Who Was Andres Segovia | Classical Guitar Masters

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On February 21, 1893, Andrés Segovia was born in Linares, Spain: he started his successful career as a self-taught classical guitarist and he made his stage debut in the year of 1909 at the Centro Artistico in Granada.

A few years later, in 1913, he had his debut concert in the city of Madrid, where he had considerable success playing some Bach pieces that he and Francisco Tárrega had arranged for the classical guitar; in 1919, after touring across Spain and introducing the classsical guitar to the opera concert halls for the first time ever, he embarked on his first international tour, visiting Uruguay and Argentina. He also sang in the Concurso de Cante Jondo in Granada in 1922 as part of a Manuel de Falla-organized event in that city, and in the year 1924 he also made his triumphal Parisian debut.

His achievement in the French capital led to his global acclaim: after playing in Switzerland, Germany, and Austria, he also made his debut in Russia in the 1926, followed by the ones in Denmark in 1927 and New York’s Town Hall in 1928.

In this period he also started releasing transcriptions of the classical works and music composed for him by composers including Moreno Torroba, Joaqun Turina Pérez, Manuel Ponce, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, and Alexandre Tansman as early as 1926: Heitor Villa-Lobos dedicated his Douze edudes to him in 1929, the same year.

Segovia started recording for HMV in 1927 as well, and then he gave his personal rendition of Bach’s Chaconne in Paris.

In 1936 he left Barcelona, where he had recently moved, to flee from the sudden violent Spanish Civil War and settled for about a decade in Montevideo: during this period he premiered a number of works that would become classic pieces of guitar literature, such as Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Concerto Op. 99 (1939) and Ponce’s Concierto del sur (1941), both commissioned by Segovia himself.

After the war, Segovia continued his performance career with worldwide tours in the United States and Europe, presenting unreleased works like Joaqun Rodrigo’s Fantasa para un gentilhombre (1958) and Villa-Lobos’ Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra (1956), once again dedicated to him.

Additionally, he recorded almost 50 albums between 1947 and 1977, and he started his teaching career in the 1950s at Siena’s Accademia Chigiana.

After 1958, he moved to Santiago de Compostela, and performed in Australia for the first time in 1961.

Segovia continued to perform concerts in the last years of his career: Reveries, his final album, was released in 1977, and those years were also years when his fame and recognition grew even more, as he received the title “Marquis of Salobrea” from King Juan Carlos of Spain in 1981 and in 1985 the Royal Philharmonic Society gave him a gold medal, and a statue was constructed near his Linares birthplace.
In Miami Beach, Florida, he gave his final recital in April 1987. Upon his return to Madrid, he passed away on June 2, 1987.

During his career, Segovia received countless awards, including several honorary doctorates, several Orders of Merit from Spain and Italy, and more than 20 gold medals.

The impact of Segovia on the development of the concert guitar is extraordinarily important. A brilliant virtuoso, he solidified the instrument’s technique during his performance career by rationalizing and honing some of its essential elements. He added new original works that were dedicated to him to the repertory while also revising and transcribing older songs. Additionally, he encouraged guitar luthiers to create instruments with more sound capacity.

He was widely recognized and was able to reach a large audience thanks to his various recordings.

His musical charisma and his own extensive teaching activities encouraged generations of guitarists to pursue a higher education on guitar and classical guitar rich repertorie.

Influence and legacy

Andrés Segovia’s fundamental contribution was essentially in two directions:

  • consolidating instrument skill to incorporate new creative works, such as preludes by Manuel Ponce and studies by Villa Lobos, etc
  • Encourage luthiers to continue their efforts in finding instruments that have qualities that make them appropriate for use in large concert venues.

In comparison to other instrumental traditions, the classical guitar’s current repertoire was very small at the start of the 20th century. By encouraging the creation of brand-new guitar compositions, Segovia’s contribution to enhancing it came to fruition.

After touring the United States in 1928, he quickly earned the nickname “the guitarist,” and as a result, musicians like Heitor Villa-Lobos, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Joaqun Rodrigo, Manuel Ponce, Joaquin Turina, Federico Moreno Torroba, and Alexandre Tansman wrote numerous original pieces for him (and for the guitar). These composers are known as Segovian composers throughout the instrument’s history.

The compositions that Andrés Segovia signed are quite limited in quantity since he never fully committed himself to compose. The Estudio sin luz in B minor is unquestionably the most well-known of them and is frequently included in the repertoire of talented performers. While excluding the most significant works of 19th-century Italian composers, Mauro Giuliani, who he almost completely ignored, Ferdinando Carulli, Matteo Carcassi, Luigi Legnani, and Niccol Paganini, he instead focused more effort on the work of rationalizing guitar technique, revising fundamental aspects of didactics (such as diatonic scales), and editing the fingerings of a great many etudes.

His musical accomplishments also helped his instrument’s technical specifications to advance. In reality, up until the turn of the 20th century, guitars were primarily thought of and designed to be heard in intimate settings, in part because they were frequently viewed as being too “popular” or merely an accompanying instrument in the world of classical music. After Andrés Segovia introduced the guitar to huge performance halls in theaters and conservatories, the luthier’s craft developed in the direction of providing instruments with more aural strength and brightness.

Segovia strongly supported the work of the American luthier Albert Augustin regarding this new material, which was actually invented by DuPont in the 1400s and can produce a louder and more consistent sound than the gut strings used up until then. During the war, it had become very difficult to find good gut strings (most of this material was intended for the production of surgical filaments for military hospitals), and Segovia also favored the spread of today’s nylon strings, which can produce a louder and brighter sound.


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