Recordings: Fernando Sor

Fernando Sor (1778 -1839) was born in Barcelona and was one of the leading guitar composers of the Classical Era. He had an adventurous musical life that started comparatively peacefully at the church choir of the Montserrat Convent close to Barcelona. During the reign of Napoleon, he served as a captain in the Spanish army and sided with the French emperor. The British were not amused, so Sor was forced to flee to France when the British seized power on the Iberic Peninsula. Paris became Sor’s home.

In the French capital, an active guitar scene had grown. In Paris he celebrated his greatest success as a guitarist and composer. People soon forgave him his political choices and appreciated his music. His concert tours brought him all over Europe, he even visited Russia. In his last years he was forgotten and he passed away in solitude.

In 1830 he published his didactical work Méthode Pour la Guitare, a quite advanced method for those days, that was translated in several languages.


These recordings of four Etudes from Op. 31 by Sor are my first attempts at recording in the digital age, early this century. At that time, I bought a Fostex VF08 8-channel digital recorder with two AKG C1000 microphones.

The Fostex was a heavy and sturdy piece of technology that digitized the microphone signal and stored it on the local hard disk. Yes, the designer probably had Keith Emerson’s antics on the Hammond in mind when he or she conceived a piece of earthquake-resistant hardware.

All facilities for the final mix were built into the Fostex, from reverberation to filtering and compression. Unfortunately, it was complicated to get the files from the Fostex to the computer. That was only possible via live playback. Post-processing therefore took a lot of time.

Still, this device was a relief compared to the cassette recorder, where you always heard some flutter. The digital sound was tight as a string. And there was room enough for hours of pinging.

I was quite proud then that I could offer my guitar teacher Ed Westerik a CD with some of my own recordings. 😉 I think he was proud that I had come this far…

Well, technology progressed, I sold the Fostex and purchased the practical combination of digital recorder and post-processing software. Still, I cherish these pieces as the only remaining digital recordings from 2002.

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