About this Recording
8.111313 - SEGOVIA, Andres: 1950s American Recordings, Vol. 5 (Segovia, Vol. 7)
English 

Great Guitarists • Andrés Segovia (1893-1987)
1950s American Recordings, Volume 5

 

Andrés Segovia was born in Linares, Jaén, in the region of Spain known as Andalusia, on 21 February 1893. From early childhood he 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, 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 Córdoba 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 the 1920s 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 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), among others. Since Segovia’s death, further compositions by a variety of composers, including Vicente Arregui, Lennox Berkeley, Henri Collet, Cyril Scott, Gaspar Cassadó, Raymond Petit, have been discovered among his private papers.

Armed with an expanding repertoire, Segovia rapidly grew in international esteem, 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 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.

On these recordings Segovia performs music by composers of various nationalities, (Italian, Spanish, Polish, Argentinian, Venezuelan, and Swiss) demonstrating the international appeal of the guitar. The diversity of musical styles featured here is considerable ranging from the folkloric appeal of South America to the more esoteric inwardness of European composers. Through the medium of Segovia’s guitar a variety of cultures and countries were offered an expressive voice.

Of particular interest here is Segovia’s performance with a string quartet in music by Mario Castelnuovo- Tedesco. Chamber music of a high quality which includes the guitar is extremely rare and here is one of the foremost successful examples of the synthesis of plucked and bowed sonorities to produce a most satisfying work. Also featured is a suite for solo guitar by Alexandre Tansman, who, inspired by Segovia, was fascinated by the guitar and wrote several works of significance in the instrument’s development. Every piece that Segovia brought into his repertoire sounds idiomatic for the guitar, a tribute not only to the composers but often also an achievement of subtle editing by the Maestro himself. Segovia believed that one of his primary responsibilities was to encourage and bring to fulfilment a wide selection of new compositions suitable for the concert hall. To this end, the Edition Andrés Segovia, Guitar Archive series was established by Schott in the late 1920s. Over four decades some fifty compositions by twentieth-century composers were published, as well as a similar quantity of transcriptions of early music ranging from the Renaissance to Chopin and Schumann.

Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, the great Italian composer from Florence, was forced to leave his native country in 1939 by Mussolini’s anti-Jewish edicts. He ultimately settled in California where he became a prolific writer of film music between 1940 and 1956, in the same period composing more than seventy concert works. As a member of the faculty of the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music, he numbered among his pupils Henry Mancini, André Previn, and the composer, John Williams.

In 1932, Segovia had travelled with Manuel de Falla to the International Festival of Music in Venice. At the Festival, Segovia was introduced to Castelnuovo- Tedesco who became fascinated by the guitar and decided to explore its possibilities. Between 1932 and his death in 1968, he wrote over a hundred works for the instrument, including a sonata, sets of variations, concertos, and impressionistic pieces of various kinds.

Capriccio diabolico (Omaggio a Paganini) was written in 1935 following a suggestion by Segovia that Castelnuovo-Tedesco should compose a homage to Paganini who admired and played the guitar. Thus the opening bars of the piece present the theme of La Campanella from Paganini’s Second Violin Concerto. The composition is an extended work, exploring the virtuosic potential of the guitar through the cumulative effect of diverse textures and moods. As well as lyrical moments, chordal passages, and rapid scale runs, a middle section breaks into a tremolo, the technique by which a guitarist can weave the illusion of a continuous line of melody. A vivid coda brings back La Campanella in a final dramatic flourish.

Tonadilla (on the name of Andrés Segovia), Op. 170, No. 5, is a later work, written in 1954. Castelnuovo-Tedesco was fond of writing musical postcards to his friends but this is perhaps the finest example of the genre. On the score the composer sets out the chromatic scale (beginning on A), with a letter of the alphabet beneath each note. From this, a musical motif can be devised to form the name ‘Andrés Segovia’. The result is a fine tribute to Segovia, beginning with a short Andantino (Quiet and Dreamy) establishing the melody itself (played first in the bass line), before the Tonadilla begins a tempo (Quiet but very fluent). The texture is that of a theme accompanied by arpeggio patterns, interspersed with brief scale passages, played freely and expressively. But after a repetition of the opening Andantino, marked as un poco appassionato, a tremolo coda accompanies the theme articulated in the bass. The work concludes with gentle harmonics.

Concerning the Quintet for Guitar and String Quartet, Op.143, Castelnuovo-Tedesco commented:

‘This was composed in less than a month (between 7th February and 5th March 1950). It is a melodious and serene work, partly neo-classic and partly neo-romantic (like most of my works). I would say it is written almost in a Schubertian vein – Schubert has always been one of my favourite composers. The first of the four movements is in the regular sonata-allegro form. The second movement is of a lyrical character, with Spanish undertones (the second theme is marked Souvenir d’Espagne). The third movement is a scherzo with two trios. The last movement is in rondo form, very brilliant and contrapuntal; again the second theme is in a Spanish mood – what could be more appropriate for Andrés Segovia?’

Segovia performed the Quintet in 1951 at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana of Siena, Italy, where he was teaching at the famous annual Summer School. In a letter to the composer Segovia informed him that it was ‘listened to with delight by a packed and enthusiastic hall’, and that he had asked the patron, Count Guido Chigi Saracini, to invite Castelnuovo-Tedesco to Siena for a lecture the following year.

Gaspar Cassadó, Spanish cellist and composer, studied with Pablo Casals in Paris in 1910, and throughout his career gave recitals in major concert halls alongside musicians such as Rubinstein, Menuhin, Furtwängler and Weingartner. He began teaching at the Siena summer course in 1946 and when Segovia was later invited to teach there, Cassadó celebrated the event by writing Sardana (originally entitled Sardana chigiana). The manuscript of the work (for some years believed lost) was discovered by Angelo Gilardino among Segovia’s papers in Linares and published by Bèrben in 2003.

The sardana is the national dance of Catalonia, a circle dance performed to the music of the cobla, the traditional instrumental ensemble which in the past comprised flute and drum but now often uses a variety of brass instruments. Cassadó’s Sardana chigiana begins with a lively rhythmic theme (five bars long) played in single notes, then repeated at various pitches with harmonic accompaniment, including a brief syncopated section with elements of the tune appearing in the bass against lively chords. A middle cantabile section offers moments of quiet contrast, concluded by a statement of the melody in the treble with light percussive taps on the bridge of the guitar. A final episode provides a recapitulation of the opening motif with some ingenious chordal progressions.

Alexandre Tansman was born in Poland but became a French citizen in 1958. Resident in Paris from 1920 onwards (though living in the United States during the war years), Tansman was another prolific composer – his work includes seven symphonies, concertos and a quantity of pianoforte and film music. Tansman and Segovia first met in 1925 at a musical soirée given in Paris by Henri Prunières. On hearing Segovia play, Tansman was converted to a lifelong love of the guitar and became one of the first non-Spanish composers to offer original music to Segovia.

Cavatina was awarded first prize in the International Composers Competition of the Accademia Musical Chigiana and published by Schott (edited Segovia) in 1952. Preludio sets the mood, being a lively dance of melodic and harmonic complexity. The first part, with its interplay of bass and treble voices, is followed by a lyrical middle section (marked un poco più lento), before a recapitulation of the opening, modified only by the addition of a brief coda. Sarabande reminds us of the music of J.S. Bach in form rather than vocabulary, as it comprises modulations of a contemporary nature through various keys, the poignant melody paramount throughout. This mood changes with Scherzino beginning with a tremolo and progressing to elements from the Preludio, including the return of a pedal bass and intricate passage work. Barcarole brings in a mood of serenity, exploiting the cantabile nature of the guitar supported by inventive harmonies in modulations from the home key of E minor to F sharp major and back again.

Originally Cavatina was written with four movements but Segovia wanted the suite to end with an exciting finale. Therefore Danza Pomposa was composed as an appropriate climax at Segovia’s request. It is a vigorous dance in three-four time with a catchy melodic line, powerful chords and some brilliant passages of contrapuntal writing. Tansman here unites the energies of the national music of Poland with the expressive resources of the guitar.

Joaquín Rodrigo, composer of the renowned Concierto de Aranjuez and Fantasía para un gentilhombre (dedicated to Segovia), is acknowledged as one of the great Spanish composers of the twentieth century. He extended the romantic impressionist tradition of Albéniz, Granados and Falla, but was deeply influenced by French music having studied with Paul Dukas in Paris (1927-1932). Rodrigo, though blind from childhood, wrote almost two hundred works including orchestral, choral and ballet music, many concertos, a host of songs, and a quantity of instrumental solos for pianoforte, guitar, cello, and other instruments.

The composer’s contribution to the guitar between 1926 and 1987 is now appreciated as one of the central pillars of the repertory. Over the years he explored the Spanish nature of the guitar, responding to the distinguished history of plucked instruments going back to the sixteenth century. Many strands of Iberian culture (including Catalan, Valencian, flamenco and folk song) as well as elements from European music north of the Pyrenees are integrated in his guitar music and his achievement remains integral in the guitar’s development since 1920.

Zarabanda lejana (Distant Sarabande), written in the 1920s, is dedicated to the vihuela of Luis Milán, and represents Rodrigo’s tribute to the Spanish past. Marked andante quasi adagio, the composition begins with three bars of a single note A (played on the sonorous fourth string) before weighty chords of D major, characterised by an acciaccatura ornamentation on the top string from B to A. Its apparent simplicity belies the technical difficulty of achieving a smooth legato as the chords progress through ingenious changes while the player articulates the melodic line.

Jorge Gómez Crespo was described by Irma Costanzo, a leading South American guitarist, as ‘a man at the forefront of the intellectuals and musicians of Buenos Aires, who for many years was head of the guitar department of the Buenos Aires Conservatory.’ His most well known guitar work, Norteña, evokes the landscape and people of northern Argentina. John W. Duarte, composer and critic, described this piece as a ‘simple but beautiful traditional Indian lullaby transcribed by the Argentinian composer Gómez Crespo and transmuted by the magic of Andrés Segovia’s harmonisation and arrangement into an evocative piece of poetry in sound’.

The Latin American countries, where the guitar is the national instrument, have produced some of the most eminent guitar composers. Foremost among these is Antonio Lauro, who, though originally a pianist, dedicated himself to the guitar after hearing a recital by the Paraguayan virtuoso, Agustín Barrios Mangoré. For many, Lauro is the authentic voice of Venezuelan music, especially in his waltzes which combine folkloric inspiration with a sophisticated awareness of guitar sonorities. Lauro’s love of the waltz, far different from the European variety of the dance, is exemplified in this vivacious Venezuelan Dance written in the late 1930s.

The eminent Swiss composer, Hans Haug studied at the Basle Conservatory and the Munich Music Academy, also attending master classes with Busoni in Zurich. Haug’s catalogue of works includes orchestral music, concertos, operas, film scores, string quartets, and oratorios. In December 1950 he submitted a Concertino for Guitar and Chamber Orchestra for the music competition in Siena, receiving first prize in the large ensemble category. Haug went on to write a number of pieces for guitar including Alba (Dawn), his first attempt at composing for solo guitar. Segovia paired Alba with a piece he named Postlude (though its original title was Preludio). Both movements proved ideal for Segovia’s love of guitar sonorities, offering an opportunity for him to exploit the instrument’s wealth of tone colour.

Alba begins with a stately chordal section, advancing boldly through a variety of subtle harmonic progressions. This gives way to a cantando central movement in a minor key characterised by some exquisite melodic playing representing Segovia at his most expressive. Once these thematic aspects have been thoroughly explored, the piece ends with a modified repeat of the chordal introduction, the final eight bars providing a gentle reminder of the main theme but this time in the major mode. Postlude has few chords in it, relying primarily on a single line of quasi-improvisatory development. Once again, Haug begins with an introductory section, harmonically complex, building up patterns of arpeggios and hints of shifting tonalities with a free rhythm which almost belies its time signature of four beats in a bar. The music then shifts into three-four before the main section, an inspired tranquillo dialogue between a sublime melody and its accompanying arpeggios in which Segovia’s guitar sings with a harp-like clarity and resonance. The coda is an amended reprise of the opening but once again (as in Alba), the final bars are a brief recollection of the main theme with its subtle implications of both beauty and melancholy.

Graham Wade

Author of A New Look at Segovia, His Life, His Music, Vols 1 & II (with Gerard Garno), Segovia – A Celebration of the Man and His Music, and Maestro Segovia.

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MARIO CASTELNUOVO-TEDESCO (1895-1968
Capriccio diabolico
DECCA DL 9733, matrix MG 3683
Recorded April 1954

Tonadilla (on the name of Andrés Segovia), Op. 170, No. 5
with Quintetto Chigiano, Ricardo Brengola, Mario Benvenuti, violins; Giovanni Leone, viola; Lino Filippini, cello
DECCA DL 9832, matrix MG 4578
Recorded in Siena, August 1955
DECCA DL 9795, matrix MG 4046
Recorded March 1955

Quintet for Guitar and String Quartet*
DECCA DL 9832, matrix MG 4578
Recorded in Siena, August 1955

GASPAR CASSADÓ (1897-1966)
Sardana chigiana

DECCA DL 9795, matrix MG 4046
Recorded February 1955

ALEXANDRE TANSMAN (1897-1986)
Cavatina
DECCA DL 9733, matrix MG 3684 Recorded April 1954

JOAQUÍN RODRIGO (1901-1999)
Zarabanda lejana
DECCA DL 9751, matrix MG 3728
Recorded June 1954

JORGE GÓMEZ CRESPO (1900-1971)
Norteña

ANTONIO LAURO (1917-1986)
Venezuelan Dance
DECCA DL 9795, matrix MG 4046
Recorded February 1955

HANS HAUG (1900-1967)
Alba Postlude
DECCA DL 9832, matrix MG 4579
Recorded January 1956


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