Andres Segovia

Andres Segovia

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Andres Segovia
Quick Biography

Andres Segovia was born on February 21, 1893 in the Andalusian city of Linares,

Spain. His father was a prosperous lawyer and hoped that one day that his son would join him

in his work. Andres’ father, trying to build a wide cultural background for his son, began to

provide Andres with musical instruction at an early age. He thought him how to play the piano

and the violin, but Andres did not seem to be too enthusiastic about either instrument. When

he heard the guitar at one of his friend’s home being played his interest in music it self had

begun. Even though his parents disapproved of him playing the guitar, Andres still continued to

play the instrument. Andres applied his previous acquired musical knowledge to his study of the

guitar. Because of this Andres developed his own technique, he had discovered quite early that

certain piano exercises were beneficial in strengthening the fingers for the guitar. He believed

that the guitars rightful place was in a concert stage, but at this time the guitar was considered

unsuitable in place like a concert stage (Cumpiano, William).

Andres Segovia’s Impact on The Guitar

Because of Andres Segovia, the history of the guitar changed forever. Andres

Segovia’s performances also helped make guitar makers like Manuel Ramirez, and Herman

Hauser become famous themselves. His expertise also helped the Yamaha corporation, but

his greatest impact was as a teacher. To study with the great Segovia was considered one of

the finest honors of a classical guitarist. Segovia felt that he was the person to bring the guitar

to an unseen level of fame. He had an encounter with Jose del Hierro, who had heard him play

at the shop of Manuel Ramirez and told Segovia to take up the violin instead, but Segovia told

Del Hierro that it was too late for him to take up another instrument and that the guitar of

tomorrow needed him. Segovia’s first concert quality guitar was from the shop of Manuel

Ramirez built by Santos Hernandez in 1912. He got the guitar in preparation for his concert at

the Ateneo, Andres needed a guitar that could be used in a concert. The guitar he had was

made by a famous maker, but was only a student model which was made from cheap wood

(Zondag, Curtis).

He went to the store to look for something to play on a “rent to own” basis.

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At that

time nobody would ask for a guitar to be rented, it was mostly pianos that were rented. Segovia

then tried out the guitar and Ramirez listened to Segovia. Ramirez was convinced that Segovia

was a great muscian and gave him the guitar for free. As time went on Segovia needed a new

guitar. In one of Segovia’s concerts, Segovia met Herman Hauser. Segovia discussed about

what qualities he was looking for in a guitar. Twelve years later in 1937 Hauser presented the

new guitar. The guitar was known as “The Segovia model.” Today many makers have made

their own versions of that guitar. Years later Segovia got involved with the Yamaha corporation.

Yamaha talked to Segovia for the design of their highest grade guitar, it was called the GC71.

The guitar included a reduced angle between the head and neck, which would produce a mild

tone a new branching pattern to increase bass response. The finest woods were also used for

this guitar, Rumanian spruce for the top and Brazilian rosewood for the back and sides.

Because of the detail and the endorsement of Segovia, the guitar is on the market for about

$10,000 in US funds. Because of Segovia showcasing Ramirez, Hauser, and Yamaha guitars

those brands have been ingrained in the history of the classical guitar (Zondag, Curtis).

Segovia a Teacher

Segovia spread his philosophies in teaching the guitar in many ways. He released

many books of repertoire, which include some of his work and his arrangements of works that

other have. One way that he thought was by television. He made teaching videos, and also

made a thirteen episode series called “The Segovia Master Class.” His classes were held in

Sienna, Italy, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, and Berkeley, California. Many of the students

Segovia taught went on to become experts in the field. One of the most successful is

Christopher Parkening. In Christopher’s early teens he would practice the guitar for about an

hour and a half before school. At the age of fifteen he was invited to attend a Master Class with

Segovia. His private lessons were taught after Segovia had told Chris that he great potential for

a career in classical guitar (Lorimer, Michael).

A regular class would begin with students arriving early an tuning their guitars,

talking and exchanging music. Their would be two chairs one for the teacher, Segovia and the

other for the student. When Segovia arrived, the students would rise in respect as he entered

the room. He would then tell them to sit down an call each student up so they could perform.

The student would then play. Segovia might interrupt the student with comments such as, keep

the tempo and don’t pause at the end of each phrase, and be careful of your tone. Segovia

would also lose his temper, especially when the students don’t listen and when the students

have chosen poor editions of music. Segovia didn’t try to create musicians like him, but did try

to bring out the students own individuality in music (Lorimer, Michael).

Segovia’s Fame      

At the age of fifteen, in 1909 Segovia made his first public debut in Granada. He

then had later concerts in Madrid in 1912 here he played transcriptions for guitar by Francisco

Tarrega and some songs by Johan Sebastian Bach which he had transcribed himself
(Wikipedia). After receiving recognition outside his own country by 1919 Segovia was ready

for a full-fledged tour. In that year Segovia performed in South America. There he gained an

enthusiastic reception. He did not go to Europe because of the shows he kept on giving but

returned in 1923. At this time some people considered him as a curiosity. His most important

early success occurred at his Paris debut in April 1924. This performance was arranged by

Pablo Casals. The audience included a circle of musical celebrities like Paul Dukas, Manuel Dc

Falla and Madam Debusy. They loved him immediately. His reputation became international.

In January 1928 he appeared at Town Hall In New York City (Cumpiano, William). Here is

the article written by the New York Times :

The fame of Andrés Segovia, the Spanish guitarists whose name has been a prominent one of late years in capitals of Europe, had preceded him. An audience including many Spaniards and many more of the musical connoisseurs of the city greeted him when he made his first appearance yesterday afternoon in Town Hall.
But the appearance of Mr. Segovia is not that of the trumpeted virtuoso. He is rather the dreamer or scholar in bearing, long hair, eyeglasses, a black frock coat and neckwear of an earlier generation. He seats himself, thoughtfully, places his left foot on its rest, strikes a soft chord, then bends over his guitar and proceeds to play like the poet and master he is of the instrument (Downes, Olin).
Granting a knowledge far greater than this reviewer possesses of the technics of the matter, it would not avail to describe Mr. Segovia’s performance in technical terms. He belongs to the very small group of musicians who by transcendent power of execution, by imagination and intuition create an art of their own that sometimes seems to transform the very nature of their medium. Segovia could be if he chose the trick player of his generation. He draws the tone colors of half a dozen instruments from the one that he plays. He has an extraordinary command of nuances, he seems to discover whole planes of sonority. Although his instrument cannot furnish a genuinely connected series of tones he produces upon it, very frequently, the illusion of sustained song. When he play a melody of Back or Haydn he phrases it, slurring certain notes, detaching the others, according to the directions of the composer. He has, of course, the vibrato and the portamento to help him in expression. He is remarkable, almost unique, for not abusing these effects. His left hand is as amazing to watch as to hear, as it flies with an incredibly light, swift, geometrical precision over the keyboard [sic], or divides passages digitally in such a way that one or two fingers stop the strings while the others play various types of melody or figuration (Downes, Olin).
We have said that all this command of tone, technique and special effects possible to the instrument are only the vehicles of musical intention on the part of the performer. Mr. Segovia played many pieces from Bach, principally movements from suites, and a Haydn minuet for the classic part of his program. He played Bach like a consummate musician. Th relation between the guitar and the old lute, for which Bach wrote some of his music—probably some of the music Mr. Segovia played yesterday—and the manner in which the instrument of plucked strings became the instrument of struck wires in the final form of the piano, was brought home with especial force of illustration. Nevertheless, the most remarkable of Mr. Segovia’s performances were not those of Back, interpreted with so much taste and musicianship, but the pieces, principally by Spanish masters, composed for the guitar (Downes, Olin).
The first two of these pieces were the compositions of Sor, who is given little attention by the dictionaries, but who, as stated by the program, lived from 1778 to 1839 an wrote music excellent in style and dignified in invention. There was a haunting simplicity and sentiment in the performance, which was of a jeweled finish and gracefulness of figuration. And the eighteenth century flavor was emphasized by the idiom of the instrument.
More native in character, and of the Spanish genre, were the "Serenata" of Malats, the "Danza" and "Etude" of Tarrega. Each of these compositions made different demands; each revealed another side of the performer’s equipment. It was here that he proved beyond contraction the right of his instrument and of himself as a performer and creator upon it, to the attention and the respect of all music lovers. For with certain instruments, as with much music, the appearance of the master, with his handicraft and his vision, is required, before that which is inherent can be brought to life and become articulate for the multitude (Downes, Olin).
Saying all this, it must be added that Mr. Segovia did not and cannot succeed in removing the limitations which will always surround his instrument. he has stretched these limitations to the utmost. He has far outdistanced in his knowledge and his musical conceptions the ordinary twanger of strings. Nevertheless, the guitar remains the guitar, with limits of sonority, color, dynamics. These limitations make Bach less impressive through its medium than on the piano or harpsichord. They reach their utmost effect and their entire significance in music less sculpturesque and contrapuntal than Bach's and with warmer harmony and more elementary rhythms. Hence Mr. Segovia's audience was most enthusiastic when he played his own Spanish music in a way that revealed its essence of spirit and idiom.
This was an unusually significant appearance, and the first of concerts that Mr. Segovia will give here. His reception should have gratified him. A New York audience has seldom been quicker or warmer with its approval (Downes, Olin).     
- New York Times
Andres Segovia, then in 1936 was forced to give up his home because of Civil

War in Spain. He lived to be 94. He died of a heart attack.

     Works Cited

Andres Segovia. 5 Apr. 2005. Wikipedia Encyclopedia. 18 Apr. 2005. .

Cumpiano, Wlliam. . -1 2005. Andres Segovia. 16 Apr. 2005. .

Downes, Olin. "Segovia's American Debut." New York Times. 9 Jan. 1928: .

Lorimer, Michael. "Andres Segovia-The Teacher." 1970. 17 Apr. 2005: .

Zondag, Curtis. Segovia and The 20th Century Guitar. -1 2005. . 49 Apr. 2005. .

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