The Spanish guitar is famous for its unique melody and harmony. It’s known around the world, thanks to virtuoso Spanish classical guitarist Andrés Segovia.
But who is Andrés Segovia to the Spanish guitar? How did he popularize the classical guitar and its classical music in the 20th century?
Below, you’ll see answers to all these burning questions.
Andrés Segovia: One of the Best Classical Guitarists from Spain
The young Segovia was born in 1893 in Linares, Spain. He moved to Granada in 1908, where he discovered his love for the guitar.
He wasn’t a formal classical guitar student because Segovia learned by himself. His early musical education involved him being the teacher and pupil at the same time.
He excelled even if he was self-taught. By 1909, Segovia had his first performance in Granada. Years later, he undertook his professional performance in Madrid.
For Segovia’s first guitar concerto, he performed the works of other classical composers. He adopted some of Francisco Tarrega’s works while modifying some of the guitar compositions of Johann Sebastian Bach.
Andrés Segovia’s International Travels
Although his family pushed him to take Law, Segovia continued working on his traditional classical guitar works.
Expectedly, these all bore fruit a few years later. Andrés Segovia gave excellent performances in Madrid (1912,) Paris (1915,) and Barcelona (1916).
Three years later, he toured South America. His arrival to the international stage was just in time with the Miguel Llobet-led guitar revival.
Andrés Segovia visited Italy once again in 1921. Here, he met Alexandre Tansman. The Polish composer wrote several pieces for the guitarist. One such example is the Cavatina, which won the Siena International Composition Contest later on in 1952.
He eventually went back to Granada in 1922, where he opened the Concurso. Here, he performed Falla’s Homenaje a Debussy.
By 1923, Segovia flew back to the Americas, including Mexico. Here, he impressed Manuel Ponce, who raved about his performance in the El Universal newspaper.
Segovia visited the German luthier Hermann Hauser Sr. in Munich in 1924. He eventually gave Segovia the guitar he used in his US tours.
From here on out, Segovia’s influence enlarged to unbelievable proportions.
He toured the US in 1928. By 1935, he performed one of Bach’s more challenging pieces, the Chaconne. Even after the second world war, Andrés Segovia continued performing around the world.
Segovia’s Life and Times
Unlike others, Segovia played the strings with just his nails. In an interview, he explained how it helped bring timber differences, color, and sonorous volume to a professional concert instrument.
Segovia’s technique also differed from that of Tarrega. His distinctive musical personality is borne by his quirk of putting his right hand further to that side.
Segovia’s repertoire consisted of three pillars.
The first included contemporary works, such as sonatas and concertos. Most of them were written by Joaquin Rodrigo, Federico Mompou, and Federico Moreno Torreba.
The second included transcriptions Segovia created by himself. Last but not least are the classical works originally written by Tarrega and Fernando Sor.
Without a doubt, Segovia influenced several guitar works and the composers who made them. For this, he was ennobled by King Juan in 1981. He gave him the hereditary title Marqués de Salobreña.
Segovia also won the Grammy Award in 1958.
Maestro Segovia: Teacher of Many Professional Classical Guitarists
Segovia taught more than just himself. However, Segovia’s technique differed from most teachers.
While he was highly criticized, some of the most prominent guitar music names sought his assistance. These include:
1. John Williams
John Williams, an Australian, is known for his ensemble music. At a young age of 11, he attended the Accademia Musicale Chigiana alongside Segovia.
For his guitar transcriptions, Williams received the Grammy Award in 1973.
2. Oscar Ghiglia
Born in Italy, Ghiglia studied at the Santa Cecilia Conservatory. He studied under Segovia at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana. He inherited Segovia’s post after his retirement.
3. Christopher Parkening
Parkening, a Los Angeles native, first learned of Segovia’s recordings at age 11. Eventually, he transcribed numerous classical pieces from the maestro himself.
Today, Parkening is the Chair of Classical Guitar at Pepperdine University.
4. Julian Bream
Bream is an English guitarist and lutenist. He was influenced mainly by Segovia, with whom he shared some sessions. Segovia also endorsed him for a music scholarship.
Before he passed in 2020, Bream was a proud winner of four Grammy Awards.
5. Alirio Diaz
Born in Venezuela, Diaz ran away at age 16 in pursuit of better schooling.
He eventually found himself at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana under Segovia’s tutelage. The maestro was so impressed that he made Diaz his assistant and substitute in some performances.
As you see, Segovia contributed a lot to the development of the Spanish guitar. Not only did he gift the world with beautiful music, but he also shared his knowledge with many prominent guitarists.