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
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.
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.
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 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.