Pretty much any music from the Baroque period is great. But the fact is that most of the Baroque music we hear on guitar nowadays probably doesn't sound like the actual "Baroque guitar" of the late 1600's - early 1700's and is usually a transcription from different instruments (like lute or cello).
There is A BUNCH of actual Baroque guitar music written for the instrument that has simply not been recorded probably due to the difference between today's guitar and the Baroque instrument.
Todays guitar is strung like so:
But the actual Baroque guitar usually only had 5 courses (kind of like today's 12 string guitars where one string is coupled closely with another) and was strung with what is called re-entrant tuning (kind of like how a Banjo has a high pitched string in the area where the low sounding strings are on a guitar -which allows for many interesting effects that are practically impossible on today's guitar).
in Spain the Baroque guitar courses were tuned like so:
Aa (the upper case letters indicating a lower octave 'A' or 'D')
dd (not down a 4th like our guitars but up a 5th)
aa (down a fourth from the dd's above)
Some of the more popular yet now obscure guitarist composers of the time: Gaspar Sanz (Rodrigo based his modern guitar Concerto Para una Gentilhombre on many of Sanz' melodies -it is very nice btw); Domenico Pellegrini (c. 1650); Ludovico Roncalli (c.1690); Francesco Corbetta (c.1675); Robert de Visee (c.1660-1720) -you might be able to find some recordings of Julian Bream playing some transcriptions of de Visee's works.
Strangely, much of the music written for the original instrument was so idiomatic to it's tuning that today's 6 string cannot do justice to the many works in it's own repertoire.
Now it's time for me to go and listen to John Williams play the Bach Lute Suites as I go to sleep...
Sorry Mark, but I can't let my classical guitar education go to waste, I must correct a small misunderstanding. Carcassi is actually considered a classical era guitarist/composer, along with fellows like F. Sor, M. Giuliani, and a host of lesser lights. Baroque guitar technically died before J.S. Bach, who died in 1750 (which is considered by historians as the date that marks the end of the Baroque era). I believe that Silvius Leopold Weiss, a german lutenist who was a good friend of Bach, died that same year as well. His lute suites are often arranged for guitarists, and many are quite striking to hear.
For you Bach-on-guitar lovers out there, I believe that Paul Galbraith recorded all of Bach's Lute suites, cello suites, and solo violin suites/sonatas a few years back. A number of his performances are quite fine, the famous "Chaconne in d minor" is not. It is sooooo slow. I think the most energetically powerful version this piece that I've heard was that of John Williams on his "Baroque Guitar" album, and the most musically powerful being Julian Bream's recording of it. The tension that he squeezes out of those suspensions on the dominant key middle section is just amazingly moving to the soul.
I've never heard Paul Galbraith but I've seen his cds in music stores and was really intrigued by his unorthodox guitar technique (holds it between his legs like a cellist). Do you know if he frets notes with his thumb like a cellist also?
For those who care: Manuel Barrueco also has some excellent recordings of old man Bach (including Partita No. 2 ...with the Chaconne). Barrueco has impeccable technique.
I remember seeing him fret with his thumb on one of his pieces during a concert, I don't think that he does it often though; it's a pretty rare technique. I've seen several Asian players (they tend to have smaller hands) use that move to get the low 'f' on the stretch in Bach's prelude in d minor that is often attached to the a minor fugue from one of the violin sonatas. My insructor was also having some of us students work on it for some modern pieces, but it's really pretty impractical. It would be much easier to accomplish with his guitar, however. It's set up like a cello where he sits on this box and places a tail pin on his instrument into the box as a sort of acoustic amplifier. It seems like a load to move around!
Anyway I wish you have a wonderful listen of Handel's Messiah for this Christmas. This is one of the few religious pieces I get goosebumps when I hear performed. While it is not dramatic as the Mozart and Bruckner Masses, the very fact that Handel sets the scripture of the Messiah to music with such simplistic makes be shiver in fear of the Lord.
"Who shall stand when He appeareth", set to the intensity of the tremolando of the strings is perfect, and how about the sombre, "And by His stripes we are healed".
That to me is the greatest contribution of Baroque to music.