WEEK 1: Exploring Sor's Music!

WELCOME TO THE MAIN THREAD FOR THE FIRST WEEK OF "Ferndando Sor" PRACTICE CHALLENGE! 

  1. Select a mesmerizing piece from Fernando Sor! Whether it be a delicate Sor etude, a powerful solo work , or a little miniature, the repertoire is in your hands 🎼
  2. Dedicate yourself to consistent practice and share your musical evolution with our community. Aim for daily practice sessions and upload a minimum of two videos each week to document your progress. This will not only fuel your dedication but will also allow us to partake in your musical expedition within our tonebase family!
  3. Contribute your most cherished performance or recording that resonates with the "Sor Guitar Soiree." Your contribution will not only motivate but also help curate a diverse anthology of pieces for our members to discover and enjoy.. 🎧

↓ Happy Sharing! ↓

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  • Fantasie Elegiaque Op 59 Nov 7

    Okay, when I got an email inviting me to join this challenge, I just could not resist. And so it is with more than a little fear and trembling that I have started working on this monumental piece of music, knowing full well that I will not finish working on it by the end of this challenge (if I ever finish at all).  It’s all about the journey, though, right?

    This piece is dedicated to Madame Charlotte Beslay, who had been a student of Sor’s, but who died in childbirth in 1835, less than a year before Sor wrote the piece. It is widely suspected that Sor was in love with her. It is one of Sor’s last pieces, as he himself died in 1839.

    With a piece this size (it generally lasts between 15-20 minutes, depending upon the tempo) dividing it into sections is vital. Sor himself has already divided it into two parts: an Andante Largo and a Marche Funebre. For now, I will only be considering the Andante Largo.

    Carlo Marchione has a video lesson here on TB in which he divides the Andante Largo into five sections, and I really like his breakdown. He says that it follows the five parts of a “grave speech” according to the rhetorical norms of Sor’s time. Here is my best understanding of the five parts:

    1.       Measures 1-34 Introduction. Here the announcement is made that the person is dead, and this section expresses universal mourning for the dead person. Notice the descending chromaticism and the rhythmical “heartbeats” in this section.

    2.       Measures 35-50 Personal Lament. Here the individual giving the speech expresses his grief over the dead person. The music here is like a deeply sorrowful aria. Marchione likes to play this section somewhat piano.

    3.       Measures 51-66 More intense despair. The individual giving the speech now expresses grief with even more powerful emotion. Musically, Sor repeats the material from the previous section, but with more ornamentation that suggests deeper emotion. Marchione likes to play this section more forte.

    4.       Measures 67-107 Consolation. The person giving the speech now begins to express a bit of hope, albeit still tinged with sadness. Musically, Sor changes the key to G major. There are still several dark harmonies and chromaticism, however, that make it clear that the happiness is still a bit false, like a mask.

    5.       Measures 108-134 Conclusion. Like the introduction, this section of the speech expresses more universal lament. Musically, there are several similarities between this section and the first section, most notably the triplets.

    Here is an initial video with just the first section, measures 1-34. An unfingered score is attached.

    • Eric Phillips Welcome back Eric! You're working on strong stuff and your initial work is already in shape, can't wait to hear your progress on that. 💪

      Like 1
      • David Krupka
      • Amateur guitarist/lutenist
      • David_Krupka
      • 7 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Eric Phillips You're off to your usual great start with this one, Eric!  (Frankly it won't surprise me if you do manage to get through the entire piece before the challenge is over.) Technically, it's well within your range - the main difficulty (it seems to me) is effective articulation of the ornamental passages, but since in other performances (for example the Andante Largo from opus 5) you've shown real mastery of this aspect of Sor's style, I don't see this as presenting you with much trouble.

      If you haven't seen Sor's interesting preface to the Fantasie (included in the original edition, available at IMSLP) it's well worth reading. He argues that a proper interpretation of such a solemn work is greatly facilitated by use of Aguado's then newly-invented 'Tripod' because of the freedom given to the left hand (no longer needed to support the neck) to make quick movements from one position to another. Since the only truly problematic shifts here occur in the ornaments, I presume this is what he has in mind, but I may of course be wrong about this. To give a concrete example, I take him to mean that the very first such figure, in the seventh measure of the second section, is not to be played in the sixth position (as seems natural) but rather entirely on the first string. Anyhow, I'm sure you have your own ideas about how best to execute these passages - and I look forward to hearing them!

      https://s9.imslp.org/files/imglnks/usimg/4/4f/IMSLP659909-PMLP95050-Sor_F-Fantaisie_elegiaque_op59.pdf

      Like 1
    • David Krupka Thanks so much, David. I am working on that second section now and exploring different possibilities. For that particular measure, I considered playing it in sixth position across two strings, but instead I chose to play it all on the first string. I like the consistency of tone, but also the articulation of going up a string as the figure rises. It’s good to know that such fingering may be Sor’s intention as well.

      Like 1
      • Wainull
      • Wai_Ng
      • 7 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Eric Phillips What an interesting background story behind the piece, we all miss your playing, Eric! Thank you for once again sharing such wonderful music with us. I've never played Sor's music beyond his beginner etudes, so this month's challenge presents an excellent opportunity for me to explore more of his repertoire.

      Like 1
    • Eric Phillips So nice to see and hear your beautiful music again Eric!  It hasn’t been the same around here without you!  I found the historical context very interesting.  Thank you for hopping back on.

      Like 1
    • Blaise Laflamme Wai Marilyn Blodget Thank you, Blaise, Wai, and Marilyn!

      Like 1
    • Wai Thanks, Wai! Have you chosen a piece(s) yet?

      Like 1
    • Eric Phillips Thanks for bringing this remarkable piece to life Eric. Concur with the comments above that you have made a great start and I look forward to your progress with it. Thanks also for the very helpful "grave speech" outline and background story.  Good to participate in this Sor challenge with you.

      Like 1
      • Wainull
      • Wai_Ng
      • 7 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Eric Phillips I was practicing Giuliani's version of Folies d'Espagne before this challenge started, so I thought, why not try Sor's version for this challenge? Well, I have already hit a wall with the first variation; all the melodies in thirds were killing me.😂

      Like 1
    • Wai Great choice! The thing I like about theme and variations is, if a variation is too difficult, you can just take it out. The only people who will ever know are guitar geeks like us!

      In fact, here is a version by an amazing guitarist named Ulrich Wedemeier in which he only plays one variation, plus the wonderful minuet at the end. His primary instrument is the lute, and you can see it in his right hand technique.

      Like 1
      • David Krupka
      • Amateur guitarist/lutenist
      • David_Krupka
      • 7 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Eric Phillips Wai I agree with Eric, Wai. Especially for a 'challenge' like this, just learn whatever variations you are able to. (Having said that, I think you'll master those parallel thirds in no time! - the real problem, if you ask me, is holding the sustained notes in the second measure of the final variation! 😫) Btw, there are some interesting lectures on the history of the guitar (given by Christopher Page) available at the Gresham College YT channel. (Actually, they have a lot of interesting lectures on just about any subject you care to name!)

      Like 2
    • Wai Would you be willing to share with us your work on Giuliani’s variations? I would love to hear it, and I am sure others would as well. You could post it in the practice diary if you didn’t want to put it here in the Sor challenge (although nobody would mind if you did).

      Like 1
      • Wainull
      • Wai_Ng
      • 7 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Eric Phillips I have only learned the theme, variations I and II, and just like Sor's version, they are more challenging than I initially thought. Here is the recording I made last week, although I recorded them separately to save time. I hope to eventually learn the entire piece and create a complete set.

      Like 2
      • David Krupka
      • Amateur guitarist/lutenist
      • David_Krupka
      • 7 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Wai 

      You've made a good start on this, Wai. I hope you don't mind if I point out an error you're making in the second variation. You are articulating the group of three slurred sixteenths that occur in the first measure (and elsewhere) as though it were an ornament, rather than giving each note its full value. The result is that the overall meter in the movement is distorted. Either the slurred groups need to be slower, or the articulated sixteenths (for example those in the second measure) need to be faster. (A little of both is probably what's needed.) It would be worth listening to good recording of the piece to appreciate what you're doing wrong - you'll hear it right away. I like Patrik Kleemola's YT performance, although there are of course many other good versions: 

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GoFneM6_DkA

      Btw, I wouldn't say Giuliani's setting of 'la Folia' is any easier than Sor's, although the nature of the difficulties are quite different. What they have in common is that they're both challenging!

      Like 1
      • Wainull
      • Wai_Ng
      • 7 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      David Krupka Thank you, David! Yes, I am also aware of the issue you mentioned in the comment. To play those 16th notes evenly, I have to practice with a metronome. However, let me first give Sor's version a try. 😄

      Like 1
    • Wai That’s beautiful, Wai! I particularly enjoy the second variation. Great work!

      I also hopped over to your YouTube page. Wonderful stuff! I especially liked the De Visee. Everyone here should go check that out.

      Like 1
  • Earlier this year, I decided to learn some music from Sor. I bought the 25 Sor studies Opus 60 book from Bradford Werner because there is also a youtube video available with him playing the 25 studies.

    My first recording of the no 1 was in June this year and My first recording of the no 2 was in July. I kept working once or twice a week on both pieces since then. As a first contribution to this challenge, I felt this could be a good idea to record again these pieces and see if I made any progress during the 4 months gap.

    Here are the recordings.

    Some changes - new eyeglasses - no metronome - starting to use fingernails 😉

    I still feel that I have years of work before pretending I am a good guitar player but I also feel I made some progress 🎉 

    I will now start working on no.3 - This will certainly take a week or more before I can post a first recording

    Like 4
    • Andre Bernier What great improvement in sound quality and fluidity! It's so wonderful that, wherever we are on our guitar journey, Sor can be one of our companions.

      One suggestion I would have is that you try to have a bit more curvature in your right hand. Your first knuckle (the largest one, closest to the wrist) looks to be a bit flat to me. Curving it more would help you be able to bring your fingers more into the palm of your hand when plucking, which would improve your tone even more.

      Like
      • Jim King
      • Retired
      • Jim_king
      • 7 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Andre Bernier Sounding good.  Looking forward to seeing your progress.

      Like
    • Andre Bernier I agree with Eric, what an improvement since the last recording. And to complement Eric suggestion about your right hand I'll point out that you should try to relax your thumb and ensure it doesn't bend inwards your hand, try to keep it as when you pluck a string.

      Like 1
    • Eric Phillips Thanks Eric. I will start working on your suggestion right now.👍

      Like 1
    • Jim King  Thanks Jim, Are you going to post your work?

      Like
    • Blaise Laflamme  Thanks Blaise. I will start working on your suggestion right now. I hope I will have improved my right hand position in the next recording.

      Like
    • Andre Bernier Wow! What a difference with nails! One nail care tool I use is a set of micro mesh sanding cloths (1800 -12,000 grit) available from www.micro-surface.com, or Amazon. (I use them all sequentially.) Another thing I find helpful is to choreograph the right hand fingering and write it in your score. I notice you use a lot of repeating fingers. It’s usually more fluid to alternate. Great progress Andre!

      Like
      • Jack Stewart
      • Retired
      • Jack_Stewart
      • 7 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Andre Bernier Wow Andre, great progress. You are sounding much better. I really look forward to your further progress.

      Like
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