Mozart/Sor: Three arias, the complete preface

This is an exciting event: the first modern publication of these three arrangements of arias from Don Giovanni, in which Sor arranged the accompaniments for guitar.

They were first published in London in about early 1820, where Sor was living at that time and where the first major London performances of Don Giovanni had taken place in 1817. The arrangements for guitar are well suited to the instrument and show great fluency with it. The choice of “Deh vieni alla finestra” is particularly felicitous not only because it is a serenade, with which guitars were especially associated, but because Mozart had himself composed the accompaniment with an instrument of that family in mind by giving the melodious upper part, in the full orchestral score, to a mandolin. In performances traditionally the Don on stage pretends to pluck his mandolin while the sound actually comes from the orchestra.

In Act I of the opera, Masetto and Zerlina are about to be married, and there are joyous festivities. Don Giovanni attempts to seduce Zerlina with an offer of marriage with the famous aria “Là ci darem la mano”. Masetto returns and not unnaturally takes offence, and Zerlina then sings to him, in repentant mood, “Batti, batti, o bel Masetto” (“Beat me, beat me, Masetto”), which musically echoes “Là ci darem la mano” in that both begin in 2/4 and end in a sweet 6/8.

In Act II, Don Giovanni sets out to seduce Donna Elvira’s maid by singing a serenade to her, “Deh vieni alla finestra”. Masetto arrives with friends with the intention of killing the Don, who however deceives them by wearing the cloak of his servant Leporello, and succeeds in giving Masetto a sound beating. Zerlina arrives and consoles Masetto (“Vedrai carino”).

A pleasing way to perform these three arrangements today might perhaps be as follows: the story could be told, and the first and third arias could be sung by a woman (as Zerlina) and the second by a man (as Don Giovanni).

There are many small differences between the vocal part in these arrangements and in most modern editions, which may well reflect performance practice in the first London performances. Because of their interest they have not been changed. For example, in “Vedrai carino”, bars 51-52 are different, and there is an octave leap in the voice part at bar 56 which is not in the usual version. And in “Deh vieni alla finestra” the rhythm of the vocal part differs in many places from that usually known today.

The fingering is from the original editions and is no doubt Sor’s own. No alterations have been made to this original fingering. Sor sometimes uses it to indicate a change of position, as in “Batti, batti” bar 18 or “Vedrai carino” bars 56-57. Try it!

In “Vedrai carino”, at bars 79 and 81, the o means a natural harmonic at the twelfth fret.

For more details about these pieces and other works composed by Sor, please see my book Fernando Sor, Composer and Guitarist (second edition, Tecla Editions, 1994).

I am grateful to Darren O’Neill for proofreading this edition.

Brian Jeffery