This sixth and last volume in the series of Andrés Segovia’s 1950s
American recordings is divided between his transcriptions of 19th
century Romantic composers and original works by some of his Spanish
and South American contemporaries. None of the transcriptions
is particularly well known but none the worse for that. Schumann’s
Romanza is a really lovely song and Segovia plays it in
an improvisatory manner with some well judged rubatos. Who would
have thought that César Franck’s rather compact music could be
successfully adopted for guitar? These two short pieces, originally
for piano, are but they are also far removed from his usual style.
Brahms’s waltz is a more natural choice and so is Grieg’s gently
rocking Melody. All the transcriptions are expertly done.
Miguel Llobet was
an important influence on the young Segovia, who learnt El
Mestre directly from the composer. It is a delicate little
song, the lyrics telling the story of the teacher who falls
in love with his pupil and wants to marry her. Manuel de Falla’s
Le Tombeau de Claude Debussy was his only composition
for guitar and one of his most important works, which he later
arranged for piano and also orchestrated. Uruguayan Carlos Pedrell’s
light-hearted Guitarreo is in sharp contrast to the elegiac
mood of the de Falla and gives the guitarist ample opportunities
to display his technique.
The most extended
work here, Joan Manén’s Fantasia-Sonata is a deeply satisfying
composition with shifting moods. It only reveals its many depths
after several sittings and returning to it proved very rewarding.
Villa-Lobos wrote an amazing amount of music and not everything
is a masterpiece. Etude No. 7 probably is, at least it
is a tour-de-force of technical brilliance as played here but
there is also great warmth in the lyrical middle section. As
for Prelude No. 3 – the one that Segovia initially dismissed
in 1940 – I can fully understand his reaction, since it doesn’t
seem to get anywhere. Etude No. 1, on the other hand,
is a fine piece.
Torroba has long been a favourite of mine. A year ago I reviewed
two recitals devoted to his guitar music, one of them a reissue
of a Telarc disc from the 1990s with David Russell – a wholly
delightful cross-section of Torroba’s guitar oeuvre, which was
a Bargain of the Month (see review).
Some of the works on that disc also appear here with Segovia,
who had a very close relationship with the composer. It says
a lot of Russell’s accomplishment that he is more than a match
for the old master, but it is extremely valuable to have this
music with the dedicatee – there is no doubt about the authenticity
of the playing. Comparing their respective versions of the wonderful
Sonatina – one of Torroba’s foremost compositions – it
is interesting to note that Segovia is slightly faster in the
outer movements while he is more expansive in the central Andante.
Interpretatively they are both masterly. For both Madroños
and Nocturno they choose identical tempos and Segovia
rounds off the disc, and the series, with the fresh and vital
Serenata burlesca. This was published in 1928, two years
after Nocturno, which was one of the first pieces Torroba
wrote for him.
The sound is good
for its age and Segovia scholar Graham Wade contributes well
written and exhaustive notes. A self-recommending issue – but
for playing of similar excellence and superb sound: don’t miss