Andres Segovia

Missionary Of The Classical Guitar

"Andres Segovia - The man who elevated the classical guitar to its lofty heights..."

It is a generally accepted notion that he was the most popular and important figure in the whole of classical guitar history. What would have been the fate of classical guitar if not for an ignorant, mean old violin teacher? When his violin teacher pinched the young violinist every time he played a wrong note and demonstrated a "very poor tone", he had no idea he was helping to shape the future of classical guitar forever!

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Yes, perhaps Andres Segovia, with his fanatical love of the guitar, was "chosen" for the instrument. It is interesting to note the strange twists and turns of fate that is a part of all great historical events. His violin teacher may well have been supportive and brilliant...lucky for he wasn't!

As Maurice J. Summerfield stated in his wonderful book...The Classical Guitar, Its Evolution, Players and Personalities Since 1800)...

"There is not one classical guitarist alive today that has not been influenced by Andres Segovia"

He was born in 1893 in Linares, near Andalusia in Spain. Turning away from the violin and disregarding all advice to the contrary, he found himself, at a very young age, attracted very strongly to the guitar. Genius, like water, always finds its own level. The young man, after very little tuition, began a lifelong quest to take the classical guitar to undreamt of new heights. He became... "his own master and his own pupil" and continued throughout his very long life to champion the cause of classical guitar in all areas of musical life.

The plaudits came for Segovia after the first concerts he played at the age of sixteen (although his official debut was in Paris in 1924). From that moment on he played to rapt audiences worldwide for the rest of his life. Indeed, even in old age Andres managed a hectic schedule of over sixty concerts per year well into his nineties all over the world!

Throughout his life Andres' achievements were many and great. For instance, he was one of the very few classical guitarists who earned a gold record for having sold over a million copies of a single record! He persuaded many contemporary composers who would not have ordinarily written for the guitar to compose some very fine music indeed. Manuel Ponce, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Albert Rousell and Manuel de Falla to name but a few.

Andres must have been a very persuasive character, and it has been said that he often would wax long of the guitar's capacity for harmony and counterpoint. He was even instrumental in persuading (along with Augustine) the manufacturers of guitar strings to change from catgut to nylon strings.

Also, he had a life-long goal of widening the repertoire. He wanted to convince the "powers that be" in the conservatories to include guitar instruction in their courses. He wanted to "lift" the guitar from its generally, folkloric past. Indeed, in true missionary style he took the guitar from... "the gypsy haunts and almost alone elevated it to its honoured place on the concert stage."

Check out this great little video on YouTube.com of "the master" playing Sor's "Magic Flute" variations...

Andres Segovia Sidebar - Did You Know?

He used to get so nervous before a concert that he would submerge his hands in a warm water bowl to get the blood flowing just to enable him to play!

With the sort of flack,  he was receiving from the "more established" classical artiste's (they laughed at him openly) it couldn't have been easy for Andres Segovia. He was not to be thwarted. His passion and zeal were real. He wasn't going away! Just what was his legacy? Andre Tubeuf has said that his achievement was to...

"Create a discipline, a school, a repertoire. He has lived to see the guitar become a great instrument that is popular and classical at the same time."

I believe that is true but only part of the classical guitar story. If it hadn't been for this man's single-minded belief in himself and total love for our beautiful instrument it would have been "consigned to the tenements of musical history, only a bit player in a glorious musical firmament."

Most classical guitarist's are in awe of what Segovia has achieved for guitar. Not only did he refine most of the developments made by Tarrega in the previous century, he gave it a warmth and charm that no other instrument before it or since, has ever managed to capture.

Indeed he played with a more relaxed right hand than Tarrega and used the left hand side of his nails and the skin of his fingertips to achieve a great warmth and beauty of tone. This technique was passed on to generations of classical guitarist's both through his world famous master classes and through the many teachers of classical guitar that were influenced by his technique and quality of performance.

Whenever and wherever there is a discussion about the development and history of classical guitar you can be sure that the name Andres Segovia shall be one of the main topics of that discussion. There was no one before or since who played such a crucial role in the classical guitar's place, in musical history.

Here are a few related resources in which you may be interested...

The Segovia Collection

The Legendary Andrés Segovia

See more on classical guitar here...

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Welcome to LCG! I'm Trevor Maurice, owner of this site. I hope you find inspiration in these pages to help you with  your journey of learning to play the classical guitar. You can read more of my story here...


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