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Learn about the uncertain origin of the guitar piece "Romance"

“Romance” is a vintage acoustic guitar piece also recognized as “Romance d'Amour,” “Romance de Amor,” “Romance de España,” “Spanish Romance,” “Romanza,” “Romance of the Guitar,” “Anonymous Romance,” or “Romance Anónimo.”

Man playing classical guitar

The Debatable Origin 

The authorship and origin of this famous piece have always been subject to widespread speculation. However, this solo guitar piece has been attributed to a host of musicians - Narciso Yepes, Vicente Gómez, Miguel Llobet, Francisco Tárrega, David del Castillo, and Antonio Rubira, to name a few.

This sustained uncertainty regarding its genesis has led to the incorporation of the word “anonymous/anónimo” into its name. The authorship conundrum is instigated by three primary reasons - the lack any concrete claim, the persistent desire to circumvent copyright fees, and the publishing companies’ inherent lust to claim lucrative copyright of this renowned guitar piece.

Antonio Rubira

One of the early publications of the piece is attributed to Antonio Rubira, a Spanish guitarist. This version, titled “Estudio para Guitarra” was published in Argentina by J.A. Medina e Hijo somewhere between 1913 and 1925. Isaías Sávio, another composer and guitarist, has also cited Antonio Rubira as the author in his work “Romance de Amor.” Sávio further mentioned how the work became famous in Buenos Aires and attracted further attention from local publishers. Ricordi, an Argentinian publishing company, currently attributes Antonio Rubira as the author of the piece.

Manuscripts

The earliest documented manuscripts of “Romance” can be traced back to the late nineteenth century. One of them attributes Antonio Rubira, while the other is an “unsigned” document. The second manuscript has a distinct note at the bottom, which states “Melodia de Sor,” or “Sor's melody.” This arguably attributes it to Fernando Sor. However, the prevalent style is highly contrasting from Sor’s work. The most noticeable difference is the use of the “inverted arpeggio.” Also, both manuscripts are not dated, and the handwriting does not match the attributed authors. They are speculated to be mere copies made by musicians and students. Also, Sor passed away in 1839, which further creates doubts when compared with the late 19th-century origin.

“Nich Yaka Misyachna,” a Ukrainian folk song, is also theorized to be an antecedent of “Romance.” There has also been some inherent correlation made between “Romance” and “Nich Yaka Misyachna,” and also Beethoven's “Moonlight Sonata.” However, there are notable differences between them. Also, as European music is largely based on harmonic principles, similarities between unrelated compositions are quite omnipresent and, basically, inevitable.

Rebutted claims

Narciso Yepes, the renowned Spanish guitarist, is also listed as the author of “Romance” in the movie “Forbidden Games.” Yepes also holds the Spanish copyrights of the composition. However, recent publications list Yepes as the arranger of the piece, while the author remains unacknowledged. Yepes and his heirs claim that Narciso composed the piece as a young boy for his mother in 1934. However, Narciso’s birth year is 1927, so there remains doubt whether he is the author of a piece that was already recorded and published in the early 1900s. In 1941, Vicente Gomez, another Spanish guitarist, performed and published it in the movie “Blood and Sand,” attributing himself as the author.

Musical Overview 

The earliest known recording of this piece features Simon and Luis Ramirez. The recording was done on a cylinder in Madrid, between the years 1897 and 1901. It is titled as “Sort-Estudio para Guitarra.” The name “Sort” featured on the cylinder is also believed to be a reference to Fernando Sor, which is highly unlikely.  

“Romance” effuses the “Parlour” music style that was prevalent in South America and Spain during the late 19th century. It has a closed 3-part form - a minor key followed by a major key, with the minor key being reinstated in the third part.

Also, Western Classical music is generally organized in a “group of beats,” called measures. “Spanish Romance” or “Romance” has 16 measures in each section, with each measure comprising 3 beats. Each of these beats represents a “quarter note.” The time signature is ¾. There is also an emphasis on the opening beat of each measure. This peace usually comprises 2 sections and utilizes the AABBA structure, where the “A” section signifies “E minor” and the “B” section signifies “E major.”

Usage in Popular Culture

  • In 1966, Lill Lindfors, a Swedish singer, crafted a rendition of the piece titled “Du är den ende.” The English translation of the title is “You are the only one.” Lindfors utilized the lyrics of Bo Setterlind, a Swedish poet, while Marcus Österdahl created the orchestral arrangement. In 1967, it was also featured in her album titled “Du är den ende.” 
  • In 1968, the melody was used for a song titled “Tema de Amor.” It was performed by the pop star Raphael for “Digan lo que digan,” an Argentine film. The English title of the movie is “Let Them Talk.” 
  • In 1970, Françoise Hardy utilized the guitar piece as a part of the melody for his song titled “San Salvador.’
  • In 1975,  Julio Iglesias used the piece for his song “Quiero,” albeit with an addition of extra lyrics. It was a part of his album titled “El Amor.”
  • In 1976, Bernhard Brink performed an alternate version, which was titled “Liebe auf Zeit.”
  • In 1980, the arcade game “Phoenix” utilized an electronic version of “Romance” as its background music.
  • In 1984, Andy Williams recorded a rendition of the piece for his album “Greatest Love Classics.” It was titled “Vino de Amor.” 
  • In 1998, “B-Tribe,” a German group, used a part of the piece in their song “Desesperada.” It was a part of their album titled “Sensual Sensual.”   
  • In 2000, the Korean movie “Autumn in My Heart” used the piece as a part of their soundtrack. 
  • In 2000, Eddie Vedder utilized the piece at a concert in Indianapolis, Indiana. He played it as an opening act for the song titled “Better Man.”
  • In 2002, “Romance” was included in the debut album of “My Chemical Romance,” an American Rock Band. It was the only instrumental track in the album titled “I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love”  
  • In 2005, the piece was used as a part of Mike Oldfield’s track “Romance.” It was included in his album titled “Light + Shade.” 
  • In 2007, the piece was used as a backup to “Buck 65” or Richard Terfry’s song “The Outskirts.” It was a part of his album “Situation.”    
  • In 2011, Eason Chan, a famous Cantopop singer, used the piece in his album titled “ Stranger Under My Skin.”  
  • In 2014, the piece was included in the Swedish movie “Tommy,” under the title “Du är den ende.”
  • The French gypsy musical group “Los Niños de Sara” crafted a flamenco version of the piece titled “Romance Anonimo.”
  • Marc Lanjean and B. Parker collaborated to arrange a vocal version of the piece named “Forbidden Games.” Renowned artists like Tom Jones and Miriam Makeba have performed this rendition, which also contains lyrics. 
  • Mireille Mathieu has crafted two separate vocal versions of the piece, “Walzer der Liebe” in German and “Walzer der Liebe” in French. 
  • The famous pop duo “Al Bano and Romina Power” stepped into the music industry after crafting a vocal version of this piece, called “Storia di due innamorati.” 
  • Another notable vocal version, titled “Forbidden Games” has been performed by Ginette Reno

 

All classical guitar pieces have their fundamentals based on nylon strings, which is very different from modern electric pieces. “Romance” offers an astonishing enthusiasm and vigor that is extremely contagious. The topline melody offers high notes, while a texture of reiterated notes provides the background for harmony, creating a base for the melody to float over. There is a deep note present at the opening beat of each measure or “bass,” albeit, not following a steady tempo strictly. There is an inherent tension created, almost indisputable, that adds to its overall effervescence. A delectable palette of gushing emotions, spell-bounding.   

 

Reference Links

  1. https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/played-with-fingers-and-nails/article19608618.ece
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romance_(guitar_piece)
  3. http://guitarra.artepulsado.com/guitarra/romance-anonimo.php
  4. https://www.carlosmb.com/media/Early_Spanish_Cylinders_and_the_Viuda_de_Aramburo_Company.pdf