[Portions of this engraved version were initially printed and sold in a projected ten-volume edition, with different distribution of content, and different front matter. The earlier volumes have the imprints, variously, London: Tecla; Hebe's Web, 1997-2000 (see OCLC 38162239 and 47258003). Volume 1 contains the guitar solos op. 1-11, c1997 (Tecla 1201); volumes 7-10, c2000 (Hebe's Web 90207-90210), correspond in content to volumes 8-11 of the Tecla edition reviewed here. Other volumes not identified by the editor may also have been printed. Ed.]
In terms of sheer musical value, resourcefulness, and suitability to the instrument, one cannot find better classic guitar music in the early decades of the nineteenth century than that composed by Fernando Sor (1778-1839). Practically all literate guitar students and teachers in the twentieth century owe their understanding of the guitar as an instrument with serious multipartite--indeed sometimes truly polyphonic--musical capabilities to the etudes of Sor.
This reviewer, like so many of his peers, became familiar with Sor's studies through a standard postwar edition, widely available across North America and Europe and still in print through Hal Leonard Publications, the Twenty Studies for the Guitar, revised, edited, and fingered by Andres Segovia (New York: E. B. Marks, 1945; 2d ed., Milwaukee: Distributed by Hal Leonard Pub. Corp., 1980s; reissued with accompanying CD by Paul Henry, 1998). Segovia, who died in 1987, was a giant in the field of guitar publishing and recording. But like most giants, he had his weak points. One of them was an absence of humility when dealing with musical sources--the kind of respect that motivates true scholars to uncover and publish clean, reliable, and correctly identified readings of the historic literature. Those of us who, at one time or another, dealt with the aforementioned Segovia edition of Sor's studies labored in darkness. We did not have a clue that they were selectively, perhaps even capriciously, drawn from four d ifferent sets of studies, lessons, and exercises originally gathered and published by the composer as opp. 6, 29, 31, and 35. Segovia, as the editor, homogenized them, gave them new numberings, and presented them as if they were an integral set.
The editor-publisher who has done the most to make things right in sorting out the Sor sources and presenting them to the public, and not coincidentally the person responsible for the present edition, is Brian Jeffery. His five-volume facsimile edition of Sor's Complete Works for Guitar (New York: Shattinger International Music Corp.; distrb. by C. Hansen, 1977), followed by his even clearer nine-volume facsimile edition of the same with his own publishing house (The Complete Works for Guitar in Facsimiles of the Original Editions [London: Tecla Editions, 1982; reprinted with minor changes, 1996]), represented a great boon to both scholars and performers. Along with its successor, Mauro Giuliani: The Complete Works in Facsimiles of the Original Editions (London: Tecla, 1984-88), these sets have rightly secured their place in virtually all music libraries today as part of the core collection. The Sor facsimiles allowed several postwar generations of guitar students and teachers finally to see and reckon with t he sources--the same kinds of early editions, it has since become clear, that Segovia "revised, edited, and fingered" so liberally. A listing of the correct opus numbers for "the twenty" Sor studies in the Segovia edition, incidentally, is available on the Tecla Web site (www.tecla.com/catalog/0101a.htm [accessed 28 August 2002]).
What, then, does the present modern, engraved edition provide that the facsimiles do not? A skeptic might even wonder: Why bother engraving the first editions anew, with the attendant risk of introducing new errors (about which more will be said) in the attempt to correct old ones? The most obvious advantage is the clarity and legibility that modern music typesetting makes possible, along with such niceties as measure numbers for each piece.
The next advantage (though some may disagree) would be the updating of early-nineteenth-century music engraving conventions to today's standards. For instance, if a measure of music has four quarter notes in the treble part and a whole note in the bass (as does the first measure of op. 35, no. 1), today's publisher would left-justify the lower (whole) note to align it with the upper (quarter) note on the first beat of the measure, as is done in the New Complete Works (5:13). The same passage as engraved in the early nineteenth century, available in the Shattinger Complete Works for Guitar (3:64), presents the whole note centered within the measure, making it appear at first as if it is to be heard between the second and third beats. Obviously little is lost by aligning notes or parts vertically so that at a glance they appear to sound together.
Another norm in today's complete editions is the standardizing of clefs--a practice of almost no consequence for the New Complete Works, since ninety-nine percent of the sources used were already in the transposing treble clef that guitarists normally use. A notable exception is the Fantaisie, op. 7. It was first published by Pleyel (Paris, 1814) without opus number, at pitch, on the grand system, rather like piano music--a practice not uncommon with pieces originally composed for the lyre-guitar. Guitarists today do not readily take to this kind of notation. In the New Complete Works, Jeffery reduces the work to a single staff. The resulting text (see 1:48) is much easier to read; the various parts of the music, distinguished previously by their staves, remain intelligible through the careful use of note-stem directions--a convention that Sor himself consistently used.
There are excellent critical notes at the front of the eleven volumes. The notes to op. 7 point out that Meissonnier reissued the work in standard guitar notation around 1820, with a few minor changes, which Jeffery decided not to adopt here. But since the Meissonnier edition is reproduced in facsimile in volume 1 of the Complete Works for Guitar, anyone may consult it for variant readings. This is but one of many interesting opportunities to compare sources and readings that the New Complete Works of Sor have made possible.
The disadvantage of reengraving large quantities of music anew, alluded to earlier, is the risk of introducing new errors while trying to clean up the old ones. Yes, there are dozens of typographical errors throughout the New Complete Works, to no one's surprise, however humbling this revelation may be to the editor-publisher. Despite the best of intentions, editors and proofreaders invariably fail to catch all the bloopers in a new project like this. So the question becomes not whether, but how to handle the errata that start to trickle in when a work of this size is first put before the public.
Fortunately Tecla Editions, in this regard, appears to be making every effort to be the very model of the modern music publisher in the age of the Internet. First, it is providing for expedient feedback. The final paragraph of Jeffery's "Introduction to This Edition" (p. viii) states, prophetically:
As people play through this edition, they may still find places which present problems, or misprints. So that such things may be considered and perhaps changed in future printings, I would be very pleased to hear from them at email@example.com. Also, if any future comments are added or changes made in future printings, those comments or changes will also be available for reference on the Tecla Website.
Secondly, while Jeffery did not anticipate the need for an online errata, he has in fact provided just such a resource. As of August 2002, the first installments of errata for volumes 1-11 (errata for vols. 10-11 are listed under vol. 9) are linked to their respective volumes at www.tecla.com/catalog/1200.htm (accessed 28 August 2002). There are a dozen or more typographical errors currently reported for each volume, suggesting that this postproduction cleanup effort is being taken seriously. The errata can readily be printed off from the Web site and tipped into the respective volumes.
The wisdom of online errata aside, one might still quibble with an editorial policy for a modern edition of a complete works that does not scrupulously apply parentheses to editorial accidentals, whether cautionary (such as op. 15, no. 3, where parentheses are provided at m.13, but not at m. 6) or corrective. In this regard, there is a tersely worded "Editorial Practice" statement at the beginning of volume 1 (p. x) that states, in part, "Obvious errors are silently corrected. Precautionary accidentals are added where necessary in accordance with modern practice."
Obvious to whom? What about judgment calls? The problem is that we cannot know, without checking the new edition against the old facsimile, which added accidentals are which. The occasional remark, such as "In No. 5 some accidentals are editorial" found in the prefatory notes to op. 42 (5:xii) does not really help. Where does the source stop and the editor begin? I wonder, furthermore, in looking over the online errata for the Serenade, op. 37 (in vol. 5), why we are urged to "add a natural sign in square brackets to the high g" at page 52, m. 36, but are simply told to "add a sharp sign to the f" at page 55, m. 174 (www.tecla.com/catalog/l205errata.htm [accessed 28 August 2002]). Both interventions are needed to correct "obvious errors," so why bracket one and not the other? Why not bracket both?
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the New Complete Works, for those who are interested in early performance practice, is described this way in Jeffery's editorial practice statement (1:x): "All fingering in this edition is that which is given in the original editions. No fingering has been added." It is certainly eye-opening to see anew, and with complete clarity, the choices Sor evidently made in many places regarding fingerings. His music is much more revealing than Giuliani's in this regard. Sor's fingerings witness to an extraordinarily resourceful left-hand technique, capable sometimes of stretching a span of six frets (as in op. 37, m. 38). Small wonder the classic guitar of his era had a shorter neck and string length than does ours today! Sor's fingerings also sometimes suggest certain aesthetic choices that he must have made as a performer on his modest, gut-stringed instrument, perhaps to avoid intonation problems or to achieve interesting timbral effects.
Alas, my comparison of random passages of the New Complete Works with the facsimile Complete Works for editorial fidelity in the matter of fingerings has revealed problems. In a number of cases there are, without comment, gratuitous additions of fingerings where they do not appear in the earliest editions. The context in most instances shows the extra fingerings to be reasonable (op. 35, no. 17, mm. 14, 17, 19-23). But I certainly do not feel reassured that the new edition's fingerings are as faithful to the sources as the editorial policy statement would have us believe. I shall pass over the editor's corrections of obviously erroneous fingerings occurring in the sources, just mentioning that sometimes they are reported in the front matter, sometimes not. The few instances of incorrect fingerings I have found in the New Complete Works have been forwarded to the Tecla Web site.
Although nothing is stated specifically in the introduction about "improvements" in the notation of durations in Sor's music, Jeffery does allow, in a global yet rather vague way, that "a close examination of the music has produced very many improvements in details" (1:vii). What this seems to mean, among other things, is that he has taken a few liberties in writing out implied durations-tones that would just as easily be heard in performance whether one wrote them out or not. An example is the g's that occur on the last beats of op. 35, no. 1, mm. 9-13 and 17-21, being tied over to the first beats of the following measures. Recasting the notes this way is unnecessary. It simply is not faithful to the source, even if it does arguably serve a useful pedagogical end. A complete works project of this type is not the place for pedagogy. If one would not treat Mozart's piano music this way in a scholarly edition, one should not do so for Sor's guitar music either.
What is especially praiseworthy about the prefaces to each of the volumes in the New Complete Works is their wealth of historical, technical, and contextual information on the various pieces--something that Jeffery, who has authored the composer's definitive biography, Fernando Sor: Composer and Guitarist (2d ed., Soar Chapel, Penderyn, South Wales: Tecla, 1994), was uniquely equipped to provide. His liberal references to Sor's Methode pour la guitare (Paris: La Chevardiere, 1830; reprint, Geneva: Minkoff, 1981; English trans. by A. Merrick as Method for the Spanish Guitar, London: R. Cocks, 1850; reprint, New York: Da Capo Press, 1971, etc.), given in both French and English (his translations), are especially enlightening in regard to matters of technique.
In the final analysis, it is clear that the New Complete Works does not pretend to be an urtext edition, despite its critical apparatus. Nor does it present itself as a truly critical edition, despite the excellent prefatory essays and clean music typography. Rather, it calls itself simply "a modern re-engraved edition" with a variety of "improvements in detail" (1:vii). It has the form of a Gesamtausgabe, but functionally it is, at best, supplementary and complementary to the bedrock facsimile edition of Sor's guitar music already found in most music libraries.
On balance, Jeffery gives us a new look at Sor's guitar music, lightly edited to improve clarity and in a form that is engaging, clean, and legible. Furthermore, I am gratified to find in the critical notes to each piece evidence of a genuine engagement with the music on the part of the editor. With regard to the typographical errors and misprints that have shown up in the first printing: they are serious, but Tecla's online errata lists are an effective and responsible way of dealing with them. When considering whether an edition like this belongs in a library's noncirculating reference collection or its circulating performance collection, I would recommend the former, as most guitar students will be better served by a quality edition which has a modicum of position markings and the like. New performing editions of this music will no doubt follow, based on the solid foundation laid by this edition and its facsimile predecessors.
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|Author:||Heck, Thomas F.|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Dec 1, 2002|
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