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Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb International, 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.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, November 2007

The story of the young boy who fell in love with the guitar, and without adequate mentors set about teaching himself to the point where he became the world’s greatest exponent of the instrument, is one that comes from fantasy land. Yet Andres Segovia, born in the Andalusia region of Spain in 1893, was that boy, giving his first major solo recital at the age of sixteen and having played in much of Western Europe made a sensational tour of South America in the early 1920’s. At the time much of his repertoire was arrangements of music for other instruments, mainly of his own making, but his brilliance created a host of new works from the leading composers of his time. He did draw on a handful of 19th century composers that had looked to reestablish the guitar in the world of ‘classical’ music, Fernando Sor being among the most prolific. Even Segovia would have found it difficult to sell to the recording industry complete performances of Sor’s music, but we have here a good cross-section of the composer’s output, Segovia’s printed edition of Sor’s twenty studies the best selling publication in guitar history. Maybe today some of those tracks would be taken a little quicker, but that he had tremendous technical brilliance at his fingertips is proven in the final track, an adaptation of the second movement of Mendelssohn’s first string quartet. So this is where today’s guitarists had their spiritual father, and I have enjoyed every second of the disc. The original Decca recordings come from the first half of the 1950’s and even today are of very enjoyable quality.

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