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Fernando Sor – 24 Études Op. 35 (Guitarra) Sheet Music, partitura
Fernando Sor (1778 – 1839)
Fernando Sor or Ferran Sor i Muntades was a Spanish guitarist and composer born in Barcelona on February 13, 1778, and died in Paris on July 10, 1839. The French musicologist Fétis called him the ‘Beethoven of the guitar’. His creative and didactic work contributed to revaluing the guitar in the first half of the 19th century, but he also stood out as an author of music for theater, ballet and songs representative of European pre-romanticism.
He was born into a fairly well-to-do family, as Fernando Sor descended from a long line of military men (his father was a civil engineer, and his grandfather, born in the south of France, was in the French army). He tried to continue that military tradition, but broke away from it when his father introduced him to Italian opera. Furthermore, he fell in love with music and abandoned his military career.
Along with opera, his father also oriented him towards the guitar when, at that time, it was little more than an instrument played in taverns, considered inferior to the instruments of the orchestra. Without studying music theory, he learned as a child the technique of the guitar and the violin. At the age of 10 he joined the choir boys and the orchestra of the Montserrat monastery under the tutelage of Anselm Viola, and studied the fundamentals of harmony and counterpoint.
When his father died in 1789, his mother could not continue financing his studies and the abbot of Montserrat, Joseph Arredondo, offered to take the boy to study for free at the Choir of the Montserrat Monastery, near Barcelona. The study there revolved around music. It was in this monastery that he began to write his first pieces. However, his teachers, especially Father Viola, did not appreciate the guitar, and therefore Sor’s training for this instrument is self-taught, before and after his time in Montserrat.
In 1795, he returned to Barcelona and began his military career as a second lieutenant under General Vives in the Villafranca army. The position allows him to give his first piano and guitar concerts and compose. In 1797, the premiere of his opera Telemaco en la isla de Calypso took place at the Teatro de la Santa Cruz in Barcelona.
In 1801, he moved to Madrid, where he intended to approach the musical circles of the Court of Carlos IV and enter the Royal Chapel or the Royal Chamber. He is not welcome there. But the XIII Duchess of Alba welcomes him and protects him in her circle of artists. He becomes acquainted with characters such as Isabel Colbrán, Dionisio Aguado, etc.
On the death of the Duchess, he entered the service of the Duke of Medinaceli, who gave him a position as administrator of estates in Barcelona, where he returned in 1802, until in 1804 he was appointed royal administrator in Andalusia and settled in Malaga, the city where he developed an active musical life. In those years he composed several boleros and pieces for guitar, widely distributed as manuscripts; the first printed editions were published in Paris in 1811 by Salvador de Castro y Gistau.
He was in Andalusia when the War of Independence broke out; he composed numerous hymns and patriotic songs such as Come Victors, sung by the Spanish army upon its entry into Madrid on August 23, 1808. In 1810, Fernando Sor swore allegiance to José Bonaparte for which, three years later, like many other Frenchified, he would march to an exile in France.
In 1808, when Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Spain, he went on to write nationalist music for the guitar, often accompanied by patriotic lyrics. After the defeat of the Spanish army, Sor accepted an administrative position in the occupation government, under the monarchy of José Bonaparte. He was Prefect of Police in Malaga, in whose cathedral some of his works are exhibited. After the expulsion of the French in 1813, Fernando Sor and many others of the most important artists, aristocrats and intellectuals of the time who had collaborated with the monarchy of José Bonaparte left Spain for fear of reprisals and for the esteem they held France for. your advanced ideas.
In Paris, he enjoyed the popularity of his songs thanks to the editions published in the Journal de Musique Étrangère pour la Guitare ou Lyre. In 1815 he unsuccessfully tried to obtain a position as composer in the musical chapel of the King of France and moved to London, a city with more musical opportunities and which had a large colony of Spanish exiles. There, in addition to being a composer and guitarist, he stood out as a singing teacher and author of Italian arias.
In those years he published seven collections of Italian Arias for voice and piano that were very popular, and he composed music for ballet: La Foire de Smyrne, Le Seigneur Généreux, or Cenerentola, which took him to the Bolshoi in Moscow and on a tour throughout Europe. In 1825, after the death of Tsar Alexander, the funeral march composed by Sor on this occasion was performed at the funeral held in St. Petersburg; he also composed the ballet Hercule et Omphale for the coronation of Nicholas I. Of the dozen ballets he composed, only four survive: Cenerentola, Alphonse et Léonore, Hercule et Omphale, and Le Sicilien ou L’Amour peintre.
Although there is no record of his belonging to any Lodge, the affiliation of the people who helped him the most at the time suggests that he could have been a Mason, initiated by his friends during the French occupation of Spain. He went to Paris, and never went back to his home country.
In Paris, he made friends with many musicians, including the Spanish guitarist Dionisio Aguado, who went to Paris from 1825 to 1838, collaborating closely and even living together for a time at the Hôtel Favart, which is still standing and operating today. He composed a duet for the two of them (Op.41, Les Deux Amis (the two friends) in which one part is marked ‘Sor’ and the other ‘Aguado’).
He began to gain renown among the Parisian art community for his compositional and guitar-playing abilities, and began occasional trips through Europe, gaining considerable fame and making the guitar a concert instrument. He was in England in 1815 where he was recognized as a composer of operas and ballets. In 1823, he traveled to Russia, where he wrote and successfully presented the ballet Hercules and Omphale on the occasion of the coronation of Tsar Nicholas I. In 1825 a ballet of his, Cinderella, opened the Bolshoi theater.
The prima ballerina is his lover or woman of the moment: Felicité Hullin. In 1827, he settled down and decided to live out the rest of his life in Paris. This is due in part to his mature age and in part to his loss of patronage in Russia following the death of the Tsarina Mother Elizabeth. During this mature stage, he composed many of his best works.
The main income of a musician in Sor’s time was concerts and sheet music publishing. The concerts were given between several musicians in honor of one of them and he collected the fees. This was done on a rotating basis by circles of like-minded musicians and friends. As for the scores, published by Jean Antoine Meissonnier, Sor’s pieces were not exactly marketable to the mass of amateurs due to their difficulty, and he was exasperated by composing for amateurs with little effort. In any case, he ended up publishing easy and evolutionary pieces, making as few artistic sacrifices as possible.
In 1826, he definitively returned to Paris dedicating himself almost exclusively to the guitar, as a teacher, soloist and composer; The result of all this is a Guitar Method, four study books, twelve duets for guitar and several fantasies, variations and dances for that instrument. He died on July 10, 1839, and was buried two days later in the Parisian cemetery of Montmartre.
The end of his life is accommodated despite the legend (shared by many romantic artists) of death in oblivion and misery. The last benefit concert for him was given on April 24, 1836, together with Aguado. A testimony about the end of his life is given by his friends Eusebio Font y Moresco and Jaume Batlle i Mir in an article in the Barcelona Public Opinion of January 1850. However, his daughter Carolina, harpist and painter, died on June 8 of 1837. His last work was a mass in her honor. This death plunged the already ill Sor into a serious depression, and he died on July 10, 1839 of cancer of the tongue.
His grave was identified in the Montmartre Cemetery in the thirties at the initiative of Los Amigos de la Guitar de Paris (André Verdier, Emilio Pujol and the Danish Ostergaard among others). It was restored to avoid the expiration of 100 years of the concessions that would have implied the transfer of the remains to a common grave and the reuse of the niche. He was buried in the tomb of Spanish nobleman David del Castillo, a friend of Fernando Sor, whose family also fled Spain.
In 1936, there were two ceremonies to inaugurate the restored tomb: the first by the Government of the Republic and shortly after by the government of General Franco. Again, in 1978, the tomb was once again in terrible condition and was restored with the addition of a sculpture of the canary based in France, Ángel Peres. The tomb can still be visited in division 24 of the Montmartre Cemetery; it can be easily seen from Inner Samson Avenue.
Despite having been born in Barcelona on Carrer Sant Pau (probably where the current Liceo is or very close), there is still no plaque to remember him. However, in the charismatic neighborhood of Gràcia, in the space known as La Salut -the most select in the area-there is Calle de Sors (Carrer de Sors, in Catalan), dedicated to the musician. It is a quiet and beautiful street parallel to the Torrent de les Flors and which ends, at its top, less than five minutes from the main entrance of Park Güell.
His style is mainly characterized by the use of a fairly advanced guitar language for his time, but even so, he is still considered a totally classical composer. However, many performers tend to interpret his works with a ‘romantic’ approach.
He ventured into different musical forms – such as divertissements, theme with variations, sonatas, fantasies, minuets, duets, as well as diverse vocal music – demonstrating his knowledge of the composition techniques of the time. However, his works are clear and somewhat simple, which allows easy assimilation for those who listen to them.
He made frequent use of minor keys as a preamble to his pieces, a clear example is the introduction of Mozart’s Variations on a Theme, which is in E minor but during it, modulates to show the theme in E. elderly. Another example of this feature is the «Great solo», where the type of modulation is the same, only in the key of D.
Another characteristic of his compositional style is the subtle use of ‘harmonic delays’ much in the style of Haydn and Mozart. In the same way, it is possible to find more similarities with said composers, but this can be observed as a result of the influence of the predominant style of his time, the Gallant Style.
Since leaving the Montserrat school, Fernando has frequented amateurs, professionals and notables interested in learning the art of guitar or harmony. His students include Isabella Colbran and José de San Martín. During his mature stage in Paris, he himself edited a didactic work, still a reference today: Method for guitar, published in 1830 and translated into several languages, including Spanish, in 2008, 178 years after its first edition.
There have been many apocryphal derivatives, reissued and sold of this method, and it is advisable to be well-informed before following one, the watchword being to follow the original from 1830, of which few authentic ones remain.
- Telémaco en la isla de Calipso (1797)
- Don Trastullo
- La feria de Esmirna (1821)
- El señor generoso (1821)
- Cenicienta (1822)
- El amante pintor (1823)
- Hércules e ia (1826)
- El siciliano (1827)
- Hassan y el califa (1828)
- 25 Boleros o seguidillas
- 33 Arias
- Cantata alla duchessa d’Albufera (València, 1813)
- 3 Sinfonías
- Concierto para violín
- 3 Cuartetos de cuerda (Perdidos)
- Tríos de cuerda con guitarra (Perdido)
Works for guitar
- 30 Divertimentos Op. 1, 2, 8, 13 y 24
- Variaciones Op. 3, 9, 11, 15, 16 y 20
- 11 Fantasías Op. 4, 7, 10, 12, 21, 30, 46, 52, 56, 58, 59 y 97
- 6 Piezas breves Op. 5
- 12 Estudios Op. 6
- 12 Minuetos Op. 11
- Gran solo Op. 14
- 3 Sonatas Op. 15, Op. 22 y Op.25
- 12 Valses Op. 17
- Variaciones sobre La flauta mágica (Mozart) Op. 9
- 8 piezas breves Op. 24
- Variaciones Op. 26, 27 y 28
- 12 Estudios Op. 29
- Estudios Op. 31 Op. 31 nº 20, 35, 44 y 60
- 24 Piezas breves Op. 32, 42, 45 y 47
- 6 Piezas de salón Op. 33 y 36
- 12 Valses Op. 51 y 57
- Variaciones Op. 40
- Serenata Op. 37
- 6 Bagatelas Op. 43
- 6 Piezas Op. 48
- Capricho Op. 50
- Duetos Op. 34, 38, 39, 41 «Les deux amis», 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 53, 54, 55, 61, 62 y 63.
- Seis aires escogidos de la ópera la flauta mágica Op. 19
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