About this Recording
8.111087 - SEGOVIA, Andres: 1944 American Recordings (The) (Segovia, Vol. 1)

Great Guitarists • Andrés Segovia (1893-1987)
Volume 1: 1944-1949 Recordings

In the world of the guitar no name is more illustrious than that of Andrés Segovia, who did so much to establish the guitar as a concert instrument in the twentieth century. He was born in the Spanish town of Linares, in the Andalusian province of Jaén, and had his first music lesson before his sixth birthday with, in his own words, a violinist ‘of hard ear and stiffer fingers’. His next teacher, a flamenco guitarist, made a better impression, but the rhythms of flamenco, seductive though they were, were not enough; and he devoted the rest of a long life to exploring the guitar’s capacity for melody, harmony and polyphony.

The recording industry was in its infancy when Segovia began his lifetime of touring. His tireless programme of travelling, teaching and performing is considered to be an integral part of the guitar’s rise in the twentieth century. Accomplished young guitarists began to appear; eminent composers began to write for it; music academies began to establish a faculty of guitar; and regular guitar concerts became a feature of musical life in cities around the world.

Segovia left a large number of recordings, beginning in the difficult days of the 78rpm twelve-inch shellac disc, where each side had only four minutes of playing time and an expensive retake was necessary if the artist made a mistake (a rare occurrence in Segovia’s case). Along with this self-discipline went an unusually robust constitution, enabling him to continue concertising into his nineties. His long and distinguished career was recognised in the award of numerous honorary degrees, culminating in his elevation to the rank of Marquis of Salobreña.

Federico Moreno Torroba, Manuel Ponce and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco were among the composers who responded to Segovia’s appeal for new compositions. Segovia also wanted a classical heritage comparable with that of other instruments, and with a characteristic energy set about arranging and transcribing music directly from the Classical, Baroque and Renaissance periods. The considerable bulk of Romantic nineteenth-century guitar music by such as Giuliani, Mertz and Regondi was largely ignored, with the exception of that by Paganini and Sor. The modern Spanish nationalist school he regarded as ideal for the guitar’s purpose, and he found rewarding material in the piano pieces of both Albéniz and Granados. Tárrega’s many compositions and transcriptions appealed strongly to Segovia, who responded not only to their imaginative poetry but also to the sense that the musical traditions of Spain were finding a place in the music of Europe.

The occupation of Spain by the Moors was a significant part of those traditions, reflected in the almost obsessional interest in the Alhambra palace by both Tárrega and his friend Albéniz in compositions such as Granada, Torre Bermeja (the vermilion tower) and the imperishable Recuerdos de la Alhambra.

La Maja de Goya, by Enrique Granados, is a tonadilla (little song) for piano, based on Goya’s fulllength portraits, clothed and unclothed, of the Duchess of Alba. The two Spanish Dances, including the familiar No.5 (Andaluza), come from a series of twelve by this still-underrated composer whose life was ended so tragically in an act of war.

Most of these transcriptions by Segovia of pieces by Albéniz and Granados were recorded in New York in 1944. The development of new electrical recording techniques had brought with it the ability to capture a wider range of colour, beauty of tone and those nuances phrasing for which Segovia had acquired so high a reputation. These were qualities hitherto acutely discernible only to the first few rows of a concert hall; for the first time a mass audience could enjoy them too, and it was a vital factor in the rise of the guitar. It was a time, too, when the old gut strings were giving way to the more durable nylon strings. Not the least of Segovia’s achievements is his collaboration with Albert Augustine in producing a guitar string that would supersede the unreliable gut strings.

Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757)
Sonata K11/L352
The Italian-born Scarlatti followed his pupil Princess Maria Barbara from Portugal to Spain, where she became Queen. Of his 555 harpsichord sonatas, many breathe the rhythms of his adopted country, and many (not necessarily the same ones) lend themselves to arrangement for the guitar.

Nicolò Paganini (1782-1840)
Romanza (from Grand Sonata for Guitar and Violin, Op. 39 arranged by Manuel Ponce)
Paganini was said to be as good a guitarist as he was a violinist. The Grand Sonata for Guitar and Violin was written for the occasions when he and Luigi Legnani, having played a duo concert, would exchange instruments at the end. Legnani was nowhere near as good a violinist as Paganini was a guitarist, and the violin part is skeletal enough to be dispensed with. Segovia’s comment on receiving Ponce’s revised version (with new variations) was: ‘Before, it was impossible to play it. Now it is impossible not to play it’.

Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764)
In addition to composing several operas, Rameau (who was also a noted organist) left a large number of harpsichord pieces, from which this graceful minuet was arranged. A successful career was crowned by his appointment as composer of the King’s chamber and, in the last few months of his life, being granted a patent of nobility by Louis V.

Henry Purcell (1659-1695)
A New Irish Tune
John Dowland (1563-1626)
Galliard (transcr. Segovia)
Purcell’s New Irish Tune is better known as Liliburlero, a popular song of the seventeenth century that poked fun at the Catholics of Ireland. Whether Purcell composed it or merely arranged it is open to doubt. John Dowland’s Galliard is one of many dances by the master lutenist of the period, livelier than the fashionably melancholy songs by the self-styled ‘Semper Dowland, semper dolens’.

Manuel Ponce (1882-1948)
Gavotte and Sarabanda (‘by Alessandro Scarlatti’)
In a letter to Ponce dated 10th March 1937, Segovia asks for ‘a new Suite, attributable to Scarlatti (Alessandro), Weiss, Kelner or anyone else from the same period’. With the connivance of his friend Segovia, Ponce was happy to oblige. He played a similar joke in a suite bearing the name Sylvius Leopold Weiss but composed by himself.

Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
These two Segovia arrangements come from Haydn’s ninety-odd string quartets. If they are not fully representative of his inventive genius, they at least demonstrate the ability of the guitar to handle multiple voices.

Luis Milán (c.1500-c.1561)
Gaspar Sanz (1640-1710)
Tres Pavanas
Luis Milán was one of a group of sixteenth-century Spanish composers whose well-developed polyphony, written for the vihuela (a forerunner of the guitar), in some ways foreshadowed Bach. The pavana, a stately dance in common time, originated in Italy (if you believe that it is named after the city of Padova) or possibly in Spain (if you think it comes from the Latin pavo, a peacock). The three examples here are all Spanish, Milán’s two written for the vihuela, the one by Sanz written for the Baroque guitar very much later. All three pieces share a common ancestry and happen to work very well on the guitar. The anonymous Canzone and Saltarello were collected by the Italian musicologist Oscar Chilesotti.

Federico Moreno Torroba (1891-1982)
A prominent composer of zarzuelas, Moreno Torroba became a close friend of Segovia after their first meeting in the 1920s, subsequently writing many finely-constructed guitar works for him during a long and creative life. The intense nostalgia of Burgalesa, an early work written as a homage to Burgos, the city of his birth, is followed by the fast and light-hearted Albada. Arada is one of the Piezas Características, a slow and reflective piece that was always given its full value by Segovia.

Miguel Llobet (1878-1938)
Dos Canciones Catalanas:
  El Noi de la Mare
  El Testament d’Amelia
Traditional Catalan songs arranged with resonant harmony and a distinctive lyricism by Miguel Llobet include the Christmas song El Noi de la Mare (The Son of Mary, or The Son of the Virgin), part of Suite Catalán. It was a favourite encore of Segovia’s, and incidentally was the music left open on his music stand at the time of his death, according to one witness. El testament d’Amelia is another of Llobet’s memorable arrangements. The titles are in the Catalan language.

Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909)
Danza Mora
Tárrega, who died before the teenaged Segovia could get round to having guitar lessons with him, left a large amount of purely guitar music. Danza Mora is one of the many pieces by this miniaturist that, while extending the range and colour of the guitar, say a lot in a very short space of time. The following Minuet is further evidence of Tárrega’s happy knack of suiting the size to the musical substance.

Robert de Visée (c.1650 - 1725)
Entrada and Giga
Bourrée and Minueto
Robert de Visée’s skills with the Baroque guitar and the theorbo got him the job of court musician to Louis Quatorze. Segovia’s passion for the modern six-string guitar excluded full appreciation of past instruments, but he loved de Visée’s music, selecting individual items from the various dance suites and turning them into fully-fledged concert works. Their civilised sophistication can stand up to this treatment.

Jorge Gomez Crespo (1900-1971)
Although he lived in Uruguay for some years, Segovia did not embrace the richness of the South American repertoire as warmly as might have been expected. There were notable exceptions — Lauro’s Venezuelan Vals No. 3, which Segovia recorded under the title Vals Criollo, and the highly atmospheric Norteña, Crespo’s homage to the eminent Argentinian composer Julian Aguirre.

Manuel Ponce (1882-1948)
Rondo on a Theme by Sor (Sonata Clásica: Allegro)
Segovia’s regard for the music of Fernando Sor (1778- 1839) and the important part it played in the guitar repertoire is reflected in Ponce’s Sonata Clásica. The Rondo on a Theme by Sor forms the last movement, and was announced by Segovia at its première in the United States as by Sor, without mentioning it was a first performance, apparently to make it more acceptable in Europe. Sor’s Op. 25 Sonata is touched on here and there by Ponce, and the result is one of his most attractive sonatas.

Colin Cooper

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