William Carter - Sor Late Works - American Record Guide


Each of these pieces reflects the intimate side of Sor's output. They are mostly in slower tempos, contemplative and reflective-common in the last days of many composers. Even works with greater potential for drama are played with that character suppressed, as if Carter wants to bring out the meditative character that others may have missed.


He takes his quest for an authentic Sor voice seriously, and performs (as Sor did) without nails and on a 2006 Tony Johnson guitar patterned after 19th Century models. His excellent, extensive notes quote Sor expressing disdain for the sound of nails, which he finds lacking the infinite variety of sounds that the fingertips can produce.

Most modern guitarists would disagree-only a small minority do not use nails, and most of us believe that the combination of nail and flesh produces a wide range of timbre that flesh alone cannot. Carter makes an eloquent case in print for his choice, but not in his performances. He has a small range of sound, timbral and dynamic, and a maddening tendency to repeat by playing the passage exactly as he had just played it. Sor himself often changed repeated passages with a few different notes, as if to call attention to his role in the composition process.

Seven of the eight etudes are familiar from Segovia's collection of 20, though Carter uses Sor's original without Segovia's editing, if I'm not mistaken. He includes two multi-movement works, Morceau de Concert and Le Calme, both included on Stefano Palamidessi's 3-disc set of the complete fantasias (S/O 2011). Palamidessi plays them with a similar restraint, but with more color and expression. His is much better than Carter's, and his 3-disc set at Brilliant's price is less expensive than Carter's single SACD disc.

American Record Guide
01 November 2011