Wallace | The Elements for solo guitar

Wallace | The Elements for solo guitar

Model: The Elements - DL
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The Elements
by Frank A. Wallace

"a poetic essay on the origin of life in four movements for solo guitar I saw it yesterday (on Facebook), amazing piece and amazing playing!!!"
- Atanas Ourkouzounov; Jan 17, 2013

Duration: 12:00 minutes; 12 pages
Difficulty level: High: stretches; repeated notes; dense polyphony

Soundboard | Vol. 40, No. 3 [Jan. 2015] Wallace, Frank: The Elements. Antrim, NH: Gyre Publications, 2004 [Gyre 2021]. 12 pp.

This truly epic programmatic work in four movements belongs on the concert stage. It is a magical guitar solo, a culmination of Wallace’s experiments in previous pieces coming to fruition. He describes The Elements as "a poetic essay on the origin of life in four movements for solo guitar." Those movements are "Fire," "Earth," "Air," and "Water."

"Fire" features broad arpeggio sweeps, percussion, fast repeated chord accompaniment to a dense melody in thirds over two staves, complex tuplet flurries, and several time signature changes. The piece begins sharply and aggressively to present the spark of the flame, continues with angular harmony to represent the destructive nature of the flame, and gradually weaves its way to a stunning melodic conclusion as the cinders fade.

"Earth" clearly derives from other Wallace gems, notably Pavanne for a Dying Prince and Stubborn Oak. A four-note ground bass and a rhythmic figure in sixths and fourths is repeated to create a platform of stability upon which the composer intertwines several beautiful melodic motifs. This movement features many instances of two against three, the constant pulse-like ground bass line, and a short ad libitum section at the end.

"Air" is sparse to contrast the dense chords of “Earth.” The movement is filled with fermatas, long ringing notes, harmonics, and nine-tuplet arpeggio bursts.

"Water" is an insistent, complex piece that builds from a seemingly simple sixteenth-note figure through a more intricate sextuplet arpeggio idea and ends with fifteen bars of repicco (rapid m-i-m-i rasgueado). This is not calm and peaceful water by any stretch. The right-hand pinkie is used often for upstroke flurries, there are a couple of percussive moments, and time signatures change on occasion. The second string is tuned down to B-flat. An agile right hand is certainly required to navigate this piece.

The edition is gorgeous, as Gyre publications always are. Wallace has carefully included detailed notes throughout the score, from left and right-hand fingerings to percussion explanations, enabling any guitarist to read through and understand how to present these works.

Equally gorgeous are Wallace’s renditions of these pieces available on his latest Gyre CD, Elemental (2014). This is a virtuosic set and should only be attempted when the player is at ease with rhythm, meter, and especially right-hand technique. At thirteen minutes it is an ideal modern work to include in a concert program, where a performer can do much to highlight its programmatic contrasts. At the same time, each movement is substantial enough to shine alone if extracted.
– David Isaacs

All Frank A. Wallace compositions are ASCAP
Copyright ©2004 Frank A. Wallace
Cover photography and design by Nancy Knowles
All rights reserved.


  • Model: The Elements - DL
  • Manufactured by: Gyre (wallace)
  • Condition: New
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