This time i made a transcript a bit more substantial than previous. I believe that all classical guitarist has faced at least once the famous Fernando Sor’s Op.9, the “Variations on a Theme of Mozart”.
This piece embodies Fernando Sor’s best characteristics as a composer, requiring great technique. It is a relatively frequently performed piece that serves as a “testing ground for every aspiring guitarist.” As said of this piece and Op.7, the Folies d’Espagne, by Brian Jeffrey, author of the largest Sor biography to date, “no space is wasted and the music devotes itself not to “guitaristic” effects but only to itself.”
The work is based on a melody from Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute. The opera was first performed in Vienna, 1791, and in German, while the first performances in Italian took place in 1794, so Sor could have feasibly written the piece any time since then. However, it is more likely that he was inspired to write the piece when the first major production was premiered in England in May 1819, when Sor was in the area.
The theme and the variations are based on this one that was used in numerous composer’s arrangements, some being by the flautist Drouet, by Herz, and by Mikhail Glinka. It is the theme played near the end of Act I called “Das klinget so herrlich”, in Italian either translating to “O dolce concento”, “O dolce armonia”, or, as Sor chose to use, “O cara armonia”. This last translation was also used in the vocal score of The Magic Flute published in Birchall, London in around 1813.
An excellent performance of the piece by Ana Vidovic:
When transcribing the variations on ukulele I felt like (let me the IT metaphor) a creative and talented programmer that succeed to run a tcp-ip stack and a web browser on a Commodore 64.
The starting point was the very first edition of Op.9, published in London in 1821 (here a PDF).
The original was in E major, but for a better usage of the ukulele tuning I preferred transpose a fifth lower , so rewriting everything in A major.
Let’s analyze the adaptations that I run on individual movements:
Introduction I was able to preserve the integrity of the melody, ‘lightening’ the second voice in the triplets.
Theme Practically equal to the original theme: for obvious limitations of extension, I had to give up some low notes or i had to resort to some octave jumps.
Var. 1 Also in this case the theme remains unchanged. Some low notes removed or moved one octave up to keep the harmonic skeleton nearest the original.
In the measure 58:
i have fighted with the limited extension of the fretboard of the soprano ukulele.
Despite the transposition of the melody a fifth below, I found myself having to play a B on the fourteenth fret of the first string.
Usually a soprano ukulele has only 12 frets, so I used the final part of the keyboard to ‘simulate’ the fourteenth fret, with unexpectedly good results.
Main theme remains unchanged. Some low notes removed.
Virtually identical to the original, except for a few bass removed.
In this variation I had to adapt the arpeggios to the fewer strings of the ukulele.
Var. 5 and Coda
In the original piece the arpeggios are made with a pull-off on the first string: in my version the arpeggios are realized in the first 3 strings.
In the ‘coda’ I had to adapt the ascending scales that bring to the final.
And finally, this is my execution:
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