SOR: 6 Divertimenti, Opp. 1 and 2 / 6 Petite Pieces, Op. 5 (Norbert Kraft) (Naxos: 8.554196)
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March from Cendrillon
Six Divertimenti, Op.
Six Divertimenti, Op.
Th?¿me varie et unmenuet, Op. 3
Fantasia, Op. 4
Six petites pi?¿ces,Op. 5
Fernando Sor is one ofthe most significant and one of the most revered figures in the history of theguitar. Born in Barcelona, Sor received his early musical training at themonastery of Montserrat, where he sang in the famous boys' choir. His opera IlTelemaco nell'isola di Calipso was produced in 1797, when he was onlynineteen. In spite of his musical gift, Sor at first embarked upon a career inthe army, but this was shattered by the Napoleonic invasion of Spain in 1808and its aftermath. Like many young Spanish officers, Sor was torn between thebackward Borbon monarchy to which he had sworn loyalty, and the progressive newBonaparte regime. A performer and composer such as Sor would also have knownthat Imperial Paris, with its abundance of publishers and its glitteringvenues, offered greater opportunities for a musical career than did provincialMadrid. Sor remained loyal to the Borbons for a while and even contributed afew patriotic songs to the cause, but eventually he joined the new Bonaparteregime.
As early as 1810 a fewof Sor's works for guitar, still unpublished in Spain, appeared in Paris inSalvador Castro de Gistau's Journal de musique etrang?¿re. The defeat ofthe French at Vitoria in 1813 and the restoration of the unforgiving Borbonsended Sor's military career and doomed him to a permanent exile from his nativeland, but it also launched his international musical career. Sor fled fromSpain to Paris, where his reputation as a composer had preceded him. In thenext years he visited London, and on one triumphant tour in the mid 1820stravelled as far as Moscow. In the late 1820s he returned to Paris, where heremained until his death in1839, publishing his compositions, teaching, andgiving occasional concerts. In all, he published over sixty works for one ortwo guitars, as well as several dozen songs, a few ballets, and othermiscellaneous works.
Sor is not known tohave composed ballets before about 1820, but thereafter he wrote several;unfortunately, most of them have not survived. His first great success was Cendrillon,which had its first performance at the King's Theatre in London in 1822.
The classic version of the folk-tale Cinderella (or Cendrillon, LaCenerentala, Aschenbrodl) had been defined in 1697 by Charles Perrault inhis Contes de ma m?¿re l'oye ('Tales of Mother Goose'). A century later,in Sor's lifetime, the story experienced a curious resurgence. PerhapsPerrault's heroine, like Mary Shelley's creature, provided a metaphor for someof the historic developments of the age; the ascendance of the bourgeoisie orof the parvenu nobility of the Napoleonic era, or perhaps a new generationcould look back with relief on the passing of some of the harsher aspects ofrural life under the Old Regime which Perrault's tales had depicted only toovividly. Sor was not the first composer to be attracted to the plot. In 1810,Nicolas Isouard (1775-1818) saw his opera performed at the Opera-Comique, andthe following year the guitarist Ferdinando Carulli (1770-1841) had written anextended programme piece for solo guitar (his Opus 44) based on the storyRossini's celebrated opera, which was first performed in Rome in 1817, would beheard throughout Europe in the next decade.
In 1823, followingclosely upon its London success, Sor's Cendrillon received its firstParis performance at the Salle Le Peletier; it was to be presented 104 times inParis in the next seven years, making it one of the most popular ballets of thedecade. Why had Sor turned to ballet at this point in his career? The enormouspopularity of ballet in London and Paris in those years seems an obvious answer,but the piano reduction of Cendrillon (London, 1822) suggests stillanother attraction the genre may have held for Sor: it identifies one of theLondon ballerinas as Mlle. Hullin, probably the same Felicite Hullin who becameSor's [second] wife in Paris, travelled with him to Russia, and danced thetitle-r??le of Cendrillon for the Bolshoy in 1825. Sor's own arrangementfor guitar of the popular Marche from the third act was published inParis in about 1823, probably to coincide with the ballet's premiere there.
The opus numbers ofthe remaining works on this recording were assigned by Sor's Parisian publisherJean-Autoine Meissonnier (1783-1857) in his editions of 1816 or later. Sinceall of these pieces had been published earlier, without opus numbers, they areneither Sor's earliest compositions nor even his earliest published works. The SixDivertimentos, Op. 1, were first published in London in 1813-15. Theyconsist of an Andante and Waltz in G, an Allegretto in D,
an Andante in C, a Thema [with Variations] in the same key,and a Marcia in F. The second set of Six Divertimentos, Op.
2, was also first published in London, at about the same time. They include a Minuettoand Waltz in G, Andantino in D, Minuetto and Waltz inC, and a Siciliana in E.
Sor's Th?¿me Varieet un Minuet, Op. 3, in its final form, was published by Meissonnier inc.1816. The jaunty little theme and its half dozen inspired variations had beencomposed before Sor left Spain and had first appeared (without opus and withoutthe Minuet) six years earlier in an edition published in Paris bySalvador Castro de Gistau. The same theme and several of the variations,somewhat modified, were used again by the composer in his fourth Fantaisie,Op. 12. Sor's
Fantasia [No. 2] in A, Op. 4 consists of two movements,a brief Introduction (Andante largo) and an energetic Rondo(Allegretto) resembling a caccia, a musical genre which imitates thesounds of a hunt. The Six Petites Pi?¿ces, Op. 5 were first published inParis in about 1814, when Sor first arrived there from Spain; they werededicated to his [first] wife. The pieces are a Menuet and Valze inG, a Menuet and Allegro in C, a remarkable Andante Largo inD, and a little unnamed piece in the same key. The key signaturessuggest these pieces may have been intended to be played in pairs.