The Art of Segovia The HMV Recordings 1927-39
By the time I first met Segovia in 1948 his pre-eminence in the field of the classic guitar was unquestioned and his first recordings were over 20 years in the past. He seemed to be the supreme master of the instrument, and single-handedly responsible for its twentieth-century revival. The truth is, that throughout his long life (he died in 1987 aged 94) there were others of comparable virtuosity—the fact that the man in the street did not know of them did not mean that they were not there. Neither was he the first to make commercial recordings of the guitar. What made him unique was the breadth of his vision, that of the guitar as a respected instrument with a place that transcended the bounds of amateur and salon music-making, and his passionate and long-sustained devotion to making it come true. The world became aware of Andres Segovia and, no less, of the guitar he played, and that, even more than the skill and artistry he brought to his task, was his greatest achievement. The greatest guitarist of all time? That is questionable: there have been (and still are) others of greater virtuosity and superior command of a range of musical styles, though few to rival the variety and beauty of the sounds he produced. If he was not the greatest player of all time he was certainly the guitar's most powerful advocate, the ultimate 'effective guitarist' who opened doors for all those who followed, a role in which his remarkable personal attributes were no less important than his artistry.
His manner of playing pre-classical music now sounds quaint—the very free rubato, 'orchestral' tone-coloration and stressing of the 'pretty' notes are backward extrapolations of the romanticism of the time of Segovia's musical youth and self-education. Yet the passionate conviction and love he brought to it is as disarming as it is utterly appropriate when he applies it to the later Spanish and other music. These are archival records (in both senses) of the sounds that stimulated millions of love-affairs with the guitar. For reasons that are now impossible to unravel, some of the earliest tracks emerge as much as a semitone above concert pitch and thus at faster-than-life speeds (the original 78s show the same characteristics) but they sound scarcely less impressive when the playing speeds are suitably adjusted. In all respects this is an important reissue, enhanced by the durability and easy track-selection of the CD format.'