Fernando Sor: Ariettina

For Voice and Piano or Guitar

Dedicated to the Princess Zinaida Volkonskaya

12 pp. $9.95. Presser Order number 494-02881 (DTMO-11)

Original manuscript can be seen here.

Arrietina.jpgThis edition is based on a previously unknown autograph manuscript, now housed at the Houghton Library at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA. The title page of the manuscript reads as follows:

Ariettina / Con accompagnamento di Piano forte / Composta / e Dedicata a
S. Eccell.a La Sign.a Principessa Zenaida Volkonsky / da / Ferdinando Sor.

The dedicatee of this Ariettina, Zinaida Aleksandrovna Volkonskaya (1792-1862), was a famous Russian princess who was known as a writer, poet, composer and singer with a renowned mezzo-soprano voice. She was born in Turin, Italy in the family of a Russian ambassador, Prince Alexander Beloselsky-Belozersky. She became, so it was rumored, one of the lovers of Tsar Alexander I. She married Alexander’s aide-de-camp Prince Nikita Volkonsky in 1811. In 1824 she established in Moscow one of the most important literary salons of the city, a place that was frequented by the leading artists and writers of the time, people of the rank of Alexander Pushkin and Adam Mickiewicz. In 1829 she converted to Catholicism, moved to Italy, where the Villa Wolkonsky was a drawing magnet for European artists. In October 11, 1825, the Princess Volkonskaya gave a private party in her house in Moscow on the occasion of her birthday. This was a gala event that included several orchestral and theatrical presentations by many artists. We know that Sor appeared in that event as a singer, singing a duet with a certain Mlle. Akulova.

The poem O dolce amor di Zefiro set to music by Sor in the Ariettina presented here, was written by the Italian poet Angela Veronese Mantovani (1778–1847). It was first published in 1807 in a collection of poetry titled Rime pastorali, appearing under the poet’s pen name of Aglaja Anassillide. It is entirely possible that Fernando Sor was familiar with the poetry of Veronese/Anassillide before he went to Russia. But the coincidence of a Moscow publication of the Rime pastorali in the same year that Sor lived in Moscow, by the same publisher who published literary works by the Princess, and in the same year Sor was invited to perform at her house, leads me to conclude that in all probability, this Ariettina was composed in 1825, either as a commission from the Princess, or as an act of gratitude by the composer for favors she may have granted him. One is inclined to suspect that the Princess Volkonskaya, Tsar Alexander I’s former lover, a friend, and confidant of the Tsar for many years, may have been instrumental in securing for Sor the commission to write the Funeral March that was performed by the Preobrazhenski regimental orchestra during the Tsar’s funeral.

What strikes the eye immediately, is that the piano accompaniment is actually written with the guitar in mind. Hence, converting the piano line to a guitar single staff notation — and we know that Sor was perfectly capable of playing piano music on the guitar directly — seemed like a natural way to make this music accessible to guitarists who are not accustomed to read piano music on their instrument. This edition contains the original piano and voice lines, as they appear in the manuscript. The manuscript itself is reproduced in full facsimile in this edition. A guitar transcription of the accompaniment is given in parallel. Since the Ariettina is clearly written for a mezzo-soprano, the voice of the dedicatee, guitarists could make it accessible for singers with a high voice by using a capo as needed.

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Last Modified: Saturday, November 19, 2011 02:05 PM