SOR: Fantaisie, Opp. 10 and 12 / Themes et Menuets, Op. 11

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Fernando Sor (1778 -1839)

Fantasy, Op. 10

Two Themes and Variations and Twelve Minuets, Op. 11

Fantasy, Op. 12

By the end of the eighteenth century the guitar had evolved into itsmodern configuration of six single strings in conventional tuning - the "classical"guitar. This new variant of the ancient instrument was capable of far more thansimple strums and chordal accompaniment of singers and violinists, and so itinspired several generations of virtuoso performers and composers, includingthe Barcelona-born Fernando Sor (1778-1839). Sor received his early musicaltraining at the monastery of Montserrat, where he sang in the famous boys'choir. A prodigious composer, his opera IlTelemaco nell'isola di Calipso was produced in 1797, when he wasonly nineteen.

In spite of these talents, Sor embarked upon a career in the army, andhis military responsibilities do not seem significantly to have curtailed hismusical activities or his pursuit of a position in the court. Such dreams wereended by the Napoleonic invasion of Spain in 1808. Many young officers,educated men, were well aware of the backwardness of the Borbon monarchy towhich they had sworn their loyalty. The Spanish government had ignored thephilosophical and scientific developments of the Enlightenment and continued tosponsor anachronisms such as the Inquisition. A progressive Bonaparte regime would introduce many neededreforms. A performer or composer such as Sor would also have known thatImperial Paris, with its plethora of publishers and its glittering venues,offered far greater opportunities for career advancement than did provincialMadrid. Sor remained loyal to the Borbon dynasty for a while, and contributed afewpatriotic songs to the cause,but eventually he joined the new Bonaparte regime.The fact that he was a virtuoso guitarist corresponded fortuitouslywith a Parisian craze for that same instrument. As early as 1810 a fewof Sor's works for guitar, stillunpublished in Spain, appeared in Paris in Salvador Castro de Gistau's Journal de musique etrang?¿re. But then thedefeat of the French in 1813 and the restoration of the unforgiving Borbonsended Sor's military career and doomed him (and others like him) to an exilefrom his native land which proved permanent.

Sor's new career was an instant success, taking him from Spain to Parisand London, and on one triumphant tour as far as Moscow. In the late 1820s hereturned to Paris, where he remained until his death in 1839, publishing hiscompositions, teaching, and giving occasional concerts. In all, he publishedover sixty works for one or two guitars, as well as several dozen songs, a fewballets, and other miscellaneous works. His pieces for guitar, especially thelarge-scale works and the studies, were composed in the international classicalstyle, and demonstrate a polyphonic approach and an academic concern for formwhich are often missing in the flamboyant works of his guitaristcontemporaries, justifying his reputation as not only a great innovator on theguitar but as a composer of the first rank.

All of the works recorded here were among the several dozen worksissued by the Parisian publisher Antoine Meissonnier in the decade after thefall of Napoleon. Sor visited Paris on his way to an extended stay in London;he may have made the publishing arrangements with Meissonnier at that time.

Many of the works which Meissonnier published had almost certainly beencomposed earlier, during Sor's "Spanish" period; a few had alreadyappeared in Castro's Journal orelsewhere as early as 1810. Among theseearly efforts were large-scale works called "fantasies", in theimprecise parlance of the day, compositions in several movements, usuallyinvolving a theme and variations.

The Troisi?¿me Fantaisie, Op. 10

(published c.1816 -1822) requires that the sixth string be retuned to F, anunusual but effective device. It consists of an Andante largo in F, a theme with four variations, and coda.

The second variation makes a digression into F minor, a very unusual key forthe guitar, but one which is facilitated by the scordatura.

The Quatri?¿me Fantaisie, Op. 12

(published in 1821 or 1822) incorporates a theme and several variations fromSor's own Opus 3, (also usedpreviously in 1810) but augments them with an introduction, new variations, andfinale. The work was dedicated to the pianist Frederic Kalkbrenner (1785-1849),a pupil of Haydn whom Sor had befriended, probably while living in London. Sormakes restrained but effective use of several technical devices, including someharmonics in the Introduction andetouffee (dampened strings, whichsound rather like pizzicato on abowed instrument) in the Finale.

Sor's Opus 11 was a sortof collection of smallerpiecesentitled Deux Th?¿mes Varies et Douze Menuets, published by Meissonnier in1821 or 1822. The first theme and two of theminuets were among those pieces which Sor had published a decadeearlier, suggesting that still more of this collection might also date fromSor's earlier, or Spanish period. Another clue is the fact that minuets had ceasedto be fashionable by the 1820s, eclipsed by the rage for the waltz which sweptEurope after theCongress ofVienna, but Sor's musical conservatism is less remarkable than his technicalinnovation. The first three minuets require a double scordatura, with the sixth string tuned to D and the fifthto G; this tuning became fairly common in Spanish music by the end of thenineteenth century but was little used in Sor's time. The fourth and fifthminuets require a less unusual (but hardly common in the 1820s) scordatura of the sixth string to D. Menuet No.11 and the final Theme and Variations, like the Opus 10 Fantasy,require the sixth tuned to F.

Richard Long

John Holmquist

Among the most acclaimed classical virtuosi in America, John Holmquisthas toured extensively throughout North America and Europe, appearing at musicfestivals from Pasadena to Inverness, Puerto Rico and Budapest, with broadcastsfor the BBC, CBC and National and American Public Radio networks. JohnHolmquist won first prize and a standing ovation at the Guitar 78 InternationalCompetition in Toronto and solo Recitalist Fellowship from the NationalEndowment for the Arts and is now also in great demand as teacher andadjudicator, as well as in the r??le of performer. He is head of the guitarprogramme at the Cleveland Institute of Music, has published a number ofarticles and reviews and has edited the recently re-discovered Ten Etudes for Guitar by Giulio Regondi,found in a private collection in Moscow by Mantanya Orphee and published byEditions Orphee.

Item number 8553723
Barcode 730099472326
Release date 12/01/1999
Category Guitar
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Artists Holmquist, John
Holmquist, John
Composers Sor, Fernando
Sor, Fernando
Producers Silver, Bonnie
Silver, Bonnie
Disc: 1
Deux Themes Varies et Douze Menuets
1 Andante Largo
2 Theme and Variations
3 Theme varie
4 Menuet No. 1
5 Menuet No. 2
6 Menuet No. 3
7 Menuet No. 4
8 Menuet No. 5
9 Menuet No. 6
10 Menuet No. 7
11 Menuet No. 8
12 Menuet No. 9
13 Menuet No. 10
14 Menuet No. 11
15 Menuet No. 12
16 Theme Varie
17 Introduction: Larghetto Cantabile
18 Theme avec variations
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