in 1939 and wrote 19 works incorporating the guitar, after which Escarramán was composed in 1955. While recovering from two stints in hospital, Arturo Loria, friend of Castelnuovo-Tedesco and dedicatee of Escarramán, gave him Griswold S. Morley’s translation of Entremeses of Miguel de Cervantes. On May 29th, 1955 the first, and as we shall find, unrelated movement, La guarda cuydadosa (The Soldier in Love) was completed. By the 10th of June, the suite Escarramán was finalised comprising: Gallarda (Galliard), El canario (The Canary Jig), El villano (The Country Bumpkin), ‘Pesame dello’ (I’m Sorry), and ‘El Rey don Alonso el Bueno’ (The Good King Don Alphonse).

In understanding the literary significance of Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s music it is important to consider the relationship to his sources of inspiration. Described by James Westby in Grove Music:


Music for him was above all a means of expression, going as far as to claim that everything could be translated into musical terms: ‘the landscapes I saw, the books I read, the pictures and statues I admired’. Three themes were central – his place of birth (Florence and Tuscany), the Bible and Shakespeare. 


Sourcing literary inspiration from Miguel de Cervantes (1547 – 1616) for Castelnuovo-Tedesco and other composers should not be seen as uncommon. Remembered as a father of modern literature for Don Quixote, Cervantes was also a playwright and his Ocho Comedias y ocho entremeses nuevos, nunca representados (Eight Comedies and Eight New Interludes, Never Before Performed) is the larger work from which Castelnuovo-Tedesco set individual entremeses, or comedic one-act plays. The relevant entremeses to Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s movements are La guarda cuydadosa (The Soldier in Love) and El rufián viudo, Ilamado Trampagos (The Widowed Pimp). It is important to note the separate inspirations Castelnuovo-Tedesco drew on; La guarda cuydadosa corresponds to an entremes of the same name while the suite Escarramán is linked to El rufián viudo, Ilamado Trampagos, They are published and present on the same autograph manuscript and urtext edition by Bèrben, but should be considered separate works and therefore acceptable to perform apart from one another. El rufiàn viudo is the story of a collection of ruffians, thieves and other underworld characters of the early 17th century attending the wedding of Trampagos to one of his prostitutes. As the debauchery develops, the party is crashed by Escarramán, a legendary dancer and underworld figure whose origins are attributed to Lope de Vega.

His dances in the following scene are the context for the dances in Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s suite Escarramán.


Griswold S. Morley’s Interludes of Cervantes, Princeton University Press: 1948


A letter from Castelnuovo-Tedesco to Segovia in 1959 reveals the tension in their relationship at this time:

“That in 1955. when I wrote Escarramán for you, at Ricordi's request, you promised me that you would do the fingering, and it was not until 1957, when you came to Los Angeles, that you did the fingering of the first movement, the Gagliarda, in half a day, promising me that when you returned to New York you would send the other movements to Ricordi: you never did so. In 1958 you promised to finger them during your stay in Siena; you did not do so. In your letter of last June, you assured me that you would include Escarramán in your programmes for that year, since when I was sorry to see that you were again playing the same old little pieces. That is why I recently had to authorize Ricordi, much to my sorrow, to publish the other pieces of Escarramán without your fingering. One cannot keep publishers waiting for years!”

(Otero, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco: His Life and Works for Guitar)


            Ricordi & Co. would eventually publish Segovia’s edition of the Gallarda under a pseudonym of Ansetonius with the remaining movements edited by Siegfried Behrend. It is not known whether Segovia ever played the Gallarda or the rest of Escarramán in concert but it was never recorded by him.

            Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s fondness for displaying his musical influences brings us to the work of some influential historical and contemporary figures. At that fateful 1932 Venice festival where Segovia and Castelnuovo-Tedesco were introduced, Segovia had travelled to Venice with Manuel de Falla on holiday. Falla was attending an Italian premiere of El retablo de Maese Pedro (Master Peter’s Puppet Show) with Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s First Piano Quintet also being premiered. Manuel de Falla (1876-1946) wrote several larger works I considered in relation to Escarramán for elements of influence and quotation. His El retablo de Maese Pedro is also based on a chapter of Cervantes’ Don Quixote and his modernization of the Spanish musical language left a lasting impression on Castelnuovo-Tedesco. Falla’s opera La vida breve, even if not explicitly quoted in Escarramán, seems to have been in the corner of his mind.

            Of an Italian influence was Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) whose musicological work resulted in the production of three suites of Antiche arie e danze (Ancient Airs and Dances) in 1917, 1923, and 1932 and were based on mostly lute pieces from the earlier centuries. All dates before Castelnuovo-Tedesco left Italy for good, it is not unreasonable to assume he had encountered these pieces. The similarities present, especially in the Galliard form and musical development in Respighi’s first suite, were valuable in determining potential reasons for certain musical choices.

In addition to Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s contemporaries, several prominent 16th-century composers are also worthy of attention. Of the Spanish vihuela works, Luis de Milan’s El Maestro (1536), Luis de Narváez’s Los seys libros del Delphin (1538), and Alonso Mudarra’s Tres Libros de Música (1546) all consist of fantasias, Pavans, Tentos’, Cancións, Differencias, Romanzas, and Villancicos. The collections are a mix of originals and settings of borrowed melodies. The general musical examples can be taken as comparison with their stylizations and in special cases seem like possible quotations. Given the emphasis on certain tonalities because of the tuning of the vihuela, the similarities could be coincidental, but there is certainly the possibility that Castelnuovo-Tedesco encountered viheula music in the same way Respighi set his lute melodies for his suites of Ancient Airs and Dances. These similarities will be explored in the section concerning ‘El Rey don Alonso el Bueno’.

Although not as obviously related, other Renaissance composers such as John Dowland, Gaspar Sanz and Santiago de Murcia are among the numerous composers of solo and consort music that aids in understanding the original character of these dances. A master of the Galliard and Pavane, Dowland’s settings highlight the hemiola and characteristic lilt of the Galliard while developing his melodic ideas in impressively complex ways. Gaspar Sanz is most famous for his Canarios that have lived in the guitar repertoire since their discovery. Likewise, Murcia’s collection of repertoire and treatise on baroque guitar performance has had a lasting impact on understanding performance practice of his era. I cannot recommend their music enough in establishing a background to which to compare the stylizations of Castelnuovo-Tedesco. The recordings of Hespèrion XX, Jordi Savall and his various collaborators are a wonderful place to begin listening.



The first in the suite Escarramán, Gallarda is rich in interpretive clues and Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s knowledge of the style. Built in a straightforward ABA structure with coda, Castelnuovo-Tedesco separately develops separate primary and trio themes that he juxtaposes in the coda to create a clever polyphonic texture. The polyphony staggers the accents in different voices during the coda by refraining from using the galliard’s metrical accents in the second theme. In combining the themes in this way, the necessity of the trio becomes clear, yet the idea of a trio section within the Galliard is not typical of the historical form. An analogous modern setting found in Respighi’s Antiche arie e danze No. 1 however reveals a possible origin of the idea. The second movement, Gagliarda, features a very similar use of the trio as a B section to round off the form. It could also be said that Castelnuovo-Tedesco was simply engaging with the long tradition of the (most often) Minuet paired with a trio to add complexity to his Galliard setting. Given that in his second book of Appunti, Op. 210, he does not add a trio, it seems reasonable to assume the trio’s main function was out of compositional necessity and only a possible nod to Respighi. There is also an error of great importance in the Berben edition of the Gallarda with the first A in the Trio being written an octave lower than it is in the manuscript.

Metric accents

One of the defining features of the Galliard is the cinque pas (five-step) in six beats of ¾ time. This typically takes the form of four small kicks or steps, then a saut majeur (larger jump) followed by a posture (rest beat with an extended leg), as explained by Arbeau (Orchesographie). Depending on the style of cinque pas, the jump could take a variable height but always occurred on the fifth beat. In Pre-Classic Dance Forms, Louis Horst outlines the differences in tempo and enthusiasm with which the jumps were performed. Progressively from the Tourdion to Galliard to Volté, the dance becomes more lively and the jump higher with the partner in the Volté being lifted into the air by the other.

In applying this five-step pattern to the Gallarda, the structure and resolutions of the opening phrase become clear. If the five-step pattern is matched from the first note of the galliard, then the saut majeur coincides with the appoggiatura on the first beat, measure 2 and on the first beat, measure 4. Both seem logical places for the step pattern to mirror the musical accent and is concurrent with Alan Brown’s findings when he concludes that all of Arbeau’s examples of dancing the Galliard also assume starting the five-step on the first note of the tune and not the first beat of the first bar (Grove Music).

The harmonies and articulations used by Castelnuovo-Tedesco also support this mapping of the five-step, as a derivative melodic fragment is used from measures 24-36 the beginning of the trio. Here the saut majeur is indicated in several musical points: first in measure 26 on the tenuto, then the German augmented sixth chord in measure 34, and on the final accented D’s harmonized with only a fifth. All instances would indicate this is how Castelnuovo-Tedesco intended to map the five-step. It is an underlying element to the music and not one to be made an overly explicit feature by the use of aggressive demarcation. The tenuto and natural harmonic underpinnings support this notion bringing a subtle interpretive attention.

Why would beginning on the first measure make less musical sense? Shift the saut majeur one beat later. In some instances, such as in the opening two phrases, it would then seem more musically appropriate to perform the posture with the accent instead (occurring on the melodic Bb in measure 2 and G minor seventh in measure 6). The accents present in the 4-bar phrases map less elegantly however, especially regarding the naturally indicated implied breaths on upbeats when beginning the following phrase. A further exploration of our alternative interpretation applied to measures 24-36 then reveals then a shift of the accent from the posture to the saut majeur in measure 34. The crescendo would seem to support an accent on the high D, however the natural capabilities of the guitar stand at complete odds with this interpretation: it will never be possible to have a 4 note chord spanning several octaves be perceived more powerfully than a single high D. No other articulations except for the tenuto on the final eighth of measure 28 would indicate the mapping of the five-step in this way (even occurring on a posture, this being incompatible with the previous movement of the accent to the saut majeur later in measure 34). Finally, the two accents on the third beats of measures 33 and 34 would support this movement of accents to the posture. However, I would argue that they occur only as a function of the climax of the descending bass line at that moment and that Castelnuovo-Tedesco has not used the accent marking to indicate any of the five-step pattern thus far, as it would rob the regular metric accents of any subtly.



After establishing the cantabile trio theme, Castelnuovo-Tedesco returns to the Galliard theme after a short development beginning on measure 60 in which he elaborates on what I will call the Spanish figure. Remembering the joint programming of Falla’s and Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s music at the 1932 Venice festival, the Spanish figure echoes, if not deliberately quotes Falla’s first Spanish dance from La vida breve. Both the El rufiàn viudo, Ilamado Trampagos and La vida breve also happen to depict wedding scenes.

The implication of a direct quotation does beg the question of tempo of the overall galliard given the speed of Falla’s dance. As the upper limits of the Galliard’s natural pacing have the quarter worth 80-120 beats per minute, it would be a technical struggle on the guitar to interpret this instance as a direct quotation, especially when performing the passage in sixths immediately preceding the return to the first theme at measures 78-80.


Structure and possible influence by Respighi

Recalling the relationship to Respighi’s Galliard in the Antiche arie e danze, what other clues are to be found in relation to Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s other Galliards for guitar? Most notably is the one from Appunti, Op. 210, which begins without anacrusis or an extended developmental middle section. It also follows a Pavane movement, which according to Thomas Morley, has been commonly thought of as historically paired (Oxford Music Online, Louis Horst’s Pre-Classic Dance Forms). While the setting in Escarramán does not follow a Pavane, it is not actually atypical to have the movements separate or standalone. Castelnuovo-Tedesco also briefly uses a “Tempo di Galliard” in VII. Estan calientes from the Caprichos de Goya, Op. 195, as a contrasting middle section; neither the setting in Appunti or Estan calientes however serve to shed much greater light on Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s idea of the Galliard.



El canario

In many ways El canario has much less to hide than the previous Gallarda, although there are interpretive clues hidden in plain sight. The first is the complete absence of the dotted sixteenth-note rhythm that when paired with the second, prominent ostinato bass, gives us the Canario. Just as in Dance and the Music of J.S. Bach by Meredith Little, various types of Gigues are outlined by their use of the sautillant or dotted rhythm figure or lack thereof, and the same applies to Canarios and their history. Named for their supposed origin in the Canary Islands, they were present in Iberia and Italy before making their way to France. There was a significant exchange of culture in Italian and Spanish courts during the Renaissance that resulted in many almost identical forms as that we will explore later.

The distinction between the French versus Spanish-Italian Canario however is significant as it changes the perceived character. As time went on, the general style of  the French Canario got faster and focused more on dotted rhythms; by the time it was a recognized form in France during the Baroque, it was listed in Baroque performance manuals as faster than a standard Gigue. This is in contrast to the early form‘s gaiety and liveliness tempered with a perhaps more moderate tempo, noted by Louis Horst in Pre-Classic Dance Forms to be “often mentioned as a slower form of the Gigue.” Regarding Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s El canario, the tempo of the piece is naturally limited by its technicality but the balance of gaiety and driving characteristics in the tempo need to always be present, especially in the sixteenth-note figures that can inherently sound too mechanical.

Role of Colour

In any text on the Canario style it seems impossible to avoid one specific passage by Arbeau from his Orchésographie (1588): “[the canario’s] passages are gay but nevertheless strange and fantastic with a strong barbaric flavour.” How does one approach the interpretation with this in mind?

I began by experimenting with different colours on the guitar in order to add contrast to passages, as if creating a dialogue between two instruments with a vastly different timbre. The idea came from listening to several historical ensembles improvising embellishments on a canary tune. I found the Hesperion XXI improvisation on the El Nuevo Mundo: Folias Criollas particularly inspiring with its various percussive elements and uses of woodwinds in addition to the strings. Other canarios to consider are those by Gaspar Sanz, Allegri, and Antonio Martin y Coll; between them it is possible to better understand the development of the tempo from slow to fast and the colours that characterize the dance. In a later setting, Respighi also set a small canario passage in his Antiche arie e danze No.2: Laura soave, Balletto con gagliarda, saltarello e canario. The tune, although very short, not even sixteen bars, is representative of the early Canario style and functions to transition some of that higher energy of the Saltarello back to the Balletto. Notably, different instrumental sections exchange the theme to display the variation in colour.

In Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s setting I thought to use colours to contrast between a bright ponticello in the first four bars of the opening phrase and a softer tasto, woodwind-like timbre for the second four, maintaining this distinction as the theme is played again. After the effect was established I could then reverse the colours to heighten the drama at the re-entry of the main theme at measure 27 and also to comply with the espressivo marking. Other possibilities to differentiate instrumental colour are at the departure from the main theme at measures 16 to 27 as the diatonic descent begins in several voices in a simple stretto.

The other archetypal element was the establishment of an ostinato that grounds the harmony but also adds an important percussive element frequently realized in Canarios adapted for ensemble. Within Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s El canario the ostinato is established right from the start on A and later intensified onwards from measure 16 to the eventual resolution to a D ostinato in measure 28. The use of ostinato here is a musically simple way to destabilize the theme above it as it functions as the fifth of the D major initially, then the third in F major, then the seventh, all adding to that “barbaric flavour.” I also propose the ostinato could be considered a percussive effect instead of an accompanying voice. Giving it a light accentuation and hinting at an aggressiveness in the tone frees the melody above to contrast more sweetly. Further areas for percussive flair are the downbeats at measures 24 and 26 (and later 43 and 45) as a culmination of the low drumbeat effect established by the intensified ostinato of the preceding phrases. When the “movendo” arrives at the “Più mosso scherzando” for a second time at measure 62, the technical and musical challenges can both easily be solved with a sweep of the first two strings on the downbeat of measure 63 fulfilling the forte requirement and adding an aggressive percussive colour.

Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s other guitar works do not include any particularly analogous Canarios. In Platero y yo, Op. 190, two movements – El canario vuela (The Canary’s Flight) and El canario se muere (The Canary Dies) – err on the literal side in their reference to birds and do not exhibit any of the style discussed previously. Regarding Appunti, Op. 210, he sets a Gigue with a few similar characteristics in terms of varying the tempo with expressive markings to signify contrasting sections, but it does not have the same level of complexity warranting a comparison to the Escarramán Gallarda and the Gagliarda in Appunti. Also of interest is the Caprichos de Goya: XXI Que pic de oro!, Op. 195, based on the depiction of learned men listening to a parrot squawk; it seems a caricature of a Canario in its aggressive and deliberately ungraceful writing with the expressive indications “petulante e grottesco” (petulant and grotesque). However, nothing in these later pieces have much in common to offer in terms of interpretive clues.


El villano

Despite sharing a name with a distinct style of Spanish dance, this movement proved challenging to interpret. Its elements, as outlined by Richard Hudson on Grove Music, are a reoccurring harmonic pattern, a six phrase pattern: two of refrain, four of strophic, and have references to its heritage as a sung peasant dance with guitar accompaniment. Furthermore, the ambiguity of translation by Morley calls into question whether it really is a villano entirely, as it is referred to as both the “Country Rigadoon” and the “Country Bumpkin.” In the autograph of Escarramán where Castelnuovo-Tedesco has also written out much of the relevant passages of El rufiàn viudo, Ilamado Trampagos, he has chosen “Country Bumpkin” as his preferred translation but one cannot entirely rule out elements of the Rigadoon in an analysis of the piece. Adding to the obscurity, the movement is the most programmatic of Escarramán in its depiction of a country peasant, while still fulfilling its role as a dance. In an effort to explore every possible path to an interpretation I will identify elements of each.

Structurally the movement exhibits rondo-like elements in its development of a refrain-strophe alternation. At this point, I would encourage the reader to follow along in the score to better grasp the structure. After a short introduction, beginning at measure 3 we get eight bars (m.3-10) that can be split evenly into two phrases that are repeated up the octave in the first half of the phrase and then altered in the latter half to resolve in Bb Major on measure 18. So far the length is two 8-bar phrases. This latter half (4 bars) is then used again to cadence in F major, acting as a bridge, bringing the piece to its first new theme and strophic section at measure 23. This strophe can be broken down into three distinct sections: dotted-sixteenth theme (4 bars), introduction of the triplet theme (5 bars), and triplet theme (2 x 4 bars). After the end of the triplet theme there is an inverted and modified refrain at measure 40 made of two 4-bar phrases. Note the double bar line separating the two phrases of the refrain which is present after the introduction and used several more times in the piece as a thematic breath. Measure 48 begins the series of verses once again, the first phrases (2 x 4 bars) based on sequencing a rhythmic idea from the theme’s second half, then a return of a 4-bar phrase of the dotted rhythm theme and then two phrases of a return to the triplet theme. As expected of a Villano, we now return to the refrain, this time with the expressive marking “burlesco” (5-bar phrase) but also augmented with an additional voice (measure 77) in the extended material making it a 10-bar phrase. Returning to a figure that was earlier described as a bridge phrase, this is then drawn into an extended sequence at measures 87-92 based on the cadential figure used throughout. This sequence and the following phrases: “Più agitato” in measures 93-104 and “a tempo, goffo” in measures 105-113, seem to be developed musical elements taken from previous strophes that individually reach miniature finales of their own before the ultimate finale of the piece based on musical material from the refrain.

The analysis of the structure of El villano seems to allude to the Villano form in many ways without concretely adopting its formal Renaissance structure. Altogether uneven phrase lengths and a musical language that hints at a more programmatic underpinning leaves room for the imagination to run wild. Particularly programmatic elements such as the introduction, expressive markings ma goffo e pesante” (but clumsy and heavy), the dramatic use of silence, and deliberately halted phrases emulate a dialogue between two rough characters or a comic argument between man and wife (or even bride and groom such as in El rufiàn viudo, Ilamado Trampagos). This movement in particular seems to have a story to tell even if the literary underpinning used is ambiguously descriptive.

At this time in Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s career his guitar music was more focused on literary and artistic sources and El villano seems to be the most striking example in Escarramán of a departure from a strictly stylized dance. Compared to other major works he would produce a few years later based on a Spanish idiom, Platero y yo, Op. 190 and Caprichos de Goya, Op. 195, Escarramán may hint at these monumental works of programmatic music for solo guitar, but seems to be most faithful to the text when it is actually depicting the dancing. Perhaps a programmatic story to match El villano would be that it represents that specific scene in El rufiàn viudo, music and dance, but also the shouting, fighting and other disagreements that could be expected at a wedding party of dangerous characters.

            The last mystery present in El villano is the question of how much it could be considered a Rigadoon based on one of its translations by Griswold S. Morley as “The Country Rigadoon.” The Rigadoon or Rigaudon, is a duple metre dance in four-bar phrases with a light character and often an upbeat. The music of the Rigaudon tends to follow an alternation pattern of motion and reprise, changing each bar, which is related to the specific steps of the fleuret (bend, rise, step, step) and the pas de rigaudon (hop, step, step, jump). It is not a particularly Spanish dance and is instead greatly represented in French and English music as a courtship dance (Grove Music, Meredith Little). El villano certainly satisfies many of these musical elements but perhaps the most crucial to interpretive possibilities is how Castelnuovo-Tedesco uses his upbeats. The figure of three eighth-note upbeats with crescendo beginning in measure 6 becomes a regular staple of the piece. Other instances of key upbeats are the dotted rhythm theme first at measure 23 (interestingly notated with a slur to the downbeat) and in the inverted refrain at measure 41 where the second beat is notated with an accent and then slur to the upbeat. Each instance allows for an unusual degree of creativity based on the level of emphasis indicated in these upbeat movements. Accenting the offbeat or upbeats adds to the desired character of “clumsy and heavy” in a way that seems faithful to both the programmatic and stylized dance character of the piece.

            Castlenuovo-Tedesco sets one Rigadoon in his Appunti, Op. 210 in a similar but less programmatic style and much less polyphonic use of the upbeats. XIII. ¿Quién más rendido? (Which of them is more overwhelmed?) from the Caprichos de Goya is interesting for the greater level of musical development but mostly for its ironic use of the Rigaudon in reference to an awkward street courtship – something that could be comparable given the subject matter of a pimp marrying one of his prostitutes.



“Pesame dello…”

The only slow movement in Escarramán, the lack of evidence of its origin – possibly invented by Cervantes or a forgotten reference – made it one of the most difficult to contrast with dance examples. The most notable elements of the piece are its intensely melodic three-phrase structure in a greater ABA form overall and its especially vocal melodic content.

Fortunately, there is a long tradition of accompanied song in Spain that could help ground the interpretive imagination. The vihuela manuals of the 16th century establish the immensely developed accompanied vocal tradition on the Iberian Peninsula in not only their songs but also arrangements of ensemble music, motets, and movements from masses. The second volume of Luis Milan’s El maestro, for instance, is filled with Villancicos, Sonetos, and Romances for a singer and vihuela.

Even prior to the vihuela tradition are the melodies of Alfonso X (1252-1284) compiled in the Cantigas de Santa María that are significant in establishing the musical-poetic tradition of troubadours who fused the French formes fixes with romances and religious airs, dances, and others composed by Alfonso and his court. It is from this collective tradition that the ‘Pesame dello’ may be included given its distinctive melodic structure.

I was drawn to consider these formes fixes when reflecting in what context you could refer to a piece as the “I’m sorry”, and how in Lorenzo Micheli’s recording it is referred to as the “Pesame dello amor” (I am sorry my love). The most logical context seemed to be in the setting of verse to music and so I came to the idea of a ballad, the coupling of a narrative and music, analogous to the idea of the Spanish Romance. From this I expanded my search to include not only the three formes fixes of Ballade, Virelai, and Rondeau but crucially the traditions of the Villanella and Villancico in their respective Italian and Spanish traditions.

The formes fixes seem inviting when attempting to match the structure of vocal music to the dances of Escarramán. Each have variations of ABBA, ABABAB or AABAB that could be useful, but I ultimately discounted their direct relationship to ‘Pesame dello’ as they were more firmly rooted in the French tradition than Spanish as well as having occurred too early for the era.

Addressing the Italian tradition of song through the Villanella is relevant in Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s own Italian heritage, its similarity to the Villancico, and as it relates to another setting in Respighi’s Antiche arie e danze. While the Villanella originated in the 16th century as a rustic three- or four-part song, it evolved in the 17th century to encompass solo rustic song. With the designation of Villanesche, it also implies a comedic scenario of a romance between lovers who seem unsuitable for one another because of their character flaws; suggestive parodies could be “impudent maidens, over-protective guardians, scheming courtesans, cuckolded husbands, lovesick old men and jealous suitors” (Grove Music). Such an interpretation as applied to the ‘Pesame dello’ could be interesting in the context of an ironic “I’m sorry my love” when such a lover has committed foul acts of deception and just received recompense. As much as I enjoy this amusing interpretation, I believe the evidence for true melancholy is stronger due to the expressive marking “Andantino malinconico” and the generally serious character.

 Finally, in our consideration of the Villanella I want to draw attention to the setting in the first suite of Antiche arie e danze as a potential source of inspiration. The expression of the Villanella by Respighi is much more in line with a literal melancholic approach to the ‘Peasme dello’. It also matches in an ABA structure with a “Poco più mosso” B section to the one in Castelnuovo-Tedesco “Un poco piu mosso e appassionato.” The delicate woodwinds and use of harp also seem evocatively similar to the melody and rolled chords of ‘Pesame dello’, but perhaps this similarity can be attributed to the fact Respighi had to deliberately evoke the lute with his orchestration while Castelnuovo-Tedesco was simply utilizing the natural capabilities of the guitar. Nevertheless, in many respects the composers seem to have pursued the same sound.

In exploring vocal traditions we now reach the Villancico, which began as popular song refrains and evolved to a general closed musical form (ABA) structure describing rustic peasant life. The Villancico form was a combination of different cultural influences: our previously discussed French formes fixes from the troubadours, the Cantigas of the royal courts and popular song, as well as Italian song and dance forms as discussed by Isabel Pope and Paul Laird (Grove Music). In the 17th century it became utilized extensively by the church but in the secular context melded with the Romance so as to basically encompass any possible metre and rhythmic structure. This is evident in the sheer number of Villancicos that exist from the 17th century onwards. In order to better understand the the expression of the Villancico, listening to the vihuela masters and period ensembles are excellent places to start.

The objective in outlining each of these song types is to offer greater depth as a creative aid to an interpretation. The overall emotive process is done with a greater conviction in the colours implied by the instrumentation mixing with the voice as well as the beauty in the form’s rustic simplicity.


“El Rey don Alonso el Bueno”

The final movement ‘El Rey don Alonso el Bueno’ is particularly interesting for the varied possibilities of its influences from several quotation-like passages, the dance that underlies its theme and variations, and the history behind the name.

The name could be attributed to a few possible historical figures: either King Alfonso V of Aragon (1396 – 1458), also known as Alfonso the Magnanimous, or

Alonso Pérez de Guzmán, 7th Duke of Medina Sidonia (1550 – 26 July 1615),

 whose family often added an “el Bueno” because of the exploits of his heroic medieval ancestor by the same name. Both Alfonso V of Aragon (15th century) and the first Alonso Pérez de Guzmán “el Beuno” (13th century) are historically removed enough from the time of Cervantes that there may have been a dance or melody after them that was known to the original entremes audience. King Alfonso V of Aragon, “the Magnanimous” is perhaps likely based on the explicit fact that it refers to a king and that he was known for his patronage of the arts, earning him a nod from Cervantes. King Alfonso X, was given the descriptive “el Sabio” (the Wise) which discounts him. Alonso Pérez de Guzmán, 7th Duke of Medina Sidonia is an interesting choice for a “Good King” as he was neither very distinctly good nor a king; however he was satirized by Cervantes for his notable failure as admiral of the Spanish Armada, specifically in Poesías 25 about a loss near Gibraltar to the Dutch (Cervantes Encyclopedia). His little military experience and poor health contributed to his tepid command and overly cautious nature. The suspicion was that King Phillip II valued the duke’s lack of leadership as it allowed him to exert further control over the armada without occupying the position himself. If Alonso Pérez de Guzmán were to be the “Good King Don Alphonse” then it would add a considerable irony even had it been unintended by Castelnuovo-Tedesco. In a possible justification of the title of king, Alonso was immensely wealthy and still Duke of Media Sidonia and Grandee of Spain, the highest-ranking order of nobility, while the title of King could be satirical, with Cervantes jesting at his lack of prowess as an admiral.

With a few potential namesakes in mind, I return to the music and that of the opening that happens to follow a similar harmonic and melodic structure to the Pavane V from Luys Milan’s El Maestro. This provides us with not only the likely dance form but also the colour of its instrumental character. The style of the pavane perfectly fits the moderate, processional tempo and the duple meter of the dance by Castelnuovo-Tedesco. Like the Galliard, the Pavane originated in Italy. It was used as a courtly dance by the nobility, a suitable choice for a dance on the name of a king. A passage of Arbeau’s Orchesographie as translated in Louis Horst’s Pre-Classic Dance Forms illustrates its conventions:


It is used by kings, princes and great lords, to display their fine mantles and robes of ceremony; and then the queens and princesses and the great ladies accompany them with the long trains of their dresses let down and trailing behind them. These Pavanes are also used in masquerades (or ballets) when there is a procession of triumphal chariots of gods and goddesses, emperors or kings resplendent with majesty.


Such a description is perfectly in line with Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s expressive markings “Allegretto moderato all Marcia” and adopting the stately grace, a Pavane fits well in the context of the theme and following three variations. The first variation simply changes the texture but preserves the melody and harmony and could be seen as the most conservative or oldest style of variation. Each variation thereafter seems to adopt the idea of a melodic outline variation-form common to the 18th and 19th centuries where variations replace much of the original theme, leaving only the shape of the melody as a constant. This in contrast to historically earlier forms like the constant bass forms such as Chaconnes and Passacaglias or a constant melody or fixed harmony forms such as those on la Folia.  The second variation also changes texture but outlines the melody through a modulation F# major to cadence in the dominant. Variation 3 functionally then returns us to D major to set up the fourth. Variation 4 features a change of meter to 3/8 and the most radical departure from the theme; it is melodically and harmonically much more chromatic and barely maintains the melodic outline. The expressive marking “giocoso e popolaresco” results in an interesting variation on the second half of the main theme and begs the question as to whether this melody actually exists in some historical popular song given Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s love of quotation. As of yet my journey through the annals of Italian popular song from 1900-1950 and those traditional melodies of Italy has not yielded a worthy candidate to compare this melody to. In becoming familiar with the style and expression, I must recommend the “Portal to Italian Song” Project available at canzoneitaliana.it for those interested in how to approach this passage with the same strength and grace that is present in the popular songs there. It is also interesting to think of the fourth variation as a pseudo-galliard as to accompany the Pavane. “It is usual for the Pavane to be succeeded by the Galliard,” Arbeau writes, and as such Castelnuovo-Tedesco set his Pavana and Gagliarda from Appunti, Op. 210 to be played attaca. The articulation present in the Appunti Pavana is interesting to consider as Castelnuovo-Tedesco adds staccati to the eighth-notes on the second beats of a very similar opening theme which are unmarked in ‘El Rey don Alsono el Beuno’.

With the finale of the piece “dolce e un poco grave” transitioning to a “pomposo” and furthermore a “Sonstenuto e pomposo” we experience the more satirized moments of our don Alonso character in contrast to the opening stately variations. Its musical language too is rooted in modernity with more extended harmonies and chromaticism used for colour, the techniques present generally seeming very pianistic, e.g. measures 81-97 or 127-130, and the use of tremolo which developed in the late 19th century.

The set of variations themselves tell a historical tale opening with the Spanish vihuela theme, a melodic outline development in a similar manner to those common to the 19th century and then transitioning to an ending with 20th-century musical language. This was perhaps slightly self-referential writing such a musical call back to his Variazioni attraverso i secoli (Variations Through the Centuries), Op. 71.


I hope to leave you with a peaked curiosity and a sense of how it is possible to deeply explore a piece that is so easily enjoyable. If this connects the dots in your mind regarding research, musical curiosity, or even in my brief historical passages then I have succeeded.





Grove music entries:

Brown, A. (2001). Galliard. Grove Music Online. Retrieved 8 Apr. 2018, from http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com.zuyd.idm.oclc.org/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-0000010554.

Brown, A. (2001). Pavan. Grove Music Online. Retrieved 8 Apr. 2018, from http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com.zuyd.idm.oclc.org/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-0000021120

Cardamone, D. (2001). Villanella. Grove Music Online.Retrieved 8 Apr. 2018, from http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com.zuyd.idm.oclc.org/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-0000029379.

Fallows, D. (2001). Formes fixes. Grove Music Online.Retrieved 8 Apr. 2018, from http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com.zuyd.idm.oclc.org/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-0000009987.

Hudson, R., & Little, M. (2001). Canary. Grove Music Online.Retrieved 8 Apr. 2018, from http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com.zuyd.idm.oclc.org/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-0000004713.

Hudson, R. (2001). Villano. Grove Music Online. Retrieved 8 Apr. 2018, from http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com.zuyd.idm.oclc.org/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-0000029386.

Jones, T.variation form. In The Oxford Companion to Music. : Oxford University Press. Retrieved 8 Apr. 2018, from http://www.oxfordreference.com.zuyd.idm.oclc.org/view/10.1093/acref/9780199579037.001.0001/acref-9780199579037-e-7067.

Pope, I., & Laird, P. (2001). Villancico. Grove Music Online.Retrieved 8 Apr. 2018, from http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com.zuyd.idm.oclc.org/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-0000029375.

Porter, J., Barlow, J., Johnson, G., Sams, E., & Temperley, N. (2001). Ballad. Grove Music Online. Retrieved 8 Apr. 2018, from http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com.zuyd.idm.oclc.org/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-0000001879.

Westby, J. (2001). Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Mario. Grove Music Online. Retrieved 8 Apr. 2018, from http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com.zuyd.idm.oclc.org/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-0000005128.

Print books:

Dolmetsch, M. (1975). Dances of Spain and Italy from 1400 to 1600.

Horst, L. (2004). Pre-Classic Dance Forms: The Pavan, Minuet, Galliard, Allemand and 10 Other Early Dance Forms. Chicago: Princeton Book Co

Little, M., & Jenne, N. (2001). Dance and the music of J.S. Bach.

Livermore, A. (1975). A Short History of Spanish Music. London: Duckworth.

Van, G. D. L., Fanning, D., & University of Manchester. (2008). Guitar works of Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco: Editiorial principles, comparative source studies and critical editions of selected works. Manchester: University of Manchester


Castelnuovo-Tedesco, M. (2004). 24 caprichos de Goya: Para la guitarra : op. 195. Ancona: Bèrben.

Castelnuovo-Tedesco, M., & Chiesa, R. (1970). Appunti: Preludi e studi per chitarra. (Appunti.) Milano: Suvini Zerboni.

Castelnuovo-Tedesco, M. (1978). Escarraman. Ancona: Bèrben.

Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Mario, 1895-1968. Escarraman; [n. p., 1955.]

     23, 5 l. 33 cm.

     ML96 .C34 no. 36 (Case) https://lccn.loc.gov/2009547111

            Autograph score

Castelnuovo-Tedesco, M., & Jiménez, J. R. (1993). Platero y yo: Para narrador y guitarra, op. 190. Ancona: Edizioni musicali Bèrben.

Castelnuovo-Tedesco, M. (n.d.). Variazioni attraverso i secoli: Op. 71 : for guitar. Schott.

Milán, L., & Chiesa, R. (1974). El maestro: Opere complete per vihuela. Milano: Edizioni Suvini Zerboni.

Respighi, O. (1924). Ancient airs and dances for lute: Suite 2. Milan: Ricordi.

Respighi, O. (1951). Antiche danze ed arie per liuto: Suite 1. Milan: Ricordi.


Wikipedia entries:

Alonso Pérez de Guzmán, 7th Duke of Medina Sidonia. Accessed on April 8, 2018



Alonso Pérez de Guzmán. Accessed on April 8, 2018.



Alfonso V of Aragon. Accessed on April 8, 2018.