This new Naxos
disc includes tracks also issued on a Testament disc SBT1043 which
was a release made up of all of Segovia’s London recordings of 1949. Naxos has taken these and added the master’s 1946 New York recordings.
current Redmuze catalogue still lists the Testament disc,
and this is the one I would go for unless the lower price
of the Naxos disc features in your process of choice. The Naxos disc does of course include an extra
14 minutes or so of music. Comparing the two, side by side,
the Naxos is cut at a much higher level than the
Testament, and in addition, the Naxos sound quality is much more aggressive than its competitor.
listening to this disc it is important to remember that when
these were recorded in the late 1940s there was no Julian
Bream, no John Williams nor any of their more recent competitors;
Segovia more or less had the field to himself. The interpretation of these
transcriptions was down to Segovia himself. His examples became
the starting point for later guitarists and a reference on
which to base their own versions. Hearing these again, I was
struck by the fact that they sound so right that they disarm
further criticism. There are one or two slips, but by and
large this is a highly enjoyable programme. Solo pieces form
the majority of this disc. They include many of the well known
guitar transcriptions which are used as party pieces and make
up much of current day guitar recital discs. Nevertheless
there is always a case for listening to these pioneering recordings.
recordings, whilst not sounding too primitive, do not have
the clarity of more modern offerings. There are both benefits
and shortcomings. One of the benefits is that we do not have
to endure the finger noise, which often disfigures current
recordings. Listening to these recordings carefully, one can
discern that this feature is in fact present, but masked by
the recording limitations. The major shortcoming is the restriction
of the sound, but once you have heard one or two tracks, this
factor recedes into the background.
Castelnuovo-Tedesco concerto is the version which I first
became familiar with from an EMI LP in the late 1950s. Hearing
it again on Testament was like welcoming an old friend back
into the fold. Sadly this Naxos disc is quite unpleasant to listen to, sounding both harsh and unmusical.
Whilst it is marginally clearer than the Testament version,
the change in the basic sound is such that I found it quite
unpleasant to listen to. Today this concerto can be found
coupled with the more popular Rodrigo Concierto d’Aranjez.
It is unusual to have it coupled as it is here. I am sure
that had Segovia recorded the Rodrigo in 1946 or 1949
it would have found its way into this anthology.
noise varies from almost non-existent - the norm- to quite
obtrusive, but this does not detract from the wonderful performances
on offer here.
a qualified welcome back for these recordings historic both
in terms of actual age and in the annals of guitar playing.
The cautionary note is that if you insist on musically transcribed
early recordings, the Testament issue is the one to go for.
further point – the Testament issue claims that the contents
are the complete 1949 London
recordings. However the Naxos
disc has tracks purporting to be from those sessions which
are not included by Testament. Testament and Naxos
cannot both be right. Such errors, whilst by no means serious,
should be checked before release.
by Göran Forsling and Jonathan