FER­NANDO SOR Study Opus 6. No 9

Look­ing to the mas­ter of Span­ish clas­si­cal gui­tar Brid­get Mermikides finds a piece in D mi­nor that bal­ances tech­ni­cal in­struc­tion with mu­si­cal so­phis­ti­ca­tion.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

Brid­get Mermikides ar­ranges and tran­scribes an­other fab­u­lous piece from the mas­ter of clas­si­cal gui­tar études, the great Fer­nando Sor.

Once again we re­turn to the work of one of the found­ing fa­thers of the clas­si­cal gui­tar, the Span­ish com­poser and per­haps first vir­tu­oso of the in­stru­ment, Fer­nando Sor (1778-1839). In ad­di­tion to be­ing a busy per­former, re­spected teacher, prodi­gious com­poser in a range of con­texts (in­clud­ing two op­eras, nine bal­lets and three sym­phonies), Sor’s en­dur­ing in­flu­ence on the de­vel­op­ment of the clas­si­cal gui­tar can not be over­stated. His hun­dreds of gui­tar works, stud­ies, lessons and ex­er­cises, have forged gen­er­a­tions of clas­si­cal gui­tarists from stu­dent to mas­ter and are as use­ful (and used) to­day as much as ever.

Here, I’ve taken one of his ex­cel­lent pieces from his book of 12 Stud­ies (Opus 6), writ­ten in Lon­don in 1815 (where Sor lived and worked as a teacher, per­former and com­poser for some time). As is typ­i­cal of Sor’s gui­tar works, this piece man­ages to bal­ance tech­ni­cal in­struc­tion with a sat­is­fy­ing mu­si­cal so­phis­ti­ca­tion, and this is a use­ful piece for the stu­dent of both clas­si­cal gui­tar tech­nique and har­monic the­ory.

Com­posed in the key of D mi­nor (us­ing drop D tun­ing), the piece has a cen­tral sec­tion in the ‘rel­a­tive’ key of F ma­jor (from bar 11). Har­monic in­ter­est is cre­ated by ‘lean­ing’ on the chords in both th­ese keys with the use of sec­ondary dom­i­nants (dom­i­nant 7th chords a 5th above their tar­get – for ex­am­ple bar 46 the D7 a 5th above Gm). In ad­di­tion, Sor uses a type of har­monic de­vice that doesn’t quite fit in con­tem­po­rary pop and rock chord-nam­ing ter­mi­nol­ogy. Th­ese are known as ‘aug­mented 6th’ chords (se­cond minim of bars 19 and 23) and are a type of ap­proach chord that tar­gets the fol­low­ing chord like this: A lower voice ap­proaches the root of the tar­get via a semi­tone de­scent, and an up­per voice via a semi­tone as­cent. For ex­am­ple in bar 19 to 20,

Eb an de­scends a semi­tone to a D while (in the oc­tave above) a C# as­cends a semi­tone to a D.

Eb The in­ter­val be­tween the and C# (which is out­wardly re­solved) is an aug­mented 6th and the ad­di­tion of the G (a tritone away from each in­ter­val) cat­e­gorises it among other va­ri­eties as an ‘Ital­ian’ aug­mented 6th chord.

Eb7, In chord sym­bols I’ve la­belled it as an but since this is a sim­pli­fi­ca­tion I’ve in­cluded the ‘clas­si­cal’ la­belling of It+6.

In terms of gui­tar tech­nique, the work poses the chal­lenge of con­tin­u­ous 6th (and oc­ca­sion­ally 3rd) in­ter­vals, which in­volves both fret­ting stamina and pre­ci­sion, and pluck­ing hand co­or­di­na­tion. As ever, use the tab cap­tions to nav­i­gate the var­i­ous chal­lenges and take the time to de­velop flu­ency so that you can per­form the piece with the ex­pres­sion it re­quires.

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