Fernando Sor is one of the most praised composers for classical guitar, especially when talking about study pieces and didactic material, and his studies and preludes are an important part of the lessons made in Conservatory schools all around the world even in our modern days.
In this article we’ll talk about his life, the most famous compositions and also where you can find the music sheet of his works!
LIFE AND BIOGRAPHY
On February 13, 1778, Josep Ferran Sorts I Muntades, also known as Fernando Sor, was born in Barcelona. He came from a military household and attended the Military Academy in Barcelona before deciding to pursue music full-time instead. Under the instruction of Anselmo Viola, he studied harmony at the Montserrat monastery’s choir school.
He wrote Telemachus on the island of Calypso there, which was staged in 1796 at the Teatro de la San Cruz in Barcelona. He relocated to Madrid in 1799 and wrote numerous symphonies, string quartets, and seguidillas boleras there.
FIRST COMPOSITIONS: PATRIOTIC PIECES
Sor fought against the French during the Napoleonic invasion of 1808 and wrote several compositions for guitar and voice based on patriotic poems (such as, among the most famous, Vivir en cadenas and Venid, vencedores). Later, when the French left Spain in 1813, he was obliged to leave the country and never returned because he had taken a job in the administration of the occupying government.
MOVING TO PARIS
He originally relocated to Paris before making his way to London in 1815, where he published and found great success with a number of arias for voice and piano, vocal duets, songs with English texts, and works for piano and guitar.
His ballets were made between 1821 and 1823, the best renowned of which, Cendrillon, was performed at the Paris Opera more than 100 times and selected for the Bol’oj Theater’s Moscow debut in 1823. Sor made his way back to Paris in 1826 and stayed there until his passing in 1839. In the French capital, he focused mostly on the guitar. In addition to teaching and writing several pieces, he published the Méthode pour la guitare in 1830, which is today regarded as one of the most significant works on guitar instruction.
As a virtuoso guitarist, Sor gained the majority of his notoriety. He produced around 65 compositions for the guitar, many of which are essential pieces of its classical repertory.
STYLES AND COMPOSITIVE INFLUENCES
Along with his colleagues Mauro Giuliani and Dioniso Aguado, he contributed to the advancement of technique through the use of his Method for Classical Guitar. His voice compositions and ballets, in addition to his guitar repertoire, enjoyed great success throughout the nineteenth century. Recent scholarship has revealed that the French and Austrian symphonic traditions, as well as the Italian operatic overture, had a stronger influence on Sor’s early works than they did on his more mature compositions. This is especially true of the formal element.
MOST FAMOUS WORKS AND PIECES
Fernando Sor has been a talented composer that left to us a lot of pieces, studies and also compositions for other instruments and also for ensembles.
Between his most famous and influential compositions we can recognise the following works as his most ambitious and known pieces :
- “Introduction and Variations on a Theme from Mozart’s The Magic Flute” – One of the most, if not the most, known and praised pieces: that’s a group of variations made from a previous theme from the Mozart’s opera “The Magic Flute,” and it shows to us Sor’s virtuosistic compositive skills and also his ability to make and embellish an initial opera and a simple melody from another composer and then turn that same melody into a fairly complex and also a very expressive and dynamic piece and arrangement work for the classical guitar;
- “Études” – this is a collection of studies for the guitar, still studied by guitarists in the modern day: These études are also praised and considered as essential pieces for technical and in general for the musical skills development of classical guitar students , and are notable for their clarity, conciseness and diverse range of technical and musical difficulties.
- “Fantaisie élégiaque” – this composition is very melodic and full of harmonic, as well as virtuosic challenges for the performer guitarist;
- “Grand Solo” – Also know as Opus 14, this is very popular among concert songs to perform even in our days, thanks to the opera-feeling of this composition and the beauty of the arrangement;
- “Opus 35” – One of the most performed between his (many) studies made for students, this collection contains 20 different studies known for their technical demands and difficulties but also for their harmonies, and those are still suggested and teached in Conservatories worldwide
These are only few of his compositions, and Sor was definitely very prolific as a composer, creating beautiful concert pieces but also focusing a lot on etudes, studies for his students and preludes specifically made for the purpose of teaching classical guitar.
WHERE CAN I FIND FERNANDO SOR MUSIC SCORES?
You can find the music sheets of the pieces from Sor for free online on the website of IMSLP and also here (this site isn’t online anymore but luckily someone saved it on Web Archive).