Five Pieces for Cello and Guitar by Soffren Degen
Many thanks to cellist Amy Flores for performing, editing and proofing the cello part.
While little known outside his homeland, Soffren Degen is remembered as a legendary guitarist and composer in Denmark. Born in Copenhagen in 1816, he was first introduced to music through his stepfather, Andreas Hallager, who was a professional conductor, composer and oboist. Young Degen studied cello and composition at the conservatory; however, guitar was his first love and devoted himself to mastering this instrument. He studied composition with J. P. E. Hartmann but was also influenced by the music of Coste, Mertz and Giuliani. Degen became a successful guitar virtuoso touring Europe at the height of his career. Over the years he also supplemented his income as a cellist and actor. He was an avid promoter of the guitar and fought all his life for the guitar to be accepted into the higher circles of musical life.
Like his good friend Napoleon Coste, Degen believed in the superiority of the heptacord guitar (seven string guitar) and performed and composed guitar works exclusively for this instrument. Probably his finest contributions to the repertoire of 19th century guitar music are his compositions for cello and guitar, which are truly beautiful concert works. His transcriptions for this same instrumental combination include works by Soffren Degen, Haydn, Schubert, Dotzaur, Flotow and Bochmühl. Degen’s music, while not as harmonically adventurous as some of his contemporaries, is well crafted and very lyrical. Steeped in the romantic style of his time, his music is generally in large-scale form and is often programmatic. As the guitar declined in popularity towards the end of the century, so went Degen’s career. Poor, alone and forgotten by the Danish music community, Degen died in 1885 in Copenhagen. However, it was through the efforts of his student Thorvald Rischel that Degen’s music, as well as much of the music of 19th century guitar composers and performers, survives today. Appreciation is extended to the Royal Library of Copenhagen for providing the manuscripts from which these transcriptions were made.
These transcriptions were written to be performed on a modern six-string guitar. The bass is written up an octave when necessary (8va) and some harmonies have been re-voiced or thinned out. Similarly, some minor corrections have been made.