Early in the 19th century, through his talent and sheer determination, Spanish guitarist and composer Fernando Sor raised Europe’s consciousness about the guitar’s suitability as a classical music instrument. Until Sor demonstrated the instrument’s range and suitability for classical music, the guitar was considered a common “tavern” instrument, but by passionately demonstrating his technical skill as a musician and composer, Fernando Sor gave the guitar a powerful and popular position in modern classical music.
Fernando Sor was born in Barcelona in 1778 to a well-respected family with a history of military service. Sor’s parents expected him to pursue a career in the military, but fate stepped in to change his destiny when his father introduced him to the guitar.
With no formal training, Sor became an accomplished guitarist and musician by the age of eight. His extraordinary talent caught the attention of Joseph Arredondo, the Abbot of Montserrat, who provided funds for him to attend the monastery’s famous choir school.
When he was about 18, Sor’s father died and his mother couldn’t afford to continue his education in Montserrat. She was also concerned that young Fernando was becoming distracted from pursuing a career in the military by his music. When he returned to Barcelona, she quickly enrolled him in a military school. Even though Sor must have been disappointed at first, he quickly found that army life wasn’t so bad because it gave him an enormous amount of free time to play the guitar and compose.
In 1808 Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Spain, and Sor unwisely accepted an administrative post with the French government after the Spanish were defeated. Five years later when the Spanish regained their country,Sor moved to Paris fearing for his life. He never returned to Spain.
From 1813 to 1827, Sor lived and performed in Paris, London and Moscow. European nobility sought out his talent and everywhere he performed the guitar’s popularity spread. Sor wrote the majority of his compositions and "The Method for the Spanish Guitar" in Paris when he retired from the concert stage in 1827. Fernando Sor, who is probably the most well-known musician in the “First Golden Age of Guitar”, died ten years later of tongue and throat cancer in 1837.