Brian Jeffery’s Fernando Sor Composer and Guitarist

Published by Legacy of Matanya Ophee on

A critical view of the second edition.

By Matanya Ophee

The names of Mauro Giuliani and Fernando Sor are usually uttered in one breath by most guitarists, and rightly so. The work of Brian Jeffery on Sor published originally in 1977 occupied in our culture a similar position to that of Heck’s dissertation on Giuliani. Without doubt, it was the best work available on the subject of Sor until that time. Several books on Sor did appear since 1977, but not one of them provided us with more accurate data on the life and work of the Catalan guitarist, as did Jeffery’s 1977 book. Unfortunately, I have to include Jeffery’s own second edition of his Sor book in the lot. Upon a detailed reading of Jeffery’s new book, and comparing it with the first edition, I am afraid I have not learned much I did not already know.

In the half-title of the book, Tecla Editions placed a short blurb, presumably written by the author, in which it is said:

This is a fully revised and reset second edition, in which are incorporated the new discoveries which have been made since the first edition.

The matter is further expounded in the author’s preface (page ix):

All new discoveries of which I am aware have been incorporated . . . [My emphasis]

The “of-which-I-am-aware” qualification is a double-edge sword, which, it seems to me, should have been used by the author with a bit more circumspection. To wit: if his new book does not include some important data regarding Sor published since 1977, then it could be argued that either his “awareness” is faulty (if he did not know about it,) or that it was selective (if he did in fact know about it but arbitrarily chose to ignore it on whatever reasons he may have had). Hence, it is fair to ask whether the author’s peculiar method of selecting material for inclusion or exclusion in the new book, did not in fact result in a distortion of the historical record.

Since its publication a couple of years ago, Jeffery’s book has been reviewed in several guitar magazines. The reviews I have seen were mostly favorable and invariably repeated the author’s own claims regarding the update and revision of his material. In this review, for this article is in fact an extended review, I shall demonstrate that the amount of actual revision visited upon the original text by the author was negligible, that much relevant information which was published about Sor since 1977, sometime even by Jeffery himself, was simply not included in this newer book, and that information published in 1977 and since then proven to have been false, was crudely repeated in the newer book without comment. I will address some of the occurences of these lapses in the order in which they appear in the book.

Chapter 1:

Comparing the two versions of this chapter, the original one and in the new edition, it appears to me that the only changes made by the author are the inclusion of one quote regarding Sor’s acquaintance with Aguado with a corresponding footnote, a new footnote quoting some information given by Domingo Prat the source for which is no longer available, and an update of a footnote about Moretti, adding the information about Tecla Editions publication of the Doce Canciones by Moretti.

Leaving this chapter almost untouched, the author managed to help perpetuate a few blunders that may have been questionable but conceivable in 1977, but became utter nonsense with the passage of time.

Item: Page 1, second paragraph:

…as well as a number of Spanish Seguidillas for voice and guitar or piano which have only recently come to light... [My Italics.]

Without even inquiring if there are in existence Seguidillas which are not Spanish, obviously this is a facile turn of phrase which was true in 1977 but totally out of phase in 1994. As the author tells us in his preface, the Seguidillas were published at the same time as the book, 1977, and were reprinted several times since. So how recent is recent?

Item: Page 5, last paragraph:

….After the somewhat mysterious Padre Basilio…

Yes, the Padre Basilio was “somewhat” mysterious in 1977. Since then, quite a bit of new information about him came to light, some of it factual and some conjectural. For example: Brian Jeffery’s own speculations regarding the familial relationship between the Padre Basilio and Dionisio Aguado which he published in his preface to the Tecla 1982 edition of Aguado’s Variations on the Fandango, Op. 16, and the information, including an actual piece of guitar music by the good Padre, published in my commentary to the English edition of Emilio Pujol’s Escuela Razonada, translated by Brian Jeffery.[1]Editions Orphée, Boston, RTFT-1, 1983. Was he “aware” of these two items? He was personally responsible for one item, and intimately involved in the publication of the other. Did the new material render the image we have of the Padre Basilio any more or less “mysterious” than it was to Jeffery in 1977? That is a judgmental question on which we may reasonably differ. Yet, to leave the 1977 text in this phrase unchanged and without a comment, is, in my view, careless historiography.

Item: Page 6, second paragraph:

… At home in the 1780s, his father’s guitar would almost certainly have had five courses rather than six, and double rather than single strings…the sixth course… was probably not common in Spain until around 1800 and after…

While I agree that the guitar belonging to the elder Sor was “almost certainly” double-strung, I cannot find any justification for the second part of the quotation. Including the “probably not common” qualification may have given the author the comfort of a cover-thy-rear-end syndrome. Yet, there is not a single shred of evidence in existence to support the hypothesis or even hint at the onset of the popularity of the six-course guitar in Spain at circa 1800. 

On the contrary, there is quite a bit of information to suggest that six-course fretted plucked instruments bearing a variety of names, existed in Spain all the way from the time of the vihuelistas, through Joan Carles y Amat’s six-course vandola of 1596, culminating with Antonio Ballesteros’ Obra para guitarra de seis órdenes published in Madrid in 1780, according to information provided by Saldoni.[2]See: Balthazar Saldoni, Diccionario Biográfico-Bibliográfico de Efemérides de Músicos Españoles, Madrid, 1881, Vol. IV, p. 26. The fortunes of six-course plucked-fretted instruments, in whatever nomenclature, in Spain, in the period between 1596 and 1780, still requires in-depth research. One would need to establish whether the earlier instruments indeed went out of fashion and only came back into being at the end of the 18th century as an evolutionary development of the 5 course guitar, or whether there was in fact a continuous, unbroken usage of the six-course instruments through out the period in question. For the time being, both hypotheses are equally valid, i.e., Ballesteros’ instrument may have been a direct descendant of the vihuela or the vandola, or it may have been a new development for its time. Ballesteros’s book would have been published roughly in the same time frame as that mentioned by Jeffery above. While one can understand why Jeffery could have made this fluff with total impunity in 1977, there is no excuse to his verbatim repeat of the same inanity in 1994. The information about Ballesteros was already published in 1980 in James Tyler’s book The Early Guitar[3]London, OUP, 1980, page 55. and discussed in detail in Pujol’s Guitar School, the one translated by Brian Jeffery in 1981-82.

A counter argument which may quickly arise, is that no one had seen the Ballesteros book yet. Not I, not Jeffery and not even Tyler or Pujol. We do not even know if Saldoni himself, writing about it in Madrid in 1881, had seen the book or if his information was based on secondary sources. Therefore, the Ballesteros reference cannot be used to indicate that six-course guitars were in use in Spain two decades before the date assigned to their appearance by Jeffery.

[See Additional Comments on this subject by Luis Briso de Montiano.]

For the argument to hold, it would be necessary to prove that the Ballesteros book did not in fact exist. A most difficult task, I’d say, trying to prove a negative. I rather suspect that Jeffery does not know to what extent six course guitars were popular in Spain in the last two decades of the eighteenth century. If he did, he hadn’t provided any substantiation to the pronouncement. To repeat this carefully phrased innuendo in 1994, is to resort to the same careless historiography practiced by Tyler, who was able to provide a precise tuning for Ballesteros’ guitar, without ever having seen either the guitar or the book in which, presumably, it was described. Stranger things have happened to guitar history. It is distressing to note that they keep occurring with almost predictable regularity, coming from the pen of a writer who cannot recall material he had written himself.

Item: Page 17, bottom of left column:

…Sor provides an alternative guitar accompaniment; if it is used, the voice should sing a minor third lower…

In an article about the terz guitar published in the Italian magazine il Fronimo one year after the publication of Jeffery’s first edition of his Sor biography, I said the following:

… Brian Jeffery’s book “Fernando Sor, Composer and Guitarist” which was extensively discussed and reviewed by Ruggero Chiesa in issue No. 21 of Il Fronimo, gives us a good insight into this composer’s life and work. In pages 30-32 of this book, we find a facsimile reproduction of a song written by Sor which is titled: “Chanson / Relative aux evenments d’Espagne…etc… / Paroles et Musique de Mr. Ferd. Sor l’an 1812.” The song is in the key of C minor, and is eminently suitable for a soprano, or for a tenor in the lower octave. There is a traditional piano accompaniment with the voice, but after the end of the music, there is another accompaniment version in A minor, which is described as “accompaniment de guitare un ton et demi plus bas.” In the description of the song on page 23 of the book, Dr. Jeffery states: “Sor provides an alternative guitar accompaniment; if it is used, the voice should sing a minor third lower, in A minor instead of C minor.” In general terms, this seems like a reasonable proposition, if you assume that a different singer will be doing the singing, one whose voice range feels more comfortable in the key of A minor than in that of C minor, like a baritone or a mezzo-soprano. Undoubtedly the high g’ in the song is out of range for most baritones and mezzo-sopranos. But in the case of the same singer doing the voice part, I should beg to differ with Dr. Jeffery on this assumption…[4]Milano, il Fronimo, No. 25, October 1978, page 15.

What followed was a detailed discussion on why the sentence as phrased by Jeffery makes no sense in terms of actual performance practice. The reason why the guitar accompaniment version is in A and not in C, my article suggested, was simply to make it easier for the guitarist to accompany a singer who sings in the stated key of C minor, by using a terz guitar or a capo on the third fret. In other words, this, together with other references from Sor’s work, indicated that he may have used the terz guitar on occasion. Otherwise, the guitar version would have been written by Sor in the same key as the piano version, i.e, in C minor. It is simply inconceivable to me that a singer would change the range of the interpretation by a minor third lower, just to accommodate the convenience of an accompanist. Traditionally, an accompaniment is there to serve the singer, not the other way around.

Now, did Jeffery ever come across this reference? I think he did. I personally discussed this issue with him, during the 18 months that he was a guest in my house in Boston (1980-81.) To my recollection, he agreed with me then that this was a poor choice of words and would need to be changed. Of course, he could very well have changed his mind since then and decided that his original text is still valid. But as he does not make any reference to my published objections and does not provide any documented rebuttal to them, I have no choice but conclude that this is a case of a highly selective memory. 

Chapter 2:

The only updates I can trace in this chapter, is a speculative footnote regarding the possibility of finding a French archival record of the birth in France of Sor’s daughter, something the author “had not been able to follow up” on, and the reproduction of an original version of a Sor petition for a job, given to Jeffery by Jun Sugawara who, according to the author, did not specify the precise source. 

I am acutely aware of the difficulties one encounters in following up on research in French archives. Yet, one wishes the author, who obviously left this footnote as a marker for future researchers, were a bit more candid and specified why exactly he was unable to follow up on this line of research. Undoubtedly, the discovery of such a document as the birth certificate of a daughter, would have thrown a clear light on many unknown aspects of the composer’s life. When one is unable to complete a particular line of investigation, for whatever reason, it is extremely helpful to future researchers to know precisely what these reasons may have been.

As for the reproduction of a letter: I know Mr. Jun Sugawara to be one of the most knowledgeable scholars in the field of early 19th century guitar history. So I asked him for a clarification of this matter. This is his instant response, transmitted over the Internet and reproduced here with his permission:

I got this copy of Sor’s letter from Shun Ogura (1901-1977) in 1976. Mr. Ogura was a guitarist and guitar historian who published a 2 volume book about guitar history, as well as many anthologies of guitar music. When I asked him about the provenance of this copy, he said: “I had a friend who was studying singing in Paris. He found an article about Sor in a French magazine. He tore off a page from the magazine and sent it to me. I do not know the name of the magazine.” The copy of Sor’s letter he had was indeed a page of a French magazine. At the top, there was a page number of 274 and the inscription “Lettre de Ferdinand Sor (Collection M.P.)” was printed at the bottom. Either the page was taken from a very large magazine, or that magazine was the kind of periodical were the pagination sequence was carried forward from one issue to the next. I wonder why a M.P. would have had a letter which was in the possession of a library. Jun Sugawara.

I also wonder who this M.P. was (Marc Pincherle perhaps?)[5]I am indebted to Robert Spencer for suggesting the name of the well-known music critic and collector Marc Pincherle as a possible identification for M.P. and if there is an M.P. Collection in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. On page 79, Jeffery reproduces another letter, written by Sor to Mr. Albert. Comparing the handwriting in both, it is hard to conclude that they were written by the same hand. There is a time difference of almost ten years between the letters, and one is a quick scribble down of a personal note to a friend while the other is an official petition addressed to a high-born person. The light this letter throws on the life of Fernando Sor in Paris is bright. Hence, verification of its authenticity is doubly important. I am sorry no steps have been taken by the author to establish this matter. Moreover, the provenance of a document, if it can be established with any degree of certainty, can sometimes provide more biographical and historical data than the words inscribed on the document itself.

Chapter 3:

This chapter, devoted to Sor’s stay in London in the years 1815-1823, has undergone a more extensive update than that which we have seen so far. Obviously, research in English sources, in London, would have been much easier to conduct by an author living in that city. It is hard to tell though if a serious attempt had been made to assemble all available information. Jeffery himself tells us that:

…One day perhaps the newspapers of the time will be fully indexed (preferably in electronic form with a search facility,) but until that time, no complete list of Sor’s concerts in England can be possible…(page 40).

Of course a complete list of the concerts of any artist is not theoretically possible, because one cannot tell, even when all available historical sources have been meticulously scanned, if there were not in fact public or private concerts of which no mention was ever made in a public record. But I would suggest that contrary to Jeffery’s contention, it is indeed possible to assemble all published references to performances by a given artist, if a copy of the relevant publication can be located. Oh yes, it would be a big job requiring a lot of elbow grease, a sharp pair of eyes and a substantial amount of available time. But it is not beyond the realm of possibility. 

A good example of the premise can be found in the Mashkevich Fond at the M.I. Glinka State Central Museum of Musical Culture in Moscow. Vladimir Pavlovich Mashkevich (1888-1971) was probably one of the most erudite scholars the guitar had ever seen. A mining engineer by profession, he spent a life time collecting information about the guitar and its history. The Mashkevich Fond is a special holding of all his guitar related papers, writings. Among others, it includes a dossier which contains manuscript copies of all guitar related items in the daily newspapers of St. Petersburg and Moscow, from the last decades of the 18th century until about 1970. Concert announcements, reviews, instruments for sale, teachers advertising for students, etc. If the word guitar appeared anywhere in a daily newspaper, Mashkevich copied the entire entry, with full bibliographic details. It is certain that V.P. Mashkevich compiled the information driven by a simple curiosity. We can only guess how much of his own, uncompensated time he must have invested in the project. In today’s scholarly atmosphere, rare is the scholar who would undertake such a monumental task, without first securing a few government or university grants to pay for research assistants. A private author, one not associated with an academic institution, might have even a more difficult time securing the manpower required. But to say that the task is not possible, because one cannot as yet have access to a computerized data-base, is too disingenuous to be accepted as responsible scholarship. Mashkevich had done the job at a time when no guitar scholar, in Russia or elsewhere, even knew what a computer was. 

Of course, a searchable data-base is a good dream which will certainly improve the lot of the researcher. But someone must first scan the sources and keyboard the data into the computer. While waiting, I am surprised that Jeffery, in his update, has missed one important concert by Sor in London, one which I had drawn his attention to on more than one occasion. Jeffery mentions a concert by Sor on 24 March 1817, in which he performed his own Concertante for guitar and string trio together with Spagnoletti (violin), Challoner (viola), and Lindley (cello). There was, apparently, a previous concert, earlier in the same month, in which the same work was performed by Sor and Lindley, with other musicians playing the violin and the viola. According to information published in the “Musical Courier” of June 25 1896, the concert was part of the program of the Philharmonic Society which took place on March 10 of the same year.[6]Quoted by Edmund S.J. van der Straeten in: History of the violoncello viol da gamba their Precursors and Collateral instruments… London, 1914, page 325. The other musicians who took place in that concert were Cipriani Potter, Weichsel, Watts and Kalkbrenner. No Spagnoletti or Challoner.

It is entirely possible that both the concert mentioned by Jeffery and the one mentioned by van der Straeten were actually one and the same. Unfortunately, Jeffery made no attempt to examine this dilemma even though solving it would not have required a system wide search of all newspapers at all times. The discrepancy is focused on a narrow time frame of less than three weeks. It would have been possible to go through the available records for that period in a fairly short time and establish the question. Jeffery’s data is based on information from the March 28 issue of the Morning Chronicle and in The Philharmonic Society of London, London, 1862, p. 17. Van der Straeten’s sources are quoted above. One should retrace both of them and find out. Provided of course, one could establish first the precise bibliographical identity of one of the sources mentioned by Jeffery, the one titled The Philharmonic Society of London. The item is not mentioned in Jeffery’s bibliography, and the bibliography itself is organized in ways which are far removed from contemporary practices. I am afraid this would not be an easy task.

There are many more issues of bibliographic control in this chapter which one could discuss. It is obvious to me by now that any newer attempts to write a definitive biography of Fernando Sor, would require the expenditure of much effort in assembling primary source material, carefully checking the secondary source material in this book, so clearly tainted by Jeffery’s curious way of dealing with bibliographic and historiographic matters. But let me tackle one more item here.

On page 70, left column, bottom paragraph:

…We have prints of ….[Félicité] Hullin, from Russia in 1826, showing her probably in the same role.33

Jeffery’s footnote No. 33 says:

…The print of Hullin is reproduced from a photograph kindly given to me by Mme. André Verdier; its source is unknown, but perhaps it was sent by V.L. Mackevitch to the magazine Guitare et Musique (see chapter 4.)

I have several problems with this footnote. In Chapter 4, page 75-6, Jeffery discusses an article about Sor in Russia published in 1958 in the French magazine Guitare et Musique, which was based on information provided by one V.P. Mackevitch.[sic!] Same person as V.L.? of course. A simple misprint which already occurred in the 1977 version (page 75, footnote 53,) and was not corrected in 1994. The misprint itself is not an issue, though one wishes it was not carried over haplessly across the time gap of seventeen years. The issue here is that the Guitare et Musique information was taken at face value. The only effort to find corroboration for information included therein was related to Hullin-Sor. No effort was expended to find corroboration in Russian sources for the information about the composer himself, the main subject of this book and no attempt was made to verify the proper spelling of the name of the person who supplied the information in the first place. This is important, because a wrong spelling invariably results in misleading information, creating dead-end avenues of research that produce what can be best described as pseudo-knowledge.

When dealing with Russian sources, correct transliteration becomes a major issue. Russian names can be rendered many different ways in Latin characters, an issue discussed in detail by Nicholas Slonimski in his preface to Baker’s Dictionary. The Russian name is reproduced by Jeffery exactly as it appears in the French magazine. To English, American, Russian or German readers, that particular transliteration does not give any clues on what the Russian may have been. There are several schemes of transliteration of Russian names agreed upon by various scholarly societies. The English or American would have the name Машкевич transliterated as Mashkevich. The German would have it as Maschkewitch, the French would have it as Machkevitch , the Italian would have it as Mashkevic, with or without an inverted caron on the last character. In eastern European languages that use the Latin alphabet such as Polish, Czech, Lithuanian, Hungarian etc, the transliteration would take on many different facets. We are not dealing here with a minor figure, but with a major entity whose work must be the basis for any detailed examination of the history of the guitar in Russia. Suffice it to mention Mashkevich’ 15,000 page manuscript of an encyclopedic dictionary of guitarists deposited at the Glinka Museum. In 1992, an abridged version of this dictionary, only 2,000 pages, was published in Russia by Mikhail Yablokov[7]Mikhail S. Yablokov (ed.), Klassicheskaia Gitara v Rossii i SSSR, Slovar’-spravochnik russkikh i Sovetskikh Deiatelei Gitary (Classical Guitar in Russia and the USSR, A biographical … Continue reading and is now considered the major reference work for any one working in the field. 

The importance of Mashkevich to our present discussion is that Jeffery’s entire knowledge about the sojourn of Sor in Russia is based on his notes. Unfortunately, the notes, as they appeared in Guitare et Musique are full of inaccuracies, misprints, wrong data and just plain rubbish. We have absolutely no way of knowing which part of the information can be traced back to Mashkevich, whose knowledge of French was sufficient to enable him to write in that language, or to emendations or embellishments visited upon his text by André Verdier, or by Gilbert Imbar, the editor of the magazine. On the plus side, we do have the means to understand the issues from Mashkevich’s own point of view.

In a letter dated June 27 1958, three months after the appearance of the article, Mashkevich wrote to Abel Nagytothy-Toth:

Moscou, 27 VI. 58
Au plus célébre Professer M-r Abel Nagytothy-Toth.
Quelques mois avant j’ai Vous envoyé deux paquettes de les notes pour la guitare. Ayez la bonté confirmez la reception les.
Voyez dans N16 de la revue “La Guitare et la Musique” le plus courte mon article “Le séjour de F. Sor et sa épouse la première danseuse F. Hullin-Sor en Russie.”
Prenez, Monsieur, mes salutations cordiales.
V.P. Machkevitch
Case Postale 413, Moscou, V-17, USSR[8]I am indebted to Abel Nagytothy-Toth for a copy of this letter.

(Sir, Several months ago I sent you two packages with guitar music. Please be so kind and confirm that you have received them. See in No. 16 of the magazine “La Guitare et la Musique” [sic!] my very short article “The sojourn of F. Sor and his wife the prima ballerina F. Hullin-Sor in Russia.” Accept my cordial salutations, V.P. Mashkevich. (My translation.)

This letter, written in a workable, though grammatically faulty, French, tells us that Mashkevich must have sent an article, to a French magazine whose name he did not know for sure. He had a title for the article, and it contained information that was available to him. He describes his article as “short”, but we do not have any idea how short it really was. Obviously, he expected the article to appear under his own name. We also know now how he transliterated his name into French. Was he aware that the article was never published under his name, but was rather crudely summarized by the editors, who may have left a rather large portion of it unpublished? Difficult to tell. The Mashkevich Fond at the Glinka Museum in Moscow contains the entire correspondence between Mashkevich and his many foreign contacts. It would probably contain his reaction to the gross mishandling of his work. I’ll check it out next time I visit that establishment. 

[I was finally able to make this visit on March 25th, 1997. After spending several days scanning the contents of the Fond Mashkevich (No. 359 at the Glinka Museum,) I did not find any references whatsoever to the Guitare et Musique article, no trace of any correspondence between Mashkevich and either Imbar or Verdier and consequently, no reaction by Mashkevich himself to the French publication. This lack of reference may be grounds to several speculations about the circumstances leading to the publication in France of an article by a Soviet citizen in 1958, and why the fact of the matter is obscured in the writer’s own files. Such speculations will require extensive research in both Russian and French archives. Suffice to conclude that in all probability, Mashkevich had no direct control of the text ascribed to him in Guitare et Musique.]

The Jeffery footnote accompanies a photograph of a lithograph of the ballerina Félicité Hullin-Sor which was published in the 1958 Guitare et Musique article. Jeffery’s reproduction was made, he says, from a copy of this photograph, given to him by Mme. Verdier. I believe him. He could not have taken it directly from the French magazine reproduction, because that one is cropped much closer to the text of a Russian language caption under the picture, than the one he reproduced. Jeffery states that the “source is unknown.” In 1977, this may have been a true statement, one which would have been extremely difficult to follow up, given the conditions of travel and communication in the Soviet Union at the time. Yet, the caption in Russian could yield some data. Let’s see what we can learn from it. The caption, not translated by Guitare et Musique or by Jeffery, says the following:

V. Baranov. Balerina i baletmeister Moskovskogo Bol’shogo teatra F. Giullen-Sor Litografia 1826 g. [V. Baranov. Ballerina and choreographer of the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow F. Hullin-Sor. Lithography 1826.]

The important thing about this text is that it was typeset, not typewritten. It also used the modern, post-revolutionary Russian alphabet. In other words, it is a reproduction of the picture as it appeared in a printed book from the Soviet era. Find the book, or at least find the information about V. Baranov, (in Benezit, perhaps?) the artist who produced it, and the source for the picture would no longer be unknown. One thing is certain, in 1982 I had the occasion to attend a performance of the Shostakovich opera Katerina Izmailova at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow. During the intermission I wandered through the picture gallery of the Bolshoi. There, large as life, among other personalities of that venerable institution, was the very same picture of Félicité Hullin-Sor. It was hanging high on the wall and I was not able to check if it was an original lithograph, or a copy. I meant to go back there during the day and inquire, but my visa just expired and I had to leave. When I was back at the Bolshoi ten years later, the picture gallery was closed to the public. So it goes.

Chapter 4:

In this chapter the author deals with Sor’s travels to Russia. Right in the second paragraph, it becomes clear that when necessary, the author was perfectly capable of consulting, directly or with the help of others, Russian language sources such as the Soviet Encyclopedia and Yuri Bakhrushin’s article about the Bolshoi Ballet. As I said before, I cannot understand why, in 1977, Jeffery did not also pursue Russian sources dealing directly with the guitar and with the subject matter of his book, the guitarist-composer Fernando Sor. At that time, there were few who knew anything about the guitar in Russia. One name which quickly comes to mind is Alexei Chesnakov, an old colleague and friend of Boris Perrot, the founder of the London Philharmonic Society of Guitarists who was still teaching guitar in London in the early 1980s. There was also Vladimir Bobri, one of the founders and a long time editor of the Guitar Review.Besides constantly propagandizing his Ukrainian and Russian heritage, (and the pages of the early issues of the Guitar Review are overflowing with evidence of that,) Bobri was always ready with advice about questions relating to the guitar in Russia. 

It appears that the only source used by Jeffery for information about Sor in Russia, was the aforementioned article in Guitare et Musique, as well as a series of notes, written on the back side of a concert flyer by André Verdier “from the original material gathered by Mackevitch.” What this original material may have been, how it came to the possession of Verdier and or the magazine, and what may have happened to it since, are questions that did not seem to occupy the attention of the author at the time. By 1977, there was at least one Russian source about the guitar in Russia, and that was Boris Volman’s book Gitara v Rossii (The Guitar in Russia), published in Leningrad in 1961. I purchased a copy at the Kamkin Bookstore in New York in 1976. The book was even summarized in two consecutive articles by Volman himself in the same French magazine in 1968. (No. 60-61). Moreover, an English version of the relevant portion of Volman’s book, titled “Sor In Russia” was published in the English magazine Guitar News in its March/April, 1962 (No. 64), page 17. The entry was translated by Alexei Chesnakov. It is note-worthy that this translation was published only one year after the appearance of the book itself in the Soviet Union in 1961. Why would Jeffery prefer a botched-up summary published in a French magazine to one straight forward translation published in England? I have no idea. I suppose he simply did not know about it. 

A lot of water had gone under the bridge of Russian guitar history since 1977. Travel to Russia is now as easy as traveling to Brighton, Russian archives are open to Western researchers and are eager to share their riches with any one interested. As a matter of fact, I was able to gather a tremendous amount of information in the Saltykov-Shchedrin State Public Library in Leningrad already in 1982. The 10,000 pages of Russian guitar music, guitar magazines, books, correspondence etc, that I received from them in microfilm, as well as Volman’s book, was the basis of the lecture on the History of the Guitar in Russia which I delivered at the 1983 GFA Festival in Quebec. The lecture included a large amount of data never before presented in English, and a considerable number of music examples, performed by Leif Christensen and Maria Kämmerling. Brian Jeffery, who was present at the event, was so impressed with the presentation, that he invited me and the Christensen-Kämmerling duo to repeat the presentation at a “day of events devoted to the history of the guitar” which took place at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Barbican, London, on April 8th 1984 where Classical Guitar magazine’s editor Colin Cooper volunteered to operate the slide projector for me. The lecture eventually became the foundation of the Russian Collection series, the first volume of which, including a lengthy preface came out in 1986.

Now that we know a bit more about the subject of the guitar in Russia, let us see what was wrong with Jeffery’s portrayal of the stay of Sor in Russia.


Based on the Guitare et Musique article, Jeffery tells us:

….One [concert] was on 3 March 1824 in the house of Stepan Stepanovich Apaskine, in which Schultz also played and one in the same house on an unspecified date, in which Sor played variations of his own composition and in which Field and Schultz also played. John Field (1782-1837) was the famous Irish composer and pianist who at that time was living in Russia; Schultz is presumably the same who was the brother of Leonardo Schultz… The article in Guitare et Musique also mentions that while in Moscow Sor met the guitarist and composer M.T. Vyssotski…[9]Page 82, left column, last paragraph.

This text is identical in both the 1977 and 1994 editions. Had the author checked the Volman book, he may have had a different assessment of the reliability of the Guitare et Musique article as a source of historical information. Prior to the Guitare et Musique publication, this part of Sor’s life was shrouded in mystery. His visit to Russia is mentioned by several lexicographers, but the entries do not include any of the seeming “reliable details” with dates, names and activities clearly spelled out. So when a given set of data was repeated by a scholar who gained a certain stature in the hierarchy of guitar scholarship, it took hold in our culture like a leech to a horse’s mouth. From Brian Jeffery’s 1977 book, it travelled to every piece of hackneyed guitar journalism to have appeared since. Graham Wade’s 1980 book Traditions of the Classic Guitar, umpteen record liner notes, concert programs, and various writing on Fernando Sor to have appeared since. I would not be much surprised if the information even made its way into a Ph.d. dissertation or two. Would Brian Jeffery have had any way of finding out if this information was false?

Let us begin with the last item mentioned, the supposed meeting between Sor and Vyssotsky. In an LTTE dealing with Graham Wade’s apprehension that I may have accused him personally of having fabricated information in hisTraditions book, I said the following:

It is far from certain that Sor actually came face to face with Vyssotsky during the years he spent in Russia. The first writer to have mentioned that Vyssotsky had met Western guitarists, was Mikhail Stakhovich in his book of 1854 Ocherk Istorii Semistrunnoi gitary. [Essay on the History of the Seven-String Guitar]. Stakhovich relates a story about an evening organized in the house of a certain nobleman, and to which both Vyssotsky and an un-named French guitarist were invited. The Frenchman showed-off his ability to sight-read piano music on the guitar, but then, upon hearing Vyssotsky improvise for two and half hours on a given theme, the unhappy Frenchman smashed his guitar on the floor while exclaiming with great emotion that after hearing Vyssotsky, he shall never touch his guitar again. In later years, this cute little tale changed a bit. The Frenchman became Fernando Sor. No one knows when and how…[10]Classical Guitar magazine, January, 1987, p. 62.

Perhaps Stakhovich, who knew Vyssotsky personally, avoided mentioning Sor’s name in connection with him intentionally, preferring to relegate Sor to the status of an un-named “Frenchman” On the other hand, there were many real Frenchmen active in Russia at the time, including a few guitarists such as Jean-Baptiste Phillis and others. [Antoine de l’Hoyer is another Frenchman whose Russian connection was discovered by me recently.] It could have been someone else. Whoever attached Sor’s name to this legend, must have fabricated the story anew. 

That is published material which should have given the author pause before repeating the Vyssotsky-Sor reference in 1994 unchanged and without comment.

Let’s deal with the Schulz speculation now. Had Jeffery paid heed to the information provided by Volman, he would have known immediately that to assume that the Schultz mentioned in the Guitare et Musique article is “presumably the same who was brother of the guitarist Leonardo Schultz” simply has no basis in any available historical references. First of all, the spelling of the surname, as it appears in all the known references about the brothers Schulz and their father, was as I just spelled it—Schulz. The Schultz spelling comes from the Guitare et Musique article. Jeffery does not tell us where the italianate “Leonardo” used by him comes from.

At any rate, the Schulz brothers, and/or their father are not known to have ever visited Russia. If Jeffery discovered some information to the contrary, why he did not spell it out?

Correction: (9/11/2005): I was wrong about the statement colored above in blue. Jeffery did in fact provide a footnote for the entry, basing his spelling on the one used by Vladimir Bobri and Nura Ulreich in their translation of the memoirs of Makaroff in the Guitar Review. My apologies. As for fuller details about this issue, see my article Wherefore Leonardo Schulz.

Volman, in his 1961 book, states the following:

On March 3rd 1824 he [Sor] performed in a concert of the harpist Schulz, playing a theme and variations of his own composition. The concert took place in the house of S.S. Apraksin… the orchestra, for example, played only works by Beethoven, Italian singers sang arias and duets by Rossini, John Field played his 6th piano concerto….[11]Gitara v Rossii, page 68.

Information about the harpist Schulz is not plentiful, but apparently his initial was K. and he appeared in concert many times together with John Field, often performing a rondo for piano and harp by Field, a work which does not seem to have been listed in the Hopkinson Catalogue.[12]See: A.M. Sokolova, “Kontsertnaia zhizn’” (Concert life), in Istoria Russkoi Muzyki (History of Russian Music), (Edited by Iu. Keldysh,) Moscow, 1986, pp. 266-73. So much for Leonardo and/or Eduardo Shultz.

Clearly, there was no such person as Stepan Stepanovich Apaskine as the name is spelled out in the Guitare et Musique article, and repeated by Jeffery in 1977 and again in 1994. Stepan Stepanovich Apraksin (1756-1827), was a Czarist army general of cavalry belonging to a noble family that occupied a major place in Russian society since the 14th century.[13]See: P.N. Petrov, Istoria rodov Russkogo Dvorianstva (History of Russian Noble Families) St. Petersburg, 1886, reprinted 1991. Volume 2, pp. 66-69. Apraksin was a major patron of the arts, who maintained his own private orchestra and supported many artists, John Field chief among them. To have misspelled his name in 1958 is unfortunate, but given the general level of erudition of Guitare et Musique, perfectly understandable. 

To have repeated the misleading wrong spelling in 1977 in a scholarly book, is doubly unfortunate, but given the poor access to Russian sources at the time, this too can be explained away. But to repeat it once again in 1994, after the correct information has been made available to the author on more than one occasion, is not only insulting, but also insufferably bad manners and bad history. This is tantamount to spelling the name of Lord Mountbatten as Lord Mountbeaten. 

The chapter ends with a discussion of the music, from op. 16 to op. 29, which Sor composed while living in Russia. In the last paragraph of the chapter Jeffery says:

…All these compositions, of course, are thoroughly within the Western European tradition: waltzes, sonatas, sets of variations. There is no discernible Russian influence on any of them. The only known Russian influence on Sor’s guitar music is the Souvenir de Russie, op. 63, his last work, which according to Mackevitch [sic!] is based on a theme by Vyssotsky.[14]The same assertion is repeated again, in both versions, in Chapter 5, the last paragraph of the Guitar Duets subheading.

The claim made in the first sentence of this quotation, gives the impression that the author is knowledgeable about the intrinsic elements of Russian music, and thus qualified to find “no discernible Russian influence” in Sor’s music from that period. It also seems to suggest that waltzes, sonatas and sets of variations are unique to the Western European tradition and not part of anything that can be discerned as Russian. That is, of course, utterly absurd! Be that as it may, on reading the works of Brian Jeffery, I find no discernible indication that he has the foggiest idea of what Russian music is or was.

In The Russian Collection Vol. I, I included a piece by Vladimir Morkov, a prelude with a close analogy to Sor’s Leçon Progressive Op. 31 No. 16. I pointed out then, that since the work was not published by Meissonnier prior to Sor’s departure to Russia, but rather during his stay there, or shortly upon his return, it is difficult to establish if it was a Morkov original adopted by Sor, or a Sor original adopted by Morkov. Another Morkov Etude, which was included in his guitar method, bears a close affinity to Sor’s Exercise Op. 35 No. 17. Besides the C Major tonality, the Morkov Etude is almost identical to Sor’s Exercise. In this case the question is even more poignant, since Sor’s piece was published by Pacini in 1828, at least a couple of years after the composer’s return from Russia. That is not to say that Morkov could not have obtained Sor’s music many years after 1828, by correspondence or by direct import from France, or in an exchange or a gift from six-string players such as Sokolovsky or Makarov with whom he maintained a close personal relationship. Vladimir Morkov, one of the more prolific composers and arrangers for the 7-string guitar, was active for many years after Sor’s death. However, in the several instances where he used material by other composers such as Carcassi, Giuliani and Sor himself, Morkov was always careful to state who the original composer was. It seems out of character for him to have used Sor’s music without credit. We shall never know the truth of the matter until such time that precise dating of Morkov’s work can be made. In other words, the question, first asked by me in 1986 in the Introduction to the first volume of The Russian Collection, must still be left open. At the same time, to ignore the real possibility that Sor may have arrogated to himself music he found while living in Russia, as was done by Brian Jeffery, is to accept a preconceived notion as historical fact.

The second assertion that Sor’s Op. 63 is based on a theme by Vyssotsky, first made in 1977 and left unchanged in 1994, deserves a particular rebuke. 

In response to an urgent request in a letter dated April 12 1982 from Brian Jeffery, asking me for the “name and absolute correct spelling of the Russian tune which begins Op. 63” I wrote to him by return mail on April 17th as follows:

The tune which begins op. 63 is a Sor original. Second tune is a Russian folk song, NOT a Vyssotsky tune. It is called “Chem Tebya ya Ogorchila,” loosely translated as “he with whom I caused you pain” Last tune is also a folk song — “Po Ulitse Mostovoy, — “along the Highway” Both folk tunes were very famous, and in a recent dictionary of folk songs[15]Reference was made to: David Batser and Boleslav Rabinovich, Russkaia Narodnaia Muzyka (Russian folk music), Moscow, 1981. which was published in Russia, there are virtually thousands of settings of these tunes. Original identification credit belongs to George Warren, NOT to me.

This exchange took place when Jeffery was preparing the second edition of his Complete Works of Fernando Sor. Eventually, he asked for and received more precise information from my wife, Dr. Margarita Mazo, one of the leading experts in Russian folk music. When the CW was finally published, Jeffery added this short introduction to his facsimile reproduction of Op. 63:

Sor’s last work, and a magnificent one. The composer takes two very Russian melodies, and shows great understanding of their essential nature in the way in which he intertwines them. The first, which is the theme on which the variations are based, is “Tchem tebja ja ogortchila” (literally translated: “what have I done to upset you?”). The second, at the Allegretto, is “Po ulitse mostovoy” (“Along the gravel street”). Both of these were popular Russian melodies and were first published in N. Lvov and I. Pratch: Sobranie russkikh narodnikh pesen s ikh golosami (Collection of Russian folk songs with their melodies), St. Petersburg, 1806. (I am grateful to Dr. Margarita Mazo for the above information.)[16]The Complete Works for Guitar, Volume 8, London, Tecla, ISBN 0-906953-35-9.

Recalling the author’s initial qualification that “All new discoveries of which I am aware have been incorporated” in the new book, I think it is only fair to question the nature of his awareness of historical information that he had written and published himself.

Perhaps it is also time to question Jeffery’s statement that this was Sor’s last composition. This is a conjecture which is based on the fact that no composition by Sor with a higher opus number is known to exist, and a reasonable one to make. However, there is no documentary evidence in existence which can tell us with any degree of certainty when the piece was written. Hence, it may have been his last piece and may have not. It is far from certain that Sor’s works were given opus numbers in the correct sequence of their composition. It is also known by now that Sor did in fact change opus numbers during the course of his publishing career. The part of the collection of Domingo Prat acquired by Gendai Guitar[17]Other parts of it went to various other collectors, myself included. contains an interesting print of a Sor composition to which is attached a unique catalogue of his works, apparently published or planned to be published by himself before he made his deal with Pacini. This unique catalogue was described in detail by Jun Sugawara in a recent article in Gendai Guitar. The catalogue describes an Op. 39 as Introduction et thême de MOZART varié, pour guitare avec accompagnement de quatour ou quintet, the method is given an Opus No. 44, and the sequence of opus numbers from 45 to 50 is entirely different than that we now know.

The recent find of the Fantaisie pour Guitare Seule, Composée et dédiée à Son Elève Mademoiselle Houzé, is dated by Jeffery as “Probably dates from Paris in the period c. 1829-33 when Sor dedicated other works to Mlle. Houzé.” This dating is based on assumptions which have not been carefully examined. In Chapter 6, page 90, Jeffery gives a list of opus numbers from Op. 36 to 62, with dating of each by reference to announcements in the Bibliographie de la France and dates stamped on some editions. This is solid information on which there is no argument possible, unless one wants to examine the implications to this list presented by the newly discovered catalogue mentioned above. What I do find questionable is the sentence following the list, where the author says that: “The intervening guitar works can be roughly dated from the above list.” I should beg to differ strongly. This statement assumes a certain chronological regularity in the composition and or publication of opus numbers. There is nothing in the historical record to suggest such a chronology and Jeffery does not offer any substantiation for the claim. 

The main question in determining the chronology of the composition of Op. 63 should hinge, in my view, on first determining the circumstances which led to its composition. I would like to suggest that the use by Sor of the themes of “Chem Tebia ia Ogorchila” and “Po Ulitse Mostovoi” were not related at all to their use by Russian guitarists, but rather to their use by a German violoncellist named Bernhard Romberg.

As Jeffery reports, the Bolshoi Theater grand opening, in which the ballet Cendrillon by Sor was performed, took place on January 6, 1825. Two weeks later, a review appeared in the Moskovskie Vedomosti newspaper describing a whole series of concerts by Bernhard Romberg.[18]See: Sokolova, Kontsertnaia zhizn’, op. cit. The review was written by Prince Odoevsky, one of the major musical critics of the time and perhaps one of the first Russians who could qualify as a musicologist. Odoevsky speaks with glowing terms about Romberg’s performance of his own variations on the themes of, believe it or not,Chem tebia ia ogorchila and Ia po tsvetikam khodila, the melody of which is identical with that of Po ulitse mostovoi.[19]Russian songs, traditionally, were identified by the first line of the text. In this case, Po ulitse mostovoi (Along the Gravel Road) are the words that begin the song, and Ia po tsvetikam … Continue reading We cannot be sure of that, but there is a pretty good chance that Sor, only eleven days after his own work was performed at the Bolshoi, would have attended the Romberg concerts, or at least read the Odoevsky review, directly or with the help of a translator. But even if this was not the case and he never heard of Romberg in Moscow, he could not avoid running into him on his return to Paris. The Romberg composition performed in 1825, was published in Russia and distributed all over Europe. The title page reads as follows:

Airs Russes / [in cyrillic] Chem tebia ia ogorchila & Ia po tsvetikam Khodila. / variées pour le / Violoncelle, / avec Accompagnement de / Deux Violons, deux Flutes, deux Bassons, Triangle / Tambour, Alto et Basse / composée et dédiée / à Son Excellence / Madame la Comtesse / Marie de Razoumowsky / née Princess de Wiasemsky. / à l’occasion de Son jour de naissance / le 10 Avril 1809. / par / BERNHARD ROMBERG. / Oeuvre 14 / publié & gravé par / Charles Elbert & Co. à Moscou. pl. nr. 18. (RISM number R2318. Copies in several European libraries.)

Another edition of Romberg’s work was published by J. André in Offenbach. This edition, with the plate number of 4528, is datable to 1823.[20]See: O.E. Deutch, Musikverlag Nummern, Berlin, 1961, p. 6. Another work with the same Op. number was published by Simrock and is listed in the Whistling Handbuch for 1817, which means that it was already in print prior to 1815. There is also a reference to variations by Romberg on Ia po tsvetikam Khodila published in a Russian musical journal in 1812.[21]See: Boris Volman, Russkie Notnye izdaniia XIX- nachala XX veka, (Russian musical Editions of the 19th to the beginning of the 20th centuries.) Leningrad, 1970, p. 50. The Elbert publication most certainly was published before the German editions, c. 1809-10. Charles Elbert was active in Moscow as an engraver and publisher in the first decades of the 19th century.[22]Boris Volman, Russkie Notnye izdaniia p. 34. The low plate number, 18, would tend to indicate that this was one of his earliest issues, most probably coming out in honor of the dedicatee’s birthday celebration shortly before, or just after that date on April 10th 1809.

The number of works by Romberg on Russian folk themes is much larger and fully listed in all the usual sources. This was popular stuff and much in demand by the music buying public. In the early part of the 19th century, Russian folk music played the same role in Western European society as did the music of Spain. It had a certain romantic flavor of exoticism and was employed by many different composers, from Beethoven in his Razoumowsky string quartets to Hummel’s Op. 78, a work based on the tune Ekhal Kozak za Dunai otherwise known as Schöne Minka to Giuliani’s Op. 60 etc, etc. Another important arrangement of Chem tebia ia ogorchila was made by John Field.[23]See: Cecil Hopkinson, A Bibliographical Thematic Catalogue of the works of John Field (1782-1837), London, 1961, No. 10, page 19. There was a Russian edition of it, the date of which has not been fixed, but probably dates from 1803-1811. There were also an English edition published in 1811, one German edition datable to 1812 plus several other German editions published between 1822 and 1828, an Italian edition of 1812-13, an Austrian edition of 1816 and several French editions published from 1823 to 1828. The pages of the Whistling-Hofmeister Handbuch lists many other arrangements of the tune for various instruments, by many different composers. In short, the theme of this song, first published by L’vov and Prach in 1806, became an important part of the European hit-parade within a few short years. Did Fernando Sor know of all these editions before he went to Russia, or only became acquainted with the tune at a much later date? We can only speculate on this question. Nevertheless, the very existence of this music in London and Paris in the years Sor was living there, should prompt the careful historian to examine the legends regarding the source of the tunes used in Op. 63 with a bit more deliberation than that employed by Jeffery.

The important issue here that an examination of Romberg’s Op. 14 and Sor’s op. 63, reveals a close structural affinity between the two works. The instrumentation is entirely different, but the general layout of the theme and the variations is very similar. This is not to imply in any way that Sor copied Romberg’s work. But there is no doubt in my mind that the popularity of Romberg’s work in Europe at the time, as well as the popularity of Russian tunes in general, would not have gone unnoticed by Sor. It is just as plausible that this was the real motivation for Sor’s composition, as the uncertain allusion to a meeting with Vyssotsky. 

Chapter 5:

If there are any changes or emendations to this chapter in the new book, I failed to spot them. Perhaps I should scan both versions of this chapter into WordPerfect and run a computer analysis of the parallel texts. In the meantime, I am at a loss to understand why the author’s description of Sor’s Op. 59, the Fantaisie Elégiaque à la mort de Madame Beslay, née Levavasseur, remained unchanged between the two editions of his book. Let me quote again from Brian Jeffery’s introduction to Volume 7 of his Complete Works:

Opus 59….Matanya Ophee, to whom I am indebted for the following, has discovered the identity of Charlotte Beslay. She was a pianist, associated with Rossini, who said of her: “Madame Beslay touche le piano comme une grande artiste” Her husband, Charles Beslay, wrote: “J’épousai, en 1833, la fille d’un colonel d’artilerie, ancien aide-de-camp de Maréchal Ney, et petit-fille de M. Delorme, propriétaire du passage qui porte son nom… Au bout de dix-huit mois, ma pauvre femme, si brillante de jeunesse et de beauté, mourut en mettant au monde un fils” (Charles Beslay, Mes Souvenirs, Paris, 1873, pp. 136-9.)…

The discovery of this matter, took the better part of a year, including a trip to Paris to find Charlotte’s death certificate (she died on April 20th 1835,) correspondence with various French archives to find out where she was buried, the discovery of the memoirs of the husband Charles Beslay and those of Charlotte’s father, Colonel Octave Levavasseur. I freely shared all this information with Brian Jeffery, hoping that it will add something to our collective knowledge of Fernando Sor. This was important for two main reasons: her date of death when known, would have established a solid backing to Jeffery’s dating of the work as c. 1836. The circumstances of her death could have the potential of throwing light on the length of time she studied the piano with Sor, a course of study which must have begun well before the onset of her pregnancy. If we can correlate this with the anguished cry Charlotte, Adieu! printed in the score, we might also be justified in pursuing a line of investigation which might show that the relationship between Fernando and Charlotte was more than that of teacher and pupil. All of this was ignored by Jeffery when it came time to update his book. Why?

Your guess is as good as mine.

The list of research publications related to Sor and completely ignored by Jeffery is vast. Some relevant material, the writings of Iuris Poruks and Marc Van de Cruys in Soundboard for example, are briefly mentioned in footnotes and the bibliography, but do not receive the elaboration one would expect in a scholarly work of this magnitude. Some other, such as David Buch’s article on the history of Das Klinget so Herrlich and Sor’s use of it in his Op. 9, which was printed in the Guitar Review, is not even mentioned in the bibliography, let alone dealt with in the section referring to Op. 9. The one time Jeffery deals with an article by Van de Cruys, he managed, intentionally or accidentally, to confuse the details of who did what. In discussing the two articles by Marc Van de Cruys regarding Sor’s performance on the lute, he says:

…Mr. Marc Van de Cruys, who discovered the reference to this interesting concert, has pointed out that some of the details may be incorrect…(page 103)

In his own 1988 article, Mr. Van de Cruys clearly states that the reference was not discovered by himself, but brought to his attention by Robert Jansson. And in his 1990 article he says that:

…Matanya Ophee has brought to my attention the fact that certain points in my article deserve further discussion and that other points remain ambiguous.

In the interest of scholarly accuracy, I should probably reproduce here the ten page letter I sent Mr. Van de Cruys after the publication of his first article. I’ll think about that for a while. In the meantime, I only wish to point out that in his elaboration on this material, Jeffery failed to adhere to the basic tenet of scholarly etiquette which demands credit where credit is due, and nowhere else.

Some questions of bibliographical control:

In discussing the known portraits of Sor in his first book, Jeffery lists the known locations for a lithograph of Sor by Goubaud-Engelmann. In case you wonder, this is the same picture which appears on the majority of editions by Sor, on T-shirts, publicity posters, programme notes, record covers etc. You have seen it before, I am sure. In 1977, there were three known copies of this lithograph. One each in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, the British Library in London, and in the personal collection of Brian Jeffery (by the generous gift of Mme. André Verdier, Paris.) In the 1994 book, the reference to his own ownership of this famous picture was deleted. What happened to the picture? Jeffery does not say. 

I happen to know exactly what happened to it. I acquired it from Brian Jeffery when he went back to England after living in my house in Boston for 18 months in 1980-81. It was a good deal for all concerned, I think. I got the picture, Brian got a fair value for it. It is now hanging on my studio wall right next to the computer. Que tenemos a la vista…

Perhaps it will be useful to add here this detail to future biographers of Fernando Sor: recently I took the engraving out of the frame in which it lived in the years it was in the possession of Mme. Verdier, Brian Jeffery and myself. Upon examining the print closely for the first time in the 15 years that I had possession of it, I discovered this penciled inscription on the top right corner of the print:

de la part de A. Meissonnier offert à M. Albert

The identity of the recipient is not clear, but it could be the same Albert Decombe, the dancer and choreographer who was associated with Sor. It could also be another person altogether. There is no doubt, however, on the identity of the presenter, Mr. Antoine Meissonnier who was Sor’s publisher until 1828. That Meissonnier would present the picture at all, would tend to suggest that perhaps he published it. Be that as it may, there is reason to believe that the presentation of the picture would have been done before 1828, while Sor and Meissonnier were still on amicable terms. That notion allows us to place a terminus antes quem date on the picture, i.e., it was executed not later than 1828. This is the first time the picture is dated. I hope Brian Jeffery takes notice.

In his 1977 checklist of Sor’s works, Jeffery says in reference to Sor’s Op. 34, l’Encouragement for two guitars:

First Edition:
L’Encouragement. Fantaisie à deux guitares . . . chez Pacini, Paris.
Plate number 2. 1828. [Private Collection (not seen).]

Which private collection is reffered to and why the author was not able to see the item, is not stated. A few years later Jeffery published an article in Soundboard, Vol. VII/4, November of 1980, page 159, titled “The Original Version True Text of Sor’s “L’Encouragement.” After a brief introduction, Jeffery says:

…This short article is published on the occasion of the important discovery by Matanya Ophee of the only known surviving copy of the original edition and is intended to set the matter straight…Until now no known copy of this first edition has been known, until in September 1980 a copy was discovered in an uncatalogued collection in the Library of Congress by Matanya Ophee, to whom I am grateful for informing me of it.*

The footnote says:

*When I was compiling data for my book Fernando Sor, Composer and Guitarist (London, Tecla Editions, 1977), I was informed that a copy of the original edition in question was in a certain private collection, and I listed that supposed holding on page 160 of my book. However, I was not able to obtain photographs of it; and since the plate number which I was informed that it bore, (“2”) does not correspond to that of the undoubtedly authentic Library of Congress copy (“2575”), we must for the moment discount the existence of the supposed copy in the private collection.

What this note is really saying, is that the mysterious information given to Jeffery before 1977, since it seems to be different than what he had learned from my discovery in 1980, should be deemed as false. The belief in the reliability of the evidence of plate numbers as a sole indication of provenance or dating is still quite prevalent. At the time, I fully shared Jeffery’s conclusions and under the circumstances of the time, it was, unequivocally, perfectly justifiable. The discovery was, in Jeffery’s stated opinion, an important one. It finally established an important issue of performance practice as reagrding this composition. The same article was re-printed in Italian translation in il Fronimo (No. 34, 1980, pp. 34-35) and if I am not mistaken, also in Gendai Guitar. Moreover, in Volume 8 of his Complete Works Jeffery says:

Only two copies of this first edition are known to survive: one in the collection of Robert Spencer, London, and one which was discovered by Matanya Ophee in an uncatalogued collection in the Library of Congress, Washington.

In the new book, on page 161, Jeffery now reproduces the complete text of the title page, as it appears in the LoC edition and as he reproduced it in the CW. For some odd reason, he lists the plate number as 2573 [?], without saying why the number is different, and why the square-bracketed question mark. True to form, there is no mention whatsoever in the new edition of the discovery in 1980 of the first known copy of the original edition, and no bibliographic listing, anywhere in the book, for the author’s own article on the subject. So far, I am not surprised. What strikes me as exceedingly deceptive is the lack of any mention of the original copy of Op. 34 in the Library of Congress in Washington. Of course, several other copies of the same work have turned up since 1980. But the LoC copy is a bibliographic reality whose existence is entirely independent of whether it was first discovered by me or by Joe Tsutskin. To ignore it in 1994, after the same author had placed such an monumental spotlight on its discovery in 1980, is, to put it bluntly, a shoddy work in bibliographic control, one which hardly deserves an F marking in any beginning class in bibliography.The general tenor of this commentary, in case you haven’t noticed, is that in my view Brian Jeffery was engaged in a systematic pruning from the historical record of any detail at all which would have required him to give an acknowledgment or a word of thanks to Matanya Ophee. Some colleagues who read a preliminary draft of this article, suggested that I may be too harsh, not willing to give Brian the benefit of a doubt and assume that he may have been “forgetful.” As one who is cursed with a photographic memory of everything I read or wrote about the history of the guitar, I find the notion hard to accept, but perhaps plausible. On the other hand, personal forgetfulness of items which occupy a major part of our collective memory and can be accessed directly through electronic data-bases, Music Index, the several bibliographies of guitar in existence, or the actual copies of magazines and books which deal with our subject, are not acceptable. Particularly so when the question is not one of forgetting one or two trivial items, but of a mental block which consistently displays itself in this book in such an unambiguous manner. I am inclined to believe that the motivation for ignoring so many contributions to the history of Fernando Sor by myself and by others, was not based on scholarly grounds, but on personal animosities. That is indeed for shame. 

In closing, let me quote this famous line which Peter Schickele of P.D.Q Bach fame is fond of using: It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that certain je ne sais quoi. This book ain’t got it and therefore it don’t.

Copyright © 1996 by Editions Orphée, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Last Modified: Friday, April 04, 1997

Additional comments on this topic

by Luis Briso de Montiano

The reasoning that the author of the present article Mr. Matanya Ophee, makes in this paragraph is perfectly correct. Up to now, the reference to the work of Ballesteros could not be utilized categorically as an indication of the utilization of the six-course guitar in Spain prior to 1800—more concretely in Madrid—for the simple reason of that so far, no one has seen the source. Neither Mr. Ophee, nor Brian Jeffery. Not even James Tyler (who cites the last name of the author as “Ballestero” instead of “Ballesteros” ). Pujol never saw it, and, believe me, Saldoni did not see it either, nor did he have any idea who Ballesteros was actually. They never saw it, and surely we shall never see it ourselves. But, for the last ten years or so, it was no longer necessary to refere to the Obra of Ballesteros. One needed merely to know the marvelous article of Beryl Kenyon de Pascual[24]KENYON DE PASCUAL, B.: “Ventas de instrumentos musicales en Madrid durante la segunda mitad del siglo XVIII (Parte II).” In Revista de Musicología, VI, 1983, 299-308. which contain transcriptions of several advertisements of sales of six-course guitars, two of them of in the years 1772 and 1760. As for Saldoni having based his information on secondary sources, Mr. Ophee has obviously much reason; and it so followed. One of the principal tools Saldoni had for compiling information prior to his time, was investigating in the periodical press of the past. In the several times that I have had the occasion of comparing Saldoni’s information with the newspapers of the time, I had no doubt that his source was precisely the press. And there it was. The Gazeta de Madrid of Friday, November 3rd, 1780 (No. 88, p. 804) carries the following advertisement:

«In the Bookstore of D. Gerónimo Solano, Calle de la Paz No. 47 will be found a work for a guitar of the sixth course comprising of 3 pieces and 4 minuets: its author is D. Antonio Ballesteros, who promises to give the Public various other compositions.»

But, although thanks to Pujol and Tyler we have fixed too much in our mind the Obra of Ballesteros, Saldoni had found two other references to works for the six-course guitar in 1780. Of course, they also were printed in the Gazeta:

Friday, February 4th, 1780 (No. 10, p. 96):
«Six minuetes for six-course guitar, plucked.= A Pastorela, the Fandango of Cadiz and the Tirana for salterio: by D. Joseph de los Rios. They will be found in the Bookstore of the heirs of Corominas across the street from the printing-house of the Gazeta: its price is 10 rs. each work, and they could be sent by post.»
Friday, September 1st, 1780 (No. 70, p. 648):
«Four divertimientos for salterio and bass: a sonata and the fandango, plucked, for the six-course guitar by D. Juan Garcia. They will be found at the house of the heirs of Corominas, calle de las Carretas.»


1 Editions Orphée, Boston, RTFT-1, 1983.
2 See: Balthazar Saldoni, Diccionario Biográfico-Bibliográfico de Efemérides de Músicos Españoles, Madrid, 1881, Vol. IV, p. 26.
3 London, OUP, 1980, page 55.
4 Milano, il Fronimo, No. 25, October 1978, page 15.
5 I am indebted to Robert Spencer for suggesting the name of the well-known music critic and collector Marc Pincherle as a possible identification for M.P.
6 Quoted by Edmund S.J. van der Straeten in: History of the violoncello viol da gamba their Precursors and Collateral instruments… London, 1914, page 325.
7 Mikhail S. Yablokov (ed.), Klassicheskaia Gitara v Rossii i SSSR, Slovar’-spravochnik russkikh i Sovetskikh Deiatelei Gitary (Classical Guitar in Russia and the USSR, A biographical musical-literary dictionary-reference book of Russian and Soviet guitar figures) Tiumen, 1992.
8 I am indebted to Abel Nagytothy-Toth for a copy of this letter.
9 Page 82, left column, last paragraph.
10 Classical Guitar magazine, January, 1987, p. 62.
11 Gitara v Rossii, page 68.
12 See: A.M. Sokolova, “Kontsertnaia zhizn’” (Concert life), in Istoria Russkoi Muzyki (History of Russian Music), (Edited by Iu. Keldysh,) Moscow, 1986, pp. 266-73.
13 See: P.N. Petrov, Istoria rodov Russkogo Dvorianstva (History of Russian Noble Families) St. Petersburg, 1886, reprinted 1991. Volume 2, pp. 66-69.
14 The same assertion is repeated again, in both versions, in Chapter 5, the last paragraph of the Guitar Duets subheading.
15 Reference was made to: David Batser and Boleslav Rabinovich, Russkaia Narodnaia Muzyka (Russian folk music), Moscow, 1981.
16 The Complete Works for Guitar, Volume 8, London, Tecla, ISBN 0-906953-35-9.
17 Other parts of it went to various other collectors, myself included.
18 See: Sokolova, Kontsertnaia zhizn’, op. cit.
19 Russian songs, traditionally, were identified by the first line of the text. In this case, Po ulitse mostovoi (Along the Gravel Road) are the words that begin the song, and Ia po tsvetikam khodila, (I Walked Among the Flowers) the words which begin the second section of the same song. The tune was traditionally known as both.
20 See: O.E. Deutch, Musikverlag Nummern, Berlin, 1961, p. 6.
21 See: Boris Volman, Russkie Notnye izdaniia XIX- nachala XX veka, (Russian musical Editions of the 19th to the beginning of the 20th centuries.) Leningrad, 1970, p. 50.
22 Boris Volman, Russkie Notnye izdaniia p. 34.
23 See: Cecil Hopkinson, A Bibliographical Thematic Catalogue of the works of John Field (1782-1837), London, 1961, No. 10, page 19.
24 KENYON DE PASCUAL, B.: “Ventas de instrumentos musicales en Madrid durante la segunda mitad del siglo XVIII (Parte II).” In Revista de Musicología, VI, 1983, 299-308.


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