(b Naples, 9 Feb 1770; d Paris, 14 Feb 1841). Italian guitarist and composer. He was born into a well-to-do family and was taught the rudiments of music by his cello teacher, a priest, though around the age of 16 his interest shifted decisively to the guitar. The leading Italian guitarist of his time, he moved to Paris some time after the birth of his son (1801) with his French-born wife Marie-Joséphine Boyer. The first indication of his presence outside Italy dates from around 1803, when Gombart of Augsburg brought out a handful of publications; other works were published in Paris and Vienna in 1806–7, principally by Leduc, Pleyel and Artaria, and in Hamburg (Böhme) and Milan (Monzino). From 1809 Carulli made Paris his permanent home, where he was at the centre of the phenomenon known as guitaromanie, establishing himself as a virtuoso, composer and teacher. According to contemporary music critics, Carulli was the first to reveal to Paris audiences what the guitar was capable of in terms of expressivity, timbre, harmony and virtuosity, and he brought about a change in taste and performing practice. Within a few years he also published dozens of the manuscripts which he had brought with him from Italy. The work which signalled his success more than any other was the Méthode complette op.27 (1810 or 1811), which was soon being reprinted repeatedly both in France and abroad, and for decades was the basic teaching work for entire generations of guitarists. For years he had practically no serious rival, except for his two fellow Italians Matteo Carcassi and Francesco Molino. His privileged position lasted at least until 1823, when Fernando Sor arrived in Paris. In 1826 he built and patented, together with the Paris instrument-maker René Lacote, an unusual, ten-string guitar, which he called a decacordo (popularized by Narciso Yepes in the 20th century), for which he also wrote a Méthode complete, op.293 (1826).
A pioneer in the evolution of the six-string guitar and its use as a solo instrument, Carulli was one of the founders of the guitar’s modern expressive vocabulary. His guitar music displays elements borrowed from contemporary piano and violin writing, with virtuoso passages as unusual as they were technically demanding: rapid arpeggio figurations, rising phrases and scales in single or double lines along the entire length of the fingerboard, rapid passages in 3rds, 6ths and octaves (both broken and together), and the use of left-hand legato technique, glissandos and harmonics. Another important current in Carulli’s work as a composer was his programme music on pastoral, mythological, ‘meteorological’, military and political themes, e.g. the Sonata sentimentale (Napoleone il Grande)(1807), La Paix, pièce historique op.85 (1814), the divertimento La girafe à Paris op.306 (1827) and La prise d’Alger op.327 (1830). But compared with the work of other contemporary guitarist-composers the defining character of Carulli’s output is the strong showing of chamber music, which accounts for more than half of his total of 366 opus numbers. It is written for a variety of instrumental combinations – duos, trios and even quartets – which evoke a clientele very different from the stereotype of the lone amateur. Various songs and arias for soprano and guitar date from this Italian period. Carulli was tireless as a teacher: in addition to his Méthode op.27 and its successors, his most successful educational collections include L’utile et l’agréable op.114 (?1817), which contains the famous 24 Preludes, the Morceaux faciles op.120 (1817 or 1818) and the series entitled Un peu de tout op.276 (1825). Carulli also published a treatise on transcription, called L’harmonie appliquée à la guitare(1825), a unique document in guitar literature.
Gustavo Carulli (b Livorno, 15 June 1801; d Boulogne-sur-mer, 27 Oct 1876), the son of Ferdinando, studied singing and composition with Paër and Isouard. Like his father, he was a guitarist and teacher and published a guitar Méthode, op.4 (Paris, 1825). He taught singing at the Paris Conservatoire, and wrote a Méthode de chant (Paris, 1838) dedicated to his friend Gilbert Duprez. He also made transcriptions and composed vocal and instrumental chamber works and a farsa on a libretto by Gaetano Rossi, I tre mariti (Milan, 1825), which was performed at La Scala on 18 March 1825. After pursuing a career as an opera composer in France with no success, he lived in London from 1845 for a few years and then retired to Boulogne, where he continued to teach singing and harmony until his death. One of his pupils was the organist Alexandre Guilmant.