Which is better, “Asturias (Leyenda)” on guitar or piano?

John Williams plays “Asturias (Leyenda)” by Isaac Albeniz

It’s fun to take something you think you know, change it up a little, and hear what happens.

Like “Asturias (Leyenda)” by Isaac Albeniz. I’ve heard it a number of times before and thought I knew it fairly well (for a non-musician). More about that below. First, the video above. What I like about it (aside from the music itself and the virtuoso performance of it) is that you can watch Williams’s hands and fingers – you see up close the music being made. A rock concert, even a symphony, is larger than life. Nothing wrong with that. But this is intimate, music that invites you to come close, music at your fingertips.

OK, now to change things up in the next video. Same piece, performed on a piano by Pablo Galdo:

To me, the opening sounds nervous (the music, not the performer). It’s not soothing; the speed gives it a manic energy. The slow parts also sound different; a piano has more sustain than a guitar, and so the music feels even slower. The piano version feels like an entirely different piece — to me it feels more energetic and passionate but less intimate and mysterious.

On the one hand, this is such an obvious point: music sounds different when you play it on a different instrument. No surprise there. But this is one of those things that’s so obvious that we can take it for granted and forget just how dramatic the difference in mood and color is.

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4 thoughts on “Which is better, “Asturias (Leyenda)” on guitar or piano?

    1. thecuriouspeople Post author

      For a musician, I suppose videos like these are a mixed blessing. Inspiring… but people like this certainly raise the bar awfully high. By the way, I think I learned about the Williams video from you… seems like you posted it yourself some time back.

      Reply
  1. Pure Musician

    In my opinion, it fits better on the guitar – maybe because of the rasguado technique and the (B note) pedal point which can be played an octave higher. There are more possibilities for it on the guitar. Also, there are some notes that cannot be sustained on the piano as on the guitar. But I enjoyed listening to the piano version as well!

    Reply
    1. thecuriouspeople Post author

      You taught me a new word! I looked up rasgueado and was interested to read a little about this finger strumming technique. I also prefer the guitar version, though I enjoyed both. Thanks for commenting.

      Reply

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