F. Sor Study in E minor Op.6 No.11

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F. Sor Study in E minor Op.6 No.11

Post by OSJ » Sat Feb 06, 2016 10:33 am

I have worked for a while with Segovia's edition of 20 Fernando Sor studies. This particular piece he numbered as 17 of 20. It's a particular favourite of mine, and while listening to a few other guitarists playing it I realised that Segovia had "recomposed" some of this, as he seemed to feel compelled to do sometimes. He changed the bass notes in bars 6 and 7 to start with. What I would like to discuss here, though, is what Segovia changed in bar 9, specifically, and also what guitarists seem to make of this, whether they work from Segovia or the original score.

In bar 9, we have an E minor arpeggio with G as the top melody note. In the original edition there is a C natural that comes in, followed by a C sharp. This leads chromatically to the note D of the D-major chord that appears in bar 10 following.

Segovia either did not like the C natural or thought it might be a 'typo', which does happen quite a lot in these scores. What he did was take out the C natural altogether so the C sharp is left coming in as the last note in the bar. When I was practicing and learning this piece, I found that bar 9 was awkward to play, and not very pleasing to the ear. The C sharp seems to just "jump in" unannounced. I felt very uncomfortable with it.

I then listened to different players and found that the best solution, for me, was to bring in the C sharp earlier, replacing the C natural in the score. This seems to work much better, is more comfortable to play, and makes more sense to me musically. Some players do this, some don't. But I have not yet heard anyone playing it with the C natural as in the original edition.

At ths stage I started to study the original score and tried all the different ways of playing bar 9. I came to the conclusion that the C natural, the original version of the score, was exactly what Fernando Sor intended. What I can't understand is, why do all the players that I have heard leave out or alter the C natural when there was nothing wrong with it in the first place? Is it that Segovia has planted seeds of doubt by leaving it out, so that we think, "Oh it must be wrong...!"

Firstly, the C natural is part of the key, not an accidental. The C sharp is an accidental and forms a very nice dissonant "E minor 6th" feel while leading to the D note in the next bar. Dissonance is very important to this piece of music, as anyone will know that has learned it by playing it very slowly at first. Once you get it up to tempo, the dissonance is less apparent, but it is integral to the music.

The chromatic run in E minor from the note B to C natural to C sharp is not uncommon in all kinds of music, not only classical. The most famous example is the James Bond theme! Composers from the early 19th century were doing a lot of beautiful stuff with chromatics, and this piece is a fine example. In my view, it rates with the all-time greatest melancholy studies, alongside Chopin.

Not only that, but if you play bar 9 exactly as written in the score, you then find that it is mirrored by the extremely dissonant A-sharp, for example, that appears played as a chromatic against the chord G-major in bar 20.

I would be interested to hear how others might have tackled this, and especially, if there is anyone who wants to try playing this with bar 9 exactly as in the original score, or that already does it like that.

Jack Dawkins

Re: F. Sor Study in E minor Op.6 No.11

Post by Jack Dawkins » Sun Feb 07, 2016 12:27 pm

I have no idea whether Segovia thought the C natural was an error or whether he just preferred it with the B - from what you say, it sounds as if he felt free to change compositions to suit his purposes or tastes. For what it's worth I think that is a healthy attitude.

I agree with you though that it is probably not an error. I think that the harmony at the beginning of bar 9 is indeed Em, but that by the time we get to the end we have a C# dim with dominant function, or - better in my view - a rootless A7. I think rootless seventh chords are much much more common than seems to be recognised.

On this analysis, there is a change of harmony in the middle of the bar where Em gives way to Am7. The Am7 is then converted into a dominant on the last beat, before resolving to D.

It seems to me that if the harmony is going to change during the bar, then - especially bearing in mind that this has not been set up in any way - the natural place for it to happen is on what you might call the secondary beat in the middle of the bar. In Segovia's version, not only is there a sudden change of harmony on the weakest beat of the bar, when as I say there has been nothing to set that up, but it is a chromatic harmony that appears without warning. That is bound to sound

With this in mind, I think Sor's version (assuming he did intend the C natural) is more competent. If the change happens on beat 2 I don't suppose it is so much of an issue to go directly to the C#, but you do have the option of the chromatic run all the way from B to D. Personally I like that option, but then there are some very nice versions on youtube with the three Bs.

I suppose we now have two canonical versions, and you have a choice... happy days!

My own guess would be that, if the standard version is now the one with the 3 Bs, it is probably more because - due to Segovia's influence - this has been more widely published and performed, than because guitarists working from the original score have decided the C must be a mistake, or inferred that Segovia thought it was.

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Re: F. Sor Study in E minor Op.6 No.11

Post by johnhall » Sun Feb 07, 2016 1:56 pm

Isn't that something? I never noticed the change made by Segovia. I was working with the Meissonnier edition and when playing through it I thought that was one of the most interesting measures harmonically. No wonder it never struck me when I played the Segovia version. I guess I am a sucker for chromaticism. If you are interested, my analysis including pdf's is here:

http://www.johnhallguitar.com/blog/harm ... de_11_op6/


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Re: F. Sor Study in E minor Op.6 No.11

Post by OSJ » Tue Feb 09, 2016 2:31 pm

Thank you for your very knowledgeable feedback on this. And it cerainly is a beautful study, however we decide to deal with the 9th bar. My main purpose for bringing this up for discussion was that if other players, such as myself, had not realised the c natural in that bar was perfectly "natural" (pardon the pun) in the composition, then it is like discovering a lost jewel in a mosaic. It has given me a great deal of pleasure to return it to the original and it works much better for me like that.

I would only add that - and well I suppose it might be a matter of taste - I do not much like the idea of changing what a composer wrote – the actual notes - unless it is really necessary. I'm sure people have very different views on that... And having said that, although I have not yet anywhere near mastered the Villa-Lobos Study No. 4 from Twelve Studies, I have a strong feeling that when I play it in future I might well make a serious departure from what seems to be the conventional way of playing the last 10 bars or so, and even further, to change the last chord by one note! But I should save that for another thread.

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