Notes and Editorial Reviews
The Art of Andrés Segovia - Volume 4: Studio Recordings 1952-1958
Santiago De MURCIA (d. after 1714)
Ludovico RONCALLI (1654-1714)
Passacaglia (1692?) [04:58]
Silvyus Leopold WEISS (1686-1750)
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759) (arr. Segovia)
Allegretto grazioso [02:52]
Fernando SOR (1778-1839)
Etude no. 1 in C major [01:27]
Etude no. 9 in A minor [01:24]
Etude no. 20 in C major [02:46]
Minuet in C minor [02:58]
Minuet in C major [01:21]
Modest MUSSORGSKY (1839-81)
The Old Castle
Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916)
Danza triste [04:15]
La Maja de Goya [04:47]
Albert ROUSSEL (1869-1937)
Segovia, Op. 29 [02:54]
Alexander TANSMAN (1897-1986)
Alla Polacca [02:09]
Berceuse d’Orient [03:36]
Andrés Segovia (guitar), Rafael Puyana (harpsichord - Tansman)
rec. (New York?) March-April, 1952; January, April-May 1958 ADD.
As Segovia’s recordings become freely available under the 50-year rule - but not, please note, in the USA, Australia or Singapore - more and more of them are being reissued. Dynamic have a continuing series on their IDIS (Istituto Discografico Italiano) label, now arrived at Volume 4, as have Naxos, whose series of Segovia’s 1950s American recordings has reached Volume 3 (Naxos 8.111091 – see review). Slightly confusingly, Volume 1 of the American 1950s recordings is Volume 3 of Naxos’s complete Segovia edition. Only the three short Handel pieces on the current IDIS disc overlap with any of the Naxos volumes to date; they also feature on Naxos’s American Volume 1 (8.111089).
Naxos’s Volume 3 concentrates entirely on Spanish music, chiefly by Tarrega and Ponce, plus a Tarrega arrangement of a Study by Alard, a French composer who was a student of Sarasate. As such, I imagine that many potential listeners will prefer the Naxos to the present CD, which ranges well beyond the Spanish field. The other advantage of the CDs in the Naxos series is their price – at £5 or £6 in the UK, they compare with €12 for this IDIS recording which is around £9 in the UK.
Some of the items on this Dynamic issue, works by de Murcia, Roncalli, Sor and Granados, featured in a 4-CD DG set The Segovia Collection (471 430-2 – see review) the advantage of which is that it was made from the original MCA master tapes, digitally enhanced. I presume that Dynamic had to make do with the original LPs, but memory suggests that these were of good quality and there is little to complain of in the standard of the recording – immediate and full-ranging, with no evidence of surface noise.
I say ‘presume’, since the notes in the booklet give no idea of the provenance of the recordings, whereas the Naxos notes give the catalogue and matrix numbers of the Decca LPs from which their recordings are taken. MCA LPs were issued under licence in the UK by Decca. Naxos and Dynamic are both restricted by the 50-year copyright rule, whereas the DG set contains recordings from the 1960s.
The Naxos notes, as usual, are quite detailed, whereas the notes here are quite sparse, offering only a general commentary on the quality of Segovia’s playing, including his Bach which is not included here, nothing at all about the composers or their music – not even their dates or the dates of the pieces included here. Recording dates, however, are given with greater precision than by Naxos.
The order of performance is chronological. The first nine tracks feature pleasant baroque music by the still little-known de Murcia, Roncalli and Weiss, two of whom are not even named in the Oxford Companion to Music or the Concise Grove. De Murcia published a collection of guitar music, Resumen de acompañar la parte con la guitarra, in which he described himself as Master of Music to the Queen of Spain. Count Ludovico Roncalli was an Italian nobleman who in 1692 published a collection of suites for the five-course baroque guitar. If the music of Weiss is now better known, that is surely due largely to the recordings of Segovia and, later, Julian Bream and Narciso Yepes.
Rafael Puyana’s accompaniment in the Weiss sounds rather sub fusc – almost like a second guitar – despite his reputation for performing on monster harpsichords. The recording may be early stereo - again, the notes do not specify - but there is little separation of the instruments.
The Handel items are taken from a collection of harpsichord pieces in the collection of the Marquis of Aylesford, in a transcription published by Schott in 1935 and transcribed by Segovia. The first item, named Allegretto grazioso, 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. The Gavotte in C, marked Allegretto, is followed by a Minuet – actually a pair of Minuets in D major and d minor. I am indebted to the Naxos notes for most of this information on the Handel; would that the Dynamic notes were as detailed.
From track 10 onwards, with the Sor pieces, we are into mainstream guitar repertoire. The odd-one-out here is the extract transcribed from Mussorgsky’s Pictures from an Exhibition. Well though Segovia plays The Old Castle, it sounds out of place – but, then, I must admit to finding even Mussorgky’s piano original far less attractive than the orchestral arrangements by which it is better known, especially the Ravel.
The pieces by Roussel and Tansman were dedicated to Segovia. Segovia’s performance of the Roussel may be found on another 2-CD DG set, mainly containing music by Tarrega (471 6972, at lower-mid-price) and the complete Tansman Cavatina on yet another DG set of MCA-sourced recordings (477 6050, 2 CDs, also lower-mid-price). His version of the Tansman is also available on a Classical Options CD: CO3503, coupled with works from Milan to the 20th century, at around £9 in the UK.
Segovia’s performances of all this music are beyond compare – I haven’t even bothered to get out any Julian Bream, John Williams or Narciso Yepes recordings for comparison: if their performances mostly qualify as excellent, as they do, I’m lost for an epithet to describe the Segovia. His recordings were my introduction to the guitar repertoire and I’d be perfectly happy for them to play me out, too, especially in transfers as good as those here. By comparison with the Segovia recordings that made the rounds in the 1960s and 1970s on labels such as Saga, where the 78 noise was supplemented by Saga’s own sublime surface crackle, the modern collector on a tight budget has all the advantage. And Saga’s budget 10/- cover price would translate to well over the cost of full-price CDs in today’s money.
For all my grumbles about Naxos’s superior presentation, I’m more than happy with what we have here, especially if you couple it with purchasing the Bach transcriptions on Naxos Volume 1. The budget-price Regis recording of Segovia’s 1949-52 recordings (RRC1158 – see review) should also be noted: only one item overlapping with this CD.
-- Brian Wilson, MusicWeb International
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