BY GRAHAM WADE | FROM THE JANUARY 1994 ISSUE OF CLASSICAL GUITAR
As we have seen, 1959 witnessed the celebration of Segovia’s Golden Jubilee Anniversary of 50 years of recitals since his debut at the Centro Artistico, Granada, in 1909. Segovia was 66 years old in 1959 and at the time it must have seemed that his career was now entering its autumnal and final phase, a rich Indian summer but with limited horizons for the future. But, as we now know, there were over 30 years of concerts left to come, and for Segovia himself there would be a new lease of life, a great increase in his international fame, and various summits to be conquered.
Note: This is part 12 of a 17-part series from the Classical Guitar archive.
In retrospect 1959 can be seen as a significant watershed both in any study of Segovia’s artistic career and also in the development of 20th century guitar history. Julian Bream signed for RCA, in 1959, a recording contract destined to change every aspect of our perception of the guitar’s role in contemporary music. Also, John Williams was now launching out into his recitalist’s career following his Wigmore Hall triumph in November 1958, and his debut recordings were of course issued in Segovia’s Golden Jubilee year. Thus, several potentially great players seemed at last poised to be able to take over the succession from the generation of 1893 in due course.
In the meantime Segovia continued to present a formidable challenge with a monumental recording in three volumes, Segovia Golden Jubilee, on Brunswick, one of the finest guitar recordings ever issued and a landmark in guitar history in various ways. The contents of the three volumes were as follows:
SEGOVIA GOLDEN JUBILEE Volume 1 Brunswick AXTL 1088
Concierto del Sur: Manuel Ponce with The Symphony of the Air (Conductor: Enrique Jordá)
I Allegretto—II Andante—III Allegro moderate e festivo
Side 2 • Fantasia Para un Gentilhombre: Joaquin Rodrigo with The Symphony of the Air (Conductor: Enrique Jordá) Villano—Ricercare—La Españoleta—Toques de la Caballería de Nápoles—Dwizas de las Hachas—Canario
Volume 2 Brunswick AXTL 1089
Side 1 • Prelude: S. L. Weiss—M. Ponce with Rafael Puyana, harpsichord • Piéces caracteristiques: F. Moreno Torroba (Preambulo, Oliveras, Canción, Albada, Los Mayos, Panorama) • Antaño: 0. Esplá • Allegro in A: M. Ponce
Side 2 • The Old Castle: M. Mussorgsky (from Pictures at an Exhibition) • Segovia: A. Roussel • Study: A. Segovia • Three Pieces: A. Tansman (Canzonetta, Alla Polacca, Berceuse d’Orient) • Tonadilla: E. Granados, arr. M. Llobet
Volume 3 Brunswick AXTL 1090
Side 1 • Prelude and Allegro: S. de Murcia • Study No. 1 in C: F. Sor • Study No. 9 in A minor: F. Sor • Sonata “Homage to Boccherini’: M. CastelnuovoTedesco • Fandango: J. Rodrigo
Side2 • Passacaglia: L. Roncalli • Gigua: L. Roncalli • Gavotta: L. Roncalli • Study No. 20 in C major: F. Sor • Two Minuets: F. Sor • Spanish Dance No. 10 in G: E. Granados
As this was in every way an American production, there was the inevitable time lag before Segovia’s new recordings were either received or assimilated in Europe. The Gramophone first responded as late as July 1960, with a review of Volume 1:
In 1909 Segovia gave, in Granada, his first concert: in 1960 comes now Vol. 1 of the gramophonic celebration of his Golden Jubilee. It is an outstanding production alike for the pleasure of the occasion, for the interest of the music, and for the superb quality of both playing and recording…
Seeking something special with which to commemorate this Golden Jubilee, Brunswick could surely have chosen nothing better than this pairing of two works, both new to the catalogue, and both abundantly worthwhile. By way of bonus a final band acknowledges further the historical nature of the occasion: in a few words of English Segovia ensures for posterity the preservation of his voice along with his superlative playing. (The Gramophone, July 1960, page 72).
In the somewhat less frenetic world of 1960 (compared with 1993), a critic could still talk (and be taken more or less seriously) along the lines of “ensuring for posterity,” portentously aware of history at his elbow. Paradoxically enough “posterity” since 1960 has not been particularly solicitous of The Golden Jubilee albums as a momentous statement of Segovia’s achievement. Individual items were gathered from the album in various compilations here and there over the years and the two concertos recently found a suitable home on The Segovia Collection Vol. 2, MCAD 42067 (coupled with Torroba’s Castles of Spain recorded in Spain in December 1969). The recordings in their entirety were never however re-issued, and the Golden Jubilee albums remain collectors’ items.
In October 1960 the second volume was reviewed by the same critic, MM, in The Gramophone with a pleasing final paragraph:
What does show all the music at its best, throughout the disc, is a standard of performance in which artistry declares itself uncompromisingly in every bar. It is combined too, with a similarly impeccable standard of recording; in these two important respects the extremely high standard of this Jubilee celebration is well maintained. (op. cit, October, 1960, page 219).
The Gramophone completed the last of the trilogy in November 1960, accepting on board two “new composers to the current catalogues,” Santiago de Murcia and Ludovico Roncalli. The somewhat revolutionary Fandango by Rodrigo attracts the epithets “short” and “modern,” and there is a small moment of ritual enthusiasm over Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Sonata, “which deploys in its four movements different aspects of a general affection for this style rather than the idiom of Boccherini’s music.”
A more elevated level of celebration and enthusiasm was given to the new recordings by John Duarte in an article entitled “Golden Jubilee,” which appeared in BMG in June 1960, with a photograph of Segovia on the front of the magazine:
More than a year ago the American Decca Record Co. paid to Andrés Segovia (this month’s cover) a tribute extremely rare, if not unique. They marked the 50th anniversary of his first public concert with a commemorative album (DXJ.148). This album, beautifully decorated and embossed, contained a booklet with article and photographs—and three 12in. LP records. Of the latter, two were of solo items and the third with orchestra.
This last, the English Decca Co, has now released.
Before saying another word about the record itself I will say, emphatically, that the guitar lover who has a gramophone but who fails to buy this record should never raise his voice in complaint. This is surely a “desert island” record of the highest order.
Volume 3 was reviewed in BMG, December 1960, by John Duarte and this included an interesting account of Rodrigo’s Fandango:
The remaining work is the Fandango of Rodrigo, played by Segovia during his visits to this country in 1958 and 1959. It has with its curious blend of pomposity and aggressive dissonance, a very individual character. The maestro plays it with autocratic authority and nothing less will do for this work—this is no plaything for the little man. In accepting the magnificent tone, power, clarity, and perfection of Segovia’s playing in this work (as in practically everything else) as his norm, we should never forget to acknowledge the miracle.
Segovia had started off 1960 in his customary way, completing a series of 41 recitals in the United States between 4 January and 29 April. Guitar News (July/ August 1960) received reviews of the concert at Orchestra Hall, Chicago on 13 March, where “the Bach Chaconne was the crowning glory of a wonderful Segovia recital.” The encores included Introduction and Allegro (Sor), Study in A (Alard/Tarrega), Etude No. 1 (Villa-Lobos) and Fandanguillos by both Torroba and Turina.
Segovia visited the Royal Festival Hall, London, on 13 October, 1960, to perform with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. It was intended at the time to play Tansman’s Guitar Concerto but as the work was apparently not completed in time, Segovia performed Rodrigo’s Fantasia para un Gentilhombre, with Hugo Rignold conducting. Segovia played the same work the following day at the Swansea Festival in the Brangwyn Hall, with the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Enrique Jordá. Solos were also performed including Suite in D minor (De Visee), Gavotte (Bach), Allegretto (Sor), and Torre Bermeja (Albéniz).
Segovia then travelled to Stockholm and Hamburg, and from there to Malta, where he gave his first recital on the island since 1927 at the De Porres Hall, Sliema, on 19 October, commemorating the 25th Anniversary of Rediffusion in Malta. According to Guitar News (Jan/Feb 1961), Segovia was accompanied on the trip by “his niece, Srta. Corral.”
The critic Rasgueado of The Times of Malta reviewed the first concert:
The programme, judiciously planned, provided an interesting cross-section of guitar music. In the midst of such richness and perfection it is difficult and invidious to single out any one item. The Allegro in D by Sor, the Sonata in A flat by Scarlatti, the Fugue by Bach, Canzonetta by Mendelssohn, and the glorious Sevilla by Albéniz were perhaps primi inter pares.
A further programme on Friday, 21 October included works by Galileo, Sor. Torroba (Sonatina), Frescobaldi, Bach, Mendelssohn (Two Romanzas), Tárrega, Crespo, C. Pedrell, and Albéniz (Granada and Leyenda). Sor’s Op. 9 Variations were included in the three encores. A reception was given for Segovia on 21 October at the Rediffusion Anniversary Reception. Chevalier Vasallo, who was Segovia’s host during the trip, is quoted in Guitar News:
It was most delightful to be with Segovia again and I must say that he captivated the hearts of all who came into contact with his genial personality. His wide culture, his humour, and wealth of opposite illustration were most refreshing. We really missed Sr. Segovia and his niece when they left… Music lovers in Malta were enthralled by his art and they long to hear him again.
Also in 1960 Segovia gave a recital in Vienna, his first trip there since before the war. In The Guitar Review No. 25, after a long delay, Segovia’s reminiscences were resumed, and he gave an account of his youthful days in Madrid.