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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



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Andrés Segovia: 1950s American Recordings Volume 1
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685 – 1750)
1. Cello Suite No. 1 in G major BWV 1007: Prelude [2:19]
2. Cello Suite No. 6 in D major BWV 1012: Gavotte I & II [3:54]
3. Violin Partita No. 1 in B minor BWV 1002: Bourée [3:35]
4. Cello Suite No. 3 in C major BWV 1009: Courante [2:56]
5. Violin Sonata No. 1 in G minor BWV 1001: Sicilienne [3:22]
6. Suite in E minor BWV 996: Bourée [1:33]
7. Prelude in C minor BWV 999 [1:20]
8. Suite in E major BWV 1006a: Gavotte en Rondeau [2:58]
9. Violin Partita No. 2 in D minor BWV 1004: Chaconne [13:58]
10. Cello Suite No. 3 in C major BWV 1009: Bourée I & II [3:43]
11. Violin Sonata No. 1 in G minor BWV 1001: Fugue [5:10]
George Frideric HANDEL (1685 – 1759)
12. Suite XI, HWV 437.III: Sarabande with Variations [3:59]
13. Minuet I (in D major) & II (in D minor) [2:27]
14. Minuet I (Andantino) & II (Grazioso) [2:53]
15. Gavotte in G major HWV 491 [1:25]
Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH (1714 – 1788)
16. Siciliana in F sharp minor [3:35]
Christoph Willibald GLUCK (1714 – 1787)
17. Orfeo ed Euridice: Ballet [2:52]
Joseph HAYDN (1732 – 1809)
18. Minuet and Trio in D [4:44]
Andrés Segovia (guitar)
rec. New York, 1952, 1954, 1955
NAXOS 8.111089 [66:42]
Experience Classicsonline

Having reviewed volumes 2–6 in this series it was a relief to get, eventually, the first volume as well, thus completing the picture of Segovia’s activities in the studios in New York during the 1950s. It is a comprehensive oeuvre, ranging from the renaissance to his own time and including several works written specifically for and premiered by him. With this disc we get the missing period, the 18th century, and the bulk of it consists of his Bach transcriptions. It was also as a Bach player I first got to know the art of Segovia through a crackly and dimly reproducing LP sometime in the mid-1960s. I was fascinated then by the music, although I knew that they were transcriptions and that Bach presumably never heard these works – and never intended them to be – played on guitar. Younger guitarists with deeper insight into authentic performance practice have yielded even more. But it was just as much the playing of the master that caught me and the reason this series is being issued is that a lot more music-lovers beside me are still fascinated by Segovia.
 
I also believe that the best way of approaching these recordings is to disregard the issue of authenticity and accept that this was Segovia’s ‘authenticity’ and that he probably contributed in no small amount to a wider interest in Bach’s music. He preferred to play isolated movements while today’s guitarists tend to play entire works. Not being an avid collector of Bach’s music for plucked instruments I still have some recordings, among which those by Göran Söllscher and Pepe Romero have a special appeal. Segovia is heavier and more accented in a romantic style and once one gets used to this approach it is very easy to just be carried away by the superlative playing.
 
Considering that some of these recordings are not far off sixty years old the sound is splendid and allows us to revel in the rich colours and live rhythms of Segovia’s playing. The sicilienne from the G minor violin sonata (tr. 5) is one of the finest things here, exploring the sonorities of the calm and beautiful music. The real challenge – for violinists and guitarists alike – is however the chaconne from the D minor partita (tr. 9). In Segovia’s transcription it was first performed in Paris on 4 June 1935, almost twenty years before this recording was made. His technical superiority is never in question but also as an almost transcendental reading of the music it has a lot to offer. It seems that he comes closer to the heart of the matter than any other guitarist – or violinist for that matter. Among the lesser pieces the loure from the third cello suite (tr. 10) has a drive that is infectious – and so has the fugue from the G minor violin sonata (tr. 11).
 
The non-Bach pieces also have their rewards. Handel’s minuet in D (tr. 13) is a charmingly melodious piece and this also goes for the short gavotte (tr. 15). C.P.E. Bach’s siciliana has some surprising dissonances, the well known ballet from Orfeo ed Euridice is a lovely encore piece in Segovia’s sensitive and varied reading and it is followed by Haydn’s charming minuet which has an elegant contrasting trio. The liner-notes by Segovia’s biographer Graham Wade are as always deeply satisfying. This issue is as self-recommending as the later five (see review link below).
 
Göran Forsling
 
Reviews of other Segovia recordings on Naxos Historical

 


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