BY GRAHAM WADE | FROM THE MARCH 1994 ISSUE OF CLASSICAL GUITAR
Andrés Segovia began 1962 with his customary tour of the United States, playing in Chicago, New York, Columbus, Toronto, Montreal, Glen Falls, Rochester, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Berkeley, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, San Diego, Baltimore, New Orleans, Atlanta, Savannah, Cleveland.
Note: This is part 14 of a 17-part series from the Classical Guitar archive.
For several of these concerts he performed a concerto and some solos, a blend which nowadays would be somewhat unfashionable. Loris O. Chobanian (a guitarist from Baghdad, Iraq, studying at the time at Louisiana State University) sent the following report to Guitar News (July/August 1962):
On March 27th Segovia created another furore at New Orleans Municipal Auditorium when he appeared as soloist with the New Orleans Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra in the season’s final subscription concert. He was accorded by a “sold-out” house one of the greatest ovations a soloist has ever received in New Orleans. His tone was as pure as ever, his performance superb… The orchestra conducted by James Yestadt… provided brilliant support to Segovia in Boccherini’s Concerto in E major (written for cello but transcribed for guitar by Gaspar Cassadó).
For solo numbers Segovia played a Suite by R. de Visée, a Study by F. Sor, and Albéniz’s Sevilla. For encore numbers he played a Prelude and a Study by Villa-Lobos as well as Song and Dance by Torroba. In all Segovia was called to the platform fifteen times.
On 3 May Segovia performed the same Concerto in E at the Royal Festival Hall. The critic for The Times wrote:
Mr. Segovia played it with a refinement of musicianship and taste and a technical accomplishment that are unsurpassable.
On 8 May Segovia gave a recital at the Royal College of Music in aid of the New Building Fund for the College. I was fortunate enough to attend this concert and well remember Segovia’s triumphant entrance to the college as he emerged from a sumptuous, chauffeur-driven limousine and ascended the steps, accompanied two paces behind by John Williams. The programme for this concert was as follows:
Three Pavanas (L. Milan, 1535)
Study (F. Sor)
Rondo (F. Sor)
Cancion y paisqje (M. Ponce)
La Fille aux cheveux de lin (Cl. Debussy)
Prelude (J. S. Bach)
Two Sonatas (D. Scarlatti)
Largo and Menuet (J. Haydn)
Two Songs Without Words (F. Mendelssohn)
Berceuse d’Orient (Al. Tansman)
Mazurka (Al. Tansman)
Hommage to Debussy (M. de Falla)
Two Preludes (H. Villa-Lobos)
Romance y Madroños (F. M. Torroba)
This programme represents a distillation of Segovia’s musical career. In many ways it was something of an uncharacteristic programme as it included neither compositions by Albéniz nor a substantial unit such as a sonata by Ponce or Castelnuovo-Tedesco. But it did contain several of the times for which Segovia was renowned with a blend of both transcriptions and original works dedicated to him.
Nowadays such a recital programme may seem entirely of another era from our own. At that time the revolution in guitar concert programming was some way off and the chronological pattern of a recital, beginning early with the 16th century and ending in the 20th century, was still very usual. (All the leading guitarists followed the Maestro in this respect in the 1960s). Segovia’s tripartite division of the programme was a survival not only from the early decades of the century but further back into the age of Tárrega.
The August issue of the American magazine Holiday presented an article by Samul Chotzinoff, “A Conversation with Segovia—a verbal impromptu, warm and candid, with the world’s greatest guitarist.” Chotzinoff had been one of the first American journalists to report a Segovia recital and had known the Maestro for some 34 years. Guitar News (Nov /Dec 1962) gave a summary of the article, presenting, as it were, a cryptic authorised version of Segovia’s life:
Segovia told his interviewer he was the son of a lawyer. He was born in Jaén, but spent his boyhood in Linares in the Spanish province of Granada. He was his own “teacher and pupil” and studied the guitar in secret because of the opposition of family and friends. Tárrega was expected to visit Granada, but his death prevented this so Segovia was unable to meet him. Segovia told of his first concert in Paris (1924) and how Madame Debussy, widow of the composer, invited to her box Paul Dukas, Manuel de Falla, Joaquín Nin, Albert Roussel, Unamuno (the philosopher), and Segovia’s wife. After a visit to London, followed by European tours, Segovia, on the recommendation of Fritz Kreisler, was booked for a series of concerts in the USA.
Segovia enjoys playing in private, and one such occasion was for Toscanini and a few of his friends. Sometimes he is asked to play flamenco but always declines. He likes to hear it but his attitude towards it is “indulgent rather than serious.” He is evidently pleased that the guitar is “such a success” and proudly claimed that it was being taught in every major conservatory in Europe. Even now he practises five to six hours a day, but not more than two hours at a stretch.
Hobbies? He likes to swim and ride horseback, to read philosophy, poetry, history and to view works of art, but he has strong views on art, which will be expressed in more detail when he writes his autobiography. “The abstract painting and the concrete music!” he exclaimed—“both are denials of true art!”
On 23 August 1962, Andrés Segovia married Emilia Corral Sancho. Emilia, the daughter of an amateur guitarist, began playing the guitar when she was five years old, studying with Jose Maria de la Fuente, a teacher in Madrid. In her teens she was a pupil of Emilio Pujol and is mentioned in Riera’s biography, Emilio Pujol (publ. Lerida, 1974), as having attended the Commemorative Supper for Emilio Pujol and Matilde Cuervas in 1950 in Madrid. Emilia later obtained a degree from the Conservatorio de Madrid, and studied also in Barcelona and Lisbon.
According to an interview in Guitar Review (Spring, 1988), Segovia, being a friend of her family, had first seen her when she was six months old. In 1955 she attended her first class at Siena with the Maestro. She remembers that when she played Capriccio Diabolico by Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Segovia turned to Emilia’s father and commented: “Lalo, she plays very well, but she has prettier eyes.”
A translation of an article about Emilia Corral appeared in Guitar News (Dec, 1954/Jan, 1955):
…under the tutelage of Emilio Pujol, Emilia Corral has lived intensely through the formative period when an artist acquires the cast and seal of individual qualities. Her outstanding gifts, her pliancy, her enthusiasm for the guitar, have enabled the master to mould a new force for the world of art. Already, at the outset of her career, she allies a superb technique with a spiritual sensitivity which makes her one with the music she interprets. (From the illustrated cultural magazine Ciudad, Lerida, 1954, translated by Mrs. A. KorwinRodziszewski).
Segovia had been married twice before. His first marriage, in 1918, was to Adelaida Portillo, who features prominently in the final chapters of Segovia’s autobiography. In 1936 Segovia married Paquita Madriguera, the distinguished pianist who had studied composition with Enrique Granados and pianoforte with Frank Marshall (the teacher of Alicia de Larrocha). Both of these marriages ended in divorce.
Segovia’s first son, named Andrés, was born in 1919 in Argentina, and became a painter, living in Paris. Another son from the first marriage died in a tragic accident in 1927: at school in Switzerland, he was accidentally electrocuted crossing an aqueduct near Geneva. Segovia’s daughter, Beatrice, from the second marriage, died in Guatemala in the 1960s from a toxic reaction to antibiotics. In an interview in the Los Angeles Times (16 July, 1986) Segovia described these personal tragedies as “the only great pain I’ve ever had…”)
Segovia once again attended Santiago de Compostela for the master classes in the summer of 1962, though staying only ten days before leaving for a concert tour of Switzerland and Scandinavia. In his absence, John Williams took over the teaching, and according to Guitar News (Nov/Dec, 1962) performed in some of the concerts.
In September 1962, the Fifth Film Festival of Cork, Ireland, featured a film entitled Wisdom—A Conservation with Andrés Segovia. In the film, the music critic Jack Pfeiffer “obtains some interesting viewpoints from Segovia on his music, guitar and his reflections on life,” according to the press report of the event. Segovia was not only interviewed but also performed Passacaglia (Robert de Visée), Sonatina in A (Torroba) and Homenaje, Le Tombeau de Debussy (Falla).
The wide-ranging interview mentioned that Bernard Shaw had asked Segovia if he had sold his soul to devil in order to play that way. Segovia praised Ponce as “a kind of St Francis of Assisi in music,” and made his habitual comments on dissonant modern music by announcing his desire to “isolate the guitar from those microbes.” Segovia preferred the guitar to sing “straight to the heart of the public who has sensitivity.”
In November 1962 The Gramophone reviewed a Segovia recording on Brunswick AXA 4504. The programme was Passacaglia (Couperin), Prelude, Allemande (Weiss), Minuet (Haydn), Melodie (Grieg), Mexican Folk Song (Ponce), Serenata burlesca (Torroba), Sicilian (C. P. E. Bach), Preludio, Allegretto (Franck), Theme, VariationsandFinale (Ponce), Canción (Aguirre), and Serenata (Malats). A feature of this recording was that each side was arranged chronologically, giving the impression of a recital on each side. The reviewer, Malcolm Macdonald, gave a thumbs up for the playing if not for the material:
The music indeed is various. But the quality of performance and recording is not; both are uniformly of the very first class.