this fifth volume in the Naxos series of Segovia’s American
recordings from the 1950s, we meet him in music by composers
of his own generation – composers of many nationalities
who were encouraged to write specifically for Segovia.
This started as early as the 1920s, when he was still at
the outset of his international career and continued until
the very end. Segovia gave his last concert in Miami on
4 April 1987, aged 94, and died less than two months later.
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco was a prolific composer in several
genres. Between 1940 and 1956 he lived in the US and wrote
great amounts of film music, while during the same period
composing over seventy concert works. He also wrote, from
1932 until his death in 1968, over one hundred works for
guitar, including a sonata, concertos and sundry pieces
of various kinds. Capriccio diabolico
in 1935 after Segovia had suggested he should write a homage
to Paganini, who himself played the guitar. The opening
of the capriccio quotes the Campanella
Paganini’s second violin concerto, and in the coda he repeats
the theme. It is a dashing work, really more Spanish than
Italian, melodious and charming and technically challenging.
In the middle there is even a tremolo passage.
(on the name of Andrés Segovia)
written in 1954 and recorded the following year. It is
a kind of ‘musical postcard’ and a sterling composition;
Segovia plays it with affection. The most extended work
on this disc is Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Quintet
guitar and string quartet, composed in February and March
1950. It opens with a lively and finely wrought Allegro
followed by a very beautiful Andante mesto
the guitar, in true chamber music fashion, has both soloist
and accompanist functions. The third movement is a joyfully
– utterly charming – and then
the composition is rounded off with an Allegro con
, rhythmic and spiritual music, truly entertaining. ‘I
would say it is written almost in a Schubertian vein – Schubert
has always been one of my favourite composers’, wrote
Castelnuovo-Tedesco. Segovia premiered the work at the
Accademia Musicale Chigiana of Siena in Italy in 1951,
where he also recorded it a few years later. I have heard
a relatively modest amount of Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s oeuvre
and what I have heard I have liked but the music here
surpasses anything I had heard earlier.
Spanish cellist and composer Gaspar Cassadó, a pupil of
Pablo Casals, taught at summer courses in Siena from 1946.
When Andrés Segovia later came there he wrote the little Sardana
him as a celebration. The sardana
is the national
dance of Catalonia, a lively circle dance, fluently played
by the dedicatee.
Tansman was Polish but lived in Paris from 1920 – except
for the war years when he lived in the US – and became
a French citizen in 1958. He met Segovia in 1925, was immediately
fascinated by the guitar and was one of the first non-Spanish
composers to write for Segovia. The five-movement Cavatina
the early 1950s is designed along the lines of a suite
by a baroque composer. Musically it is not a pastiche but
very personal in utterance. The Sarabande
is played tremolo and the finale, Danza
, which he added on Segovia’s demand as an exciting
end, is rhythmically and contrapuntally interesting – a
real tour de force.
Rodrigo is known to all music lovers for his Concierto
, but he wrote a great amount of guitar
music between 1926 and 1987. Zarabanda lejana
Sarabande) belongs to his earliest works and is dedicated
to late Renaissance Spanish composer Luis Milán. It is
built around rather heavy chords but with ornamentation
on the top string. Two masters meet across the centuries.
Argentinean guitarist Jorge Gómez Crespo is probably best
known for the piece played here, Norteña
, a beautiful
Indian lullaby. The works of the youngest composer represented
on this disc, Venezuelan Antonio Lauro, have been revived
lately, not least through a series on Naxos, but it was
thanks to Andrés Segovia that his compositions were first
heard outside Latin America. His waltzes have become popular,
livelier than the European variants.
Swiss composer Hans Haug also had connections with Siena,
where a guitar concertino by him won a first prize in 1950.
He was inspired to write more for solo guitar and Segovia
added these two pieces to his repertoire. Especially the Alba
a serene beauty that made me return to it several times.
was over sixty when he recorded these pieces but his technical
command is spotless and he infuses the music with a warmth
that totally belies his rather blasé appearance. The recordings
were quite good in their original and they have been well
transferred and restored.
is extra valuable to have these works by some eminent 20th
composers played by their dedicatee.
see also review by Jonathan Woolf
of other Segovia recordings on Naxos Historical