Thanks to both.
Some years ago when I was a student at the Cleveland Institute of Music, I had a class next to a room where Peter Salaff coached student string quartets. (He is a founding member of the esteemed Cleveland Quartet.) Although I heard many different composers played in that room, there was one I heard most often: Haydn. For Salaff’s students, Haydn was clearly a rite of passage. And for good reason.
For guitarists, I believe Sor should be required playing. There are at least two reasons. First, Sor lives or dies on phrasing and articulation. Yes, all music does. But with Sor, these issues come to the fore. Since there’s so much repetition in early 19th century music, players need imagination to keep it from devolving into mindless “been there, done that.”
Second, in my experience, few guitarists are good at early 19th century music—particularly Sor. For confirmation, one need look no further than the Naxos complete recording of Sor’s guitar music. With few exceptions, this is a dispiriting slagheap of bland playing. One may be tempted to blame the composer. But when we hear the rare player who gets it right, it becomes obvious that it isn’t the music’s fault.
In my defense of Sor, I’ll let another guitarist of more renown than mine have the last word:
- “I think to overapply romanticism to Sor’s music is a great mistake. There’s a classicism—not unlike Mozart—in his style, which to my mind is a style of beautiful understatement. But if you give understatement space and time, it has a positive element that transcends the simplicity or the innocence of the material. Sor needs immense care and affection, and if one invests his music with that, I can’t see how anybody can object to it.”———(Julian Bream)
South Euclid, OH