About this Recording
8.111092 - SEGOVIA, Andres: 1950s American Recordings, Vol. 4 (Segovia, Vol. 6)
English 

Great Guitarists • Andrés Segovia (1893-1987)
1950s American Recordings, Volume 4

 

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 Segovia moved from Linares in order to attend school in Granada. Here he acquired his first guitar. Despite the absence of any competent teachers, Segovia 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 Segovia 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), Haug (Switzerland), etc. Since Segovia's death, further compositions by a variety of composers such as Vicente Arregui, Lennox Berkeley, Henri Collet, Cyril Scott, Gaspar Cassadó, Raymond Petit, etc., have been discovered among his private papers.

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 USA, and in 1929 Segovia 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, Florida on 4 April 1987. Andrés Segovia died at his home in Madrid two months later on 2 June 1987.

Segovia's approach to music composed between 1535 and 1750 was very different from modern performance practices espoused by the early music movement. Nowadays it is customary to play this repertoire on reproductions of instruments authentically modelled on concepts of musicological research with appropriate adjustments to techniques and overall interpretation. Thus over recent decades we have become accustomed to specialist artists with expertise in the art of vihuela (a sixteenth-century type of guitar popular in Spain), lute, Baroque guitar, nineteenth-century guitar, etc. In the realm of keyboard, recitalists concentrating on the Baroque era now choose to perform on harpsichords and clavichords rather than the grand piano. Andrés Segovia, preferring the twentieth-century guitar to all other instruments as an expressive medium, interpreted the sixteenth-century works of Milan, Narváez, Mudarra, and Dowland (as well as the Baroque guitar of Robert de Visée or transcriptions from Scarlatti or Rameau), with the full application of colour, variety of dynamics, and rhythmic freedom as he applied to romantic pieces.

This full-blooded approach to early music was greatly appreciated during Segovia's lifetime and indeed often provided one of the few opportunities for the general public to become acquainted with this area of the repertoire. Segovia usually began his recitals with transcriptions from this period, identifying especially with the courtly music of the vihuela. This recording is therefore of considerable historical as well as musical interest, representing one of the first examples of a consistent advocacy of early music projected through the perspective of the modern guitar.

The vihuela, a six course plucked fretted instrument, was popular in the Spanish courts of the sixteenth century. The vihuela's extant literature is a compact collection of the published works of seven principle composers printed between 1535 and 1576. After this the five course Baroque guitar gained ascendancy and the vihuela dropped out of fashion.

Luys Milán's copious collection of pieces, El Maestro (published in Valencia 1535/1536), included six pavanas, forty fantasias, four tientos, and twenty-two songs. Segovia performs first Pavana No. III, a majestic dance with a haunting melody. The opening chordal passages (known as consonancias) contrast with the subsequent contrapuntal interludes relying on short scale runs (redobles). In Fantasia XVI, a piece intended to show off the instrument's technical resources, the firm opening statement is followed by brilliant scalic episodes, the contrast between alternate consonancias and redobles being maintained throughout.

Luis de Narváez served as a vihuela player in the court of the Emperor Charles V, and his six books under the title of El Delphin de música (The Dolphin of Music) were printed in Valladolid in 1538. Canción del Emperador (Song of the Emperor) is an arrangement of Mille regretz, a song composed by Josquin des Prez, and possibly one of the Emperor's favourite pieces. Narváez's version follows the original melodic line faithfully and through plucked strings captures the poignant intensity which the chanson expressed;

A thousand regrets at leaving you
And going away from your loving face.
I have such great grief and painful suffering
That soon my days will be seen to end.

Guárdame las vacas (Herd the Cows) is a set of diferencias or variations based on a folk-song. (The song was also popular in England during the reign of Elizabeth I under the title of 'The Sheepheard Carillo, his Song'.) These intricate variations are based on a chord sequence rather than a specific melody. Narváez's virtuosic mastery of the vihuela is implicit in the rapid scale runs and the variety of his contrapuntal effects.

Alonso Mudarra's three books of vihuela music were published in Seville, 1546. This Romanesca, a set of variations with a distinctive bass line, is also subtitled Guárdame las vacas. Though the heavy chords of the consonancias are used occasionally, Mudarra seems intent here on exploiting the range of the instrument in brilliant runs, bass and treble combining and contrasting in unpredictably varied figurations. Segovia's arrangement of Romanesca was published by Schott in 1939.

Segovia played only a few pieces by Dowland (1563-1626), England's greatest lutenist, restricting himself to short expressive dances rather than the extended fantasies. The first of the two pieces, sometimes performed by Segovia under the title of 'Song', is a transcription of Captain Digorie Piper's Galliard, a dance commemorating the fame of a pirate who died in 1590. Diana Poulton, the eminent Dowland scholar, comments that 'of all the galliards the one written for Digorie Piper is perhaps the most beautiful'. Segovia's second piece, first issued under the name of 'Galliard', is something of an enigma. With its time signature of four beats in the bar it is not a galliard (a dance with three to the bar) as it was originally called, and, moreover, it is not possible to locate this item among Dowland's output. Thus this piece appears to be a pastiche whose composer is unknown.

Aria detta la 'Frescobalda' by Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583-1643), first appeared in a publication dated 1624. Frescobaldi was organist at St Peter's Basilica in Rome between 1608 and 1643, and composed a considerable amount of music for both harpsichord and organ. This set of variations, originally for harpsichord, is a kind of dance suite in variation form and includes a galliard and allemande. The title given to the theme of 'La Frescobalda' implies that Frescobaldi himself wrote the opening melody. At that time many composers preferred to create variations round a well known popular theme. In his instructions to performers of his toccatas, the composer advised great freedom of tempo and 'in approaching the end of passages or cadences, one proceeds by drawing out the time more adagio'. Segovia's edition of this work was published by Schott in 1939.

Louis Couperin (c. 1626-1661), composer, harpsichordist, organist and viol player, was one of the finest keyboard composers of the seventeenth century. None of his music was published in his short lifetime though he wrote over two hundred works, including 130 compositions for harpsichord and 75 pieces for organ. This Passacaglia, a form characterised as a set of variations over a ground-bass, is founded on a descending scale, each variation extending over eight bars. Before the ending the key shifts from A minor to A major while an expressive coda in the home key brings the piece to its serene conclusion. Segovia rarely performed this composition in his later recitals, having published his transcription in 1939.

Six 16th Century Pieces are taken from an anthology by Oscar Chilesotti (1848-1916), an Italian musicologist who owned a large number of original manuscripts and arranged lute pieces for guitar. Segovia found these pieces ideal for the opening of recitals. The six dances (by unknown composers unless indicated otherwise), are Vaghe belleze et bionde treccie d'oro vedi che per ti moro (Enchanted by your beauty and your fair golden tresses I die for you), Bianco fiore (White flower) (Cesare Negri), Danza, Gagliarda, Se io m'accorgo (If I find out) and Saltarello (Vincenzo Galilei). Segovia exploits the melodic lines and tonal resonances of each movement, delighting in the rich harmonies, the varied rhythmic patterns and the contrapuntal aspects. The last composition is a lively dance over an ostinato bass (i.e. a repetitive pattern in the lower strings over which the melody is constructed).

The Baroque guitar music of Robert de Visée (c. 1650 - c. 1732) has a wide appeal to both recitalists and public. De Visée, a court musician at first in the service of Louis XIV, was appointed in 1709 as singer in the royal chamber, and in 1719 he became the official guitar tutor to Louis XV, then nine years old. He is listed as being employed by the royal family from 1680 until 1732. His publications comprise a number of suites, each a fairly informal collection of dances grouped around the same key, to be played by the performer in an appropriate sequence. The revival of interest began with Emilio Pujol's transcription of Robert de Visée's Suite in D minor (Eschig 1928), continuing with a popular arrangement by Karl Scheit (Universal Edition, 1944). Performance of de Visée's music on the modern classical guitar involves a number of modifications sounding very different from 'authentic' interpretations on the Baroque five-course guitar. The movements played by Segovia are Prélude, Allemande, Bourrée, Sarabande, Gavotte, and Gigue.

Though the next two works were originally thought by the public to be by Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725), Preámbulo and Tempo di Gavotta were actually written by Manuel Ponce (1882-1948) in Mexico during the third week of March, 1931 and formed part of Suite II. Segovia had requested Ponce to provide him with some Bach-like pieces, but became concerned that certain members of the audience might be suspicious and so the attribution was given to A. Scarlatti instead. Both movements are delightful flights of the imagination, exquisitely performed by Segovia.

In contrast, Minuet by Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764) is genuine Baroque, a transcription from an orchestral work. Professor Graham Sadler, a leading authority on the composer, has kindly identified the piece as a dance interlude from Rameau's Platée (1745), an opera in the style of ballet bouffon (a comic opera with plenty of scope for ballet). The Minuet occurs in Act 2, Scene 5, and is given the title Menuet dans le goût de vielle pour les violons seuls, that is 'in the hurdy-gurdy style for strings only'. In the original the drones of the hurdy-gurdy are represented by mulitple stops on the first violins, violas and basses. Segovia has preserved these in the open fifths, D and A. The piece is part of a long divertissement in honour of the zany character of 'La Folie', danced by the 'fous gais' and 'fous tristes' (happy and sad lunatics).

Sonata (K. 11/L. 352) is by Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757), the composer and master of the harpsichord who wrote 555 sonatas in binary form, a remarkable creative achievement. Because of Scarlatti's long sojourn in the Spanish court, the influence of the guitar on his own keyboard music can often be discerned. Sonata K. 11 is most idiomatic on the guitar and since Segovia's publication of his edition in 1954, it has been a favourite of both guitarists and the public.

Finally Segovia performs five works at one time attributed to the eighteenth century but actually the creations of his close friend, Manuel Ponce. Prélude and Ballet were written in October 1931 as part of a three movement suite (a Courante also included in the set was not played by Segovia). Ponce's compositions are melodically imaginative and ideal for Segovia's style of playing. According to Miguel Alcázar, the editor of Ponce's complete works for solo guitar, Segovia attributed these pieces to other composers 'in order to avoid playing only works by Ponce in his recitals'.

Prélude, Allemande and Gigue are taken from Ponce's Suite I, written at Segovia's request at the end of the 1920s. Thus began the process by which a number of pastiches were presented in concerts and recordings under the name of Sylvius Leopold Weiss (1686-1750), the greatest of the Baroque lutenists and a friend of J.S. Bach. Ponce's original manuscript was lost, possibly in Barcelona in 1936 and thus any published versions were subsequently reconstructed from Segovia's recordings. It was only from the 1960s onwards that the true authorship of these works was at last revealed.

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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LUYS MILAN (c. 1500-after 1560): Pavana III
DECCA DL 9647, mx MG 2755, Recorded 1952

LUYS MILAN: Fantasia XVI
DECCA DL 9638, mx MG 2741, Recorded 1952

LUYS DE NARVÁEZ (fl. 1526-1549): Canción del Emperador / Guárdame las vacas
DECCA DL 9931, mx MG 5324, Recorded December 1956

ALONSO MUDARRA (c. 1510-1580): Romanesca
DECCA DL 9633, mx MG 2671, Recorded 1952

JOHN DOWLAND (1563-1626): Captain Digorie Piper's Galliard
Anon.: Galliard (formerly attributed to Dowland, but actual composer unknown)
DECCA DL 9931, mx MG 5324, Recorded December 1956

GIROLAMO FRESCOBALDI (1583-1643): Aria detta la Frescobalda
DECCA DL 9733, mx MG 3683, Recorded April 1954

LOUIS COUPERIN (c. 1626-1661): Passacaglia
DECCA DL 9734, mx MG 3685, Recorded 1954

SIX 16TH CENTURY PIECES
Anonymous: Vaghe belleze
Cesare Negri: Bianco fiore

Anonymous: Danza
Anonymous: Gagliarda
Anonymous: Se io m'accorgo
Vincenzo Galilei: Saltarello
DECCA DL 9795, mx MG 4045, Recorded 1955

ROBERT DE VISÉE (c. 1650 - c. 1732): Suite in D minor
DECCA DL 9638, mx MG 2741, Recorded March 1957

MANUEL PONCE (1882-1948): Preámbulo and Tempo di Gavotta from Suite II
(formerly attributed to Alessandro Scarlatti, 1660-1725)
DECCA DL 9931, mx MG 5324, Recorded March 1957

JEAN-PHILIPPE RAMEAU (1683-1764): Minuet
DECCA DL 9733, mx MG 3684, Recorded April 1954

DOMENICO SCARLATTI (1685-1757): Sonata K. 11 / L. 352
DECCA DL 9931, mx MG 5324, Recorded December 1956

MANUEL PONCE: Pieces from Suite I
(formerly attributed to Sylvius Leopold Weiss, 1686-1750)
Prélude (Track 26), Ballet, Gigue – DECCA DL 9633, mx MG 2671, Recorded March 1952
Prélude (Track 28), Allemande – DECCA DL 9734, mx MG 3685, Recorded April 1954

All arrangements by Andrés Segovia

 


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