Sidney Pratten *


After the hey-day of the classical guitar in the beginning of the nineteenth century, its popularity seemed to decline. From Makaroffs Memoires, however (see the Guitarities elsewhere on this site), we can read that there were many guitar enthusiasts nevertheless, also in England in the Victorian era.

In this time lived Catharina Josepha Pelzer (1824 – 1895), the daughter of the German guitarist and guitar teacher Ferdinand Pelzer. She followed in his steps and became a celebrated concert guitarist already at a young age. She performed together with amongst others Giulio Regondi. After her marriage with the flautist Robert Sidney Pratten she occupied herself with guitar instruction for the Victorian upper-class.

The habits of the nineteenth century Victorian era are quite obvious from the name she used after her marriage, Madame Sidney Pratten. Apparently besides her maiden name she also lost some of her identity, being named after her husband, even though she signed a number of her compositions with Catherina Josepha Pratten. After the demise of her husband Robert in 1868, she kept the name Sidney Pratten in his memory and did not revert to her maiden name.

It would take quite some time before the Sufragettes in their strife after women’s suffrage would revolt against this attitude and shock the male dominated establishment.

To be honest, Mrs. Sidney Pratten has a special position in this era, she is one of the very few female guitarists who made it to the concert stage.

After the style of her father, she wrote a guitar method, called Guitar Tutor. Unfortunately, this comprehensive method appeared too elaborative for the spoilt lords and ladies. Pratten found that even the simple works by Sor, Giuliani and Legnani were far too complicated for her teaching audience.

That was the reason why she later wrote a significantly simplified method, Learning the Guitar, Simplified by Mme Sidney Pratten. In this work she complemented the dull studies with sweet and simple melodies and added many illustrations of the fingerboard, even in color, because apparently her pupils were too lazy to learn to read scores. Her simplified method became a hit, it was reprinted ten times.

Besides public performances, Mrs. Sidney Pratten ventured in composition, partly as instructional material for her lessons. She composes in a very romantic style with turns which appear cloyingly sweet at times. Yet it is fun to explore this almost forgotten music, hence this transcription. The Boije Collection is a good source for music from this era.


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