The Art of Segovia

Andrés Segovia

album cover

Six Strings and Truth

Ah, the classical guitar: It's always at least pleasant. The performer may not be world-class, the piece may be only marginally interesting, and yet the sound of the instrument (alone or with orchestra) is so soothing, so peaceful, it can atone for gaps in technique or conception.

The legendary Andrés Segovia (1893–1987) never depended on that free pass. By the time he was performing concerts, in his early twenties, the self-taught Segovia had developed a singular tone and distinctive attack resembling that of flamenco guitarists. He also had an impressive ability to make the instrument "sing" even when he was playing demanding technical passages. But his repertoire was limited—there wasn't much music written expressly for the classical guitar. Segovia crusaded to change that: As his fame grew, he transcribed works by Bach and Chopin (including the latter's Preludes, one of which, No. 7, is here), and cajoled and commissioned composers to write "serious" music for him. Among those who took up the challenge was Mexican composer Manuel Ponce (whose colorful "Theme, Variations, and Finale" Segovia recorded in 1954) and Spanish composer Federico Moreno Torroba (whose "Romance de los pinos," recorded in 1960, is breathtaking).

This two-disc overview includes some of Segovia's most lyrical recordings, many made in the early '50s when he was at his peak. It offsets modern pieces written for guitar with vivid transcriptions: To fully appreciate Segovia's ability to recast music intended for other instruments, check the excerpt from Edvard Grieg's "Lyric Pieces," or Alexander Scriabin's Prelude No. 4 in E-Flat Minor.

Those enchanted by classical guitar need not stop at Segovia, who was the main brand name for much of the twentieth century. The Australian John Williams, a Segovia student who features a more fastidious technique, continued his mentor's repertory crusade by championing the neglected but amazing guitar-oriented work of Paraguayan composer Agustín Barrios.

Genre: Classical
Released: 2002, Deutsche Grammophon
Key Tracks: Edvard Grieg: "Lyric Pieces," Alexander Scriabin: Five Preludes, Joaquín Rodrigo: "Fantasio para un gentilhombre"
Catalog Choice: 1927–1939 Recordings, Vol. 1.
Next Stop: John Williams: From the Jungles of Paraguay: John Williams Plays Barrios
After That: Various Artists: Essential Guitar: 33 Guitar Masterpieces
Book Pages: 688–689

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#1 from cat - 02/05/2009 10:13

This is beautiful but hard for me to find on your 1000 list. I am not a musical person but was searching for a gift. I wanted classical guitar or other remarkable guitar recordings and could not locate any accept by a picture of the instrument on a pic of the album cover. Please add a guitar catagory to your search list.
Thanks, most kindly,

#2 from tom moon - 02/08/2009 6:27

thanks for your note.

I wish we had an “instrument” index, but we had to draw the line somewhere.

One way to search further is via the Next Stop/After That listings, which often suggest recordings featuring the same instrument or grouping of instruments.

hope that helps,


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