Sor – The New Complete Works for Guitar Solo and Guitar Duet. Introduction by Brian Jeffery.

Here, taken from Volume 1, is the introduction to Sor’s New Complete Works for Guitar published by Tecla Editions, and editorial practice.


Fernando Sor (or Sors, in the Catalan form of his name) was born in Barcelona in 1778 and was educated at the monastery of Montserrat near Barcelona. He later lived in London, Russia, and Paris, where he became known as one of the greatest guitarists of his age. He died in Paris in 1839. His compositions include sonatas, studies, sets of variations, divertissements, easy pieces for beginners, duets: altogether, one of the most important classic collections of music for the serious guitarist today. He also composed very many songs in Spanish, Italian, French, and English, music for piano and other instruments, and orchestral and ballet music. An account of his life and a detailed bibliography of all his works may be found in my book Fernando Sor, Composer and Guitarist (London, Tecla Editions, 1977; second edition, 1994). It may be said that his work is considered today as a cornerstone of the repertory for the classical guitar. His didactic works in particular – the studies, lessons and exercises – are played by every student.

This New Complete Works for Guitar by Fernando Sor is a modern re-engraved edition in eleven volumes of all Sor’s music for guitar solo and for guitar duet, including all those pieces which are known to me and which it has been possible to include. Unusually for a modern edition of older music, almost all the original sources for the music in this edition are easily available for consultation, in the facsimile edition of the Complete Works for Guitar of Sor which I previously published (London, Tecla, nine volumes, 1982) and which is still available from Tecla. The two Tecla editions run in parallel, so that if a piece is in, for example, volume 6 of the Tecla facsimile edition, then it is in volume 6 in this new re-engraved edition.

The re-engraving of the music in these New Complete Works for Guitar has two principal advantages: firstly that many editorial problems have now been thought through and solutions proposed, and secondly that some of the early nineteenth century editions which were previously reproduced in facsimile were faint and sometimes hard to read. The earlier facsimile edition will continue to be available for those who wish it, and certainly playing from the originals rather than from a re-engraved edition will continue to be a rewarding experience and one which many performers will continue to prefer.

All early sources for every piece have been compared in detail and their readings examined (save only for the special case of certain manuscripts of pieces in op. 11, on which see the notes to that work). For details on the sources and on their publishers and publishing history, please see my book Fernando Sor, Composer and Guitarist, second edition, Tecla, 1994, to which some additions have been made in the notes to the relevant pieces in this edition. Nearly always it appears that the earliest sources are alone authoritative, for example the first London and Paris editions of opp. 1 through 9 (see the notes to those works). Subsequent editions in general show no evidence of revision by the hand of the composer.

Since the Tecla facsimile edition was published in 1982, some new sources have been discovered, such as a previously unknown London edition of the Fantasia op. [12], valuable because it includes a fine variation which was omitted from the only edition which was previously known, so that that new variation is now presented here for the first time. Also a copy of a previously unknown Spanish edition of op. [21] has been found which not only is earlier and gives a better text, but even means that the piece itself now bears a new name La Despedida (instead of the later name Les Adieux by which it has until now been known). There are also some new references to the works: Josep Maria Mangado has revealed in his new book La Guitarra en Cataluña (Tecla, 1998) a delightful account of Sor in Barcelona in 1802 playing what the diarist who recorded it called a “toccata”; was that the work which we now know as the Sonata (“Grand Solo”) op. 14? And a reference has been found to a Spanish catalogue of 1824 advertising for sale a “Sonata laudatoria” by Sor, which may well be the sonata op. 22, in which case it would have been the as yet earliest known source of that work.

A close examination of the music has produced very many improvements in details. The following examples are just a few among many. Anyone who is interested can see the original readings in the Tecla facsimile edition, and the new readings in this present edition.

– In the Sonata op. 15(b), a detailed formal analysis revealed sections with seven bars or six bars where one would have expected eight bars. Perhaps bars had been omitted in the transmission of the sources. However that may be, I have here been able to present a text of that sonata which sets those irregularities right, while at the same time specifying what the original readings were, thus leaving the way open for anyone to play the original version who wishes to do so.

– In the Trois Pièces de Société op. 33, no. 3, in the March which ends this piece, at the end of the second section, first time bar (bar 90 in this edition) the original cannot be right because it does not have the high A which is needed to return to and introduce the high C sharp of bar 83. But it is given correctly at the very end of the piece, and it is that latter reading which I have adopted, so that both places now have the correct reading.

– In the Six Petites Pièces op. 42, no. 5, in the last line of the original edition, a D was printed which is likely to have been a misreading by the engraver of what was almost certainly in the original manuscript a 5 to indicate a quintuplet. I have here removed the D.

– In the Morceau de Concert op. 54, variation 2, bars 36 and 37, the original edition has turns which are very clearly printed but which are neither likely nor very playable. On examination it turns out that at those same places in the original edition, rests are missing. It is highly likely that the engraver saw rests in the manuscript from which he was copying and mistook them for turns. Now, in this edition, it has been possible to set the matter right and present a better text.

No fingering has been added. All fingering in this edition is from the original editions and usually may be presumed to be Sor’s.

Anyone playing this music will find it illuminated by Sor’s method for the guitar, in which he discusses many musical and technical points. It was originally published in French in 1830 as Méthode pour la Guitare, and an English translation of it was published in 1832 as Method for the Spanish Guitar which is available in reprint form from Tecla. Also my own preference is to play this music on an early 19th century guitar or a replica of one, not only because of historical accuracy but also because it is so much easier than a modern guitar because of the lower string tension. Of course that is my personal opinion and it is fine if anyone wishes to use a modern instrument.

In addition to the guitar solos and duets which are published here, Sor’s Seguidillas and More Seguidillas which I edited (Tecla, 1976 and 1999) contain songs by him with guitar or piano accompaniment.

There have been other modern editions of Sor’s music, among which may be mentioned the editions produced in Italy by Ruggero Chiesa, the Opera Omnia of Sor by Mijndert Jape (in progress), and the editions of opp. 6 and 29 published by Reginald Smith Brindle. During Sor’s lifetime, in about 1827, the Parisian publisher Meissonnier brought out a so-called “Collection Complète” of his works which has been reprinted by Minkoff, but it should be noted that the title is a misnomer because it contains only some of Sor’s early works and none of the late ones – less than half of the total.

It is regretted that this edition does not contain one work which has come to light since I published my facsimile edition of Sor’s guitar music, namely a Fantaisie dedicated to Mlle. Houzé. This work is known only in a single manuscript which I understand is at present in the ownership of Mr. Pepe Romero. I asked if I might include the work in this present edition, but the answer was no, and I must respect the wishes of owners. There is a modern edition of it, published by Tuscany Publications, but that modern edition is heavily edited.

I would like to thank, in this edition as I did in the earlier facsimile one, the Anglo-Spanish Cultural Foundation, which awarded me a Vicente Cañada Blanch Senior Research Fellowship at the University of London to carry out the research on Sor which made this edition possible. I am also grateful to the following individuals and libraries who originally made music in their collections available: the late Robert Spencer; the late Emilio Pujol; Barcelona, Orfeó Català and Biblioteca de Catalunya; Copenhagen, Royal Library; London, British Library and Guildhall School of Music; and Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale.

I am grateful to Raymond Burley for making detailed comments on the proofs of volumes 2-7 of this edition, and to Darren O’Neill for doing the same for volumes 1 and 8-11. Their suggestions were most valuable. I am, however, solely responsible for the final edition. I am also grateful to Michael McCartney for drawing my attention to the newly discovered edition of op. 12, to Purificación Collado for drawing my attention to the newly discovered edition of op. 21, and to Randy Osborne for sending me a copy of his edition of the Catálogo Breve, the catalogue of the collection of guitar music of the late Eleuterio F. Tiscornia which was published in Buenos Aires in 1948 and which contains valuable bibliographical details.

Finally, as people play through this edition, they may still find places which present problems, or misprints. So that such things may be considered and perhaps changed in future printings, I would be very pleased to hear from them at the Tecla email address (on the Tecla home page). Also, if any future comments are added or changes made in future printings, those comments or changes will also be available for reference on the Tecla website.

Brian Jeffery


The first known edition is used in every case as the basis for the text of all the works in this volume, with variants from later editions noted only in those rare cases where they seem to have significance for the composer’s text.

Modern notational practice has been followed, but otherwise changes have been avoided as far as possible. Obvious errors are silently corrected. Precautionary accidentals are added where necessary in accordance with modern practice.

Ornaments are transcribed using a conservative approach of altering the sources as little as possible. The sources are not consistent in their use of ornaments, and it is clear that there was a good deal of flexibility in this regard. There are many variant forms of ornaments and anyone studying that subject is advised also to consult the facsimile edition.

All fingering in this edition is that which is given in the original editions. No fingering has been added. The fingering in the early editions is often most interesting and is often used not so much as an aid to players but rather as an indication of an unusual position, sometimes very economically: for example in op. 11, minuet no. 7, bar 15, a single o for an open string tells the performer that the whole passage is at the sixth position.

Harmonics are notated in this edition according to modern practice. In the original editions a variety of different notations were used for harmonics, but their meaning is generally clear and I have adopted the most common-sense solutions. Sor has a section on harmonics in his Méthode pour la Guitare, where he says that he prefers to use natural ones rather than artificial. In nearly every case in the music in this edition they are in fact natural (rare examples of artificial ones are in op. 11, first theme, variation 6, and in op. 16, variation 4).

Where a slur is immediately followed by a dot (for example in op. 3, second version, bar 2), the dot probably does not mean that the note in question is to be played staccato, but rather only that it is not to be slurred.

The indication fr occurs in op. 28 in variation 3, in op. 36 on the last page, and in op. 37 in each of the two allegrettos. This could perhaps stand for French friser or frisé, friser here meaning to brush, so it could be a brushing movement with the right hand fingers, like a stroke of rasgueado. That would fit in all places in opp. 36 and 37. In op. 28, however, although that interpretation is also possible, it would be puzzling that it was used there in only one place and not in other places in op. 28 where it could have been used but was not.

In most music of this period, it is very frequently the case that when a section is repeated, there are small differences of detail. I have taken a common-sense view of this, as most editors do. Where the differences are of minor importance I have not reproduced them but have adopted one reading for both occurrences. Anyone who wishes to consult the original readings will find them in the Tecla nine-volume facsimile edition.

Finally, there are occasionally places where one might feel that a different reading could be desirable: a different harmony, perhaps, or different voice-leading. Of course no such changes have been made here. However, depending on their view of history, performers may feel free to make such alterations. Indeed, there is evidence that in Sor’s own time more elaborate and sometimes quite far-reaching changes sometimes took place in performance. For example, in his method Dionisio Aguado discusses elaborate ways of varying a passage from Sor’s op. 7; see Aguado’s New Guitar Method (London, Tecla, 1981), pp. 144-145.

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Copyright 2002 by Tecla Editions. Errors and omissions excepted.