Classical Reissue Reviews
The Art of Andres Segovia, Vol. 7 = FRESCOBALDI: Passacaglia; Corrente; WEISS: Fantasia; BACH: Suite No. 3 in A Major; AGUADO: 8 Lessons for Guitar; GRANADOS: Andaluza; ALBENIZ: Granada; Zambra granadina; MENDELSSOHN: Song Without Words; DEBUSSY: La fille aux cheveux de lin – Andres Segovia, guitar – IDIS
Published on April 18, 2013
The Art of Andres Segovia, Vol. 7 = FRESCOBALDI: Passacaglia; Corrente; WEISS: Fantasia; BACH: Suite No. 3 in A Major, BWV 1009; AGUADO: 8 Lessons for Guitar; GRANADOS: Andaluza; ALBENIZ: Granada; Zambra granadina; MENDELSSOHN: Song Without Words, Op. 30, No. 3; DEBUSSY: La fille aux cheveux de lin – Andres Segovia, guitar – IDIS 6660, 64:10 [Distr. by Qualiton] ****:
Andalusian guitar virtuoso Andres Segovia (1893-1987) remains having been the undisputed master of the modern classical guitar, the artist who raised the instrument from a lowly tavern entertainment to a purveyor of the world’s profound expressions in music. IDIS resurrects Segovia’s studio recordings 1961-1962 that traverse a relatively narrow range of styles, mostly Baroque and Romantic pieces that exalt the noble and lyrical capacities of the instrument.
The music of Florentine Frescobaldi (1583-1643) opens the program, his stately Passacaglia easily a model for the famous Chaconne from the Bach D Minor Partita. After the variations in measured tread, the brief Corrente reveals a more Renaissance character, a piece whose tablature could easily be conceived for virginal, lute, or harp. Sylvius Leopold Weiss (1687-1750), contemporary and rival of J.S. Bach, gives us an ornamental Fantasia that well documents his articulate lute style. Some of the figurations well anticipate the “Little Fugue” in G Minor of Bach.
Segovia arranged the C Major Solo Cello Suite as a Guitar Suite in A Major (rec. 1961). As Bach had emphasized the role of the thumb in articulating the cello’s melodic lines, so too Segovia’s thumb manages the nylon strings of his guitar with ravishing flexibility. The Allemande has a string rhythmic accent, and the microphone captures the slides of Segovia’s hands as he modulates the harmony and adjusts the attacks into staccati, as required. The Courante, in perpetual motion, punishes the wrists and the fingers. But Segovia maintains a firm line without sag, the accents and interplay clear and muscular. The naturally Iberian Sarabande prances in stately processional, meditative and melancholy. The Bourree assumes a carefree swagger, confident and lithe. The final Gigue’s repeated notes well approach the famed Preludio from the E Major Partita for Solo Violin. Virtuosic and extroverted, the piece sings and cavorts effortlessly, boldly lightening its textures to make a stunning point in controlled articulation.
Dionisio Aguado’s Lessons for Guitar (1825) stand as his major opus for the instrument. Aguado (1784-1849) stood to the guitar much as Paganini to his violin, virtually contemporaneous. Mounting his instrument upon a tripod, Aguado eliminated the damping effect of the human body upon the neck and sides of the instrument, projecting a more volatile sound. If No. 1 in A seems tame and polite, the A Minor No. 2 leaps in bold arpeggios. The G Major serves as a gavotte in elegant gestures, the affect close to Domenico Scarlatti and Franz Schubert at once. Another civilized gavotte defines No. 4 in A Major. The E Minor No. 5, again in the spirit of Scarlatti, exerts a drama in miniature. No. 6 in A looks at syncopation with some luxurious chords and scales in striking modulation. The A Major No. 7 uses broken chords to ascend into passing minor modes. The longest of the set, No. 8 in E Minor, combines an etude style with a kind of ballad, a parlando meditation not far what we hear in late Brahms intermezzi.
With the selections by Granados and Albeniz, we move into familiar territory, Granado’s having served Segovia in the 1940s in an arrangement for guitar and large orchestra. In this 1962 inscription, Segovia slows its sultry evening evocations into a passionate dialogue, a seductive serenade fit for a Shakespearean balcony scene. Legato passions play against fandango-like quick figures, set in Moorish colors. Albeniz’s Granada strums another seductive song, an evocation of Spain’s canto jondo in nostalgic sighs. Even more sultry and ballad-like, the Zambra granadina indulges in various effects, strummed, struck, and plucked. At moments, Segovia’s guitar vibrates in zither fashion.
Segovia gravitates to the mainstream Romantic tradition to conclude: a flowing Mendelssohn song with its roots in Bach and German folk song; and Debussy’s plain-spoken “The Girl with the Flaxen Hair” prelude, as evocative of Jennifer Jones and Joseph Cotten as Gieseking would have been on the piano.