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July 2022

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Viaje en España
Raoul LAPARRA (1876-1943)
Pueblo Castellano [2:24]; Brujerias [2:28]; En Aragon [2:16]
Andrés SEGOVIA (1893-1987)
Estudio Sin Luz [3:34]
Joaquin MALATS (1872-1912)
Serenata Española [3:38]
Vicente ARREGUI (1871-1925)
Cinco Piezas Liricas [24:24]
Antonio Jose de SAN SEBASTIAN
Errimina (Nostalgia) [4:48]
Oscar ESPLA (1886-1976)
Levantina II [1:29]; Levantina V [1:47]; Levantina VIII [2:22]; Antano [1:45]
Jaime PAHISSA (1880-1969)
Tres Temas de Recuerdos [7:12]
Martha Master (guitar)
rec. 2009, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles.
Experience Classicsonline

As with her previous recording Viaggio in Italia - also reviewed in this forum - Martha Master’s latest offering has a thematic focus, but with a twist.

The liner-notes were written by Italian guitarist/composer Angelo Gilardino who was Artistic Director of the Andrés Segovia Foundation of Linares, Spain from 1997 to 2005. Gilardino explains that regardless of the guitar’s limited repertory, original music written for it, and dedicated to Segovia during the decades between the two World Wars, was treated selectively by the Maestro. He acted as a discriminating filter, electing to play those compositions the character and colours of which suited his tone and phrasing. Despite intrinsic qualities, other pieces written for him were simply ignored and never found his favour.

In 2001, fourteen years after Segovia’s death, Gilardino was entrusted with ‘breaking of the seals of silence’ on these neglected manuscripts from the Segovia collection. It is from these manuscripts that Martha Masters has chosen music for the current recording. She also includes a couple of more familiar items, one from the pen of the Maestro himself.

For aficionados of the guitar, well-played renditions of the Spanish masters will never lose their magic. It is however refreshing to hear original compositions by composers such as Arregui, Pahissa and Laparra, hitherto neglected. Laparra is the odd man out in this collection, although given his circumstances he could be considered more Spanish than French. General information on the composers and their music can be found at the end of this review.

Martha Masters needs no introduction to those familiar with the classical guitar. She began studying guitar at the age of six with Jim McCutcheon. She then studied with composer/teacher Brian Head and later with Manuel Barrueco at the Peabody Conservatory gaining a Bachelor and Masters Degree in Music. This was later supplemented with a Doctor of Musical Arts Degree from the University of Southern California. She currently heads a guitar programme at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. The review disc is her seventh commercial recording.

From a review of guitar recordings made over the past several decades one thing becomes very evident: as the classical guitar has become more institutionalized and the focus of academia, the style of playing had generally become more clone-like. Essentially an instrument of folk origins, its earlier exponents were their own teachers and those taught by fathers, relatives and friends. One has only to listen to past autodidacts such as Julian Bream, Narciso Yepes and Segovia (?) to witness a wide divergence of styles, easily distinguishable one from another. The great Jose Luis Gonzalez Julia (1932-1989) was taught by his father, Salvador Garcia, Regino Sainz de La Maza, Balaguer and later Segovia. When Gonzalez went to Australia in 1962 to teach, no university in that country offered curriculum for study of the classical guitar. The origins of his mastery lie deep in the traditions of Valencia and the folk roots of the instrument; this is highly evident in his unique, always identifiable style.

One of the guitarists from the younger generation who appears to have escaped academic-cloning is Martha Masters. She has reaped the benefits of academia but managed to imbue her playing with an individual style. Immediately apparent on this recording is a big, full, round sound; this is the same sound we heard on her earlier recording, Viaggio in Italia. One must recognize the embellishments available through modern recording and editing techniques, but this may be discounted to the extent that it is available to all recording artists and still the sound of this disc is exceptional. The quality of the instrument also plays a significant role in the final result. On her previous recording Masters played a Spanish instrument by Tezanos-Perez and has since used a Simon Marty guitar in concert. Although not mentioned in the liner-notes, the instrument used in this recording has been kindly identified by Martha Masters as from the hands of Herman Hauser III. The design of this instrument departs quite significantly from his standard; it is very powerful with a bold, mellow and balanced sound.

At social gatherings where we are strangers, any familiar face is welcomed. There are ‘familiar faces’ in this recording so those well-played pieces by Segovia and Malats are quickly embraced. However Masters has the ability to make the unfamiliar quickly familiar and one wonders why Segovia ignored music of this calibre. The same question could be asked of his attitude toward the music of Barrios which he also never recorded. Segovia’s seeming indifference even extended to his own compositions: of the more than thirty pieces he wrote, the Maestro only ever recorded two, and most remained unpublished at the time of his death.

Those who listen to this recording will come to their own conclusions. From where I am listening, Martha Masters plays with conviction and panache. Her sound and style are memorable.

Zane Turner

Raoul Laparra
At the time of writing the Suite, Cuadros - Scènes D’Espagne, circa. 1924, Laparra was one of the outstanding figures in the French music world. In addition to composition he reviewed music and wrote for French newspapers. For many French artists, Spain was a source of fascination and Laparra was no exception. He ultimately spent most of his life in that country. Hearing Segovia play he was inspired to write Scènes D’Espagne but never wrote anything else for the instrument. Unfortunately only the original version of Pueblo Castellano survives; the other two movements are taken from Laparra’s arrangements for piano.

Vicente Arregui Garay
Arregui was a pianist who, right at the end of his life, wrote this music for guitar, again inspired by Segovia. It represents unique Romantic Spanish music that, rather than evoking the guitar through the piano, was written directly for the guitar, and very successfully.

Jaime Pahissa
The Catalan composer Pahissa was one of the most advanced of his day in Barcelona, a city at that time influenced by European culture probably more than any other in Spain. A composer of orchestral music, Segovia doubted his ability to influence Pahissa to write for the small delicate texture of the guitar. However no later than 1919 he wrote a small piece for Segovia entitled Canco en El Mar that was never acknowledged or recorded by Segovia. Later exiled to Argentina, during 1938-39 Pahissa wrote three pieces for Segovia; tainted by his earlier experience he never sent them to the dedicatee. His widow sent them to Segovia in 1979.

Jose Antonio de San Sebastian (Father Donostia)
In 1925 Segovia received a composition for the guitar by Father Donostia. Segovia had encouraged the composer to write freely for the guitar on the basis he would effect any necessary amendments to make it totally suitable for the instrument. Despite this, Segovia acknowledged the composition by indicating it was unsuitable for the guitar. Father Donostia subsequently made a piano arrangement and had it published. A scholar of Debussy, Vladimir Jankelevitch, who heard Errimina played on piano, had warm praise for the piece.

Oscar Espla
The Alicante-born composer sensitively, but also unsuccessfully, responded to Segovia’s appeal for new guitar music by writing the first movement of a Sonata in the 1920s. It was subsequently arranged for chromatic harp and recorded by Nicanor Zabaleta who felt it more suited to the guitar! Segovia did however acknowledge Espla by including in his concerts two small pieces that had been written for piano under the title Levante.



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