One of the oldest and most important musical structures still in use today is the ‘Theme and Variations’. The basic idea of such structure is to explore a musical theme in a way that the basic structure of the melody (e.g. rhythm, intervals, harmony) are still recognizable but the diverse musical results and general moods come from a creative approach to the possibilities the theme offers. In 19th century this form was so generalized that every composer was expected to have in his portfolio a good set of different Variations for solo instruments, ensembles and, sometimes, even orchestra.
Fernando Sor, Spanish composer who built up most of his career in Paris, was not different: he was one of the most prolific guitarists of his time, and a composer of very particular qualities. From his Studies to concert guitar pieces, Sor’s works, as any other great composer, require from guitarists a challenging combination of musical knowledge and technical competence.
Sor’s Introduction and Variations on a Theme by Mozart op.09 is one of the most performed guitar works of all times. However, as it happens to most masterpieces, it does not get worn out with time as each guitarist brings out a slightly different musical colour or technical aspect of the piece that contributes to adding a feeling of freshness to it. The theme used by Sor for this set of variations is called ‘Oh Cara Armonia’ and it comes from the even more popular opera The Magic Flute. Sor’s exploration of the technical and musical capabilities of the guitar in the first half of 19h century is remarkable; technical aspects that make even 21st-century guitarists sweat of anxiety, which combined to extremely elegant and effective compositional solutions create a sense of completeness to audiences worldwide. The quality and popularity of the ‘Magic Flute Variations’ acquired it the status of one the most popular solo works of all concert music repertoire.