|About this Recording
8.111314 - SEGOVIA, Andres: 1950s American Recordings, Vol. 6 (Segovia, Vol. 8)
Great Guitarists • Andrés Segovia (1893-1987)
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, 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 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 his 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), and others. 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, and others 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 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 is heard here in a number of his transcriptions from eminent nineteenth century composers as well as original guitar solos from his contemporaries, Falla, Llobet, Manén, Pedrell, Moreno Torroba and Villa-Lobos. The considerable diversity of the music is presented in Segovia’s inimitable manner, every nuance of sound and colour being uniquely exploited in delicately refined interpretations.
Robert Schumann’s Romanza is an arrangement by Segovia of the song Frühlingsgrüss (Spring Greeting) from Songs for the Young, Op. 9, text by the poet, Hoffmann von Fallersleben:
César Franck (1822-1890), French composer and organist, may seem one of the least likely sources for guitar arrangements. Nevertheless in 1928 Segovia published Four Short Pieces in his Schott Guitar Archives editions, and here he performs the first two of them, Quasi lento and Moderato. The source of the arrangements is Franck’s 28 Short Pieces for piano.
Waltz, Op. 39, No. 8 (originally in B flat major, arranged by Segovia in E major) by Johannes Brahms was composed in 1865 and dedicated to the eminent Viennese critic, Eduard Hanslick. The composer provided three versions for the set of Waltzes, Op.39, the first for piano duet, and two editions for piano solo (difficult and simplified), or, as Brahms expressed it, ‘one for clever hands and another – perhaps for more beautiful hands’. All the waltzes in the series are in binary form with repeats.
The greatest of all Norwegian composers, Edvard Grieg never wrote for the guitar. Yet a number of his pieces have been transcribed by guitarists inspired by the composer’s gift for writing concise impressionistic masterpieces. Melody is taken from Lyric Pieces, Op.47, for piano, composed 1887-8. The original features a gentle melodic line over a subtly progressing bass. As the piece moves on a number of ingenious modulations take place, shifting the music into diverse tonalities as the mood deepens. Originally marked allegretto, Segovia preferred poco allegretto, using the work to demonstrate his remarkable control over contrasting lines of music.
Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915), Russian composer and pianist, was a genius of harmonic innovation whose preferred medium was the piano. In this tiny Prelude, Op. 16, No.4, from a set of five Preludes (1894-1895), the charm and intensity of his music is communicated through the guitar. Originally in the mysteriously resonant key of E flat minor, Segovia transposes this to B minor, using the instrument’s cantabile quality to articulate a haunting fragment of melody set against ingenious harmonic progressions.
Miguel Llobet (1878-1938), born in Catalonia, was one of the most influential guitarists of the early twentieth century. A student of Tárrega and a profound influence on Andrés Segovia in his formative years, Llobet gave recitals in various countries, made recordings and wrote many compositions for the guitar. He also became renowned as teacher and editor. Llobet’s best loved works, however, are his arrangements of Catalan folk song melodies, harmonized for the guitar with such subtlety that they can be regarded as miniature masterpieces in their own right. The original poem of El Mestre (The Master) tells the story of the teacher in love with his pupil and desirous of marrying her, but he goes to war to serve King Philip while the beloved yearns for his safe return. Segovia, who learned this piece directly from Llobet himself, described in his autobiography the nature of his mentor’s performance: ‘And then [Llobet] played El Mestre, the most beautiful of Catalan songs which Llobet harmonized and scored for the guitar. The effective ‘orchestration’, its tone colour and its delicious dissonances play on the plaintive character of the folk theme, ‘My teacher has fallen in love with me...’ making it one of the priceless jewels of the guitar repertoire. Even today as I write this in the midseventies, I still love it as I did then.’
Manuel de Falla, the most esteemed of twentieth century Spanish composers, wrote only a single piece for solo guitar, Homenaje, ‘Le Tombeau de Claude Debussy’, one of the few titles for compositions written in two languages. Composed in 1920, its première was given by Marie-Louise Casadesus (harp-lute) in Paris on 24th January, 1921. The first performance for guitar was at the Salle du Conservatoire, Paris, by Emilio Pujol on 2 December, 1922. The genesis of this work owes much to Miguel Llobet who requested Falla for a guitar work. The right moment arrived when Henri Prunières, editor of the Revue Musicale, asked Falla to write an article for a special issue of his journal being prepared in memory of Claude Debussy, who had died in 1918. Falla wrote the article and added this piece as a musical homage. (Other contributors to this memorial were Bartók, Dukas, Goossens, Malipiero, Ravel, Roussel, Satie, Schmitt and Stravinsky.) Falla also arranged the piece for piano and later orchestrated it as the second movement of his suite, Homenajes. The guitar version was edited by Llobet.
Homenaje, “Le Tombeau de Claude Debussy”, an austerely elegiac work in habanera rhythm, shows a clear indebtedness to the flamenco guitar with its rapid scale runs and arpeggios. The score is marked with many expression signs in a particularly detailed manner. Just before the end, Debussy’s prelude Soirée dans Grenade is quoted. The composition is now regarded as one of the most emotionally charged solo guitar works and Segovia’s interpretation represents a highly significant historical performance.
Carlos Pedrell, born at Minas, Uruguay, was the nephew of Felipe Pedrell (1841-1922), the great Catalan musicologist. Having studied in Paris under Vincent d’Indy and in Barcelona with his uncle, Pedrell later moved to Buenos Aires where he was appointed as a national inspector of music. The last years of his life were spent in Paris. Guitarreo is a light-hearted bagatelle with many brilliant scale runs and incisive harmonics. A contrasting central section features a lively new theme over rhythmic chords, concluding with a rapid downward passage before the reprise. Segovia’s edition was published in 1928 with two other pieces by Pedrell, Lamento and Página romántica.
Joan Manén (1883-1971), born in Barcelona, was a Catalan violinist and composer. An infant prodigy, he made his concert debut in Latin America at the age of nine, and a European début in 1898. Over the years he made five world tours as a violin virtuoso. His compositions include operas and other stage works, vocal, and instrumental pieces. Fantasía-Sonata was published in the Schott/Segovia editions in 1930. The music is dedicated Por y para Andrés Segovia (‘for and because of Andrés Segovia’).
The original notes for Segovia’s recording observed: In the first Allegro, Catalonian sentiment predominates and the Largo motif recurs as the second theme. The middle section is a slow evocative Andante cantabile and the third section a lively Allegro Assai. The composition begins with heavy chords, reminiscent perhaps of the opening of J.S. Bach’s Chaconne. The opening theme is taken up in a later cantando molto section and subjected to a number of modulations. Of particular interest is the Spanish nature of each section, characterized by rapid scale passages, flamenco-like ornamentation, strummed chords, and vigorous rhythmic fragments.
Heitor Villa-Lobos, the great Brazilian composer, produced a vast body of works for orchestra, choirs and piano but it is his guitar music that has often received the widest admiration. His remarkable capacity for writing memorable themes congruent with the instrument’s natural patterns enabled him to develop a unique personal style. Villa-Lobos first met Segovia in Paris in 1924 and five years later dedicated his Douze Études (1929) to the Maestro. Segovia’s preface to the twelve studies comments that ‘Villa-Lobos has made a gift to the guitar’s history of the fruits of his talents as vigorous and as wise as that of Scarlatti and Chopin’. Étude No. 7 has been described by the Brazilian virtuoso, Turibio Santos, as ‘a study in virtuosity par excellence’. Opening with brilliant scale runs, the study moves on to broken chords supporting a melody played entirely on the first string. After this lyrical section, the rapid scales return followed by an exciting finale with strident chordal progressions and trills.
The Five Preludes of Villa-Lobos (originally six in number but one was lost), composed during the summer of 1940, are some of the most cherished works in the repertoire. Yet Segovia at first did not like them. In a letter to Manuel Ponce on 22nd October, 1940, he wrote: [Villa-Lobos] came to the house supplied with six preludes for guitar dedicated to me...Among the two from this last batch, there is one, which he himself attempted to play, of lethal boredom. It attempts to imitate Bach and by the third cycle of a descending progression – a regression, therefore – with which the work begins, it makes one want to laugh..
Segovia changed his mind about at least two of the Preludes including the one which ‘imitates Bach’ (Prelude No. 3), as Nos 1 and 3 became a perennial part of his repertoire. Prelude No. 1 in E minor, a Homage to the Brazilian Country Dweller, begins with a cello-like bass theme of great beauty, accompanied by chords on the open strings. A middle section offers contrasting vivacity. Prelude No. 3 in A minor, a Homage to Bach, is divided into two parts. The first section consists of lines of rising patterns contrasted against weighty chords across the strings. This is followed by a profoundly expressive section which fully exploits the tone colours of the guitar in gently undulating slow semiquavers, punctuated by chords.
Étude No. 8, in the key of C sharp minor, begins with a melody in the bass, accompanied by intricate slow chords on the strings above. This theme is then heard in the treble, accompanied by rhythmic arpeggiated chords. Étude No. 1, in E minor, represents the guitarist’s ultimate right hand arpeggio study and was described by Abel Carlevaro, a close friend of Villa-Lobos, as ‘an atmosphere of harmonic resonance, each note joining the other in an overall effect’. Recalling the symmetries of J.S. Bach, the study has a repetitive right hand figuration set against left hand evolving chordal patterns.
Federico Moreno Torroba, as Segovia wrote in his autobiography, became the first ‘composer who was not a guitarist’ to write works for him. Torroba, originally well known for writing zarzuelas (light operas), achieved further international renown through Segovia’s performances of his guitar works of which there are well over fifty pieces. Sonatina, one of Torroba’s most acclaimed solos, reveals the composer’s skill in encapsulating the moods and rhythms of Spain. Building on nineteenth century traditions, Torroba made a significant contribution to the guitar repertoire with the Sonatina forming the centrepiece of that achievement. The first movement, Allegretto (in A major), follows straightforward sonata form, with two delightful themes setting the scene for the lyrical development which follows. The slow movement, Andante (in D major), is a superb example of Torroba’s reflective moods. The final Allegro is a brilliant tour de force interrupted only by a few moments of an Andante section, as if to pause momentarily before proceeding to the vivid climax. Torroba’s guitar music sounds natural and effervescent on the instrument, yet beneath the surface are many technical difficulties.
Madroños (Strawberry Trees) is the composer’s personal homage to the city of Madrid, which takes as its symbol the image of a bear and a strawberry tree. The catchy theme is imitative of the animated cries of street vendors. Nocturno, published by Schott in 1926, evokes the Spanish night. After a snatch of flamenco chant and two bell-like harmonics, rapid arpeggios and quick fragments of melody create mysteriously conflicting moods of darkness and colour. A middle section resolves into patterns of song punctuated by brisk chords and concluding with five dramatic harmonics before the pianissimo recall of the opening themes. Serenata burlesca, published in 1928, begins as a kind of musical joke, small scampering passages of scale runs being contrasted against staccato chords. This is followed by a lyrical middle section, though wit and humour are never far beneath the surface.
ROBERT SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
CÉSAR FRANCK (1822-1890)
JOHANNES BRAHMS (1833-1897)
EDVARD GRIEG (1843-1907):
ALEXANDER SCRIABIN (1872-1915)
MIGUEL LLOBET (1878-1938)
MANUEL DE FALLA (1876-1946)
CARLOS PEDRELL (1878-1941)
JOAN MANÉN (1883-1971)
HEITOR VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959)
FEDERICO MORENO TORROBA (1891-1982)
All selections recorded in New York