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ClassicsOnline Home » SEGOVIA, Andres: 1950s American Recordings, Vol. 1 (Segovia, Vol. 3)
Andrés Segovia was entirely selftaught, playing his first public recital at the age of 14. He is credited with elevating the guitar from a folk instrument to the highest levels of the international concert stage. This third release in the Naxos Segovia Edition is the first of six discs devoted to the great guitarist’s 1950s American recordings. Focusing on performances of his transcriptions of the works of J. S. Bach and Handel, it includes a number of war-horses such as the brilliant Courante from the Cello Suite No. 3 and the Gavotte en Rondeau from the Suite in E major, both of which preserve many of the virtuosic felicities of the originals. Segovia’s transcription of the Chaconne from the Violin Partita No. 2 has become one of the most deeply loved items of the guitar repertoire.
By David Denton
Great Guitarists • Andrés Segovia (1893-1987)
1950s American Recordings, Volume 1
Andrés Segovia, was born in Linares, Jaén, in the region of Spain known as Andalusia, on 21 February 1893. From early childhood he was deeply responsive to the sound of the guitar, an instrument which was part of everyday life in southern Spain. At the age of ten he moved from Linares in order to attend school in Granada. Here he acquired his first guitar. Despite the absence of any competent teachers, Segovia soon gained a prodigious mastery of the instrument and discovered the existence of many fine guitar compositions surpassing the limitations of Andalusia's folkloric guitar styles.
By 1909 Segovia was ready to offer his public début at the Centro Artístico in Granada. Concerts in Cordoba and Seville followed and he later went to Madrid where in 1912 he gave a recital at the Ateneo and was presented with a concert guitar of superlative quality by the luthier, Manuel Ramírez. Segovia's first international tour was to South America in the early 1920s while his European reputation was established by a resoundingly successful concert in Paris in 1924 attended by many distinguished musicians.
From this period of his life onwards Segovia not only enriched the range of the guitar repertoire by transcribing and performing works by great composers of the past, but also persuaded his contemporaries to write new pieces. Composers such as Moreno Torroba, Turina and Manén (Spain), Ponce (Mexico), Castelnuovo-Tedesco (Italy), Villa-Lobos (Brazil), Roussel (France), and Tansman (Poland), wrote significant compositions for him during this crucial period of his early concert career. Following the Second World War, other composers contributed to his musical treasury including Rodrigo, Mompou and Asencio (Spain), Duarte (England), and Haug (Switzerland), among others. Since Segovia's death, further works by a variety of composers such as Vicente Arregui, Lennox Berkeley, Henri Collet, Cyril Scott, Gaspar Cassadó, Raymond Petit and others have been discovered among his private papers.
Armed with an expanding repertoire, Segovia's international esteem rapidly increased, especially after his initial commercial recordings in 1927. In 1926 he performed in Russia and Britain, in 1927 in Scandinavia, in 1928 came his first tour of the United States, and in 1929 Segovia made his début in Japan. From then on Segovia's guitar was heard in almost every country in the world. He continued touring until the age of 94, his last concert taking place in Miami, Florida on 4 April 1987. Andrés Segovia died at his home in Madrid two months later on 2 June 1987.
The present recording celebrates Segovia's performances of the works of J.S. Bach and Handel. It was Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909), the great nineteenth-century pioneer of the classical guitar, who first explored in depth the possibilities of arranging Bach's music for his recitals. Segovia gained immeasurably by these precedents but went on to refine and develop the available repertoire, extending the range by including transcriptions for guitar of such masterpieces as Bach's mighty Chaconne, first performed in Paris on 4 June 1935. Thereafter this work became a necessary challenge and a bench mark for all younger aspirants to guitar honours. At the same time the music of J.S. Bach has become a familiar aspect of contemporary guitar performances, following the redoubtable example of Andrés Segovia, who revered the 'majestic grandeur' of Bach above all other composers.
Segovia's approach to Bach in particular and Baroque music generally is considerably different from modern performance practice. For most of his early career he preferred (as was often the custom during the first half of the twentieth century) to present individual movements in recitals rather than total suites. Listeners will also find his approach to ornamentation very different in its sparseness from the somewhat more elaborate scholarly apparatus deployed today on this aspect. Segovia made no attempt to offer 'authenticity', the music of J.S. Bach at that time being treated in a similar manner to that of other composers, with added harmonies and rhythmic concepts moulded to the performer's individual stylistic concepts. But Segovia's interpretations possess their own coherent integrity, and his presentation of Bach in guitaristic terms, proved to be profoundly popular for many decades, whether in concerts or recordings, with both public and critics.
The Prelude from Bach's Cello Suite No. 1 in G major, played here in the key of D major, is well suited to the guitar. Segovia, who seems never to have published this arrangement, provides inventive harmonies to thicken the texture and present a contrapuntal effect. Segovia first recorded this work for 78rpms on 2 April 1935.
The delightful Gavottes from Bach's Cello Suite No. 6 in D major are characterized in the cello version by considerable double-stopping (the playing of two notes simultaneously with the bow), indicating the harmonic progressions. Though Segovia often enriches the chords here with additional notes, the harmony remains very close to Bach's cello original. The pair of Gavottes are performed on the guitar in E major. Gavotte II offers a contrasting melody in the same key rather than being cast (as is sometimes the case with paired dances), in the minor mode. Segovia's arrangement, published by Schott in 1954, was also recorded by Segovia in New York in December 1946.
The Bourrée from Violin Partita No. 1 in B minor is one of Segovia's early Bach arrangements (published by Schott in Segovia's Guitar Archives Serie s, 1928). It is closely based, with a few Segovia refinements, on Tárrega's version published by Vidal, Limona y Boceta, Barcelona, in 1907. In his autobiography Segovia mentions how, in his early teens, he played this work, 'trembling, barely able to control my fingers', to Rafael de Montis, an influential young aristocrat who had studied the piano with the renowned Eugen d'Albert. On the basis of this performance Rafael de Montis invited Segovia to Seville and introduced him to 'the cream of Seville's musical world and some of his aristocratic circle', thus advancing his career as an artist. Some years later, when Segovia heard the playing of Tárrega's pupil, Miguel Llobet, it was this same Bourrée which he performed.
The brilliant Courante, from Cello Suite No. 3 in C major first recorded by Segovia on 2 May 1927, and published by Schott in 1928, proved to be one of his veritable war-horses, establishing world-wide his individual approach to Bach's music. There are many virtuosic felicities within Segovia's interpretation here, including the sweep of his phrasing, the subtleties of the shades of sound, and the delightful slurred notes (particularly at the beginning of bars) inculcating a vigorous rhythmic drive.
The Sicilienne from Violin Sonata No. 1 in G minor is a slow movement in 6/8 or 12/8 time presenting an aria or simple melodic line over gently undulating harmonies. In his recitals, Segovia often played this work in conjunction with the Fugue from the same suite, its lyricism and lilting accompaniment to the theme being extremely idiomatic to the guitar. It is believed that Segovia was the first to transcribe and perform this movement in the concert hall (his arrrangement being published by Union Musical Española in 1930).
The Suite in E minor was originally selected from the centenary edition of Bach's complete works, (the celebrated Bach Gesellschaft Edition, published between 1851 and 1899) by Dr Hans Dagobert Bruger and printed in his influential collection of so-called 'Bach lute compositions' of 1921. In fact, the Suite is often misleadingly referred to as Lute Suite No. 1, a term which Bach did not use in this context. Later scholarship has revealed that Bruger's collection of suites were more likely to have been composed for the lute-harpsichord, a keyboard instrument strung with gut strings, rather than directly for the lute itself though eighteenth-century lutenists did make tablature arrangements of some of these works. The Bourrée, written in translucid two-part harmony, is renowned for its vigorous rhythm and earthy directness contrasting with the elaborately embellished Sarabande which precedes it in the suite.
The Prelude, BWV 999, has come down in a manuscript of Johann Peter Kellner, a pupil of Bach. On the cover is written Praelude in C mol pour la Lute di Johann Sebastian Bach, and inside Praelude pour la Lute. Segovia's transcription of this remarkable little piece was published in 1928, transposed to D minor for guitar from the original C minor. It is frequently played on the keyboard, appearing among the set known as Twelve Little Preludes. An interesting aspect is that the Prelude begins in D minor but ends in A major, suggesting that there was perhaps more to follow. For this reason Segovia in performance often paired the Prelude with the Fugu e from the first Violin Sonata. The style is that of broken chords leading on in logical sequence, the bass articulating a repetitive melodic shape which also denotes the harmonic progressions.
The surviving manuscript of Bach's Suite in E major is autographed and written in modern notation in two staves for keyboard. Another version of the suite exists for violin (BWV 1006). Segovia published his transcription of Gavotte en Rondeau in 1928, and following his first recording of the work on 2 May 1927, it became one of his most popular and characteristic statements of Bach's music. It is an ebullient work, with immense melodic inventiveness, rhythmic intensity, and intricate polyphonic writing.
Andrés Segovia gave the première of his interpretation of the Chaconne from Violin Partita No. 2 in D minor in Paris on 4 June 1935 (following the precedent of Busoni's pianoforte arrangement), the guitar transcription being published by Schott in 1934. The work has since become one of the most deeply loved items of the guitarist's repertoire, well suited to the instrument's range and expressiveness, and reminiscent of the subtle timbres of the Baroque lute with which Bach was familiar through great lutenists such as Sylvius Leopold Weiss, though it is believed the composer did not play the instrument himself. The Chaconne has been described by Yehudi Menuhin as 'the greatest structure for solo violin that exists'. Its musical architecture (excluding the theme itself and the recapitulation at the end) spans a set of 34 variations of immense variety and expansive harmonic development. The Chaconne's variations are grouped into three significant sections, firstly in the minor key (131 bars) and then major (76 bars) and finally minor again (49 bars). Each part proceeds from lyrical serenity towards a gathering sense of momentum and velocity. The first section thus develops steadily from dotted quavers (following the opening motif in stately chords) towards virtuosic scalic passages, broadening into brilliant arpeggio patterns. The next two sections, though shorter, also evolve from quiet melodic statements towards increasing intensity and textural complexity. In the final bars the opening theme returns us to quiet contemplation.
Segovia's long-playing record covers of the 1950s entitled the Bourrées from Cello Suite No. 3 in C major as Loure (a kind of slow gigue of French origin), but this pair of dances are actually Bourrées (also of French origin, a dance in duple metre, to be played in a joyful and lively manner). The reason for this could be that Segovia's transcription was influenced by Francisco Tárrega whose arrangement was published under the title of Loure in 1907.
Once again it was Francisco Tárrega who first arranged this Fugue from Violin Sonata No.1 in G minor for guitar (moving it into the key of A minor), a precedent which greatly influenced Segovia, for this became one of the perennial works of his recitals. J.S. Bach made two transcriptions of this piece from the first violin suite, including a version for organ (BWV 539) and another for lute (BWV 1000). Each additional version expands the work by a total of two bars with alterations in different places. Segovia's arrangement (like Tárrega's) is based on the solo violin score with appropriate modifications. He performed it regularly from the 1920s onwards, including it right up to his final Royal Festival Hall concert on 10 November 1986, a few months before he died. He first recorded the piece on 15 May 1928, but Segovia's personal transcription of the Fugue was never published.
Handel's Sarabande with Variations, with its theme based on the renowned Folia de España, comes from Suite XI for keyboard, preserving its original key of D minor when played on the guitar. The other works are taken from a collection of harpsichord pieces in the library of the Marquis of Aylesford. The first of these is a matching pair of Minuets, in D major and D minor respectively. The second item, originally named Allegretto grazioso on Segovia's 1950s recording, also consists of two Minuets, the first in A minor, Andantino, and the second (also in A minor modulating at the end to E minor) is given the expression mark of Grazioso. Finally a Gavotte, Allegretto in C major concludes the sequence. Segovia was surely attracted to the bright lyricism of these pieces ideally suited to the idiomatic requirements of the guitar. The transcription of the Minuets and Gavotte with five other pieces was published by Schott in 1935.
C.P.E. Bach, the second surviving son of J.S. Bach and his first wife, Maria Barbara, was an eminent composer, teacher, and scholar. He wrote over a thousand compositions including symphonies, oratorios, songs and keyboard works and he is often considered most influential in the transition from his father's contrapuntal style to the late eighteenth-century Viennese classicism of Haydn and Mozart. Segovia's transcription, published by Schott in 1935 and arranged in the key of D minor, was taken from C.P.E. Bach's Siciliana in F sharp minor for keyboard, marked Allegro siziliano e scherzando.
Gluck's opera on the theme of Orpheus and Eurydice had its première in Vienna in 1762. It was in the style of azione teatrale, a genre in which a mythological subject is dramatized with music and dancing. This little Ballet represents one of the dance interludes. Segovia's transcription, marked Lento dolcissimo, was published by Columbia Music Co, Washington D.C., in 1960.
Segovia observed Tárrega's precedent in transcribing for guitar four small pieces from Haydn, and added a few items of his own throughout his career, selecting in this instance a very characteristic and stylish Minuet, an arrangement published by Ricordi Americana in 1956. The original record sleeve notes commented that 'This delightful little Minuet of Haydn was transcribed by Andrés Segovia from a movement of a string quartet'. The Minuet form is French in origin, and was a popular aristocratic dance from the mid-seventeenth century to the late eighteenth century. In string quartets and symphonies of Haydn's time it is usually paired with a Trio movement, which in this instance is in the same key but with a contrasting melody.
Author of A New Look at Segovia, His Life, His Music, Vols. I & II (with Gerard Garno), Segovia - A Celebration of the Man and His Music, and Maestro Segovia.
JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH (1685-1750)
Cello Suite No. 1 in G major, BWV 1007: Prelude
Cello Suite No. 6 in D major, BWV 1012: Gavotte I & II
Decca DL 9633, mx MG 2671; March 1952
Violin Partita No. 1 in B minor, BWV 1002 : Bourrée
Cello Suite No. 3 in C major, BWV 1009 : Courante
Decca DL 9638, mx MG 2742; June 1952
Violin Sonata No. 1 in G minor, BWV 1001: Sicilienne
Suite in E minor, BWV 996: Bourrée
Decca DL 9647, mx MG 2755; February 1952
Prelude in C minor, BWV 999
Suite in E major, BWV 1006a: Gavotte en Rondeau
Violin Partita No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1004: Chaconne
Cello Suite No. 3 in C major, BWV 1009: Bourrée I & II (Originally entitled Loure)
Decca DL 9751, mx MG 3727; May-June 1954
Violin Sonata No. 1 in G minor, BWV 1001: Fugue
Decca DL 9795, mx MG 4046; July 1955
GEORGE FRIDERIC HANDEL (1685-1759)
Suite XI, HWV 437, III: Sarabande with Variations
Minuet I (D major) & II (D minor)
Decca DL 9647, mx MG 2755; April 1952
Minuet I (Andantino) & II (Grazioso) (Originally entitled Allegretto grazioso)
Gavotte in G major, HWV 491
Decca DL 9638, mx MG 2742; April 1952
CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH (1714-1788)
Siciliana in F sharp minor
Decca DL 9734, mx MG 3686; recorded 1954
CHRISTOPH WILLIBALD GLUCK (1714-1787)
Orfeo ed Euridice : Ballet
Decca DL 9647, mx MG 2755; recorded 1952
JOSEPH HAYDN (1732-1809)
Minuet and Trio in D
Decca DL 9734, mx MG 3685; recorded 1954
All selections recorded in New York
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