Continuing my exploration of the history of the guitar as a concert instrument, today I am digging into “Music for The Guitar”, an LP released in the late sixties/early seventies featuring the immortal titan of classical guitar, Andrés Segovia.
A quick bio of the man: born in Spain in 1893, he was given some early musical instruction but apparently found it to be too constrictive, and hence was largely self-taught. He gave his first public performance at the age of 16, and by the time reached twenty he was playing professionally and travelling the world. He continued to perform live well into his old age, and along the way he vastly enhanced the concept of the guitar as a classical instrument. He commissioned works, wrote his own studies and compositions, and re-arranged some of the most famous classical works specifically for guitar. Somewhat ironically, given his early resistance to pedagogy, he became a famously rigid teacher. He passed away in 1987 at the remarkable age of 94.
This LP was released by both the Decca in the US (date unknown), and by MCA in Italy (in 1974). Information on the sessions and original release date are scarce, but from his appearance on the cover and the recording quality it’s safe to assume this recording was made sometime in the late sixties.
The material is a good representation of the various veins from which Segovia drew his material: an original piece (“Study”), a re-arrangement of a famous classical work (an excerpt from Mussorgsky’s “Pictures At An Exhibition”), and works by genius composers of classical guitar music (Torroba), and pieces that explore Spanish musical nationalism (Granados). He’s accompanied by a harpsichord on the first few pieces, producing an interesting combination of timbres.
Most interesting of all is the original composition, one of many studies Segovia composed, and this little curio: a piece named in the guitarist’s honour by the French composer Albert Roussel. I actually haven’t been able to find a streaming link of Segovia playing “Segovia” online, so here’s Julian Bream doing a studio version in the seventies. You’re just going to have to take my word for it: Segovia plays it better.
If you’re a fan of classical guitar, then this LP is a great find and a nice introduction to Segovia.
In conclusion, here’s a Segovia performance (from a different recording) of one of my favorite classical pieces, the Bach Chaconne (originally a violin work, and one that has long been considered the peak of solo performance). Segovia re-arranged it for the guitar, and it’s magical.