Fernando Sor: Seguidillas Book 2: the beginning of the introduction

Sor’s songs in Spanish in the seguidillas boleras form are a very special contribution to Spanish musical culture. They were composed within that great age of creative art, music, dance and popular literature which occurred in Spain at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth centuries. Utterly Spanish in their words, their wit, their intensely alive musical idiom and their indigenous dance form the bolero, they shine for us still today.

In 1976 I published twelve of them under the title of Sor’s Seguidillas, which have been widely performed since then. Those twelve were all for solo voice, some with guitar accompaniment and some with piano. Now here is a further collection called Seguidillas Book 2, this time for two or three voices with guitar or piano, all of them now published for the first time in our own age, and some of them indeed now newly discovered and identified.

Their composer, Fernando Sor, was a young man when he created the earliest of them. A startlingly vivid glimpse of him in a contemporary account now newly discovered, shows him as an extremely smart and well-dressed fashionable young man, an officer and man-about-town in Barcelona, described at a party as “lo cap de la dansa” (the head of the dance). Later, as is well known, he became a composer of operas, ballets, Italian songs and especially the guitar music for which he is known today. For an account of his life, see my book Fernando Sor, Composer and Guitarist (second edition, London, Tecla, 1994). For an extended discussion of the history of the bolero and of seguidillas and their witty and elegant words, see Fernando Sor, Composer and Guitarist pages 21-24, the introduction to my 1976 edition of Sor’s Seguidillas (London, Tecla), and Sor’s own article “Le Bolero” published in full in an appendix to the 1976 Seguidillas.

The dance in the house of the Marqués de Castellbell in Barcelona

The earliest known reference to Sor and the bolero occurs in the diary of a Barcelona gentleman, Rafael de Amat y de Cortada y Sentjust (in Catalan: Rafael d’Amat i de Cortada i Sentjust), fifth Barón de Maldá. This diary has been studied by Josep Maria Mangado in his recent book La Guitarra en Cataluña (London, Tecla, 1998), from which I take these references. The occasion was a grand party held at the house of the Marqués de Castellbell in Barcelona on January 17th 1799 to celebrate the engagement of the daughter of Baron Maldá (the writer of the diary) to the Marqués de Castellbell. Here is the account of the party, first in the original Catalan and then in English translation:

Día 17 de gener de 1799. De confusió en la casa, no en parlem. De refresc o agasajo, per tothom n’hi hagué, començant per les senyores, senyors, músics fins a catorze, criats de les cases, amunió de dones, lacaios i d’escalera abajo, mesclant-s’hi rípio-sàpio entre tans i tantes d’estos; portant lo timó del refresc lo doctor Bardolet, a fi que tot ell anás ben servit, com així fou . . .

[continued in the book.]

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Copyright 1999 by Tecla Editions. Errors and omissions excepted.