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Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb International, April 2008

Ponce and Tárrega consume the lion’s share of disc space on this volume and do so with works perfectly attuned to Segovia’s incomparable virtuosity and colouristic finesse.

Things begin however with Alard’s Op.19 Study for violin in this transcription by Tárrega. It’s effectively an arpeggio study and displays the Segovia’s evenness and incision. When we reach Tárrega’s own compositions we encounter Mazurkas and Preludes of enviable variety.  One of the most remarkable features of Marieta, which is a Mazurka, is the sheer sonority and vibrato-rich sense of projection in his lower strings. The Preludio No.2 is a tremendously difficult piece in which to keep the melody line uppermost but Segovia, needless to say, never fails to ensure that it’s audible and flowing. The Mazurka in G has a Chopinesque delicacy with its melodic inspiration distributed democratically throughout the strings whereas the Capricho arabe wears its Moorish inheritance lightly in its dance rhythms. Inevitably Segovia essays Recuerdos de la Alhambra but he does so with such verve and vivid, dazzling eloquence that no one could possibly resist revisiting this magnificent edifice once again.

But no less remarkable – lest one get blasé about Segovia – is Albéniz’s Asturias where the flamenco flourishes and arpeggiated writing bring forth all of the protagonist’s flamboyance. Segovia plays six of Ponce’s Preludes.  The broken chord writing of No.7 is exceptionally evocative and the sixth has a wealth of drama in its single minute to last five times that length of time.  The Tema variado y final is a valuable addition to the guitar repertoire, which Segovia had edited in 1928 during which process he slightly pruned it.  The Sonata dates from 1927. It’s cast in three movements and gives the guitarist plenty of opportunities to evoke colour and descriptive attack but also to relish the beautiful song without words that lies at its heart.

Really first class and extensive notes are complemented by good transfers.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, December 2007

Last month I related how the young Andres Segovia fell in love with the guitar, and without the possibility of advanced tuition set about teaching himself to the point where he became the world's greatest exponent of the instrument. Born in the Andalusia region of Spain in 1893, he was to amaze with his first major solo recital at the age of sixteen, and having ventured into Europe, he came of musical age with a sensational tour of South America in the early 1920's. When he first set out on this incredible career he did have to perform many transcriptions to establish programmes that would be attractive to audiences to whom the classical guitar was little known. These pieces also occupied much of his early recordings, but here in his sixties, and with the advent of LPs, he was able to record more extensive works composed for the instrument. The present disc takes material from six LPs and includes eight pieces by Francisco Tarrega, the great nineteenth-century pioneer of the guitar, and five from the twentieth-century Mexican composer, Manuel Ponce, including six Preludes and the Third Sonata. He composed in a style that was long dead, but which suited Segovia's style of playing, though Segovia was happy to move to the contemporary sounds of the Spanish composer, Oscar Espla in two Levantine Impressions. That his technique was still in good shape is clearly demonstrated in the mercurial finale of the sonata, and throughout his playing is neat and crisp, while he avoids bringing to such tracks as the fifth of Albeniz's Suite Espagnole, a tourists view of Spanish guitar playing. I was surprised the original editors did not tidy up the playing in Tarrega's adaptation of the second of Jean-Delphin Alard's Ten Artistic Studies for Violin, where articulation sounds rushed. The recordings were made by Decca in New York over the four years following 1952 and issued in Europe on the Brunswick label. There is some marked change in ambiance, but the transfers are good, and anyone interested in guitar playing cannot miss this.

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