The Art of Andrés Segovia - Volume
4: Studio Recordings 1952-1958 Santiago De MURCIA (d.
Allegro [00:54] Ludovico RONCALLI (1654-1714)
Passacaglia (1692?) [04:58]
Gavotta [01:50] Silvyus Leopold WEISS (1686-1750)
Prelude [02:32] George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Allegretto grazioso [02:52]
Minuet [02:25] Fernando SOR (1778-1839)
Etude no. 1 in C major [01:27]
Etude no. 9 in A minor [01:24]
Etude no. 20 in C major [02:46]
Minuet in C minor [02:58]
Minuet in C major [01:21] Modest MUSSORGSKY (1839-81)
The Old Castle [04:52] Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916)
Danza triste [04:15]
La Maja de Goya [04:47] Albert ROUSSEL (1869-1937)
Segovia, Op. 29 [02:54] Alexander TANSMAN (1897-1986)
Alla Polacca [02:09]
Berceuse d’Orient [03:36]
(guitar), Rafael Puyana (harpsichord - Tansman)
rec. (New York?) March-April, 1952; January, April-May 1958
DISCOGRAFICO ITALIANO 6534 [54:59]
As Segovia’s recordings
become freely available under the 50-year rule - but not,
please note, in the USA, Australia or Singapore - more and
more of them are being reissued. Dynamic have a continuing
series on their IDIS (Istituto Discografico Italiano) label,
now arrived at Volume 4, as have Naxos, whose series of Segovia’s
1950s American recordings has reached Volume 3 (Naxos 8.111091 – see review).
Slightly confusingly, Volume 1 of the American 1950s recordings
is Volume 3 of
Naxos’s complete Segovia edition. Only the three short Handel
pieces on the current IDIS disc overlap with any of the
Naxos volumes to date; they also feature on Naxos’s American
Volume 1 (8.111089).
Naxos’s Volume 3 concentrates
entirely on Spanish music, chiefly by Tarrega and Ponce,
plus a Tarrega arrangement of a Study by Alard, a French
composer who was a student of Sarasate. As such, I imagine
that many potential listeners will prefer the Naxos to the
present CD, which ranges well beyond the Spanish field. The
other advantage of the CDs in the Naxos series is their price – at £5
or £6 in the UK, they compare with €12 for this IDIS recording
which is around £9 in the UK.
Some of the items on this
Dynamic issue, works by de Murcia, Roncalli, Sor and Granados,
featured in a 4-CD DG set The Segovia Collection (471
430-2 – see review) the advantage of which
is that it was made from the original MCA master tapes, digitally
enhanced. I presume that Dynamic had to make do with the
original LPs, but memory suggests that these were of good
quality and there is little to complain of in the standard
of the recording – immediate and full-ranging, with no evidence
of surface noise.
I say ‘presume’, since
the notes in the booklet give no idea of the provenance of
the recordings, whereas the Naxos notes give the catalogue
and matrix numbers of the Decca LPs from which their recordings
are taken. MCA LPs were issued under licence in the UK by
Decca. Naxos and Dynamic are both restricted by the 50-year
copyright rule, whereas the DG set contains recordings from
The Naxos notes, as usual,
are quite detailed, whereas the notes here are quite sparse,
offering only a general commentary on the quality of Segovia’s
playing, including his Bach which is not included here, nothing
at all about the composers or their music – not even their
dates or the dates of the pieces included here. Recording
dates, however, are given with greater precision than by
The order of performance
is chronological. The first nine tracks feature pleasant
baroque music by the still little-known de Murcia, Roncalli
and Weiss, two of whom are not even named in the Oxford
Companion to Music or the Concise Grove. De Murcia
published a collection of guitar music, Resumen de acompañar
la parte con la guitarra, in which he described himself
as Master of Music to the Queen of Spain. Count Ludovico
Roncalli was an Italian nobleman who in 1692 published a
collection of suites for the five-course baroque guitar.
If the music of Weiss is now better known, that is surely
due largely to the recordings of Segovia and, later, Julian
Bream and Narciso Yepes.
Rafael Puyana’s accompaniment
in the Weiss sounds rather sub fusc – almost like
a second guitar – despite his reputation for performing on
monster harpsichords. The recording may be early stereo -
again, the notes do not specify - but there is little separation
of the instruments.
The Handel items are taken
from a collection of harpsichord pieces in the collection
of the Marquis of Aylesford, in a transcription published
by Schott in 1935 and transcribed by Segovia. The first item,
named Allegretto grazioso, consists of two Minuets, the
first in a-minor, Andantino, and the second (also
in a-minor modulating at the end to e-minor) is given the
expression mark of Grazioso. The Gavotte in C, marked Allegretto,
is followed by a Minuet – actually a pair of Minuets in D
major and d minor. I am indebted to the Naxos notes for most
of this information on the Handel; would that the Dynamic
notes were as detailed.
From track 10 onwards,
with the Sor pieces, we are into mainstream guitar repertoire.
The odd-one-out here is the extract transcribed from Mussorgsky’s Pictures
from an Exhibition. Well though Segovia plays The
Old Castle, it sounds out of place – but, then, I must
admit to finding even Mussorgky’s piano original far less
attractive than the orchestral arrangements by which it is
better known, especially the Ravel.
The pieces by Roussel
and Tansman were dedicated to Segovia. Segovia’s performance
of the Roussel may be found on another 2-CD DG set, mainly
containing music by Tarrega (471 6972, at lower-mid-price)
and the complete Tansman Cavatina on yet another DG
set of MCA-sourced recordings (477 6050, 2 CDs, also lower-mid-price).
His version of the Tansman is also available on a Classical
Options CD: CO3503, coupled with works from Milan to the
20th century, at around £9 in the UK.
of all this music are beyond compare – I haven’t even bothered
to get out any Julian Bream, John Williams or Narciso Yepes
recordings for comparison: if their performances mostly qualify
as excellent, as they do, I’m lost for an epithet to describe
the Segovia. His recordings were my introduction to the guitar
repertoire and I’d be perfectly happy for them to play me
out, too, especially in transfers as good as those here.
By comparison with the Segovia recordings that made the rounds
in the 1960s and 1970s on labels such as Saga, where the
78 noise was supplemented by Saga’s own sublime surface crackle,
the modern collector on a tight budget has all the advantage.
And Saga’s budget 10/- cover price would translate to well
over the cost of full-price CDs in today’s money.
For all my grumbles about
Naxos’s superior presentation, I’m more than happy with what
we have here, especially if you couple it with purchasing
the Bach transcriptions on Naxos Volume 1. The budget-price
Regis recording of Segovia’s 1949-52 recordings (RRC1158 – see review)
should also be noted: only one item overlapping with this
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