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Andres SEGOVIA (1898-1987)
Guitar Music

Alberto La Rocca (guitar)
rec. March/April 2016, Thiene (VI) Italy

Andres Segovia was the most important and influential guitarist of the twentieth century. He lived a life span of 94 years, and enjoyed international fame as the greatest exponent of his instrument. Under such circumstances it may seem unusual that so very little is known about his personal life and details, particularly the early years. His date of birth is a case in point: in the absence of a birth certificate, his baptismal certificate is the only valid document of reference. This gives his birth date as March 17, 1893; however Segovia stated that this was incorrect, and claimed the correct date to be February 21. During his time in Montevideo, where he lived with his second wife Paquita Madriguera, the family always celebrated his birthday on November 11.

Segovia’s autobiography, which covers his life up until 1920, is a litany of distorted and omitted facts. Although he did write further autobiographical details, they were never published. Segovia shared some biographical facts with the USA publication Guitar Review. Given his strident criticism of flamenco guitar, and stated mission to “rescue the guitar from the flemencos”, one may be surprised and confused about his comments in Guitar Review, Spring 1992: he included a transcription of one of Paco Lucena’s falsettas, and referred to the ‘simplicity of his noble style.’

The present CD presents original music from the pen of Segovia, much of it unpublished at the time of his death. It also includes one piece written by Paquita Madriguera [21], and tracks 22-44 are his arrangements of popular folk songs from different countries including the well- known Scottish tune, On the Bonnie, Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond.

Segovia openly expressed dissatisfaction with the breadth and quality of the guitar repertoire he embraced as a young virtuoso, seeking to supplement it with new music by contemporary composers, but rejecting anything that deviated significantly from his Romantic instincts. Although he composed more than 50 short works for guitar, he appears to have never included them in concert programmes and only ever recorded two: Estudio sin Luz and Remembranza. Discovered after his death was a further body of original compositions for guitar written by various musicians for Segovia, but which he preferred to ignore. Incongruous with his quest to broaden the guitar repertory, he ignored not only a lot of worthwhile original music for guitar by others, but also his own compositions.

Alberto La Rocca (ALR) was born in Thiene in 1967. He graduated from the F.E. Dall’ Abaco Conservatory in Verona, subsequently attending classes with such luminaries as Leo Brouwer and Stefano Grondona. To develop his creative approach to music he attended courses with Meredith Monk, John Paynter and Robert Dani. In 1994 he graduated in the Disciplines of Art, Music and Performing Arts at the University of Bologna.

In the liner notes La Rocca is shown playing a ten-string guitar, and aspects of his performance on the CD suggest he is using the same instrument on that occasion. His website refers to a special tuning he has developed, also finger picks of his own design. In addition to his talents as a player, musician, innovator and teacher, La Rocca is also an excellent artist. The handsome black and white portrait of Segovia included in the liner notes is his work.

ALR is not the first guitarist to have given his recording attention to this repertory. Several years ago Agustin Maruri also recorded a selection of these, thirty two in total, which was reviewed in this forum (review). This new CD by ALR comprises a selection of forty four pieces, including the Madriguera composition previously mentioned. The general interpretation and execution of this music is very good, and is a reminder that in recording his own music, Segovia selected the best two compositions.

The liner notes refer to Segovia’s compositional style paralleling that of Ponce and Moreno-Torroba but also having echoes of the Romantic composers of the nineteenth century and allusions to Tarrega and LLobet. Segovia’s compositions are not typically ‘guitaristic’ as encountered in the works of many guitarist/composers, and are often technically challenging to execute.

Because most of this music has been rarely played or recorded, La Rocca expresses preoccupation with an ideal “interpretive key.” He notes that in accordance with philological performance i.e. interpreting the music as close to the original style as possible, the absence of Segovia recordings makes this virtually impossible, and may be fortuitous in avoiding sterile imitations of his style. Instead La Rocca pursues, in his own way “a recreation of Segovia’s poetic and musical world inspired by rich phrasing, expressive nuance and plastic elasticity that characterized the performances of the grand Maestro.”

That said, we are in a position to make comparisons in the case of the three frequently recorded pieces from this repertory: [15], [16], [18]. While La Rocca’s technical facility cannot be faulted, his playing in these pieces borders on the sedate and sometimes fails to convey the spirt of the piece. A good example is [18] where there is little of the mood swing exemplified in Segovia’s recording. Those familiar with the circumstances in which Segovia composed this music will recall that he was convalescing from cataract surgery and uncertain if he would ever see again. He doubtless felt a great deal of anxiety contrasted with calm reassurance during that difficult period, and conveyed this in his music.

The Spanish master Jose Luis Gonzalez got closer to the spirit of this music [15, 16] in his recording (SBR 235147). In comparison to the earlier recording by Agustin Maruri, La Rocca is superior in terms both of technical execution and interpretive spirit.

We are fortunate to live in an era when these miniature master pieces have emerged from obscurity and when guitarists with the capabilities of Alberto La Rocca have embraced them, and found a place for them in recorded history for all to enjoy.

Zane Turner
Track Listing
1-11 Once Preludios [17:53]
Estudio en mi mayor [3:33]
Estudio para Deli [1:31]
Recordando a Deli [3:26]
15-16 Estudios [5.49]
Estudio-Vals [2:19]
Estudio sin Luz [3:15]
19 Improntu [1.37]
20 Estudio [3:07]
22-24 Veintitrés canciones populares de distintos paises [23:09]
21 Humorada [2.02]



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