SOR: 6 Bagatelles, Op. 43 / Progressive Pieces, Op. 44 (Jason Vieaux) (Naxos: 8.553986)
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Six bagatelles,"Mes ennuis", Op. 43
Vingt-quatre pi?¿cesprogressives, Op. 44
Six pi?¿ces,"Voyons si c'est ?ºa", Op, 45
In about 1827 the Barcelona-born guitarist and composer Fernando Sorsettled in Paris, the end of a long European odyssey which had begun a decadeearlier in his native Spain. In spite of prodigious musical talents and anexcellent musical education at the monastery of Monserrat, Sor had chosen amilitary career, and in about 1810-1811 switched his allegiance to the newking, Napoleon's brother Joseph. When the brief Bonaparte reign collapsed in1813, Sor was forced to flee from his homeland, never to return. His musicaltalents had carried him to Paris, where he had already published a few works;to critical acclaim in London; and on one triumphant tour in the mid 1820s asfar as Moscow, where he charmed the new Tsaritsa and saw his ballets presentedby the Bolshoy company. Unlike some of the guitarist-?¡composers of his day,Sor's fame rested on his universal musicianship - he wrote operas, ballets,piano music and songs, as well as music for the guitar - but it was on theguitar that he excelled as a performer, and it was this instrument that wasbest suited to provide him with a comfortable livelihood in Paris in the 1820s.
The guitar had spawned a fad in France at the end of the Old Regime,then a virtual guitaromanie during the First Empire. Many of the bestguitarists in Europe gravitated to Paris: native French guitarists, returningemigres, some pupils, or those who claimed to have been, of the formidableMauro Giuliani (1781-1829) in Vienna, and plenty of Italians whose worksinvariably reflected the new flamboyant bel canto style. Sor'scompetition included the likes of Ferdinando Carulli (1770-1841), a Neapolitanwho had helped tire the French guitaromanie as early as 1808, and whostill had a considerable following Francesco Molino, (1768-1847) a Piedmontesealso accomplished on the violin, with a knack for accessible chamber music, andMatteo Carcassi (1792-1853), the Florentine author of perhaps the most famousguitar method ever written.
Teaching the fashionable instrument to wealthy amateurs and dilettantesbecame an important source or income for the professional guitarists in Paris.
The emphasis on pedagogical works in the late 1820s is clear evidence:Carulli's new Methode complete, Op. 241, and his L'Anti-Methode,Op. 272, both appeared in 1825, and Aguado's Escuela was published inboth French and Spanish editions in Paris in 1826. Sor himself wrote a Method- published perhaps as early as 1828 but certainly by 1830 - which is morea philosophical than a technical work, and contains relatively little music.
Sor also ended his long term publishing arrangement with Antoine Meissonnier in1828, and ventured into a new arrangement with Pacini, one of the mostinfluential and successful of Paris publishers. That Sor felt (and resisted)commercial pressure seems evident from comments he made in his Method andeven on the music itself. The selections recorded here chronicle Sor'sdetermination to preserve his artistic integrity and at the same time complywith the demands of the public.
The six pieces of Mes Ennuis: Six Bagatelles, Op. 43 (c. 1830-31)are an Andantino and Allegretto in C; a Cantabile and Mazurkain A; and an Andante in D minor and a Valse in D (the lattertwo requiring a scordatura). The keys, contrasting tempi, and scordaturasuggest that the pieces were intended to be played in pairs. The title "Mesennuis" and also the subtitle "dediees ?á qui les voudra" seemto reflect that Sor would rather have been writing works on a larger scale;nevertheless, these miniatures reveal his uncompromising craftmanship andmelodic gifts, and they are more difficult to play than they either appear orsound.
The Vingt-quatre petites pi?¿ces progressives, pour servir de le?ºonsaur ?ël?¿ves tout ?á fait Commen?ºants, Op. 44 (1831) constitute one of Sor'simportant sets of pedagogical pieces (the others are the 24 Studies,Opp. 6 and 29; 24 Progressive Lessns, Op. 31; 24 VeryEasy Exercise" Op. 35; and 25 pi?¿ces (Introduction to theStudy of the Guitar, Op. 60). In this group, Sor once again demonstrateshis extraordinary ability to write didactic music with attractive melodies andclever harmonies, while not even venturing beyond the second position until thefinal waltz. In an introduction, he explains that many believed that thesepieces should have been published along with his Method, but that he hadintentionally published them separately so that beginners would not bedistracted from (or completely ignore) the text.
As in Op. 43, these six works of Voyons si c'est c?á: Six PetitesPi?¿eces Faciles Op. 45 (1831) are apparently arranged in pairs: Andantinoand Allegretto in G, Andante [Variato] and Valse in C,and Andante and [Valse] in A. The title, which may be translated"Let's see if this will do", apparently refers to the fact that Sor'sworks, even his pedagogical compositions, were considered too difficult by manyof the amateurs of his day. Sor is here responding (or claiming to do so) totheir demands that he write little pieces that they could perform with minimalpractice, the sort of pieces that Carulli and Carcassi wrote prolifically. Onthe title page, Sor also indicated his purpose is gradually to "lead up tothat [which is considered to be] difficult" and he dedicated the opus"to those with the least patience," but some of his impatient publicapparently remained unsatisfied, because Sor later composed and published Est-cebien ?ºa? ("Is this it?"): Six Pieces, Op. 48 (c. 1832),and ?Ç la bonne heure ("Finally!") Six Vales, Op. 51 (c.
1832), which were actually clever parodies of the pedagogical works of hisrivals.
Jason Vieaux, from Buffalo in western New York state, began his guitarstudies at the age of nine and made his recital debut when he was twelve. In1992, at the age of nineteen, in a field of eighty competitors, he became theyoungest winner of the first prize in the history of the prestigious GuitarFoundation of America International Competition. This culminated with a 53-citytour as a solo guitarist throughout the United States and France, with numerousreturn invitations. Shortly after completing the tour, he made his debut withthe Cleveland Orchestra performing Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez, withJahja Ling conducting. In 1993, after receiving the D'Addario FoundationFellowship for Guitar, he released his first CD, including works by Bach,Brouwer, Ponce and Regondi. In 1995 Jason Vieaux travelled as an ArtisticAmbassador of the United States Information Agency to seven countries inSoutheast Asia, including India, Nepal and Thailand, beginning the tour as afeatured guest on the Washington D.C. based international radio programme Voiceof America. He also performed in the 1996 International Guitar Festival inCuernavaca, Mexico and the 1998 David Russell Festival in the Spanish city ofVigo. Prize-winner in the 1996 Naumburg International Guitar Competition in NewYork, he is a member of the guitar department faculty of the ClevelandInstitute of Music and is a regular performer in solo recitals, concerti andduo recitals with the flautist Gary Schocker around the United States