By most accounts, the four most important Spanish guitarists are in order from newest to oldest, Segovia, Tarrega, Sor, and lastly, Gaspar Sanz (1640–1710). The guitar work of Sanz was important in laying the foundations for Spanish guitar music that was later used and developed by the musicians mentioned above. Sanz is well known as one of the masters of “Baroque Guitar”. The Baroque guitar was responsible for replacing the Renaissance Lute as the most common instrument found in households and is an important part of the development of the modern classical guitar.
The music of Sanz then is important to understand, both for Baroque guitar and for the later classical guitar music that was to come. Who was Gaspar Sanz? Sanz was born in the Spanish region of Aragon in the city of Calanda. This area was well known for its folk dances. His education consisted of the study of philosophy, theology, and music. These studies were conducted at the University of Salamanca. He originally graduated with a degree in theology but spent most of his life as a vocational musician. He was an organist in Naples for some years and this time as a organist would influence his guitar music. Sanz also spent some time in Rome learning from the Italian guitarists. After returning to Spain, he became the guitar instructor to Don Juan for whom he wrote his first instructional book in guitar: Instruccion de Musica Sobre la Guitarra Espanola.
This book was a complete instruction book in Baroque guitar covering picking (punteado) and strumming (rasquedo) styles. Most of his pieces are in the punteado style designed for dances such as the Pavanas and Galliardas that were often used as court music. Sanz was also popular for his Canarios. Sanz wrote many pieces that were very Spanish but at times he also wrote music reflecting the national arts of other European nations as well. Many of these pieces are relatively simple but reflect progress in music theory and the Baroque and classical guitar. His pieces form part of the standard repertoire of many classical guitarists today. See below for an example of some of Sanz’s music.