Fernando Sor’s dances for solo guitar and for guitar duet

Fernando Sor

Fernando Sor’s dances for guitar and for guitar duet are scarcely known today, but they are full of life and well worth playing, especially the ones from his last years in Paris from 1828 to about 1835. It struck me just how good and how full of life they are while I was putting together the 27 FREE TO EVERYBODY pieces for my new 2020 second edition of Sor’s New Complete Works for Guitar.

Those galops, those mazurkas, many of the waltzes are absolutely buzzing with life. Some of them seem to come straight from the dance floor.

Look at those introductory bars of the waltz op. 43 no. 6 (it’s free) – that is the band starting the dance with introductory bars before the dancers spring into movement, isn’t it?

Look at those high notes in the second part of the waltz op. 18 no. 5 where it turns into the major (it’s free) – doesn’t that show us a moment in the dance when the band turns things up a notch to make the dance more exciting for the dancers?

Sor was an expert dancer himself, “lo cap de la dansa” in Barcelona in his youth. Then later as well as composing for the guitar, Sor was a professional composer of dance music, of music for the ballroom, for spectacle, for theatre. His ballet Cendrillon – which by definition is all dance music – was a huge success with the public in London, in Paris, and in Russia.

So it is not surprising that Sor’s dances for guitar and for guitar duet are full of energy and delight.

Many of his dances for solo guitar or for two guitars are found in the works from op. 32 which is of 1828 when he had just returned from Russia, to op. 58 which is of about 1835, and there is something special about those dates.

They were the years when Sor’s young daughter Caroline was growing up in Paris and as a young woman of society (as we now know that she was) she would certainly have had to learn dancing properly.

Who better to teach her than her father, who had been “lo cap de la dansa” in his youth and who was a professional composer of dance music? I like to think that he taught the young Caroline and even accompanied her and danced with her at society dances in the Paris of those years.

So in the selection of FREE TO EVERYBODY pieces by Sor for guitar I have included the following scarcely known but wonderful dances by him:

Two galops which were the very latest dances to hit the Paris ballrooms at the moment when Sor composed them, to be played and danced really fast, hence the name “gallop”. Galop op. 32 no. 6. Galop from op. 57. Here is the galop op. 32 no. 6 played by Marek Cupák:

Mazurka op. 32 no. 4.

For waltzes, I have provided among the FREE FOR EVERYBODY files the waltz op. 8 no. 2 from London of about 1818, then the waltz op. 18 no. 5 from Paris in about 1823-25, then three more from after he returned from Russia which not only Caroline but his young lady pupils must have appreciated – they might well have danced a waltz the night before their lesson. They aren’t boring. You need to play them with great energy and imagine people dancing to your playing. Here is the waltz op. 39 no. 2 for two guitars, played by Claudio Maccari and Paolo Pugliese:

The music scores: waltz for two guitars op. 39 no. 2, waltz op. 43 no. 6, and waltz op. 44 no. 24.

I hope that everyone may look at these and other dances by Sor and perform them! If you would like to explore more, you will find dances from that period 1828 to 1835 in the following works:

Opus 32: Six petites pièces

Opus 33: Trois pièces de société

Opus 42: Six petites pièces

Opus 43: Mes ennuis

Opus 45: Voyons si c’est ça

Opus 47: Six petites pièces progressives

Opus 48: Est-ce bien ça?

Opus 51: À la bonne heure! six waltzes

Opus 57: Six valses et un galop

Opus 58: Fantaisie

And among the duets:

Opus 34: L’encouragement, score and parts

Opus 38: Divertissement, score and parts

Opus 39: Six valses, score and parts

Opus 44 bis: Six valses, score and parts

Opus 53: Le premier pas vers moi, score and parts

Opus 55: Trois duos, score and parts

Brian Jeffery