SOR: 6 Waltzes, Opp. 17 and 18 / 6 Airs, Op. 19 (Margarita Escarpa) (Naxos: 8.554197)
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Six Waltzes, Op. 17;Air Varie, WoO; Six Waltzes, Op. 18
Six Airs, from"The Magic Flute" after Mozart, Op. 19
Introduction et ThemeVarie, Op. 20
Sixieme Fantaisie: LesAdieux!, Op. 21
Fernando Sor was one of the most influential and esteemed of thepioneers of the new "classical" guitar in the early nineteenthcentury. After a brief military career in his native Spain. Sor embarked upon amusical career which took him to Paris around 1813-14, and then on to London, wherehe remained from l815 to 1823. A letter to the editor of the Giulianiad inthe early 1830s summarises Sor's influence on the London musical scene:"It is a fact, that until the arrival of Sor in this country, which tookplace about fifteen or sixteen years ago, the guitar was scarcely known here,and the impression he then made on his first performance at the Argyll Rooms,which I attended, was of a nature which will never be erased from my memory, itwas at once magical and surprising; nobody could credit that such effects couldbe produced on the guitar! indeed, there was a sort of suppressed laughter whenhe first came forth before the audience, which, however, soon changed intounbounded admiration when he began to display his talents ... the beautifulcompositions of Sor have touched and inspired my soul beyond all others."
In the mid 1820s Sor travelled across Europe to Moscow, where he charmedthe new Tsarina, saw his ballets presented by the Bolshoy, and was commissionedto write a march for the funeral of Tsar Alexander I. Afterwards, he returnedto Paris, where guitar mania raged and competition for guitar audiences wasfierce. There were native French guitarists, returning emigres, and manyItalians whose works invariably reflected the new flamboyant bel canto style.
In the face of such competition, Sor remained essentially conservative,crafting music with clear polyphony and the measured proportions of classicism.
He eschewed virtuosic posturing, but his uncompromising approach to compositionresulted in music which makes considerable technical and musical demands on theperformer. Sor was one of the few guitar-composers who was as well known in hislifetime for his non-guitar compositions - ballets and orchestral works, songs,works for piano, and so forth.
Except for the Air varie (in C), which was published in Pariswithout opus number around 1810 by Salvador Castro de Gistau (at a time whenSor had not yet departed from Spain), all of the pieces recorded here seem todate from Sor's London period and were first published in 1823-1825 in Paris.
Sor's Parisian publisher at the time was Jean-Antoine Meissonnier (1783-1857),himself a French guitarist and composer. Meissonnier had discovered the guitaron a youthful trip to Naples; upon his return to France, his concerts,sometimes given with his younger brother, Joseph (b. 1790), were highlyacclaimed. In 1814 he began his music-publishing business and the exiled Sorbecame one of his most prestigious clients. The assignment of the earliest opusnumbers of Sor's publications appears to have been the work of Meissonnier,since several of these works had appeared earlier, from other publishers, andwithout opus numbers.
The Six Waltzes, Op. 17 and Six Waltzes, Op. 18, reflectthe rage for this dance that was sweeping through Europe at this moment. Thewaltz was not unknown prior to this time, but it had seemed foreign (aswitnessed by the many spelling variants) and many objected to the overlyfamiliar touching between the dancers and to the dangerous swirling pace of thedance. The great Congress of Vienna seemed to precipitate a shift in publicopinion, as aristocrats from every European state punctuated their diplomacywith lavish balls at venues such as the Apollosaal, and the principalobjections to the waltz by one generation-foreignness, familiarity, theexhilarating pace - probably contributed to its popularity with the next.
In 1819, the first London performance of Mozart's opera The MagicFlute had created a sensation. Sor was in London at the time and seems tohave been caught up in the enthusiasm. He composed his celebrated Op. 9 Variation,on "Oh caro armonia" around 1820-21 and performed them with somesuccess. It is likely that the Six Airs choisis de l'Operu de Mozart: Il
Flauto Magico, Op. 19 were part of the same phenomenon. The themes, notthe best known from the opera, are Marche religieuse, Fuggite o voi beltafallace, Gi?? fan ritorno i Geny amici, O dolce armonia, Se potesse un suono, andthe chorus Grand' Isi, grand' Osiri. The march title is given in Frenchand the airs are identified by their Italian titles since the opera was stillnot widely performed in German. Apparently the Italian translations were notstabilised, since Das klinget so herrlich is known as Oh caro armoniain Sor's Op. 9 but as O dolce armonia in Op. 19.
Sor's Introduction et Th?¬me Varie, Op. 20 was dedicated to hisfriend Meissonnier. The theme and two of the variations closely resemble thefirst, second, and fourth variations from a Thema varie issued by hisfirst Parisian publisher, Castro, in 1810.
Sor dedicated Les Adieux! Sixi?¿me Fantaisie, Op. 21 to anotherprominent friend, the Italian violin virtuoso Francesco Vaccari (1775-after1823). Vaccari was a pupil of Nardini who became a court musician in Spain. Acopy of the first edition (Paris, 1825) in the collection of the late RobertSpencer bears an additional handwritten dedication and Londres, 28 deJulio, 1816. The musicologist Brian Jeffery has suggested that Sor may havefirst met Vaccari during the latter's visit to London in 1815-16, and composedthe piece in that time and place. Jeffery has also discovered that Vaccari hadleft Spain as a result of the Revolution of 1820 and was performing again inEngland in 1823. Thus, a second meeting between Vaccari and Sor is feasible andmight have inspired either the composition or its publication at this time; inthis case the inscription could have recalled their earlier encounter.
Margarita Escarpa began her guitar studies at the Real Conservatorio deM??sica de Madrid with some of Spain's most distinguished teachers, receivingthe highest possible honour, the Premio Extraordinario Fin de Carrera. Shelater worked with David Russell, Gerardo Arriaga and Miguel Angel Girollet andhas taken part in many of Europe's prestigious courses and festivals. At thesame time she graduated at the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid in MathematicalSciences. As a competitor, she has won major prizes in several importantcompetitions, including the 1990 Concurso Internacional Alhambra in Alcoy, the1991 Esztergom International Competition in Hungary, the 1992 ConcoursInternational de Guitare of Radio France, the 1993 Concurso InternacionalAndres Segovia in Palma de Mallorca, and in 1994 at the Certamen InternacionalAndres Segovia in Granada and the Guitar Foundation of America InternationalCompetition in Quebec. Margarita Escarpa works intensively as a concertperformer and teacher in Spain and throughout Europe and has a number ofrecordings to her credit.