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Legnani Op. 20 #36 “Moderato”

David Raleigh Arnold


Start at about 8th = 60. You have to return to slow practice often in order to play it well. Don't push too soon or too hard for speed. A decent metronome was not available yet, so don't be intimidated by what some chart says about the tempo.[1]

Mark Up Your Copy

Measure Numbers at the Beginning of Each Line

1, 4, 9, 14, 18, 21, 24, 26. Total: 28.

Errors and Misprints

It was not wrong then, but in a modern edition one would need another “d” natural in both (measures) 3 and 4.

Notice in 26 that the half rest is centered instead of aligned. That is still a good idea in guitar music with too much traffic at the first beat.

Measure by Measure

1, 2, 16, 17.

The first note is thumb appoggiato.[2] The rest of the measure is also appoggiato, alternating m and i starting with m. It's in first position except for the last three notes, which are played on ➂. You go up ➂ every time to ensure getting the “a” at bar 18.

RH: t mimi … | t mimi …

Play the second note less forte, and crescendo within each measure to the bar. The repeated measure is slightly less forte, except for the first note.

LH: 0 240241 24124-134

Playing the legati (phrase marks) as legature (slurred notes) would not be very effective. The inevitable defects in long slurred passages become more noticeable with each repeat.

3, 4.

RH: same as 1 and 2.

LH: 0 240241 20120134

Dynamic: same as 1 and 2.

These are in loco so that you can get to the following “b,”.

5, 6.

Play the “b,” forte, play less forte immediately and crescendo evenly to bar 7. When not repeating, there is a sudden piano at bar 7. In Romantic music, there is nothing unusual about a sudden reversal of dynamic on a downbeat, whether changing to more or less forte or piano, and it is to be expected in a piece that starts on the first beat of a measure.

Sustain the “b,” while playing the triplet, giving it the value of a 16th, the same as the initial bass notes in every measure so far.[3] The fingers are not appoggiato in this arpeggio and scale but of course the thumb is.

LH: 21~4 103 143 103 | 102 142 142 042

RH: tt~ imi mim imi | mim itt ttt ttt


The first note is thumb appoggiato and piano. Keep the thumb at the ➄ while playing the “g♯” and “b” on ➃ and ➂ with i and m, allowing the low “e,” to sound for the duration of an 8th. Play the next interval with “t” and “i”, using the thumb to mute the ➅ at the same time. You will become very accustomed to this. Begin to crescendo. come on forte with the 4th finger, and gradually diminuendo through the first chord in measure 12.

As you prepare to place the bar, pronate the LH a bit more than usual by pulling your elbow in a bit. Of course you pivot on the end of the finger to avoid releasing the “b”.

LH: III: 0 31 31 31 31 314 312 311

RH: t im ti ti ti tia tia tia

8, 9.

Slide the 3rd finger up the ➃. Release the bar by pronating still further and place the 4th finger. Then pronate even more to be able to easily place the 2nd finger. There is practically no stretch if you do it with attitude. Supinate as you release the 2nd finger and pivot on the first to replace the bar, and a bit more as you place the 2nd finger. Practice this slowly and carefully and you won’t hurt yourself.[4]

Repeats which run together like this should have clear phrasing, but don’t use the squared f-p repeats that you might if the repeated portions had some size and separation.

LH: 311 314 312 311 312 314 312 311 | …

RH: tia tim … | …

10, 11.

Barre IIg. (second fret to the “g” or ➂)

LH: 111 114 113 111 431 … | 111 4 3 1 431 …

RH: tim … | tim a m a tim


The first chord is piano, and then attack the g♯ mf with a short stroke (corto) and crescendo to the high “e' ' ” in 14. Mute ➄ by putting the thumb against it and keep t ready to play it again.

LH: loco 011 ➂ 412 412 41

RH: tim ami ami am

The ami fingering ensures ending on i, which is necessary.


LH: 2 412 412 314213

RH: ti ami am ti mimimi


At the bass “a,” play piano and delicately. Here are three indications that this in Legnani's intention:

  1. There is a discrete repeat.
  2. The “a,” is shortened.
  3. There is a prominent slur, which cannot be played forte and still sound good. It rules out appoggiato too.

LH: IX 414 3~1421 ➁ 1

RH: tm i a t m~imim


The whole measure is forte. Do not neglect to finger mute the chords.

LH: VI 2 100 IIa 1 314

RH: t ima t ima

16, 17.

These are the same as 1 and 2, but less forte.

18, 19.

The “c' ” has no slur. I found that putting a slur in led to a problem at bar 22, where there are problems enough. Also, you start forte on these diminished 7th arpeggi. Do all the slurs, which are all on ➃. Descending, diminuendo, rising, crescendo.

Thumb appoggiato, fingers use corto.

LH: ➃ 1421414 ➃ 1~421414 ➃ 1~4 | 21414

RH: timaimat ~imima t~ | imima t~ imima t~ im

20, 21.

All is 1st pos. with thumb appoggiato, fingers corto. The quarter note “e,”s are played with appoggiato stroke, bringing the thumb to rest against ➄. The thumb stays there until the second beat. At that exact instant, lean the thumb back against ➅ to mute it but keep it against the ➄. Release ➄ just before you play it.

LH: 0 0420... | 00420...

RH: t amimi... | tamimi...t

Play the last bass “e,” in exactly the same way as the quarters. Mute ➅ immediately this time, as you play the the first note of the next measure with the index, so that the ➅ is muted with the thumb still on ➄ and the ➃ is played with the index almost with a single motion of the hand.

22, 23.

The fingering is identical to 18 and 19 except at the start. Again, crescendo up the neck and diminuendo down.

LH: 1~421414... |…

RH: i~maima t~imima t~ |…

24, 25, 26.

Begin mp with thumb appoggiato and fingers not. As before, keep the thumb at the ➄ until the “c' ' ”, and on that note mute the ➅ and commence with fingers appoggiato into measure 27. Keep the thumb against the ➄ until forced to remove it in measure 26.

These three measures crescendo.

LH: 0123412341234321... in 1st pos., play ➂ string “b”.

RH: ta mimimimi...

27, 28.

The chords are best fingered tttima, but if you want the loudest possible fortississimo instead of the indicated fortissimo, strike with the back of the index, combining an index stroke opening the hand with a wrist stroke moving the hand, to get double speed.[5]

One Mo’ Time

Master the special techniques in this piece. They are a terrific help, and they will all be back.

End Notes:

§1 It is worthwhile to read up on the metronome.

§2 The thumb is always appoggiato, except when a note on the next higher string is also being played with a finger.

§3 The “b” is an example of note nere.

§4 The “Legnani twist”? You will also find it in the works of other guitar composers though. ☺

§5 Try it in Asturias-Leyenda. The “double whammy”? It is louder than thumb alone and doesn't mess up the rhythm like a weak QAMI rasgeado.

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©2008 David Raleigh Arnold