Tackling Tecla 101

By Matanya Ophee

No one likes to be ignored. When I published my comments on Brian Jeffery’s publication of Mauro Giuliani’s Sonata Op. 15 in 1988, I expected that a debate on the merits of my comments, and on the entire issue of editing nineteenth century guitar music would ensue. This did not happen. The only debate that developed was a private one between Erik Stenstadvold and me. It was not addressed to the core issue of the article, which was, and still is, the validity of first editions as the only reliable source for information about the composer’s intentions, but rather was centered on a side issue of the interpretation of some writings by Alexander Weinmann which I did not even quote.

When Brian Jeffery published in 1993 his newly engraved and newly edited volume of studies by Fernando Sor(Note 1), I decided to overlook this publication as just another unfortunate pustule in the ever growing volume of editorial debris fostered on the guitar community and based on false pretenses. Following a quick perusal of the contents of the new book, it was obvious that if Brian Jeffery had ever read my discussion of his editorial methods which I published only five years earlier in Gitarre & Laute magazine, he obviously had not paid much attention to it. I had no desire to get entangled once again with preaching to the editorially challenged. It was enough to read, in the very first sentence of the Editor’s Preface that: “ . . . This book sets out to provide them [the studies] all, for the first time, complete in one book . . . ” That statement, I knew already, was simply not true. There was another book with a similar title, prepared by the same Brian Jeffery, and published by Shattinger International in 1978.(Note 2) The new book seemed to follow exactly the contents and the layout of the earlier one. The preface was expanded, the music was reset and as stated on the title page, edited by Brian Jeffery. So why the claim that this new book is the “first?”

The new book would have to make it or break it on its own. The market was anyway over populated with some very fine editions of the same material, chief among them the excellent critical edition by Ruggero Chiesa, published by Suvini- Zerboni. (Note 3) This was very curious, because together with the book, I also got a promotional flyer from Tecla Editions which stated that this was “The first new critical edition of all this music for over half a century.” Huh? (Colloquial interrogative) if this was the “first. . . in over half a century . . . ” what critical edition of all the studies of Sor is known to have been published more than 50 years ago? Beats me. I guess I did not know as much as I thought about the guitar and its repertoire. Jeffery could not possibly have made a reference to the edition of 20 Sor studies published by Segovia, could he? It fitted the time frame all right (published in 1945) but it was not complete and it had no pretensions to being critickle, cricketackle or crackpotcrackle, whatever. In any case, the fine critical edition by Ruggero Chiesa was certainly published in the time frame specified by Jeffery. To phrase this promotional blurb in this manner, was to my mind a shameless insult to the memory of one the finest editors the guitar world had ever known. But I was not going to get involved in this. Chiesa had passed away and I was sure his Italian partisans would do what’s necessary to reclaim his honor.

Almost as soon as the book was published, it was reviewed in Classical Guitar magazine. That fact alone set my face to a strange green hue of envy. I have submitted many of my own publications to this magazine in the past. On the average, they finally got to be reviewed, if at all, some 18 to 24 months after publication. (I have several editions which I submitted for review in 1994 and still not reviewed by CG.) Here was a review of a book published only a couple of months earlier. But that’s OK, par for the course, etc. Review by other magazines does not fare much better. Gitarre & Laute almost never publishes reviews of printed music, preferring to concentrate on reviews of recordings. Les Cahiers de la Guitare does review almost everything they get, but at best you get one or two paragraphs. il Fronimo’s record in reviewing is about the same as Classical Guitar. They will review any material which has immediate appeal to their writers, not necessarily in the same order of importance the publisher may attach to the same. In any case, CG is a British magazine, in spite of its claims for Internationalism and they do take care of their own first. And then I read the review:(Note 4)


“With the market already flooded with Sor editions, it is to Jeffery’s eternal credit that he has produced a publication which maintains the highest editorial standards and breaks some new ground . . .  it is without hesitation that I recommend this latest offering from a first-rate specialist publisher.” Paul Fowles.

It was a “good” review, the kind I received myself from Mr. Fowles on more than one occasion. The material I deleted here and replaced with an ellipsis, was the sort of discussion of technical matters which one could take exception to, but not of any great significance. Of course, my own impression of the same book was greatly different from that of Mr. Fowles. It would have been easy to characterize his use of such epithets as “eternal credit,” “highest editorial standards,” “break some new ground,” as nothing more than the expression of a cloying sycophancy, or the ritual adulation for a person who had become somewhat of a celebrity in the guitar world. But that would have been an unfair exercise of the information I possess. Obviously, Mr. Fowles had not read my critical remarks of Jeffery’s editorial methodology, only published in German until that point, and even more obvious: he did not share much of the information about these matters to which I am privy. In my view the book followed pretty much the same editorial standards used by the same editor in producing his edition of the Sonata Op. 15 by Mauro Giuliani which I discussed elsewhere. I thought of writing one of my usual LTTE’s, but since I could only register a different opinion, based on a different set of data than that available to Mr. Fowles no doubt, but nevertheless an opinion, and since the magazine has been rejecting my offerings with ever greater frequency whenever the discussion turned to British personalities, I did not bother.

And then the shit hit the fan.(Note 5) The book was reviewed in il Fronimo by Marco Riboni.(Note 6) I have had my own share of altercations with Mr. Riboni, in particular regarding his review of the first edition of the 10 Etudes by Giulio Regondi. I also read with much interest the several articles regarding Mauro Giuliani he published both in il Fronimo and in Gitarre & Laute. Whether I agreed with him or not, I knew him to be a careful writer who does not pull punches, and one who always do his homework. Riboni begins his review by paying the usual homages to Brian Jeffery’s biography of Sor and to his editions of the Complete Works of both Sor and Giuliani. Then he says:


“Stupisce quindi non poco constatare come con quest’ultima pubblicazione Brian Jeffery abbia invece compiuto un vero passo falso. Ma procediamo con calma.”

(It is amazing then to observe that with this latest publication Brian Jeffery has instead produced a true counterfeit. But let us proceed with calm. My translation)

The Italian word “passo falso” translates normally as “false step.” But it could also be rendered as “counterfeit,” which, so it seems to me, is really what Mr. Riboni had in mind. Vero? And then he proceeds with a caustic ferocity, barely concealing itself as a controlled calm:(Note 7)


“First of all, it is not true that the book contains all the studies, lessons and exercises by Sor: what happened to op. 44? The original title of the 1831 Pacini edition [of op. 44] doesn’t leave many doubts regarding its didactical purpose. Vingt-quatre petites Pièces Progressives pour la Guitare pour servir de leçons aux Elèves tout à fait Commençants . . . [our emphasis]. Moreover, the title is rather similar to that of op. 31 which is included in the volume that we are examining.”

Riboni’s indignance is perfectly justified. By the time he was to review this book, he had in front of him Ruggero Chiesa’s critical edition mentioned above, which does include op. 44, and for a very good reason: op. 44 is a group of pieces clearly intended by Sor to be used for teaching. The title translates as 24 progressive pieces for the guitar to be served as lessons for those students who are entirely beginners. What Riboni seems to have missed is that the new book by Jeffery was not new at all. Rather, it was simply a recycling job on the earlier Shattinger facsimile. As such, it copied the table of contents of that book precisely, and simply replaced the earlier origination with one produced by some kind of a modern music typesetting system. The claim, first enunciated in the preface to the 1978 book and repeated in the 1993 one, that the compilation represents all the studies, lessons and exercises by Sor, was evidently false and misleading. This is unfortunate, as obviously Jeffery himself, as the compiler of the Complete Works of Sor, must have known that op. 44 certainly belonged in any integral compilation of Sor’s didactical material. In his own preface to the 1982 publication of the work, Jeffery said:


“This set of 24 short and easy pieces for beginners was published in 1830 or early 1831, and so is contemporary with Sor’s Méthode of 1830. A preface explains why they were published separately rather than in the method itself: namely, in order that the presence of easy pieces there should not distract the reader’s attention from the essence of the method itself . . . ”(Note 8)

I am not surprised Jeffery ignored, or simply forgot his own writings on this subject. As I pointed out in my critique of the second edition of his Sor Biography, this lamentable lack of attention to his own writings is a recurring quirk in Jeffery’s methods. What I do find absolutely puzzling is that in this new book there is one new item which is not in the 1978 version, i.e., the reference to studies included in the Sor method. In itself, the item is not new at all, in spite of Paul Fowles remarks in this regard.(Note 9) The tight relationship between Sor’s didactical writings and his Méthode was already underscored by me in a series of articles in Classical Guitar magazine dedicated to nineteenth century guitar performance practice, and installment Nº 2 of the series in particular.(Note 10) The relationship was also explored in detail by Ruggero Chiesa in his critical edition mentioned above. Now that he decided to include the material from the Méthode, (typically, without giving credit for the idea to either myself or Chiesa) he should have at least seen a blinking red banner across the top of his mental browser saying HEY! OP. 44 HERE! REMEMBER ME? I CONTAIN LESSONS AND I AM RELATED TO THE MÉTHODE. Well, he didn’t and got flamed for it by Riboni. In a subsequent aggressive letter to the editors of il Fronimo, Jeffery says:


“One detail: your reviewer said that I should have included op. 44 of Sor’s. That is not the case. It would not have been scientific to include op. 44 because this is one of many such works by Sor, all of the same type—all directed to beginners and all fingered—that it would have been necessary to either include them all or none at all.” (Note 11)

Surprisingly, I agree with this sentiment. To be scientifically correct, one would have to accept the entire output of Sor of having one didactic purpose or another, whether the title makes such a reference or not. Including the rest of the clearly didactical works such as op. 47-51, would have made for a much larger and more expensive volume. But this is not a scientific question but a commercial one. The claim for a pure scientific consistency falls flat on its face when you consider that the one marking difference between op. 44 and op. 47-51, is that the word leçon is included in the title of the one, but not in the others. In other words, to be a “Complete” collection of studies, lessons and exercises, the book must contain op. 44, which is a reasonable compromise between the scientific and the practical. Does it matter, really? Not at all. The only problem I have is that since he decided not to include them all, Jeffery could not have claimed in good conscience that the selection is “complete,” “integral,” “all in one book” etc. Eventually, for purely commercial reasons having to do with the Associated Board lists, Jeffery discarded his steadfast dedication to scientific principles and included op. 44 in a reissue of Tecla 101. Good show, ol’ chap! But let’s get back to Riboni:


“The work is advertised as a critical edition (“The first new critical edition of all this music for over half a century,” so it is written in an illustrative flyer that was received in the editorial offices [of il Fronimo]) as well as an urtext (“Important new Urtext edition,” in the 1994 catalogue of the Heidelberg Distribution, p. 6 [apparently the distribution agency which supplied the review copies to the magazine]), but in reality it is neither one nor the other.”

And then Riboni goes into a detailed description, based on the writings of Georg Feder, of what consists of an urtext, and what are the parameters necessary for a critical edition. In his response, Jeffery stated that he was not responsible for the use of term urtext in a printed catalogue of his distributor and that it was unfair of the reviewer to criticize the use of the term critical edition because it is not included anywhere in the book itself, and in any case the particular flyer in which it was used has been withdrawn. He recognized that it was inexact to describe his edition as a critical one. It was practical in nature, to be used by students. That withdrawal took place, then, in 1994. Three years later I picked up a copy of the same flyer, proudly displayed on the shelves of a Swiss dealer of Tecla’s at the MusikMesse in Frankfurt. The new flyer includes all the data about the newer edition of Tecla 101, the one in which op. 44 was finally included, it gives the new address of the publisher in London, a new London phone number and a current e-mail address, all of which did not exist in 1994 when he wrote his response to Riboni. Here is a scanned image of that flyer:


I apologize. It looks crumpled and faded. On first reaction I threw it away in disgust when I realized that when he claimed in 1994 that the flyer, advertising the edition as critical, has been withdrawn, Brian Jeffery obviously lied. But then I thought the better of it and picked it up again, for future reference. The red bracket around the line

The first new critical edition of all this music for over half a century.

was added by me. Please also note the quotation from the review in Classical Guitar, which says “ . . . it is without hesitation that I recommend this edition” [slightly edited from the original Fowles text as given above], thus making Paul Fowles into a hapless accessory in this deception. In all probability Brian did in fact withdraw the flyer, as he told Riboni in 1994. For about five minutes. There is no question that now, mid-1997, the book is offered to the public as a critical edition. So what are the parameters of a critical edition?

Riboni tells us:(Note 12)


“A critical edition is one which is based on a verifiable critical method, based on an original text, [as well as other] transmitted texts, and equipped with a critical apparatus. So defined by the well-known German musicologist Georg Feder in Filologia musicale, Bologna, il Mulino, 1992, p. 154. Always according to Feder, among the various characteristics an edition must possess to be considered critical is the full description of the editorial criteria that have been used for editing it. The critical apparatus must include the complete description of the sources used (list of the manuscripts or of the printed editions consulted), the classification and the collation of the sources (those that have been used for the edition and an explanation for the motive for their selection) and the description of the interventions of the editor on the various components of the musical text . . .  none of this can be found in Jeffery’s edition.”

We are faced here with a twofold deception: indeed there is no claim in the book itself of any attempt to apply to it the methodology of a critical edition, as obviously, and so observed by Riboni, it is not to be found in it. But in a concerted publicity campaign, on flyers written and manufactured by Tecla Editions, Brian Jeffery sole proprietor, the book is sold as The first new critical edition of all this music for over half a century. Does Brian Jeffery, editor, have any clue what Brian Jeffery, proprietor and managing director of Tecla Editions is doing? And vice-versa?

In the next paragraph of his review, Riboni goes into fine details to prove that the book, in spite of the advertising flyer, is not a critical edition. Since the author seems to have agreed with him, for at least five minutes, there is no point in repeating this. What is worth quoting, and at some length, is Riboni’s dismay at discovering that the text as it appears in “the original editions”, has been often changed without telling anyone, and on one occasion, a whole new measure has been added to the musical text, because in the editor’s opinion the phrase was not symmetric enough.


“ . . . moreover, we are not in agreement with some instances in which the editor has demonstrated his intervention. For example: in Study op. 6 n. 6 (n. 12 in the Segovia edition) Brian Jeffery decided to consider D and B of m. 107 [second beat] as well as the B of the m. 108 [second beat also] natural. The alleged justification for this intervention must be the lack of sharp alterations in the original. A properly attentive critical assessment should really have as its purpose to succeed in recognizing the real intentions of the composer and to put aside a literal reading of the typographic misprints (certainly not a few in editions of the nineteenth century.) It should also consider the different conventions in the notation of music (in particular in the use of alterations). Both these components are present in this case, where the D and B of m. 107 must have been intended to be sharp. Also the B of m. 108: in fact this is a common descending chromatic progression of thirds, the chromatic model of which is amply present before and after this passage. Considering mm. 107-108 as strictly diatonic, would mean to interrupt the obvious regularity of this melodic design.”

Had Marco Riboni read my 1988 article, he would have had no difficulty in recognizing the reasons for Jeffery’s ill-fated intervention in this case. Jeffery's maxims are based on the notion that the first edition is king and it is the only possible source for understanding the composer’s intentions. It must be taken verbatim, never allowing for the possibility that it contains mistakes or is written according to different conventions than those current today. Anything else is suspect. But someplace along the line, Brian Jeffery also took some courses in music theory. Now he sees in m. 106 a B-sharp and a D-sharp on the first beat, and lo and behold, no modifying accidentals in the next measure. Aha, an obvious misprint. Right? So what is the mistake: missing sharps or missing naturals? in the back of his mind, he must have recalled that in the famous Segovia edition that particular passage was notated with sharps, and so recorded by hundreds of guitarists. So that won’t do. As every beginning student in music theory knows, precautionary modifying naturals in the next measure are obligatory. So he put them in. He could just as well have entered the sharps, as they appear not only in the Segovia edition, but also in that of Coste. But doing so would have required him to concede that later editions of the music, particularly those which he took great pains to bash publicly on more than one occasion may have some validity after all. To acknowledge that, would have meant to lose the entire rationale of the sales pitch for his editions. Definitely a non-starter for him. That a beautiful piece of virtuosity has been destroyed and rendered into musical nonsense in the process, is really not a problem. The majority of British teachers and their students, particularly those who adulate Brian Jeffery as a celebrity, would not dare question it. See the Fowles review for an example.

Riboni ends his review with a questioning the legitimacy of the claim for this being the “first new critical edition of all this music for over half a century.” He points out that the Chiesa critical edition is based not only on all the known early editions, but also on those of Napoléon Coste and Andrés Segovia. Would it, said he, that Brian Jeffery to whom guitarists owe so much, would not fall in the future into similar errors. As we have seen with the new release of Tecla 101 in which the same mistakes have been retained intact, there was little chance of that.

The plot thickens. Sometimes in 1994-95, the proprietor of Chanterelle verlag Mr. Michael Macmeeken decided to publish a new edition of the Complete Works of Fernando Sor. In his judgement, so he told me, the market could well accommodate such a new edition, particularly if it was edited and presented on more scholarly valid premises than the Tecla 101. Of course, such an edition would set itself up as a direct competitor to the Tecla. But we live in a capitalist world were the success or failure of competition depends not on government edicts but on the acceptance or rejection by the market. Such an edition would not be the first known challenge to the Tecla. There is the well-known Japanese edition edited by Jiro Nakano and published by Gendai Guitar, the Dutch edition edited by Mijndert Jape and published by van Teeseling (three volumes so far published), the numerous Ruggero Chiesa editions of the music of Sor, (though not pretending to be complete they do cover pretty much most of the main works in this repertoire), the new series published by Könnemann, Budapest and edited by Peter Päffgen, not to mention the many editions of various portions of this music too numerous to list. One more edition of these studies could not possibly be much of a threat to anyone, and if it can be sold, so Michael argued, he owes to the bottom line of the welfare of his enterprise to publish it. See how many different editions of Carcassi’s Op. 60 are available for sale! He then asked me to be the chief editor of the new series.

I was flattered, but I declined the offer. You see, I have my own publishing firm and my own agenda of publishing the things I believe in, the Complete Works of any one not being part of it. I am 5-6 years behind on the material I am already committed to publish, I have a lot of composers and editors ready to stop speaking to me and I really could not take off for the two or three years a really thorough job of preparing a critical edition of the Complete Works of Fernando Sor would require. Particularly when it was to be published by a colleague, not by me. Michael then asked me if I would agree to edit only the first volume of the lot, the one dedicated to Sor’s studies. I knew I could do a much better job than Brian Jeffery’s. I had at my disposal Marco Riboni’s comments, my own observations about the process, and a lot of music I already edited and published and in particular, the critical edition of the 10 Etudes of Giulio Regondi. I declined again. Not enough time in the day. I did agree to write an historical commentary, something I can whip up in a couple of hours, since the entire matter was already written in my head for some years now. But I agreed to contribute, only if the actual editor selected was someone I could trust and respect. I did not wish to have my name associated with editorial methods with which I could not agree. Obviously, that person would have to share the sentiments, or we would not be able to cooperate. Several names were tossed around and finally the editorial job was offered to the well-known guitarist-lutenist Richard Savino. To be honest, I have never seen a printed musical edition prepared by Richard. But I have had the unique pleasure of listening to some very fine recordings by him of the guitar quintets of Boccherini, a set of chamber music pieces very close to my heart. These performances were masterpieces of editorial care, as, quite obviously, Richard was not satisfied with a mere reading of the available scores, but also applied there his own editorial emendations. I fully concurred in the publisher’s decision to offer the job to Richard, and I am glad the offered was accepted and the editions prepared. I have been given a chance to proof read Richard’s edition and editorial comments, he was given a chance to read and comment on my historical Introduction. But the job of selecting the works to be included in the volume was retained by the publisher, Mr. Michael Macmeeken, with close consultation with me and with Richard. We did consider including all the works from op. 47 to 51, but that would have made the volume rather hefty and expensive. A compromise was then reached of limiting the works in the present volume to op. 6, 29, 31, 35, 44 and 60 plus the studies from the Méthode. The rest will be taken care of in a future volume of the series. The work was then published and the SHTF again.

The Chanterelle edition came out concurrently with some syllabus changes planned by the Associated Board, a major British agency that deals with music examinations. Needless to say, neither Richard Savino who is an American of Italian descent, and myself, a naturalized American of Russian-Israeli roots, had any ideas about the British scene and the commercial implications involved in having one’s edition listed on the AB syllabus. Personally, I am not even sure if such a listing amounts to a prescription by the Board, or merely a recommendation. But the fact was that the Chanterelle edition was one of those listed. So was the one by Tecla, the subject of this article. What ensued was a concerted campaign of slander and innuendos launched by Brian Jeffery, in a clear effort to discredit the Chanterelle edition. After evacuating his innards with all sorts of arcane details about the machinations of various players in the British AB scene, Brian Jeffery says:


“ . . . The evidence suggests that the Board then prescribed a different edition [different than Tecla 101] which they could not have seen and approved because it did not yet exist, in full knowledge that it was to be edited by an American airline pilot (!) . . . ” (Note 13)

What followed then was a heart-rending jeremiad lamenting the awful fate of poor innocent British children who will have to learn the music of Sor from an edition prepared by a pilot. Similar complaints have been made by Jeffery in private correspondence and it at least one LTTE to Classical Guitar magazine, where the offending phrase was excised by the editor. We can argue back and forth if an American airline pilot is more or less qualified to edit the music of Sor than let’s say, a London real-estate entrepreneur. The fact remains is that Richard Savino is not, nor has he ever been an American airline pilot or a pilot of any kind whatsoever. The Chanterelle edition was edited by him, a fact clearly demonstrated in the edition itself. I used to be a pilot for a major US airline, but I retired from that job in 1988. I am now a retired American airline pilot and a full time music editor and publisher. Besides being downright actionable, one reason the offending statement was quickly removed from the Tecla site, the argument is entirely misleading. It is a silly obfuscation which has nothing to do with the real issues. It is not the day job of the editor which determines if the work is acceptable or not. It is the work itself. No one would seriously argue that because Borodin was a chemist, Charles Ives an insurance salesman, Rimksy-Korsakov a naval officer, Giovanni Granata a barber or Marin Marais a physician, their music was essentially bad. No one would seriously argue that the musicological work done by amateurs such as Fryklund, Kinski, Karapetian, to mention a few names, is in anyway faulty because they earned their livelihood elsewhere.

The attack by Brian Jeffery on the Chanterelle edition continues unabated on the pages of Classical Guitar magazine. The last installment, in the April 1997 issue, is particularly virulent and contains a large number of undocumented and patently false claims. To illustrate his point, whatever that might have been, Jeffery draws an obscure reference to his aunt, who used to type the specifications for the Spitfire for the Air Ministry during WWII. I am not sure what was the sense of that comparison. I am sure she was a good typist, because the Spitfire was an airplane that actually flew. We had a bunch of them when I was a young fighter pilot with the Israeli Airforce back in the 1950s. It did get off the ground and was a joy to fly, though a bit cramped for big guys like myself. If Brian Jeffery’s edition of Tecla 101 ever got off the ground, it must have stalled and crashed almost immediately. Here is why: these are my own observations regarding the second issue of Tecla 101, the one in which the editor forgot all about scientific principles and added op. 44, obviously in reaction to its inclusion in the Chanterelle edition.

I find it absolutely amazing that the edition still retains the naturals in bars 107-108 in op. 6 Nº 6, the subject of a detailed criticism by Marco Riboni in reaction to the first edition of Tecla 101. Leaving this text unchanged, in spite of the fact that a major reviewer in a major journal had called attention to it, could mean that the editor does not agree with the reviewer’s conclusions. If so, why, when he responded to the review in an aggressive Letter to the Editor, did he not spell out why he thinks that the reviewer was wrong and that he was right? I think he did not offer any counter arguments, for the very simple reason that there aren’t any. Because if there are, he could have spelled them out in his new edition. Yet, he did not. There are many more similar instances throughout the book. As we all know, a book entirely clean of errors is an accident. We all have produced such editions and it would be disingenuous on my part to accuse Brian Jeffery for misdeeds I have committed myself. So the issue is not that the first edition contained errors. It is rather that these same errors, some of which have been pointed to the editor, have been retained in the second edition unchanged.

So here is a partial list of incongruities as observed on a quick perusal of the Tecla 101:

Commentary section: There is much one can say on the editor’s observations regarding some of the studies. Let me deal with one of them. In his commentary to study Op. 35 Nº 17, Brian Jeffery repeats an idea he published 16 years ago in his article on Segovia’s edition of the 20 studies. He says:


“ . . . 3) Study no. 6 in the Segovia edition (Sor’s op.35, no. 17) is a right hand thumb agilitiy exercise. The thumb plays all the bass notes—not only those which are on the beat, but also all the eighth notes which precede them in the bass and which are also played by the thumb. Anyone who has read Sor’s method and his remarks on the right hand thumb will know that this is the case. Thus, the beginning of this piece was intended by Sor to be played in the following way. The thumb leaps across the strings and the piece is a study in this movement of the thumb.”

The following paragraph laments Segovia’s fingering of the bass line with a thumb on the eighth note and an index finger on the quarter note on the beat, with two musical examples on how Brian Jeffery thinks it ought to be fingered and how it was fingered by Segovia. And the he goes on to tell us that


“ . . . The point of the excercise is lost, the very reason why the piece was composed; and the musicality of the piece is also lost, because the strong emphasis which the thumb gives disappears.”(Note 14)

At the time this article was written, in my living room on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, I did not feel myself in position to question Brian’s conclusions, even though I was accustomed to play this etude in Segovia’s fingering. In retrospect, I should have questioned it then. Too late, so I will question it now. The entire justification for proposing that this was a thumb agility exercise is not based on any fingering by Sor. The study, as published, does not contain r.h. fingering. It is based on the vague assumption that reading the method of Sor, one would immediately agree that this is the case. Unfortunately, there is nothing in the Sor method which discusses this kind of texture. There is in there, no doubt, a lot of discussion on the use of the thumb on all the strings, but the closest actual example given by Sor is in his Example 74, where he gives two choices of the use of the thumb. When the second note in the group is melodic in nature, it is to be played with the index finger, and when it has no melodic function, and only then, it is to be played by the thumb. I am afraid that in his haste to imply to Sor things Sor did not say, Jeffery misunderstood the musical structure of the piece. What we have here is not a mere melody with bass accompaniment, but a canonic interplay, question and answer if you will, between the treble and the bass. In this particular case, the second note, the one on the beat, is melodic in nature, not harmonic and to follow Sor's own dictum in Example 74, it must be played with the index finger. Moreover, by playing both notes with the thumb, the eighth note, always lower, is allowed to ring, creating what Rey de la Torre once referred to as “sound debris.” There is a good reason the eighth note is notated as an eighth. That is as long as it should sound! The composer could not have been any clearer than that. The only way to stop it from ringing is to damp it with the thumb, while the index finger is playing the note on the beat. In other words, there was no way in 1981, or in 1994-97, for Brian Jeffery to have known what Sor actually intended for this piece and the pronouncement that it was meant to be a thumb agility exercise is based on an obtuse misunderstanding of what Sor actually said and driven by a figment of Jeffery’s imagination, not on any thing Sor have said. But what about the argument that the strong emphasis on the beat is lost?

That, it seems to me, is the entire purpose of the exercise! This is one of the clearest examples that when he came back from Russia, Sor brought with him some influences from that musical culture. In Russian music, particularly that which is related to folk music, there is never a strong emphasis on the beat. This very study also appears as an original work of Vladimir Morkov (1801-1864) and it is still an open question whether it is a Sor original borrowed by Morkov or a Morkov original borrowed by Sor.

In other words, by setting himself up as Sor’s emissary on earth, the editor allowed a groundless assumption he made many years ago, to become a factor in the musical interpretation of an important study. I hope teachers would pay closer attention to the musical sense of the piece, and not to the confused pronouncements of a soi-disant clairvoyant.

Study op. 6 Nº 3, measure 8 beats /2-3: Bar line missing. This is a typical example of taking the original at face value. The bar line is also missing in the “original edition,” the Milhouse edition used by Jeffery. In the Segovia edition, there is a precautionary double bar line, in conformance with contemporary notational practices, separating the major from the minor, in front of an in-stave key change. It could be argued that in keeping the nineteenth century notation unchanged, the editor had not in fact made any grave alteration of the musical text. However, as an edition destined to be used by British teachers and by British school children whose musical welfare is so close to our hearts (forgive me the false holier-than-thou countenance I proclaim here), it would have been helpful if the editor did in fact insert this double bar line, and so indicated the actual separation between the sections of the piece. Segovia would have been proud of him and no one would complain.

Study op. 6 Nº 3, m. 26 beats 1;4: Chord on beat 1 altered without comment. In the Milhouse edition it reads from the bottom up d-a-b. Here it is B-f-b. In the next beat the notes in Milhouse are, a-g-f. Jeffery has f-e-d. Based on what authority? The editor does not say.

Study op. 6 Nº 6, m. 28 beat 1: c# missing.

Study op. 6 Nº 6, m. 54, beat 1: B# not b. This is a case of disregarding the testimony of Napoléon Coste, whose good example here was followed by Segovia. The reason the sharp makes better sense than a literal reading of the original, is the same as the one used by Riboni in denouncing the literal interpretation of a similar case in bars 107-8 (See below.) The chromatic figurations used by Sor before and after this location, demand not a diatonic reading, but a chromatic one. Obviously, Sor was aware of this omission in the printed text, and so informed his student. We have no reason to believe that Coste lied to us. If Brian Jeffery thinks he did, may we have an explanation why he thinks so?

Study op. 6 Nº 6, m. 58, beat 2: Double sharp missing on f. Same as above. The double sharp is an integral part of the melodic design, exactly as it is in the next measure. To ignore it is to introduce a melodic hiccup into the phrase.

Study op. 6 Nº 6, m. 107, beat 2: 2 sharps not 2 naturals. This was already discussed by Marco Riboni in his il Fronimo review. See above.

Study op. 6 Nº 6, m. 108, beat 2: b# not b. Ditto.

Study op. 6 Nº 7, m. 12: Melodic structure, an a-f group of eighth notes in the original was changed to an a-b-a triplet. Elsewhere in this study, between mm. 44-45, the editor added a whole measure, because, so he said, the phrase from m. 41 to m. 48 contained only seven measures. This symmetrization had drawn the ire of Riboni who castigated him for doing so. Who would even imagine adding a measure to the music of Haydn, just because the text contains an uneven phrase? He moralized. But at least, the author had told us what he did. If we don’t like it, we can ignore the addition. But why, then, did he not tell us about this drastic change in the melody? And on what scholarly or musical grounds this change has been made? English teachers and their students have a right to know!

I am getting tired of this exercise. There are about 50-60 additional instances where the editor has changed the original text without saying so, where he misunderstood the musical sense of the piece and did not change the original because doing so would have obliged him to recognize that the original is not sacrosanct, and where plain silly misprints were retained without correction.

We are being asked to accept the product of the editorial desk of Brian Jeffery not because it is a good product, carefully edited and professionally presented, but because this man pretends that the laurels on which he lies, the biography of Fernando Sor and the editions of the Complete Works of Sor and Giuliani, are all the credentials he needs. A Celebrity does not need to justify himself as humble mortals do. That, pardon me, is rubbish.

End Notes

1. Fernando Sor, The Complete Studies, Lessons, and Exercises for guitar Edited by Brian Jeffery, Tecla Editions, Soar Chapel, 1993. ISBN: 0-948607-00-9. Return to text

2. Fernando Sor, The Complete Studies for Classical Guitar Op. Nos. 6, 29, 31, 35, and 60. Complete Facsimile of the original editions with an introduction by Brian Jeffery. Shattinger International Music Corp., New York, 1978. ISBN: 0 8494 0138 0. Return to text

3. Fernando Sor, Studi per chitarra Edizione Integrale, Edizione critical e revisione di Ruggero Chiesa. Vol. I—op. 6 e 29; Vol. II—op. 31 e 35; Vol. III—op. 44, 60 e Studi dal Metodo. Milano, Suvini-Zerboni, 1984. Return to text

4. Paul Fowles, review of “Fernando Sor, The Complete Studies, Lessons, and Exercises for guitar Ed. by Brian Jeffery,” in Classical Guitar magazine, November 1993. Return to text

5. I apologize for using this vulgarism, but then, it is a perfect description of the impression I got on reading Riboni’s reaction. For once, I was not on the receiving end of Riboni’s ire, and I fully concurred in his observations. Return to text

6. Marco Riboni, review in il Fronimo, Nº 88, July 1994. Return to text

7. Italian text not included in the following quotations. All translations are mine. Return to text

8. Fernando Sor, The Complete Works for guitar in facsimiles of the original editions, Edited with notes and commentaries by Brian Jeffery. Vol. 6, Tecla Editions, London, 1982. ISBN: 0-906953-33-2. Return to text

9. " . . . and breaks new some new ground. This is achieved by including a commentary based on material from the Sor Méthode  . . . ” Return to text

10. Matanya Ophee, “Some Considerations of 19th Century Guitar Music and Its Performance Practice Today” Part II, in Classical Guitar, October, 1986, p. 35. Return to text

11. "Idee a confronto,” in il Fronimo, Nº 89, October 1994. Return to text

12. I am using these full quotations from the Riboni review not so much because they were written by someone else and are thus quotable, but because they were written and published some three years ago, were brought to the attention of the author, and obviously disregarded by him. Return to text

13. Downloaded from the Tecla web site at HTTP://www.users.dircon.co.uk/~tecla/news/devel.htm on 2/23/97 at 8:15pm. Don’t bother looking for it now. It has been removed since. Return to text

14. Brian Jeffery, “Fernando Sor’s ‘Twenty Studies’, A Reconsideration”, in Soundboard, VIII/4, November 1981, p 253. Return to text

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