Fernando Sor – Las quejas de Maruja

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Sor’s song “Las quejas de Maruja” is presented here in a new re-engraved edition in two versions: one with guitar accompaniment and the other with piano accompaniment. This page is for the version with guitar. The version with piano is here. This song is unique in Sor’s output because of its remarkable syncopated rhythm, and in its earliest editions it is called a “canción andaluza”. Sor lived for many years in Andalucia, and it may be that this song preserves for us something of the native rhythms of that time.

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Sor’s “Las quejas de Maruja” is a song in which a girl called Maruja complains of her lover’s indifference: he just talks to his friends rather than attending to her, “me estás asando / con tu frialdad”, and the last words are:

Reniego del alma
Que pueda aguantar
Querer que parece
Querer olvidar.

Short and rapid musical phrases with a deliberately monotonous bass give the impression of a comic patter song. The rhythm is remarkable and the accompaniment for piano or guitar eloquent. Beware of the tempo indication Andantino: it may have meant faster than we would think of it today, and I personally hear this piece as fairly fast, because of the rhythm.

We first hear of “Las quejas de Maruja” in 1838 in a Madrid newspaper when it was announced as a “nueva canción andaluza . . . por Sor”. The date is late, but the attribution to Sor is firm. Then in 1841 it appeared as one of six songs in a publication called La Sal de España. For more on the early editions, see my book Fernando Sor Composer and Guitarist.

In 1822 in London Sor wrote a song “Should a pretty Spanish lass” for performance in the “Opera” Gil Blas, with the same characteristic rhythm as “Las quejas de Maruja”, which reinforces the idea that “Las quejas de Maruja” is indeed genuinely by Sor; and again in the movement “dans le genre espagnol” in his Fantaisie for two guitars op. 54 bis.

Singers may like to know that the vocal line is slightly different in a 19th-century score of this song with piano which has at the foot of its last page “Calcog[rafia] de A Ruiz” of which a copy can be found in Biblioteca Digital Hispánica. Singers might wish to consult it and decide which version suits his or her voice better.

Celsa Alonso in her book La canción lírica española tells of a lecture given at the Ateneo de Madrid in 1886, just three years before the musician and musicologist Felipe Pedrell published his collection Cantos Andaluces in 1889. The lecture had musical illustrations with performers dressed in spectacular Andalusian costume, with tablao and cantaoras, and some people grumbled that that was out of place in the Ateneo de Madrid. But others who were happy with it sang “el estribillo de la deliciosa canción de Sor Las quejas de Maruja” like this:

Nos tienen asados / con su frialdad

Reniego del alma
Que pueda aguantar
Querer que parece
Querer FASTIDIAR.

The complete original words are:

Dices que me quieres,
A la vista está,
Pasas por mi puerta,
No quieres entrar.

Si estoy en la iglesia
Juntito al altar
Tu junto a la pila
Te sueles quedar.

Cuando a la salida
Te voy a encontrar
Con tus compañeros
Te pones a hablar.

Y por más que toso
Hasta reventar,
Ni el agua bendita
Me vienes a dar.

Dices que me quieres,
A la vista está,
Y me estás asando
Con tu frialdad.

Si de tus partidas
Me llego a quejar,
Sales con que es todo
Por disimular.

Reniego del alma
Que pueda aguantar
Querer que parece
Querer olvidar.