The New Complete Works for Guitar Solo and Guitar Duet
The new Tecla re-engraved edition, edited by Brian Jeffery, in eleven volumes
Here are the complete detailed notes to all the pieces in Volume 8, taken from Volume 8.
PREFACE TO THE GUITAR DUETS IN VOLUMES 8 THROUGH 11
All Sor’s known duets for two guitars are in this edition, in score in volumes 8 and 9, with all the Guitar 1 parts presented also in volume 10 and all the Guitar 2 parts in volume 11.
It is a special moment to see all of them available at last in a modern edition. I published them in the form of reprints of the original editions in the nine-volume facsimile edition of Sor’s Complete Works for Guitar, but some of the early editions reproduced there were faded and hard to read and they were only in parts, not score. Now all the duets are available here, re-engraved and in both parts and score, and with some editorial problems resolved which previously must have caused some headaches to performers.
All Sor’s known guitar duets date from late in his life
(except the Bolero a Duo which is a special case). It was not until 1828, when he was
fifty years old, that the first of them, L’Encouragement, appeared. He was living in Paris at that time,
and all the other duets were published in that city between 1828 and his death
in 1839. They are of two distinct
kinds: compositions at a high level, and works which appear to be for relative
Three duets stand at the highest level of his achievement:
Les Deux Amis (op. 41), written for performance by Sor and that
other virtuoso guitarist of the time, Aguado.
It includes passages which Sor says in his method he conceived
specially with Aguado’s particular way of playing fast running passages in
Fantaisie (op. 54 bis), which has as one of its movements the
tremendous Allegro dans le genre espagnol, using rasgueado and
characteristic Spanish rhythms and harmonies.
Souvenir de Russie (op. 63), eloquent and fine, Sor’s last
The other nine duets show every sign of having been
written for relative beginners, and three (opp. 34, 53 and 55) are even
expressly didactic. They are:
L’Encouragement (op. 34).
Divertissement (op. 38)
Six Valses (op. 39)
(op. 44 bis)
Divertissement militaire (op. 49)
pas vers moi (op. 53)
Trois duos (op. 55)
Trois petits divertissements (op. 61)
Divertissement (op. 62)
The Bolero a Duo is a special case, and I have advanced the hypothesis that it may not be simply an instrumental duet for two guitars, but rather an accompaniment, for two guitars, to a so far unidentified bolero by Sor for two voices. See the notes to it in this edition.
OPUS 34. L’ENCOURAGEMENT.
This piece was first published in Paris in about 1828, with the full title of L’Encouragement, Fantaisie à deux Guitares … dédiée à une de ses Elèves (L’Encouragement, fantasy for two guitars, dedicated to one of his lady pupils). The present edition scrupulously respects the structure of that original edition, in which, as can be seen in the Tecla facsimile edition volumes 8 and 9, Sor wrote one part (“Guitare première”) which most of the time has only a single line of music and is clearly marked on every page “L’ÉLÈVE” (“The pupil”), and a second part (“Guitare seconde”) which consists mostly of chords and is clearly marked, again on every page, “LE MAÎTRE” (“The teacher”). There is fingering by Sor. In other words, this is a didactic piece, designed for beginners on the guitar to play together with their teacher. The dedication to a lady pupil confirms this. The beauty of the melodies encourages the pupil, while at the same time the piece is designed to fulfil technical aims, and the teacher’s part steadily sustains the rhythm of the piece throughout.
Many modern editions do not give this original form. Instead, they republish the piece in a
fundamentally disguised form which appears to have originated in an edition
first published by Napoléon Coste, probably in the 1870s. What Coste did was to change the parts
round, altering the piece from its original version in which one part has
nearly always a single line and the other mostly chords, to a new version in
which the two players continually exchange the single-line part and the
chordal part. That disguised form
has been republished in many modern editions, but without the name of Coste
and without any indication that it is an arrangement in which the structure
has been greatly altered. This
includes the recent Japanese edition published by Gendai Guitar, where it
appears to have happened because the Gendai edition may have used as its
source not the original edition which Sor himself published, but rather a
later edition in which perhaps these changes had already been made.
It is fine if any players wish to use Coste’s version, and
it certainly distributes the interest of the piece between the two players,
but it is only an arrangement and does not conform to Sor’s own original
intentions as reproduced here in this present edition.
OPUS 38. DIVERTISSEMENT
Published in 1829-30.
OPUS 39. SIX WALTZES
Published in 1829-30. These six waltzes are arrangements of
waltzes by Mohor, Sor, Mohor, Steibelt, Mozart, and Mohor respectively. Nos. 5 and 6 correspond to nos. 2 and
3 respectively of a publication of Sor’s for piano duet which appeared in
London in about 1820 entitled Three Waltzes (by different Authors) Composed
originally for a Full Band. Nos. 1 and 4 correspond to nos. 1 and 3 respectively of A
Second Set of Waltzes, Composed for a Full Band. See Fernando Sor, Composer and Guitarist, page 172,
for more details.
The work’s original title is Six Valses and it was dedicated to Mlle Houzé, who it appears made good progress because two years later Sor dedicated to her the much more advanced work op. 54 bis.
OPUS 41. LES DEUX AMIS
Published in 1829-30 with the title Les deux amis, fantaisie pour deux guitares, and dedicated to Aguado, this is one of the most celebrated of Sor’s duets for two guitars, a major work on a level with the Mozart variations (op. 9) or the sonata op. 25. The form is an introduction (andante largo), a theme with five variations, and a mazurka.
Instead of the parts being marked “Première Guitare”
and “Seconde Guitare” as they are in other duets, here they are headed
“Sor” and “Aguado”. The
two parts shine in alternate variations: Sor in variations 1 and 3, Aguado in
variations 2 and 4; variation 5 is an opportunity for both; and in the mazurka
they are equal in importance.
Sor writes in his Méthode pour la Guitare (Paris, 1830, p. 85): “Mon duo en la majeur, les Deux Amis, est de la plus grande facilité comparativement à des ouvrages d’autres auteurs qui ont la réputation d’écrire de la musique facile. Il n’y a que la partie de M. Aguado qui ait une variation très rapide [Variation 2], mais elle est à simple corde et dans le genre le plus connu. Ma partie est ce que j’ai fait jusqu’ici de moins compliqué; j’ai visé aux effets à moins de frais que possible” (“My duet in A major, Les Deux Amis, is extremely easy when compared to works by other composers who have the reputation of composing easy music. There is only M. Aguado’s part which has one very fast variation [Variation 2], but it is on a single string and in a very normal style. My own part is the least complicated music which I have written; in it I have aimed at effects with the least possible cost.”)
Readers of this preface who are in Japan may note that the edition of this piece published in Japan by Gendai Guitar does not respect the distribution of the original parts between Sor and Aguado: in particular, the all-important Variation 2, which is specifically in the style of Aguado, is there given to the part labelled Sor. This appears to have happened because the Gendai edition may have used as its source not the original edition which Sor published himself, but rather a later edition published by Lemoine in which perhaps these changes had already been made.
OPUS 44 BIS. SIX EASY AND PROGRESSIVE WALTZES
Published in 1831, this is
dedicated to “Mademoiselle Lira”, presumably the daughter of José de
Lira, a Spaniard living in Paris and a friend of Sor. The original title was Six valses
pour deux guitares faciles et progressives et soigneusement doigtées.
In no. 5, bar 4, guitar 1, the bass A is not a harmonic in the original. The harmonic is here added editorially.
OPUS 49. DIVERTISSEMENT MILITAIRE
Published about 1832.
At the beginning of the final Allegretto is a passage marked
“Trompette”. Sor described in
his method how he played passages on the guitar which imitate the trumpet,
giving details of precisely where he placed his right and left hand. See the Tecla edition of the 1832
English translation of the Method, page 16.
OPUS 53. LE PREMIER PAS VERS MOI
Published in 1832-33. A simple work for beginners. The original title is as follows: Le
premier pas vers moi. Petit duo
pour deux guitares composé et dédié à ceux qui ayant appris à jouer de
cet instrument, voyent de grandes difficultés où il n’y a que de la
correction (“The first step towards me.
A small duet for two guitars, composed and dedicated to those who,
having learnt to play this instrument, see great difficulties where there is
only correct writing”.)
And inside is an Avertissement or preface, whose complete text is as follows:
Le but de ce petit ouvrage
n’est autre que celui de faciliter le moyen de passer du système de déplacement
et d’efforts continuels à celui indiqué par la nature et la construction
de la main. En suivant le doigté
marqué, et en ne faisant point faire à la main d’autre mouvement que celui
qu’exige le changement de note, on contractera insensiblement l’habitude
de la bien placer. Si après
avoir joué la première guitare on étudie la seconde, on perdra l’habitude
de tenir la moitié de la main derrière la manche, et on se servira du pouce
seulement pour recevoir la pression au lieu de presser lui-même ni faire des
notes que sa longueur ne lui permet nullement d’atteindre sans déplacer la
main et contracter le poignet.
(“The aim of this short work
is only to make it easy to move from the system of displacement and continual
efforts, to that which is indicated by the nature and construction of the
hand. By following the fingering
indicated, and by not making the hand make any movement other than that which
is necessitated to change note, one will imperceptibly acquire the habit of
placing it well. If after playing
the first guitar one then plays the second, one will lose the habit of keeping
half the hand behind the neck of the guitar, and one will use the thumb only
to receive pressure, instead of itself pressing and stopping notes which its
length does not at all permit it to reach without displacing the hand and
contracting the wrist.”)
The words on the title-page, and the preface, emphasize the
value of the work for beginners, and especially the importance of using the
left hand thumb only for support and never for stopping notes on the
fingerboard. The title (“The
first step towards me”) means that the piece is a first step for beginners
in learning to play the guitar specifically in Sor’s way.