Classical 91.5

Celebrating with Fernando Sor

Feb 11, 2019

Lithograph of Fernando Sor by Joseph Bordes, ca. 1825

Guitarist (and Rochester treasure) Lawrence Johnson was featured earlier on WXXI as part of our series Musicians of Rochester. He and I have stayed in touch since that interview, and he recently reminded me that February 12th is most likely the birthday of his favorite composer Fernando Sor:  

"Fernando Sor was probably born Feb. 12 (1778) - the same month and day as your birthday! (The only record we have is his baptism on Feb. 14, 1778 - my understanding is that generally the birth preceeds the baptism - especially in winter months - by at least two days." 

In honor of that shared birthday, I asked Lawrence to share a few facts about Fernando Sor, along with a few recordings of his works. If these facts intrigue, you can also read more in this essay Lawrence Johnson wrote about this long overlooked guitarist/composer who has recently received more recognition and acclaim.

1. Where did Sor study guitar? 

Evidently his only teacher was his father, Joan Sors, an amateur guitarist who died in 1789 when his son was 10 or 11. Yet Sor certainly was influenced on how to notate multi-voiced guitar music by viewing the music of Federico Moretti (1769-1839) Moretti was not only a great innovater of guitar notation but was very active in Spain during Sor's  youth. However there is no evidence that Sor ever personally met or even heard Moretti play!  

2. Where did Sor study theory, harmony and composition? 

Shortly after the death of his father, Sor was enrolled as a chorister at the justly famed Monastery of Montserrat, where he received a wide-ranging musical education under the guidance of Father Anselmo Viola (1738-1798) and the organist Narciso Casanovas (1747-1799). He also studied singing and vocal writing.

3. Did Sor ever marry and/or have children? 

Around 1812 in Spain he requested permission to get married, but it is unclear to whom and whether he did or not. Within a year he was forced into exile to France. Did a "wife" follow him? We don't know. However In 1815, following Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, Sor settled in London with a woman known as his wife and with a young daughter (Charlotte?). In the closing "Funeral March" movement of his late masterpiece "Fantasia Elegiaque" Op. 59 (1837) Sor wrote Charlotte! adieu! Charlotte preceded Sor's own passing (1839) by two years.  

Learn more about Lawrence Johnson and his complete recordings of Fernando Sor's music in this Musicians of Rochester interview and through his website