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Andrés Segovia - 1950s American Recordings: Volume 4
Luys MILAN (c. 1500–after 1560)
Pavana III [1:32]
Fantasia XVI [3:03]
Luys de NARVÁEZ (fl. 1526–1549)
Canción del Emperador [3:05]
Guárdame las vacas [2:48]
Alonso MUDARRA (c. 1510–1580)
Romanesca [2:00]
John DOWLAND (1563–1626)
Captain Digorie Piper’s Galliard [2:09]
Anon.
Galliard [0:43]
Girolamo FRESCOBALDI (1583–1643)
Aria detta la Frescobalda [6:39]
Louis COUPERIN (c. 1626–1661)
Passacaglia [6:00]
Six 16th Century Pieces: Anonymous: Vaghe belleze [1:34] Cesare Negri: Bianco fiore [0:37] Anonymous: Danza [0:53] Anonymous: Gagliarda [0:58] Anonymous: Se io m’accorgo [1:52] Vincenzo Galilei: Saltarello [0:59]
Robert de VISÉE (c. 1650–c. 1732)
Suite in D minor: Prélude [0:43] Allemande [2:28] Bourrée [0:44] Sarabande [1:44] Gavotte [0:56] Gigue [1:13]
Manuel PONCE (1882–1948)
from Suite II: Preámbulo [4:21] Tempo di Gavotta [3:09]
Jean-Philippe RAMEAU (1683–1764)
Minuet [3:37]
Domenico SCARLATTI (1685–1757)
Sonata K. 11 / L. 352 [3:19]
Manuel PONCE
from Suite I: Prélude [2:07] Ballet [2:44] Prélude [1:50] Allemande [2:35] Gigue [4:45]
Andrés Segovia (guitar)
rec. 1952–1957
NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.111092 [71:06]
Experience Classicsonline


Perhaps I am not the best qualified person to review this CD and this for at least two reasons. Firstly, I belong to a generation who believe that the greatest guitarists in the world-ever are Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana and Jimmy Page. Perhaps I even have a sneaking admiration for Slash? But do not get me wrong, I have heard of the classical guitar – in my day it was John Williams and Julian Bream that came onto my horizon as I began to explore works by Michael Tippett, Lennox Berkeley and Malcolm Arnold. Segovia, I guess was a name that I had heard of – but along with Django Reinhardt, he belonged to another era, another generation.
 
The second reason is that I do not ‘dig’ the point of view that says that Andrés Segovia’s interpretation is somehow lacking in light of subsequent scholarship. For example Göran Forsling writes in these pages that “performing styles have changed considerably since the 1940s and 1950s. With authentic performance practice in mind both Landowska and Segovia can appear too romantic with their rubato playing as opposed to a more strict adherence to basic tempo.” However he does insist that this should not be problem. I agree. I will not be bullied by the ‘Back to Someone or Other who does it Perfect’ school of playing! He or she never existed. The bottom line is – does it move me? The answer here is: Yes, it does!
 
It is often stated that Segovia was the father of ‘classical guitar’ scholarship. It is not a field that I can really comment definitively on – yet it is worth quoting Segovia’s own view of his programme. He developed "five purposes" as goals for his legacy. They were outlined by the performer in the Guitar Review No. 32, Autumn 1969:

1) To extract the guitar from the noisy and disreputable folkloric amusements ...
2) I requested the living composers not in the field of guitar to write for me. This was the second of my purposes: to create a wonderful repertoire for my instrument.
3) My third purpose was to make the guitar known by the philharmonic public of the world.
4) To provide a unifying medium for those interested in the development of the guitar. This I did through my support of the now well known international musicological journal, the Guitar Review
5) I am still working on my fifth and maybe the last purpose, which is to place the guitar in the most important conservatories of the world for teaching the young lovers of it, and thus securing its future.

To decide if he has fully achieved these goals is beyond my ken – yet even the briefest look at the world of the classical guitar would suggest that by and large he has.
 
It has been argued that Segovia had a ‘full-blooded’ approach to the early music. He did not think to play his realisations on ‘contemporary’ instruments, for example. Further he was often accused of being cavalier with his editing of historic manuscripts - he tended to recreate the music in his own image rather than trying to recover the original context.
 
Whatever pupils and followers of Segovia were to say - and not all of it was complimentary by any manner of speaking, he was a great innovator. I guess that he laid the ground rules that others were to follow. Furthermore, however much the integrity and historical accuracy of his interpretations fall short of present standards, he was acclaimed in his day and was regarded as a genius. Sometimes in this world the great individual is the one who begins the job: sometimes it is the person who finishes the task. Often it can be both.
 
The programme on this CD is, to my ear at least, well balanced. The music is not played in any kind of chronological order nor does it attempt to present composers from various countries in ‘local’ groups. Most of the pieces are 16th and 17th century including works such as the John Dowland’s Captain Digorie Piper’s Galliard written for lute and Louis Couperin’s Passacaglia – originally for organ. Later composers are represented by the great Mexican Manuel Ponce although his work does seem to nod towards Bach – so it is in some ways appropriate for them to be included on this CD even if the Suites are given as excerpted movements!
 
Segovia plays music that was originally written for keyboard, lute and guitar. Frescobaldi’s Aria was a set of variations composed for the harpsichord. The six 16th Century pieces are from a collection of 16th Century Italian guitar music. Baroque guitar works by Robert de Visée are contrasted with music by Luis Milan, Luys de Narvaez and Alonso Mudarra. These are all names that are new to me! I am on better understood territory with the Minuet by Rameau and the Sonata by Scarlatti!
 
The sound quality of this CD is utterly remarkable. Bearing in mind that these transfers derive from the mid nineteen-fifties they sound well nigh perfect. Of course, the perfectionist will complain about hiss here and resonance there – but to my innocent ear it sounds as if Segovia has returned from heaven and is present in the room with me. I listened to this CD drinking a glass of sherry – it was only the Spanish sunshine that was missing.
 
However, one word of warning: the nature of this CD is of a single instrument playing some 15 works in 30 tracks. Do not listen to all this at a sitting. Play it in order by all means – but please take a break. Go top up the ‘fino’ - possibly after the Couperin and again after Manuel Ponce’s Second Suite. This, like sherry, is music to be savoured - not taken at a gulp.
 
John France

see also review by Göran Forsling

 


 


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