The guitar music of Ferdinando Carulli (1770-1841) is often associated with didactical material andwith a large number of mass-market editions destined for home music making by amateurs. The resulting, often unflattering, image of the composer is at once dispelled by reading a superb virtuoso power house, such as the present composition by him. The edition is datable to circa 1817.
The tune on which this work is based is the famous Nel cor più non mi sento, a duet from Act 2 of Giovanni Paisiello’s opera La Molinara (1788). Nel cor più occupied one of the most prominent positions in the hierarchy of nineteenth century hit parade. The tune was arranged for many different instruments andinstrumental ensembles, by literally hundreds of arrangers, Beethoven and Hummel being the most prominent among them. Guitarists are well familiar with the variations by Fernando Sor (his Op. 16) on the same theme, and those by Mauro Giuliani, (his Op. 4 for solo guitar and Op. 65 for guitar and string quartet). What sets Carulli’s work apart from the more known ones, is the extensive solo introduction, beginning with a majestic Largo, and concluding with an Allegretto section which presents itself as an orchestral overture. The theme and variations proper finally begin on page 4. Another unique aspect of Carulli’s Solo with Variations Op. 107, is the arch-like structure of the piece where the last variation leads into a recapitulation of the initial phrase of the opening Allegretto, which then transforms itself into a dazzling display of fireworks, including one scale run that extends all the way up to a6 on the first string (fret 29!). Obviously, Carulli, far ahead of his time, was aware of the fact that the actual pitches and tone quality of these beyond-the-fretboard notes, particularly at the sheer velocity required, were not as important as the display of a unique virtuosic gesture.