Classical guitar repertoire has a tradition of a few hundred years, including music written for the lute and the vihuela. An intermediate guitarist develops a well-rounded repertoire by choosing pieces from many periods from Renaissance to Modern. He or she may have a preference for a particular composer or period but generally, a player is expected to broad-base their choice of music.
Renaissance/Early Music: Written for lute, performed on classical guitar
Renaissance is the period in history of roughly two hundred years of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Spanish composers of the vihuela like Luys Milan, Alonso Mudarra, and Luis de Narvaez ruled the roost in mainland Europe. In Elizabethan England of Shakespeare’s time, John Dowland was the king of the lute, both as player and composer. Other English composers we still play from that era include William Byrd, Robert Johnson, and Francis Cutting.
Repertoire suggestions for the intermediate guitarist from the Renaissance period:
Anon: Romance | YouTube | Score
John Dowland: Lady Hunsdon’s Puffe | YouTube | Score
John Dowland: Frog Galliard | YouTube | Score
Luys Milan: 6 Pavanes | YouTube | Score
Alonso Mudarra: Fantasia X | YouTube | Score
Luis de Narvaez: Guardame las vacas | YouTube | Score
Baroque music: Bach for classical guitar
The approximate period between 1600 and 1750 is the Baroque era with its 5-course guitar, a precursor to the modern version. The composers whose works we still play from this period are mainly Robert de Visee, Gaspar Sanz and Santiago de Murcia. Transcriptions from the great J.S.Bach’s cello and lute works also come from this period as also the lute compositions of Sylvius Leopold Weiss.
Repertoire suggestions for the intermediate guitarist from the Baroque period:
J.S.Bach: BWV 996 Allemande | YouTube | Score
J.S.Bach: BWV 996 Bourree | YouTube | Score
J.S.Bach: BWV 999 Prelude | YouTube | Score
J.S.Bach: BWV 1007 Prelude | YouTube | Score
J.S.Bach: Chaconne | YouTube | Score (for the ambitious)
S.L.Weiss: Fantasia | YouTube | Score
De Visee: Suite in Dm Prelude | YouTube | Score
Classical music: Heart of your guitar repertoire
The late eighteenth century and the early nineteenth century is home to the 6-string guitar and rightly called the Classical period. Composers from here are well known to even beginners of the classical guitar – Fernando Sor, Ferdinando Carulli, Mauro Giuliani, Anton Diabelli, Dionisio Aguado, Luigi Legnani, Matteo Carcassi, Johann Kaspar Mertz and Napoleon Coste.
Repertoire suggestions for the intermediate guitarist from the Classical period:
Fernando Sor: Variations on a theme of Mozart | YouTube | Score
Fernando Sor: Study in Bm | YouTube | Score
Mauro Giuliani: Rossiniana No. 1: Allegro Vivace | YouTube | Score
Matteo Carcassi: Op 60 No. 3 | YouTube | Score
Sor, Giuliani & Carcassi: 100 studies to choose from | Score
Early 20th Century music: The guitar repertoire expands
The early twentieth century brings us the music of the father of the modern guitar, Francisco Tarrega as also the transcriptions from Isaac Albeniz’s works. Miguel Llobet and Emilio Pujol, pupils of Tarrega, became famous in their own right with their compositions. The talented Paraguayan guitarist and composer Agustin Barrios belongs to this period. Thanks to their efforts and others like Heitor Villa-Lobos, Manuel Ponce, Castelnuovo Tedesco, Enrique Granados, and Moreno Torroba, the repertoire for the classical guitar expanded considerably after a lull in the mid-1800s.
Repertoire suggestions for the intermediate guitarist from the Early 20th century:
Francisco Tarrega: Recuerdos de la Alhambra | YouTube | Score
Francisco Tarrega: Capricho Arabe | YouTube | Score
Francisco Tarrega: Lagrima | YouTube | Score
Isaac Albeniz: Asturias | YouTube | Score
Agustin Barrios: Una Limosna por el Amor de Dios | YouTube | Score
Agustin Barrios: Julia Florida | YouTube | Score
Heitor Villa Lobos: Prelude No. 1 | YouTube | Score
Heitor Villa Lobos: Prelude No. 4 | YouTube | Score
Miguel Llobet: Canco del lladre | YouTube | Score
Miguel Llobet: El testamen D’Amelia | YouTube | Score
Modern music: Recent compositions for classical guitar
Music written after the second half of the 20th century is classified as Modern. For the classical guitar, it started with the famous work of Nocturnal by Benjamin Britten. Many talented composers have taken the guitar forward by giving it a rich repertoire including Antonio Lauro, Roland Dyens, Toru Takemitsu, Leo Brouwer, Sergio Assad and Andrew York.
Repertoire suggestions for the intermediate guitarist from the Modern period:
Antonio Lauro: El Negrito | YouTube | Score
Antonio Lauro: Maria Luisa | YouTube | Score
Leo Brouwer: Estudios Sencillos 6-10 | YouTube | Score
Leo Brouwer: Un Dia De Noviembre | YouTube | Score
Gary Ryan: Birds Flew Over the Spire | YouTube | Score
Andrew York: Home | YouTube | Score
Note: If you’re interested in further sources of buying sheet music, I have an article Where to Buy Your Guitar Sheet Music with tons of information. Do check it out.
Stanley Myers: Cavatina | YouTube | Score