Fernando Sor, Opus 35 - shall we learn it together?

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Tom Poore
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Re: Fernando Sor, Opus 35 - shall we learn it together?

Post by Tom Poore » Wed Jan 02, 2019 12:49 am

I’ll toss in an observation. When playing Sor etudes, pay attention to the rests. For example, the last measure of Op. 35, No. 1 has a half note for the melody that cuts off on the third beat, leaving the third beat bass note to stand alone. Letting the melody note linger past its notated value changes what Sor wrote, and makes the end sound less articulate and a tad muddy.

Fernando Sor was a very fine singer. In fact, when he lived in London, his renown as a voice teacher rivaled his reputation as a guitarist. He understood phrasing and articulation. The rests in his music reflect this. When playing Sor, it helps to imagine you’re reciting a poem. His instrumental music should sound like speech.

Orchestral players are often better at this than most guitarists. It’s an integral part of their training. Here’s an excellent orchestra performing an overture by Sor. The conductor is Neville Marriner:



When you know the style, then you’ll know what you’re working toward.

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Re: Fernando Sor, Opus 35 - shall we learn it together?

Post by Nick Cutroneo » Wed Jan 02, 2019 1:58 am

My one issue with the half note at the end of No. 1 is that in the A section, the phrases clearly end on Beat 3. I'm not convinced that cutting off the melody on beat 3 serves the phrase. Then there's the 2nd voice which I'm not necessarily convinced that the E/G diad its part of the "bass voice" but rather a 3rd inner voice to fill in the harmony. Thus one could make a convincing argument that all the notes could ring out at the end, rather than a single C bass.
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Re: Fernando Sor, Opus 35 - shall we learn it together?

Post by Tom Poore » Wed Jan 02, 2019 3:00 am

Nick Cutroneo wrote:My one issue with the half note at the end of No. 1 is that in the A section, the phrases clearly end on Beat 3. I'm not convinced that cutting off the melody on beat 3 serves the phrase. Then there's the 2nd voice which I'm not necessarily convinced that the E/G diad its part of the "bass voice" but rather a 3rd inner voice to fill in the harmony. Thus one could make a convincing argument that all the notes could ring out at the end, rather than a single C bass.
What you say is true. But consider a different tack. A final measure is a whole ’nother thing from a measure elsewhere. It serves a unique role in the musical narrative. There can be something aesthetically right about the last melody note politely stepping aside to give the bass the last say. It works. At any rate, Sor wrote it that way. I’m willing to sell what he wrote.

One of the dangers of playing music is that I might deform it into something that reflects my own biases. I must remind myself that the composer—better versed in music than I am—probably has better ideas. So I look closely at the notation, and try to intuit the musical logic of what the composer wrote.

Mind you, I’m no slave to the score. I change things when it suits me. But it seems a matter of basic respect to first heed what the composer is saying. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll learn something better than what my instincts would dictate. More than once, over the years, I’ve come around to a composer’s view of something that at first I didn’t like.

The question boils down to this: do I trust the composer?

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Re: Fernando Sor, Opus 35 - shall we learn it together?

Post by Nick Cutroneo » Wed Jan 02, 2019 3:38 am

Tom Poore wrote:
Wed Jan 02, 2019 3:00 am
What you say is true. But consider a different tack. A final measure is a whole ’nother thing from a measure elsewhere. It serves a unique role in the musical narrative. There can be something aesthetically right about the last melody note politely stepping aside to give the bass the last say. It works. At any rate, Sor wrote it that way. I’m willing to sell what he wrote.
If I had the ability to discuss it directly with Sor, I wager good money that he (like yourself) would agree and understand my perspective. More-over he might agree with me, or he may give me an explanation similar to what you said. But at the end of the day, through my years of working directly with composers they tend to be very open to what the performer brings to the table interpretation wise. I have a feeling Sor would respect my view point and give me approval. Also, if I were working with him directly on the piece, I'd obviously try to understand his perspective, try it his way and see if it worked based upon my interpretation. At the end of the day, I'm sure that Sor wouldn't be upset with my performance. Especially with the care and depth that I created my interpretation.
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Re: Fernando Sor, Opus 35 - shall we learn it together?

Post by Jorge Oliveira » Wed Jan 02, 2019 11:35 am

Nick Cutroneo wrote:
Tue Jan 01, 2019 5:54 pm
Jorge Oliveira wrote:
Tue Jan 01, 2019 5:41 pm

I do not understand what you mean by "Feeling it in 2 (or even in 1)...". Would you, please, be more specific? I would be quite grateful :).
Jorge - the piece is in 4/4 time. However, instead of beating the quarter notes, I've chosen to feel the pulse of the music as half notes. So I'm playing the piece in "2/2" in my mind. To me, this takes the heavy handed accents off beats 2 and 4 and they sound more like "up beats". The end result is that if the quarter note is at 144, the half notes are moving at 72 (half the speed of the quarter notes). To me, the slow rhythm of the bass line in the A section combined with the half note melody in the B and C sections of this piece support the concept of feeling the pulse in 2 rather than in 4. The end result is a more lyrical line.
Thank you, Nick, I'll listen to your rendition again taking in consideration what you said about playing this #1 with a "2/2 in your mind" :D. Indeed you mention this in your video but I did not fully understand what you meant. I'm now going to listen to the whole video and extract as much as I can from it. Thanks again :D.
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Re: Fernando Sor, Opus 35 - shall we learn it together?

Post by Jorge Oliveira » Wed Jan 02, 2019 12:44 pm

Jorge Oliveira wrote:
Wed Jan 02, 2019 11:35 am
Nick Cutroneo wrote:
Tue Jan 01, 2019 5:54 pm
Jorge Oliveira wrote:
Tue Jan 01, 2019 5:41 pm

I do not understand what you mean by "Feeling it in 2 (or even in 1)...". Would you, please, be more specific? I would be quite grateful :).
Jorge - the piece is in 4/4 time. However, instead of beating the quarter notes, I've chosen to feel the pulse of the music as half notes. So I'm playing the piece in "2/2" in my mind. To me, this takes the heavy handed accents off beats 2 and 4 and they sound more like "up beats". The end result is that if the quarter note is at 144, the half notes are moving at 72 (half the speed of the quarter notes). To me, the slow rhythm of the bass line in the A section combined with the half note melody in the B and C sections of this piece support the concept of feeling the pulse in 2 rather than in 4. The end result is a more lyrical line.
Thank you, Nick, I'll listen to your rendition again taking in consideration what you said about playing this #1 with a "2/2 in your mind" :D. Indeed you mention this in your video but I did not fully understand what you meant. I'm now going to listen to the whole video and extract as much as I can from it. Thanks again :D.
Right, I've listened to the whole of your video and I surely learned a lot. I may, then, post another rendition of this #1 with a slightly faster tempo, trying to keep it fluid and musical at the same time. I noticed, however, that, occasionally, you split notes - the two notes in the first beat of m.12, m.16 and m.17, for instance. I used to do that a lot, mostly because they sounded nice to me (as in m.1 of Tárrega's Una Lagrima, for instance, though there seems to be an indication to do it in the score of my Melchor Rodríguez's SONETO Edition of Tárrega's Obras Completas para Guitarra, Volumen III, page 31), but, quite recently, I was called the attention not to over do it. Your note splitting sounds nice, no doubt, but do you do it unconsciously or do you follow any specific criterium?
1972 - Kuniharu Nobe #8, 658/52, Spr, IN RW, Tokyo, JP
1976 - Ryoji Matsuoka No.50, 650/53, Ced, IN RW, JP
1979 - Ryoji Matsuoka No.40, 650/53, Ced, IN RW, JP
2014 - Hermanos Camps Master Nº 3, 650/52, CA Ced, MG RW, Banyoles, ES

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Re: Fernando Sor, Opus 35 - shall we learn it together?

Post by 2lost2find » Wed Jan 02, 2019 12:49 pm

I've played this entire opus at one point or another, and #17 is one of very few pieces that I've never rotated out of my repertoire. I'm tempted to join you and rediscover some of these pieces, but I'm in the midst of building a lute and experimenting with lute tunings at the moment.

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Re: Fernando Sor, Opus 35 - shall we learn it together?

Post by Nick Cutroneo » Wed Jan 02, 2019 3:59 pm

Jorge Oliveira wrote:
Wed Jan 02, 2019 12:44 pm
Your note splitting sounds nice, no doubt, but do you do it unconsciously or do you follow any specific criterium?
I just listened back - it was a while since I recorded the piece. A majority of them seem to happen at the end of phrases, as phrases die down. Would I do it the same again, not quite sure. What's more important is that the rhythmical pulse doesn't suffer because of it. Because at the point i the phrases where I do split the melody from the bass are points where I'm slowing down the tempo, it almost acts like a rolled chord, but I have time to "roll" because the tempo is slowing down and I'm filling up space.

There's one in the return of the A section, in the last phrase where I intentionally separate the notes because of bringing out the implied counterpoint.
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Re: Fernando Sor, Opus 35 - shall we learn it together?

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Wed Jan 02, 2019 4:47 pm

Tom Poore wrote:
Tue Jan 01, 2019 4:56 am
Maybe this will help get the ball rolling. I did Op. 35, No. 14 a few years ago. (Hope I’m not jumping the gun by skipping ahead to 14.) I originally posted this to the “Our recordings of Fernando Sor” section of Delcamp. But the old link is dead, so I may as well revive it here.
....
This etude tackles the challenge of playing dotted rhythms. These are always hard for the right hand—one must take particular care to give them the bounce and snap they need, without inadvertently rounding them off. Not content with giving us a single challenge, Sor also adds the problem of articulating two voices that are doing different things at the same time.
...
...
There's a dimension I always like to explore with people in the piece, that I don't recall seeing much discussed;
Firstly, it is an example of this composer harking back to earlier compositional styles, to whit, more or less baroque, even renaissance styles. Bear in mind that he would have heard a great deal of such music in his youth at the monastery. The best example of this thread in his work, to my knowledge, would be the famous Op 6 no 8, in which we have strict 3 part 'vocal-ready' counterpoint culminating in a canonic passage using invertible counterpoint with a free part (beats 2&3 of bar 26 to end). Other 'vocal' examples include Op 31/4 and arguably Op 35/3. In the case of Op 35/14 its more of an instrumental texture than a vocal. Oh and there's a snippet of 'Dowland-esque' cadence towards the end of Fantaisie Elegiaque.
Secondly, and for all its brevity of as much significance as the culminating canon of Op 6/8, Op 35/14 mm 8 (4th beat) to 12 (ends on 3rd beat) is a canon at the 7th. Some editions leave out the second lower voice open D string, I'd guess because to truly represent the canon that D needs damping after the following B, and failure to do so is even more obvious and disruptive if it is repeated. But whether its there or not the thing is what it is; I certainly know of no other similar device in any 19th century composer. I don't know this composer's duets well enough to know whether such things feature in any of those.
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Re: Fernando Sor, Opus 35 - shall we learn it together?

Post by Tom Poore » Wed Jan 02, 2019 4:54 pm

Nick Cutroneo wrote:If I had the ability to discuss it directly with Sor, I wager good money that he (like yourself) would agree and understand my perspective. More-over he might agree with me, or he may give me an explanation similar to what you said. But at the end of the day, through my years of working directly with composers they tend to be very open to what the performer brings to the table interpretation wise. I have a feeling Sor would respect my view point and give me approval. Also, if I were working with him directly on the piece, I'd obviously try to understand his perspective, try it his way and see if it worked based upon my interpretation. At the end of the day, I'm sure that Sor wouldn't be upset with my performance. Especially with the care and depth that I created my interpretation.
From what I’ve read, Sor took a dim view of those who imposed their own fanciful imaginings on his music. But we can’t ask him. So who knows?

This may sound strange, but I’ve no interest in expressing myself when I play music. Rather, I try to express what the music wants to be. This pushes me beyond my usual boundaries. When I find something greater than what I’d have done on my own, then I’m forced to better myself.

The deliberate pursuit of self-expression too often devolves into a black hole of mirror gazing. At its worst, it cranks out narcissists whose achievements are admired only by themselves and those who put hero worship above artistry.

Further, pursuing self-expression is redundant. Everything we do is self-expressive. We couldn’t avoid it if we tried.

The most important goal of an artist is to do something worthy. Self-expression is irrelevant. If art is done badly, then it’s not redeemed merely because it expresses the artist. And if art is done well, then the question of who did it is ancillary. (The prehistoric cave paintings of Lascaux are great art—that we don’t know who made them doesn’t diminish their value.) If I find someone who does art well, it’ll be the artistry that draws me in. Wanting to know more about the artist is the homage I pay to superior art.

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Re: Fernando Sor, Opus 35 - shall we learn it together?

Post by Nick Cutroneo » Wed Jan 02, 2019 7:52 pm

Tom Poore wrote:
Wed Jan 02, 2019 4:54 pm
From what I’ve read, Sor took a dim view of those who imposed their own fanciful imaginings on his music. But we can’t ask him. So who knows?
Since every aspect of what I've discussed has to do with how I have analyzed the piece - I doubt he'd see me imposing myself on the piece. Rather, Sor wrote it within the piece. This is the reason why in conservatory we take years of Ear Training, Music Theory and Music History - to create an informed opinion not based one our likes and dislikes or what we feel the piece should go, but based of an informed analysis of what's going on. In fact Tom, you agreed with my analysis of the phrase structure of the piece.
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Re: Fernando Sor, Opus 35 - shall we learn it together?

Post by BugDog » Wed Jan 02, 2019 8:46 pm

I've been living in this opus for while. I've made inroads in some, some are kicking my butt, some I've tasted but haven't yet pursued, some I haven't fooled with, and at least one (#5, apparently a study in 3rds) I didn't like and stopped working on.

Due to bandwidth and time constraints I don't know how much I can participate, but I think I'll at least follow the thread.

I'll be particularly interested when someone gets around to #11, the buttkicker.
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Re: Fernando Sor, Opus 35 - shall we learn it together?

Post by Tom Poore » Wed Jan 02, 2019 10:00 pm

Nick Cutroneo wrote:Since every aspect of what I've discussed has to do with how I have analyzed the piece - I doubt he'd see me imposing myself on the piece. Rather, Sor wrote it within the piece. This is the reason why in conservatory we take years of Ear Training, Music Theory and Music History - to create an informed opinion not based one our likes and dislikes or what we feel the piece should go, but based of an informed analysis of what's going on. In fact Tom, you agreed with my analysis of the phrase structure of the piece.
To be clear, I’ve no quarrel with either your performance or how you arrived at it. Nothing you’ve said or done can be construed as doing violence to what Sor wrote. And truth be told, I may be more apt than you to depart from the written note. So one can argue that, in arguing for fidelity to the score, I’m being more than a little disingenuous.

So be it.

To me, closely examining the score is never about divining the composer’s true intent. No matter how we try, we can’t read a composer’s mind—especially when the composer is from a Zeitgeist alien to us. So too often, we read into the music merely our own biases. Studying the score becomes unconscious data mining. We find in the notation what we expect to find.

Instead, I look for something that challenges my expectations.

Here’s an example. About fifteen years ago I recorded Sor’s Op. 44 bis. (http://www.pooretom.com/sor-project.html) All six pieces are waltzes in 3/8. At first, I played all Sor’s phrase endings as a quarter note followed by an eighth rest. And that’s how they’re sometimes notated. But looking closer at the score, I found that Sor often notated phrase endings as an eighth note followed by a quarter rest. I hadn’t been doing this, instead doing what was more familiar to me. Catching my oversight, I began trying what Sor wrote. It bothered me at first. It seemed the phrases cut off too abruptly. But sensing there was something in what Sor was doing, I stuck with it. Gradually, his aesthetic logic convinced me. What at first seemed too abrupt soon took on a kind of rhetorical confidence. Ending phrases with an eighth note was a musical mic drop. “Here I’ve said all I mean to say,” Sor implies, “so let’s move on.”

And that’s how I played it. To my ear, it’s better than what my unexamined biases had me doing. Now I’ll be honest. This is still my interpretation, run through the mill of my own biases. Self-expression wins in the end. But at the very least, I ended somewhere other than where I began. Art should do that. Art that doesn’t change us is wasted art.

“The mind can’t be purified without seeing things as they are.”

The older I get, the more I appreciate the spare wisdom of this Buddhist axiom. While my society sinks into a bathos of navel gazing, I yearn for something higher than relentless self-referentialism. So that which lifts me out of myself is something to cherish.

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Re: Fernando Sor, Opus 35 - shall we learn it together?

Post by Alexander Kalil » Thu Jan 03, 2019 3:43 pm

Jorge, please check your recording setting; the sound is quite distorted and the dynamics flat. I'm sure that's not how you sound in real. Perhaps it's time for an upgrade? I think if you get one of those small portable recorders or a USB mic to connect to the computer you'll get noticeably better results.

Otherwise I agree with Nick that feeling the music in 2 helps achieving more lyricism. You may find the piece actually easier to play faster, at least musically. I think you are already doing a good job with the piece, but would suggest to start letting loose on the strict metronomic pulse and start playing with the music a little; you may want to take some cues from Nick's beautiful rendition.

Tom, your rendition of #14 is delightful, thanks for sharing. Also thanks to you and Nick for your thoughtful exchange around musical interpretation.

BugDog wrote:
Wed Jan 02, 2019 8:46 pm
I'll be particularly interested when someone gets around to #11, the buttkicker.
Currently working on it, stay tuned for some joyful "buttkicking" soon :D

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Re: Fernando Sor, Opus 35 - shall we learn it together?

Post by Jorge Oliveira » Fri Jan 04, 2019 12:00 am

Alexander Kalil wrote:
Thu Jan 03, 2019 3:43 pm
Jorge, please check your recording setting; the sound is quite distorted and the dynamics flat. I'm sure that's not how you sound in real. Perhaps it's time for an upgrade? I think if you get one of those small portable recorders or a USB mic to connect to the computer you'll get noticeably better results.

Otherwise I agree with Nick that feeling the music in 2 helps achieving more lyricism. You may find the piece actually easier to play faster, at least musically. I think you are already doing a good job with the piece, but would suggest to start letting loose on the strict metronomic pulse and start playing with the music a little; you may want to take some cues from Nick's beautiful rendition.

...
Hi, Alexander, I'm delighted you stepped in, your contribution will be of great value to us all, I'm sure :D.

Concerning my record settings, well, I've checked the record of the #1 and it's OK. In fact, my recording system is the same as before: an iRig condenser microphone with a 3.8 mm analogue plug designed specifically for the iPhone, an Apple Lightning to 3.5 mm Headphone Jack Adapter (as my iPhone X no longer has a 3.8 mm audio socket), the iPhone X itself and a Zoom HandyRecorder app in it which produces the wav audio file. This audio file is then transferred to my Windows 10 computer for editing with Audacity. My HP PC has an Altec Lansing sound system with a Bass Subwoofer so I can listen to my records directly in the PC with a reasonable quality. Moreover, before posting I always listen them in my Bose SLIII bluetooth speaker, both the wma and the mp3 versions, just to make sure everything is all right. I suspect then, that you might be listening to the records on your PC and that its loudspeakers cannot reproduce the basses correctly (they will buzz). Am I right? Please, let me know. Having said that, in fact I've been musing already for some time with the idea of buying a better microphone (a Shure, may be) and/or a Zoom HandyRecorder H4N Pro or similar. But I'm not sure it is worthwhile and this doubt has kept me from jumping in... :D.

As for my "metronomic pulse", yes, you are right, my late records in Sor's Opus 60 Project, and also this #1 of Sor's Opus 35, have been made with an Apple AirPod in my left ear connected to a metronome app running in an old iPhone I still have around. So, it's true, I'm playing in strict tempo these pieces - no rubatos, no breaks between phrases, sections or repeats, no notes with values different from those in the score, etc, etc... Very dull, indeed :cry:, but, you see, I'm still learning the basics so I don't dare, yet, to try to play with "expression". I tried it in the past - before joining this Forum - and it's a sure recipe for loosing the sense of rhythm and irritate potential listeners of my records. And if I cannot play a piece with a ticking metronome, then it's an indication that I've not learned it yet. As for this #1, I started slowly with the metronome and increasing it bit by bit until I reached 1/4 = 130 bpm. I then slowed it down to a comfortable 125 bpm for recording. But I surely can play it faster and in a more assertive way, it's just a question of training. I may do it, but first, I would like to post a record of the #2, which is easier than the #1. Perhaps next week, as I have it already in my fingers... :D
1972 - Kuniharu Nobe #8, 658/52, Spr, IN RW, Tokyo, JP
1976 - Ryoji Matsuoka No.50, 650/53, Ced, IN RW, JP
1979 - Ryoji Matsuoka No.40, 650/53, Ced, IN RW, JP
2014 - Hermanos Camps Master Nº 3, 650/52, CA Ced, MG RW, Banyoles, ES

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