Dinner Topics for Friday
Segovia plays Leyenda, by Albeñiz on acoustic guitar
Nothing is difficult to those who have the will.
Andrés Segovia Torres, 1st Marquis of Salobreña (Spanish: [anˈdɾes seˈɣoβja ˈtores]) (21 February 1893 – 2 June 1987), known as Andrés Segovia, was a virtuoso Spanish classical guitarist from Linares, Spain. He is the father of modern classical guitar and has been regarded as one of the greatest guitarists of all time. Practically all professional classical guitarists today are students of Segovia, or students of his students.
Segovia’s contribution to the modern-romantic repertoire not only included commissions but also his own transcriptions of classical or baroque works. He is remembered for his expressive performances: his wide palette of tone, and his distinctive musical personality, phrasing and style.
Segovia was born in Linares, Jaén, Spain. He was sent at a very young age to live with his uncle Eduardo and his wife Maria. Eduardo arranged for Segovia’s first music lessons with a violin teacher after recognizing that Segovia had an aptitude for music. This proved to be an unhappy introduction to music for the young Segovia because of the teacher’s strict methods, and Eduardo stopped the lessons. His uncle decided to move to Granada to allow Segovia to obtain a better education; after arriving in Granada Segovia recommenced his musical studies. Segovia was aware of flamenco during his formative years as a musician but stated that he “did not have a taste” for the form and chose instead the works of Sor, Tárrega and other classical composers. Tárrega agreed to give the self-taught Segovia some lessons but died before they could meet and Segovia states that his early musical education involved the “double function of professor and pupil in the same body”.
Segovia’s first public performance was in Granada at the age of 16 in 1909. A few years later he played his first professional concert in Madrid which included works by Francisco Tárrega and his own guitar transcriptions of J.S. Bach. Despite the discouragement of his family, who wanted him to become a lawyer, and criticism by some of Tárrega’s pupils for his idiosyncratic technique, he continued to diligently pursue his studies of the guitar.
He played again in Madrid in 1912, at the Paris Conservatory in 1915, in Barcelona in 1916, and made a successful tour of South America in 1919. Segovia’s arrival on the international stage coincided with a time when the guitar’s fortunes as a concert instrument were being revived, largely through the efforts of Miguel Llobet. It was in this changing milieu that Segovia, whose strength of personality and artistry coupled with new technological advances such as recording, radio, and air travel, succeeded in making the guitar more popular again.
In 1921 in Paris, Segovia met Alexandre Tansman, who later wrote a number of guitar works for Segovia, among them Cavatina, which won a prize at the Siena International Composition contest in 1952.
At Granada in 1922 he became associated with the Concurso de Cante Jondo promoted by the Spanish composer Manuel de Falla. The aim of the “classicizing” Concurso was to preserve flamenco in its purity from being distorted by modern popular music. Segovia had already developed as a fine tocador of flamenco guitar, yet his direction was now classical. Invited to open the Concurso held at the Alhambra, he played Homenaje a Debussy by Falla.
In 1923 Segovia was in Mexico for the first time. There Manuel Ponce was so impressed with the concert that he wrote a review in El Universal. Later Ponce went on to write many works for Segovia, including numerous sonatas.
In 1924, Segovia visited the German luthier Hermann Hauser Sr. after hearing some of his instruments played in a concert in Munich. In 1928 Hauser provided Segovia with one of his personal guitars for use during his United States tour and in his concerts through to 1933. When Hauser delivered the new instrument Segovia had ordered, Segovia passed his 1928 Hauser to his U.S. representative and close friend Sophocles Papas, who gave it to his classical guitar student, the famous jazz and classical guitarist Charlie Byrd, who used it on several records.
Segovia’s first American tour was arranged in 1928 when Fritz Kreisler, the Viennese violinist who privately played the guitar, persuaded F. C. Coppicus from the Metropolitan Musical Bureau to present the guitarist in New York.
After Segovia’s debut tour in the U.S. in 1928, the Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos composed his now well-known Twelve Études (Douze études) and later dedicated them to Segovia. Their relationship proved to be lasting as Villa-Lobos continued to write for Segovia. He also transcribed numerous classical pieces himself and revived the pieces transcribed by predecessors like Tárrega.