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Queen Guitar Rhapsodies

Meeting Sor and Tárrega In The Dream World

What Was It Like For You?

Here you have them, Fernando Sor and Francisco Tárrega, sitting in front of you, each has played to you, and you have played to them. In this dream world scenario, how best to sum up the differences between them and us?

Let's start with the sound each makes with the guitar. Most striking of all is their use of flesh technique. This may be the greatest single contributory factor to the difference in sound between modern guitar playing and that of yesteryear.

Our guitarist composer time-travellers have brought their guitars with them. Sor plays on a smaller guitar strung with gut strings, which produces a sweet sustaining sound. He plays without nails. Tárrega is showing off his new Torres model. It is a bigger instrument than Sor's and makes a deeper and brighter sound, although still not as large and resonant as modern instruments. Notice how he too plays without nails.

Listening to each play gives us a chance to note their approaches to tempo, rhythm and phrasing. The choice of tempo is a vital key, for it opens the door to the inner meaning of music, while rhythm and phrasing give shape to the meaning.

I can imagine Tárrega and Sor very interested in the modern guitar. It has a bigger dynamic range, nylon and wound strings, and a much larger resonating chamber. It is not the instrument for which they composed. How would they play the modern instrument?

Unfortunately I don't know, because at this moment our daydream encounter is cut short by a rude awakening, which is a pity. If we could have heard how each would have adapted their playing to the modern instrument, it would have put a varnish on our legendary meeting with them.

Of course, the reality is that I at least, have never had such a meeting. I have never heard Sor, Tárrega or Milan play and nor has any one else I know. For this reason we have to make do with circumstantial evidence, in other words, with the evidence available except for their actual playing.

Here is a summary of how you might enjoy tracking down the evidence of how Sor and Tárrega played:

Read eyewitness accounts of their playing, e.g. from their students.

Read the guitarists' own words, e.g. Sor's Guitar Method.

Listen to recordings by different artists and see how they have approached interpreting the music of composers long departed. Try to analyse the differences between them to discover why you might prefer one to the other.

Come to your own conclusions and put them into practise. Enjoy!

This has been my rough guide to the interpretation of music by dead composers.

Read more:
Fernando Sor: Method for the Spanish Guitar

November 2011

Printed from: http://www.carlosbonell.com/blog/?p=859 .
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