Early US editions of Fernando Sor

Published by Robert Coldwell on

I will present here two different sets of publications of music by Fernando Sor published in the United States in the 19th century. While there may be other editions published in the US in the 19th century, I will focus on these two sets because it appears there is little to no information written about them before now.

An Andante With Variations

The first Sor edition comes from Harvard University in a bound volume titled “Annie B. Lawrence volume of American music for the guitar, circa 1827-1845.” This volume contains only guitar music published in the US and unfortunately the dating of many of the pieces is questionable. The first piece in this volume by Huerta I have written about in another post. The piece by Sor is the fifth item in this volume and is listed in the Yale catalog [1]Lowerre 103, Houghton Library, Harvard University as:

An andante with variations for the Spanish guitar / composed by Don Fernando Sors. New York : E. Riley, [between 1830 and 1845?] 

The dating of items in this volume is often wrong but in this case is somewhat close. I will outline a better time range for the date of publication below based on my recent research.

The full title of this piece from the publication itself is:

An Andante / With / Variations / For the / Spanish Guitar. / Composed by / Fernando Sors. / New York. Engraved, Printed & Sold by E. Riley, 29 Chatham Strt.

The Andante most closely resembles Sor’s op. 3 Air Varié pour la Guitare Par Dn. Fernando Sors published by Castro c. 1810. There were a number of other editions of this op. 3 and even op. 12 is a revised version of op. 3. The variations I have not been able to fully match so it is possible the sources are other editions of op. 3 I have not seen or the Riley edition was based on a manuscript with variations that were not printed in European editions. (Ed. Any assistance by the guitar research community on placing the source of these variations would be most welcome.)

After the Andante are two short pieces titled Minuet Compuesto por Toribio Segura. and Walst.[sic]. Fortunately Segura’s op. 3 Six / Divertissemens / aves quatre Walzes & deus Rondeaux / Pour la Guitare / Dédiés / à Mr. M. Borgnis Amateur / Par son Ami / T. Segura is available on Gallica and happens to be the source of the two pieces in the Andante edition. No. 2 in the Six Divertissemens is almost identical to the Minuet in the US edition.

Brian Jeffery has written much about Segura’s relationship to Sor so I won’t go into it here. In short, Segura knew Sor well in Paris, travelled to Havana in 1816, and based on newspaper references was in the US from at least October 1827 until October 1831. No mentions of him have been found in the US before or after these dates. He seems to have performed some on the guitar but mainly became known as a violinist in the Americas.

22 October 1827 American
3 November 1831 Evening Post

It appears that Segura may be the source of the Riley edition and with his only known dates in the US of 1827 to 1831 it narrows the window during which the edition was likely published.

There is no plate number on this edition, and none of Riley’s publications carried plate numbers. There is a music store stamp on the first page which reads “John Ashton / Music Store / 197 / Washington St / Boston.” John Ashton’s Music Store appears to have been opened in late 1831 and I reproduce below an advertisement from early 1832:

25 January 1832 The Boston Morning Post

Edward Riley (1769-1829) began his career as a music engraver, printer, music seller and publisher in London c.1795-1798[2]Charles Humphries and William C. Smith, Music Publishing in the British Isles, London: Cassell & Company Ltd, 1954, p. 274. and arrived in New York c.1805-1806.[3]The New Grove Handbooks in Music, Music Print and Publishing, Macmillan Press, 1990, p. 398. His business was 29 Chatham Street in New York from 1819-1831.[4]Richard J. Wolfe, Secular Music in America 1801-1825, Volume III, New York: The New York Public Library, 1964, pp. 1156-57. Although he died in 1829, it appears his family continued using the “E. Riley” name at that address until 1831. His son Edward C. Riley began using his own name on the publications from 1832.

With Segura’s own music in this edition and his activities in the US between 1827 and 1831, the name and address dates of the publisher Riley being not appearing later than 1831, and the music seller’s stamp not possible prior to 1832, there is enough evidence to be able to date the publishing of this edition to c.1827-31. No newspaper advertisements or Riley catalogs have been found to enable more precise dating.

The files available below have been adjusted and straightened minimally to make it easier to read the music. The original title page is presented earlier in this article. The aging of the paper, the bleed through of music from the opposite side of the paper and the ink transfer from opposing pages makes it very difficult to read.

References

References
1 Lowerre 103, Houghton Library, Harvard University
2 Charles Humphries and William C. Smith, Music Publishing in the British Isles, London: Cassell & Company Ltd, 1954, p. 274.
3 The New Grove Handbooks in Music, Music Print and Publishing, Macmillan Press, 1990, p. 398.
4 Richard J. Wolfe, Secular Music in America 1801-1825, Volume III, New York: The New York Public Library, 1964, pp. 1156-57.
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Pablo Menéndez — “Esencia” (QTV Classics) - Guitar Magazine · July 27, 2021 at 5:01 am

[…] R. (July 23rd, 2021) Digital Guitar Archive. Early US editions of Fernando Sor. https://www.digitalguitararchive.com/2021/06/early-us-editions-of-fernando-sor/. A legacy that is unsurpassable, together with his friend the great Dionisio Aguado, with whom he […]

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