Composer and Guitarist. Arguably the greatest guitar player of the early 19th Century, he helped spread the popularity of that instrument throughout Europe. He wrote music in a variety of genres but his fame today rests exclusively on his solo guitar pieces. Sor was born in Barcelona, Spain. He studied music at the Montserrat Monastery, but was largely self-taught as a guitarist. In 1797 he made his professional debut with an opera, "Telemachus On Calypso's Isle," and went on to enjoy the patronage of the Duchess of Alba. When Napoleon invaded Spain in 1808 Sor wrote patriotic and protest songs, but he later accepted an administrative job with the occupying government of Joseph Bonaparte. This left him in an awkward position after the French were driven out of Spain in 1813. Fearing reprisals, he fled to France and never returned to his country. From then on he made his living as a guitar virtuoso. After living in England, where he became the first guitarist to perform with the London Philharmonic, and an extended concert tour of Russia, Sor settled in Paris in 1827. Critics there hailed him as "The Beethoven of the Guitar." His greatest success as a composer was with the ballet "Cendrillon," which received over 100 performances between 1823 and 1830. Sor's last years were unhappy. His wife and daughter died suddenly within months of each other, his own health declined and he died after a long bout with tongue cancer. His grave at Montmartre Cemetery was unmarked until 1934. Sor composed over 200 pieces for solo guitar, including sonatas, waltzes, fantasies, and divertissments. His "Variations on a Theme by Mozart" (c. 1816) is considered his finest work. Although he wrote a Concertante for Guitar and String Trio (1817, now lost) and the "Grand Solo" Concerto in D (1822), he was unable to solve the problems of sound balance between the guitar and the orchestra and never produced a full-fledged concerto. His style was in a light Classical vein, influenced by Haydn and Boccherini, and the seeming lack of passion or profundity in his music has caused it to fall somewhat out of favor. But Sor's contributions greatly expanded guitar technique. His book "Guitar Method" (1830) was the most important treatise on the instrument written up to that time, and he improved the physical design of guitars to give them greater resonance. He also wrote dozens of instructional pieces. Several of them have been transcribed for concert performance by Andres Segovia.
Bio by: Bobb Edwards
au génial compositeur guitariste / Fernando Sor / 1778-1839 / Les Amis de la guitare / Paris Juillet 1936