, January 2008
This is the second of the Naxos American Recordings edition devoted to Segovia’s Deccas. And the two discs thus far issued mark a distinctive change in livery from the same company’s Great Guitarists series in which Segovia features prominently.
This disc is dominated, though not swamped, by Sor, a composer so nobly and vibrantly promoted by Segovia throughout his long career. The Grande Sonata Opp.22 and 25 are heard in abbreviated form. We get the Allegro non troppo and Minuet of Op.25 – the second and fourth movements therefore – and they’re full of the most brilliantly etched colour and texture. The Minuet has a more Haydnesque charm, which Segovia excavates with precision-tooled acumen. Segovia’s recording of The Variations on a Theme by Mozart set a daunting Gold Standard for his successors; in terms of vibrancy, scalar runs, characterisation and sheer virtuosity few have equalled him though some, such as Bream, have stamped their own notable mark independent of Segovia, though surely not independent of his influence.
The Andantino (from the Divertimentos for the Spanish Guitar Op.2 No.3) is a charming miniature, a character study of great warmth whereas the Grand Solo Op.14 is a sterner, stiffer challenge. Its gravely measured introduction leads on to some compelling chordal writing, dramatically etched and projected by Segovia, who gives such passages enormous dynamism, aeration and lift. The fast runs are played with tremendous clarity as well. The gallant charms of Folies d'Espagne and Minuet, though brief, are expertly realised and the Studies, a Segovia selection of which appeared in print in 1945, attests to his command of their rhetoric.
The rest of the programme is equally diverting and makes for attractive listening. The Ponce, once alleged to be Ponce-Paganini is actually all Ponce. The Schubert transcription works crisply and well and the Mendelssohn Venetian Gondola Song, a favourite piece for transcribers – Tertis recorded it on viola for instance – receives its full measure of cantabile barcarolle quotient in this performance. All these arrangements are by Segovia.
Graham Wade’s commendably insightful notes and the fine transfers ensure that the high standards set by this series are properly maintained.