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Andrés Segovia – The Master Guitarist
see end of review for details
Andrés Segovia (guitar)
New London Orchestra/Alec Sherman ¹
rec. London 1927-49
EMI CLASSICS ICON 2080772 [3 CDs: 62:09 + 59:02 + 62:09]
Experience Classicsonline

It’s hardly surprising that there are a number of competing Segovia discs in the marketplace.  Some range across time and place, some concentrate on the American Deccas (in the main) such as the extensive ongoing Naxos series and some, such as Doremi, couple Segovia with less well-known contemporaries of his. I’ve reviewed a number on this site. This EMI ‘Icon’ three disc box sets itself the task of collating London recordings made between 1927 and 1948. They don’t run chronologically though they are in rough chronological blocks as it were – by which I mean that the 1927 and ’28 sessions are bisected by one from 1935. Since these are all the semi-legendary Bach sessions that doesn’t really matter so much, at least in my book. Some people, I appreciate, would prefer a straight chronological run. Most would not care overmuch about the lack of matrix or issue numbers - but I do.
 
The retexturing, chordal playing, lavish portamenti and even more lavish rubati of his Bach are bewitching examples of the refashioning of material for a different medium. As Emma Baker notes in her booklet essay these devices don’t find favour nowadays – and so much the worse for these supposedly pluralist times. Franchising Bach to specialist practitioners is no good for anyone. The romanticised identification between Segovia and Bach is a profound and real one; matters of supposedly stylistic accuracy are surely secondary to the historical fact of his annexation of this body of work for his own instrument.
 
The Gavotte from the Partita No.3 is full of these teasing rubati and gracioso phrasing and almost emblematic of Segovia’s way with the composer. The Small Queen’s Hall sessions also produced successful takes of Ponce’s Suite in A minor, a graceful neo-Bachian exercise with an especially tremulously warm Gavotte. Sor’s Thème Varié Op.9 has long since become a staple of the guitarist’s repertoire but here is Segovia in May 1927, at his first session, revealing its virtuosity and charm for the first time. De Visée’s Minuet was new to me and a delight, the Mendelssohn an example of dextrous fingering in the extreme and the Malats truly elegant evidence of Segovia’s gift for legato phrasing. Tárrega’s Recuerdos De La Alhambra is not as slow as it was later to become.
 
Few players on any instrument, certainly few orchestras, could be as evocative or could cast so deep a spell in Albéniz as could Segovia. Try the two movements recorded from the Suite española in the guitarist’s own arrangement – as are, of course, so many of the pieces in this collection. In Granados’s Danzas españolas No.5 he gives Fritz Kreisler a run for his money rubato-wise but better still is the Canción from Ponce’s Third Sonata – an exquisite piece of colour shading. The same composer’s extensive Folies d'Espange lasts a good quarter of an hour and is in essence a series of variations on La Folia, of which the slow variation before the concluding Fugue is a highpoint.
 
The last disc is given over to the post-war recordings made in London in 1949, a decade after he last recorded there. More Bach inevitably followed as well as the expected Spanish composers. The Arada from Torroba’s Suite castellana is a languid romance and Crespo’s Norteña wears the potency of popular song with avid beauty, There’s even an original from Segovia himself – Estudio sin luz. Of the remainder Villa-Lobos’s First Etude goes like a bomb whilst the Tarantella of Castelnuovo-Tedesco is saturated in elegant rhythmic drive and élan. His neo-classical concerto is a delight as well – Boccherini coated with honey. Its evocative slow movement is the high point and Alec Sherman directs the winds with a succulent baton.
 
Many, if not most of these recordings have been newly engineered; some have relied on earlier transfers but the majority were engineered in 2008. Comparison with Keith Hardwick’s old RLS745 double LP of the 1927-29 sides shows that it exudes more surface noise, as expected, but also more room ambience, especially in the Small Queen’s Hall sessions. Similarly where comparison exists Naxos – for example the later 1949 sides are to be found on 8.111088 - are more open than EMI’s recent work. This is characteristic of EMI’s recent approach in any case, which is of the treble damping kind.
 
On whatever basis you choose – and in addition to these factors Segovia re-recorded much of his repertory - surely everyone needs a representative Segovia selection. This one is inexpensive, well produced and fully representative.
 
Jonathan Woolf
 
Track listing
CD1
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Gavotte en rondeau (from Partita No.3 in E, BWV1006) (arr. Segovia)  [2:53]
Courante (from Cello Suite No.3 in C major, BWV 1009) (arr. Segovia)   [2:52]
Prelude (from Cello Suite No.1 in G, BWV 1007) (arr. Ponce)   [2:08]
Prelude in C minor BWV999 (arr. Segovia)   [1:26]
Suite in E minor Allemande BWV996 (arr. Segovia)  [1:58]
Fugue (Allegro) (from Sonata No.1 in G minor, BWV 1001) (arr. Segovia)   [4:34]
Manuel PONCE (1882-1948)
Suite in A minor
I. Prelude – Allemande [4:27]
II. Gavotte [2:56]
III. Sarabande [2:55]
IV. Gigue [4:38]
Fernando SOR (1788-1839)
Thème Varié - Introduction and Variations on a theme by Mozart Op. 9 [3:37]
Robert de VISÉE (c.1660-1725)
Sarabande [1:47]
Bourée [0:52]
Menuet [1:43]
Johann Jacob FROBERGER (1616-1667)
Gigue [1:38]
Federico Moreno TORROBA (1891-1982)
Allegretto (Sonatina in A) [3:29]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Canzonetta (from String Quartet No.1 in E flat, Op.12) (arr. Segovia) [4:18]
Joaquin MALATS (1872-1912)
Serenata española [3:45]
Francisco TÁRREGA (1852-1909)
Recuerdos De La Alhambra [3:30]
Study in A minor (from Twenty Studies) [2:02]
Mario CASTELNUOVO-TEDESCO (1895-1968)
Vivo ed energico from Sonata 'Omaggio a Boccherini' Op. 77 [3:50]
CD2
Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909)
Suite espanola No.1 Op.47 (arr. Segovia)
I. Granada [4:21]
III. Sevilla [4:17]
Federico Moreno TORROBA (1891-1982)
Suite castellana –Fandanguillo [2:03]
Prelude in E [1:59]
Nocturno [3:09]
Joaquin TURINA (1882-1949)
Fandanguillo Op. 36 [4:00]
Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916)
Danzas espanolas Op. 37
Melancolica (Danza Triste) No.10 [4:12]
Andaluza (Playera) No.5 [4:30]
Manuel PONCE (1882-1948)
Sonata No. 3 [7:17]
Postlude [1:55]
Mazurka [3:18]
Petite Valse (arr. Segovia) [2:41]
Folies d'Espange [14:43]
CD 3
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Partita No. 1 for unaccompanied violin in B minor BWV 1002 (arr. Segovia)
Bourree [3:18]
Double [2:46]
Fernando SOR (1788-1839)
Andantino (from Six Divertimentos, Op.2) [2:58]
Federico Moreno TORROBA (1891-1982)
Suite Castellana
I. Fandanguillo [1:51]
II. Arada [2:55]
Joaquin TURINA (1882-1949)
Fandanguillo Op. 36 (1926) [3:53]
Jorge Gomez CRESPO  (1900-1971)
Nortena [3:07]
Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959)
12 Etudes (1929)
No.1 in E minor [1:56]
No.7 in C sharp minor [2:40]
Manuel Maria PONCE (1886-1948)
Sonata Clasica
IV. Allegro (Rondo) [3:09]
Sonatina Meridional [8:32]
Andrés SEGOVIA (1893-1987)
Estudio Sin Luz [1:52]
Mario CASTELNUOVO-TEDESCO (1895-1968)
Tarantella, Aranci in Fiore, Op.87 (1936) [3:48]
Guitar Concerto No.1 in D, Op. 99 (1939) [18.59]¹

 


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