Fernando Sor’s Page
by Jesús de las Heras Jiménez
[DGA Editor: the author’s website is no longer active so links have been updated to point to snapshots at archive.org.]
Editor’s Note: It is not everyday one comes across a treasure trove such as the one found in Mr. de las Heras’ page devoted to Fernando Sor and written entirely in Esperanto. As the author states below, his reasons are based on deeply help personal convictions, which might not be immediately obvious to those of us who had never heard of Dr. Zamenhof and to his invention of Esperanto, a truly international language. I have heard of Dr. Zamenhof all through my childhood. It was precisely on Zamenhof street in Tel-Aviv where my mother found the nearest available pediatrician and children’s clinic. I have been there a few times. Never did get around to learn Esperanto, but it is not too late. Music is also a truly international language, though it’s meaning is sometimes obscured. This article gives us a brief glimpse into one of the most astounding projects—the sequencing of the entire output of Fernando Sor into usable MIDI files. The author’s methodology finds in me an enthusiastic supporter. I fully approve of his reasons. These files gives us an immediate understanding of the orchestral nature of Sor’s music, a subject on which I have written and lectured more than once. They are invaluable as didactic learning aids. They can be even used as an orchestral accompaniment to one’s own playing. As you can see when you visit Mr. de las Heras page, the project is not yet completed. Let us join in encouraging him to to do so, and soon. How to navigate the page should be instantly obvious to any one who speaks and read any of the major European languages. Matanya Ophee
Anyone who has undergone a serious learning or listening of guitar anywhere in the world will have certainly found the name of Fernando Sor, since his works are among the most beautiful and substancial ones ever written for our instrument.
Guitar has usually borne a lot of adjectives: electric, Hawaian, jazz, Portuguese, Mexican, overdriven, distortion,etc., but when we talk about plain guitar, we are certainly referring to the so-called Spanish Guitar; since its origin is in Spain, in the same way as that little country inside the United Kingdom originated the language we know today as just English.
Well, the Moors brought their sitar into Middle Ages Spain, where along the centuries an immeasurable number of hands retuned and reshaped it once and again till they produced the instrument we know today. Some say its name comes from a vulgar transformation of the word sitar itself, but some others argue that it refers to the collective noun used to designate the set of six gitas or ropes (as they still say in certain towns in the South of Spain).
The guitar has a magic which permeates the listener with its sweet and song-like sound, so there is no wonder Gaspar Sanz said back in the XVIIth century that the guitar no es dama de mírame y no me toques (it is not a lady to look and not to touch, that is to say, play). And this magic spell surely Fernando Sor felt when —at the end of the XVII century— he first listened to his father play some falsetas (simple popular tunes) at the guitar. All of us who had this experience in our early childhood must have felt our soul stirring inside ourselves, getting high at the sound of those six strings which were real guitas when they were made of gut.
Fernando Sor and his music have succeeded the test of time and ostracism which was laid upon him by the intolerance of his countrymen, for all those suspects of collaborating with the army of Napoleon were eliminated from the cultural life (and also from the real one, if they were found in Spain at those times) of our country, the works by Fernando Sor have been studied in our conservatories, among other reasons because they have a quality, rhythm and harmony which are unique in our history and in that of many other countries in our background.
The last paragraph may be considered a little exaggerated, but when you hear the sound of any waltz, any minuet, or any of the great works by Fernando Sor, like the two one tempo sonatas (opus 14 and 15c), or those in several tempi (opus 22 and 25), not to mention his fantasies or the sets of variations (among which usually it is mentioned his Opus 9 because the theme there is by W. A. Mozart, the aria O Cara Armonía, that is to say, o my dear harmony, from the opera Die Zauberflötte, forgetting other beauties such as his Opus 16, which vary an exquisite theme by Giovanni Paisiello — Nel Cor piú non mi sento, that is to say, I can’t feel in my heart any more—, his Opus 27, The Gentle Husard, or the famous Opus 28, which are variations on Marlborough went to the War, and which you may remember because it is the usual music in the song For he’s a Jolly Good Fellow); when you hear these works, or a lot other works which I have not cited, you can scarcely avoid taking your hat off ( chapeau!, they say in France).
When I first came across telematics and Internet, I thought it would be a fabulous means to share with everybody the works by this universal Spaniard by sequencing his complete works and setting them within the reach of all the guitarists which join the net. In this way, I said to myself, they will be able to practice and study with a teacher who will never get tired, and also a very cheap one!
One of the things which you understand when you are learning Sor’s works —and also if you are not learning, but just listening to them from a good guitar player, even on a record, like Andrés Segovia— is that many of these works, if they are properly played, sound as if it were an orchestra who are playing them. This impression made me think that perhaps, because of his complex way of writing for guitar, Fernando Sor may have had in mind more than a single instrument, unlike his contemporaries Mauro Giuliani or Ferdinand Carulli, but an orchestra, the orchestra he very seldom had. And by experimenting I reached the conclusion that some compositions sounded even better when sequenced for a group of different instruments, like the famous Adiós he composed on the occasion of the departure of his friend Vaccari, which I sequenced for viola, hautboy, banjo, sopran and tenor saxes and guitar. You can decide if I was right or not. It is true that the guitar in my SoundBlaster 16 is a quivering voice which is not always nice to hear. That made me try other different sound qualities, with satisfactory results most times. There may be guitar purists who do not approve this, but I would answer them that there is nothing like the real guitar’s sound, but the wooden, six stringed guitar, no the virtual guitar which my card is not able to give me!
And to offer all this music, the perfect vehicle is an Internet World Wide Web Page. There are already some pages on our musician, but they charge money for the midis they upload, or they have faults I am do not agree with. And the main one I have noticed is that guitar harmony is not completely honoured, for they give exactly the music in the paper, but not the sound the author meant. Moreover, if we scrutinize Fernando Sor’s music papers, we can spot a few mistakes: this or that note out of its place, speed is not expressed, accidentals are wrong or out of place, etc. This is, of course, because Fernando Sor wrote for himself, and also for musicians, not for just fellows who enjoyed playing the guitar. Those can play the works by Giuliani, Aguado and other ones, who were so cutely satirized by Sor in his famous series of works which ended with his Opus 51, À la bonne heure! (At long last!)
The page in which I present the work of Fernando Sor (which is not complete at all, but which I will eventually finish adding all his works) is not written, however, in Spanish, nor in English —which many call pompously international language, perhaps because they do not know what is language, or what is international—, but in Esperanto, so that everybody can understand it. I am not planning any translation, and I disapprove any translation of my page. You may consider this is not sensible, but you may not judge it so after you look up the FAQ at Esperanto Spain.
Fernando Sor’s page is at the address http://www.distrito.com/esperanto/sor.htm. If you do not master Esperanto, you can get the course about it in the sister page http://www.distrito.com/esperanto/course.htm. It is more than probable that after only a few hours’ study you can understand everything in that page, at least to the level of telling me about any possible historical mistake I have done, if I did… 🙂
You all are formally invited to listen to the sequences I have been doing on the works of Fernando Sor (every one of them is mine, since I have not used any other one in the net).
I salute you in F (as in Fernando) major,
Jesús de las Heras.
Copyright © 1997 by Jesús de las Heras. All Rights Reserved.