About this Recording
8.111090 - SEGOVIA, Andres: 1950s American Recordings, Vol. 2 (Segovia, Vol. 4)
English 

Great Guitarists • Andrés Segovia (1893-1987)
1950s American Recordings, Volume 2

 

Andrés Segovia, was born in Linares, Jaén, in the region of Spain known as Andalusia, on 21 February 1893. From early childhood Segovia was deeply responsive to the sound of the guitar, an instrument which was part of everyday life in southern Spain. At the age of ten he moved from Linares in order to attend school in Granada. Here he acquired his first guitar. Despite the absence of any competent teachers, he soon gained a prodigious mastery of the instrument and discovered the existence of many fine guitar compositions surpassing the limitations of Andalusia's folkloric guitar styles.

By 1909 Segovia was ready to offer his public début at the Centro Artístico in Granada. Concerts in Cordoba and Seville followed and later he went to Madrid where in 1912 he gave a recital at the Ateneo and was presented with a concert guitar of superlative quality by the luthier, Manuel Ramírez. Segovia's first international tour was to South America in the early 1920s, while his European reputation was established by a resoundingly successful concert in Paris in 1924, attended by many distinguished musicians. From this period of his life onwards Segovia not only enriched the range of the guitar repertoire by transcribing and performing works by great composers of the past, but also persuaded his contemporaries to write new pieces. Composers such as Moreno Torroba, Turina and Manén (Spain), Ponce (Mexico), Castelnuovo-Tedesco (Italy), Villa-Lobos (Brazil), Roussel (France), and Tansman (Poland), wrote significant compositions for him during this crucial period of Segovia's early concert career. Following the Second World War, other composers contributed to his musical treasury including Rodrigo, Mompou and Asencio (Spain), Duarte (England), and Haug (Switzerland), among others. Since Segovia's death, further compositions by a variety of composers including Vicente Arregui, Lennox Berkeley, Henri Collet, Cyril Scott, Gaspar Cassadó, and Raymond Petit have been discovered among his private papers.

Armed with an expanding repertoire, Segovia's international esteem rapidly increased, especially after his initial commercial recordings in 1927. In 1926 he performed in Russia and Britain, in 1927 in Scandinavia, in 1928 came his first tour of the United States, and in 1929 he made his début in Japan. From then on Segovia's guitar was heard in almost every country in the world. He continued touring until the age of 94, his last concert taking place in Miami on 4 April 1987. Andrés Segovia died at his home in Madrid two months later on 2 June 1987.

The present recording celebrates Segovia's performances of original works and transcriptions from the nineteenth-century, including music by Fernando Sor and Mauro Giuliani, two of the early great masters of the guitar. The transcriptions from Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Chopin are by Segovia but based on similar arrangements by Francisco Tárrega, guitarist, composer and inspired teacher who laid the foundations of the twentieth-century renaissance of the guitar.

A further composition (believed at the time to be by Paganini), is actually a set of variations on a theme of Paganini by the Mexican composer Manuel Ponce, who wrote a number of pastiches for Segovia allegedly by musicians such as Sylvius Leopold Weiss, Alessandro Scarlatti, or, in this instance, Paganini. Segovia's light-hearted subterfuge was not revealed until the late 1960s, although certain individuals had been 'in the know' for some years. Nevertheless for this reason, even nowadays, many re-issues bear misleading attributions even though the stylistic characteristics of early composers are now far more familiar to audiences than they were when Segovia first performed these pieces.

Sor has a significant rôle in musical history. Following the eighteenth century neglect of the guitar, he set out to establish a new repertoire for the instrument, aspiring to emulate the great composers of his epoch by writing sonatas, fantasias and sets of variations, as well as studies. Born in Catalonia, Sor was educated at the choir school of Montserrat before attending a military academy. After Napoleon's invasion of Spain, he became sympathetic to French ideals and settled in Paris in 1813. He also lived in London (1815-1823), becoming a musical celebrity there, but having fallen in love with a ballerina, he travelled with her to Russia and Poland. He returned to Paris in 1826/7 where he composed many pieces in his final years.

Allegro non troppo in C major, the second movement of Sor's Deuxième Grande Sonate, Op. 25,was published in Paris in 1827, shortly after his return from Russia. (Segovia's edition of Sonata No. 2 was issued by Ricordi Americana in 1956.) This energetic movement with its ingenious modulations, displays a range of guitar textures including rapidly repeated notes over chords, melodies in the bass under a treble accompaniment, harmonics and passages in thirds, as well as demonstrating Sor's perennial ability to exploit the guitar's cantabile nature. The piece exemplifies Sor's ambitious approach to the guitar as a 'miniature orchestra'. Allegro non troppo is followed by the Minuet and Trio which ends Sonata Op. 25. Its delightful Haydnesque lilt and classic thematic simplicity have been admired by generations of guitar students after the piece was made famous by Segovia.

Sor's Variations on a Theme of Mozart, Op. 9,was first published in an English edition in London in 1821. Segovia's interpretation omits the Introduction and begins with what Sor entitled the 'Theme', in itself a further variation. The real theme is 'O cara armonia' from the first act of Mozart's opera The Magic Flute where Papageno, threatened by a gang of slaves, remembers his magic chime and so enchants his adversaries that they begin to dance and disappear.

The variations extend from the virtuosic to the inwardly reflective. Variation 1 deploys thirds and rapid scale runs to create dazzling patterns of colour. Variation 2, in the minor key, exploits the treble range of the guitar while the third variation, returning to the major, is a cantabile melody with a subtle accompaniment. Variation 4 offers a dialogue between treble and bass strings. Variation 5, an embellished version of Sor's theme, leads into a sparkling coda. This composition is justly acclaimed as one of the perennial masterpieces of the guitar.

Minuet and Trio in C, the third movement of Sor's Grande Sonate, Op. 22,published in Paris in 1825, has distinct affinities with the Minuet from Op. 25, being in the key of C with inventive melodies and subtle harmonic touches. Andantino Op. 2, No. 3,is from Six Divertimentos for the Spanish Guitar, beginning in D minor before moving to D major for the middle section. Segovia makes this exquisite miniature a study in tone quality, exploring the guitar's inherent colours. Minuet in D, Op. 11, No. 5, from Deux Thèmes et Douze Menuets Pour la Guitare, was published in Paris around 1822. Marked Andante maestoso, it is in binary form, deploying many of Sor's characteristic hallmarks such as passages in thirds, fragments of Alberti bass, and elegant melodic lines.

The work which Segovia entitled Introduction and Allegro, was published in Paris as Sonata Prima pour la Guitare around 1810 and later edited as Grand Solo in a slightly different version by Dionisio Aguado (1784-1849). Another of Sor's seminal masterpieces, it demonstrates the guitar's capability to communicate extended formal works. After the Introduction, the 'orchestral' guitar is revealed, with ornamented melodic lines, arpeggio figurations, powerful chords and many nuances of mood and tension.

Next Segovia performs Minuets from Op. 15a and Op. 11. Minuet in E major from Op. 15a appears as the last movement in Sor's Variations on Les Folies d'Espagne. Somewhat Mozartian in its lightly embellished melody and packed with harmonic ingenuity, Minuet Op. 11, No. 6, proved to be one of Segovia's favourite encores. After the majestic opening chords and the presentation of the theme, the piece deploys broken chords to evoke a harp-like sound.

In 1945 Segovia selected twenty Sor studies to create an edition which proved the best selling publication in guitar history and remains an essential text for students. The four studies here are: Op. 6, No. 12 (Segovia No. 14), a study in A major for legato melodic articulation over a complex accompaniment, the work being in four voices; Op. 29, No. 11 (Segovia No. 16), in G major, to familiarise students with chords and accustom the right-hand thumb to playing the correct note on varying lower strings; Op. 35, No. 22 (Segovia No. 5), the well known B minor study combining melody and harmony over chord patterns; and Op. 6, No. 6 (Segovia No. 12), in A major, a challenging virtuosic study in thirds.

Mauro Giuliani, like Sor, wrote a vast quantity of guitar music, variations, sonatas, concertos, duets, and studies. An important part of his career was spent in Vienna where he was well acquainted with Beethoven, Moscheles, Hummel, and other leading musicians. In Italy he knew both Paganini and Rossini and may have performed concerts in their company. Following the monumental publication of Giuliani's complete works in 38 volumes (ed. Brian Jeffery, 1984), Giuliani's prolific achievements at long last gained rightful recognition.

Giuliani's Sonata pour la Guitare, Op. 15,in C major, published in Vienna in 1808, was not performed in its entirety by Segovia. What we hear is the first movement, Allegro spiritoso, a finely structured statement in the form of a classical sonatina. The work has a lyrically Italianate quality, with two delightful themes, a short development section and a lively recapitulation rounded off with a brief coda. The use of keyboard techniques including Alberti basses and pedal notes is well integrated with guitaristic effects such as lively arpeggio patterns and melodic passages in thirds and sixths.

When Segovia's recording of Andantino variato was first released it was described as 'originally a movement from a Sonata for Guitar and Violin, now in a freely transcribed version for guitar alone, by the Mexican composer, Manuel Ponce'. It was soon apparent that this work was actually a set of variations composed entirely by Ponce on the theme from the third movement of Paganini's Grand Sonata, written for 'guitar with violin accompaniment'. The publication of Segovia's edition of Manuel Ponce's Andantino variato (ed. Segovia, Peer International Corp., 1976), ultimately banished any doubts about the work's origin.

Ponce provides his own harmonization of Paganini's theme, occasionally keeping the original bass line but thickening chords throughout to achieve a fuller texture. Variation 1 imitates Paganini's opening variation of lively triplets but with different melodic and harmonic patterns. The repeated chords and brief rapid scale passages of Variation 2 take us into Ponce's characteristic landscape, while Variation 3 evolves through intricate harmonic progressions with angular triplets and various unexpected twists and turns. Variation 4 re-visits the triplets of the first variation for two bars before introducing new thematic material. Variation 5, in C sharp minor and marked lento, brings in a poignant chromatic melody with subtle interplay of bass and treble, a mood dispelled by Variation 6, a lively tremolo study. Variation 7, Andante, a majestic valedictory statement, begins with octaves and striding chords, ending with a short Moderato coda featuring brilliant arpeggios and a final rapid descending scale.

The transcription of Schubert's Menuetto was accredited on the original recording to 'the great Spanish guitarist, Tárrega', though Segovia invariably made his own edition of every composition he performed. This arrangement of the third movement of Schubert's Piano Sonata in G, Op. 78, D. 894, for piano, suits the guitar exceptionally well with its strong rhythms and firm thematic outlines. Contrasting with the Allegro moderato and key of D major of the first section, the Trio, molto legato, in B minor, lends itself most idiomatically to Segovia's gradations in tone colours.

Mendelssohn's Song without Words, Op. 19, No. 6, (subtitled Venetian Gondola Song) for piano is transposed from the original G minor to E minor on the guitar. In the form of a Barcarolle, evoking the gondola's gentle rhythm, the piece exemplifies the art of cantabile, the smooth articulation of a melodic line supported by elegant bass sequences.

Chopin's Prelude in A, Op. 28, No.7, (here in the key of D rather than the original of A major), is another transcription by Segovia based on a precedent by Francisco Tárrega. Both versions place an extra note at the end of phrases in order to add sonority, the guitar lacking the piano's sustaining pedal.

Canzonetta from Mendelssohn's String Quartet No. 1 in E flat, Op. 12, is Segovia's somewhat revised version of a transcription by Tárrega. The piece is in ternary form, the vigorous dance-like opening themes contrasting against the scintillating arpeggios of the middle section. The entire composition (with its sprightly melodies, passages in thirds and pizzicato octaves), is extremely technically demanding as the guitar accommodates the voicings of a string quartet while Segovia's sheer instrumental mastery is revealed at its most brilliantly triumphant throughout the virtuosic semiquaver figurations.

Graham Wade
Author of A New Look at Segovia, His Life, His Music, Vols. I & II (with Gerard Garno), Segovia – A Celebration of the Man and His Music, and Maestro Segovia.

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FERNANDO SOR

Deuxième Grande Sonate, Op. 25: II: Allegro non troppo
Decca DL 9633, mx MG 2671; March 1952

Deuxième Grande Sonate, Op. 25: III: Minuet
Decca DL 9647, mx MG 2756; March 1952

Variations on a Theme by Mozart, Op. 9
Decca DL 9638, mx MG 2741; April 1952

Grande Sonate, Op. 22: III: Minuet
Decca DL 9751, mx MG 3728; April 1954

Six Divertimentos for the Spanish Guitar, Op. 2: No. 3: Andantino
Decca DL 9751, mx MG 3728; April 1954

Deux Thèmes et Douze Menuets Pour la Guitare, Op. 11: No. 5 in D major
Decca DL 9751, mx MG 3728; April 1954

Sonata (Grand Solo), Op. 14: Introduction and Allegro
Decca DL 9794, mx MG 4043; March 1955

Folies d'Espagne and Minuet, Op. 15a: Minuet in E major
Decca DL 9794, mx MG 4043; March 1955

Minuet in A major, Op. 11, No. 6
Decca DL 9794, mx MG 4043; March 1955

Study in A major, Op. 6, No. 12
Study in G major, Op. 29, No. 11
Study in B minor, Op. 35, No. 22
Study in A major, Op. 6, No. 6
Decca DL 9794, mx MG 4043; March 1955

MAURO GIULIANI: Sonata, Op. 15: I: Allegro spiritoso
Decca DL 9638, mx MG 2742; March 1952

MANUEL PONCE: Andantino variato on a theme by Paganini
Decca DL 9647, mx MG 2756; April 1952

FRANZ SCHUBERT: Piano Sonata in G major, Op. 78, D. 894: III: Menuetto
Decca DL 9633, mx MG 2672; March 1952

FELIX MENDELSSOHN: Songs without Words, Op. 19: No. 6 (Venetian Gondola Song)
Decca DL 9633, mx MG 2672; April 1952

FRYDERYK CHOPIN: Prelude in A major, Op. 28, No. 7
Decca DL 9647, mx MG 2756; March 1952

FELIX MENDELSSOHN: String Quartet No. 1 in E flat, Op. 12: II: Canzonetta
Decca DL 9751, mx MG 3728; April 1954

All selections recorded in New York

All arrangements by Andrés Segovia

 


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