Roberto Moronn Pérez, guitar – Andrés Segovia Archive Vol. II (French Composers) – Fresh! Reference Recordings

by | May 1, 2015 | Classical CD Reviews

Roberto Moronn Pérez – Andrés Segovia Archive Volume II (French Composers) – Fresh! Reference Recordings (HDCD) FR-709, 62:32 (Distr. by Naxos)  [6/10/14] ****:

This is the second in a hopefully longer series of recordings featuring music written at the request of Andrés Segovia. The first, released in 2010, contains pieces for solo guitar by six Spanish composers, none of whom is a household name, but each of whom Segovia respected. The album of Spanish music is reviewed elsewhere on this site. This album, out four years later, contains works by eight French composers from the same source.

No one has had more influence on the emergence and status of  his classical instrument than Andrés Segovia. Born in Linares, Spain in 1893, he was self-taught and good enough to tour his own country in his early twenties, Uruguay and Argentina in his late twenties, and Europe in his early thirties. His Paris concert in 1924 is seen by many as the birth of the guitar as a classical concert instrument. During this period, recognizing the scarcity of music specifically for the guitar, he started the Guitar Archive Series. He invited many composers, not just from Spain nor knowledgeable of the guitar, to contribute. The response was overwhelming – Torroba, Turina, Ponce, Falla, Castelnuovo-Tedesco, dozens more  – indeed more music than he could use in concerts.

The Archive was saved from destruction during the Spanish Civil War, and ended up in possession of Emilia Segovia, Marquise of Salobreña, widow of the maestro whom he married in 1962. She established the Segovia Foundation in Linares, and released the Archive for publication  by Edizioni Musicali Bérben in Ancona, Italy. Angelo Gilardino, composer and scholar, is President of the Foundation.  It is his judicious selection from the Archive that forms the basis for the previous Spanish, and this French, album. It’s interesting to speculate whether any other nation (Italy? Britain?) has enough quality composers for the guitar to populate the next recording.

On this recording, the first French composer is Raymond Petit (1893 – 1976), born the same year as Segovia, and lived almost as long.  Petit titled this piece Andantino and Segovia played it once, in 1926.  A reviewer described it as a Sicilienne and that name stuck, but Segovia never played it in concert again.  Born two years after Segovia, Henri Martelli (1895 – 1980) composed this showpiece for the guitar around 1932. Quatre Pièces sections are titled Gaiment (gaily), Vite (quickly), Lentement (slowly), Animé (animatedly), with the fingering in the second movement being particularly challenging. Next is Pierre DeBreville’s (1861 – 1949)  Fantasie. Originally untitled, the piece struck the Archive Editor Girardino as mysterious and so he gave it this name.

Henri Collet (1885 – 1951) is one of many composers represented on this disc that fell in love with Spain and spent much time there. This work, Briviesca, evokes a Castilian village in the Burgos region. Segovia found the original manuscript unplayable, and so Editor Gilardino completely re-wrote it to its current form. All the selections on the disc so far are about six minutes in length – ideal for a guitar recital.   The next, Suite by Raymond Moulaert (1875 – 1962), is a large work in three movements totalling 18 minutes. There is no evidence Segovia ever played it.

Raoul Laparra (1876 – 1943), a student of Massenet and friend of Ravel, contributes Cuadros (Pictures, or Scenes of Spain). It too is in three movements, but the total time is about six minutes.  First is Pueblo Castellano, found in the Archive unsigned and undated, but scholars including Editor Gilardino proved its origin. The next two, En Aragón and Brujerías, were originally piano pieces, transcribed by Gilardino.

Pierre-Octave Ferroud (1900 – 1936) is the youngest composer so far, and as might be expected, more open to the musical influences swirling around Paris, such as jazz and Stravinsky. They are evident in his piece Spiritual, but as the performer Pérez says in his well-written and chatty notes about the composers, “Perhaps Segovia was not the right recipient for this piece.”

The last composer is the most interesting. Ida Presti (1924 – 1967) is unique among these composers: first, she’s the only female, second she was the only competent guitar player. Three months before Presti was born, her father apparently attended the watershed Segovia concert in Paris. He fell in love with the sound of the instrument and resolved that his daughter would play it. She did so, and well. So well that when , still a child, she played for Segovia, he declared he had nothing to teach her. They remained friends for the rest of her short life, and he referred to her as “Ida Prestissimo”.  Her life changed when she met the Greek-Italian Alexandre LaGoya in 1954 and the two guitarists decided to form a performing, and recording,  duo (I still have some of their Columbia vinyl) – and to get married a year later. These two started a trend of multi-guitar performance that continues today – from Los Romeros to LAGQ to quartets in every major city it seems. Presti’s tribute on this album, simply titled Segovia, reverently acknowledges the impact of the man.

Roberto Morron Pérez is a wonderful guitar virtuoso, having studied in Spain, Italy and the U.K., and toured worldwide. Whereas Gilardino wrote the noted for the Spanish album,  Pérez wrote them for this French one. My only complaint about both is that the write-ups about composers are in random order – not the playing sequence, not alphabetic, not helpful.

The sound on this disc is marvellous, as one might expect from one mastered by Keith O. Johnson. “Prof” Johnson is the Chief Engineer and Technical Director for Reference Recordings and is responsible for the HDCD technology used here, as well as many other acoustic innovations. HDCD slightly enhances the quality of recorded sound, but unfortunately, as with SACD, unless playback is through a special decoder, the listener misses the enhancement.  [Except that it is compatible for standard CD playback, and the SACD tracks are not…Ed.] His team at RR included John Taylor who produced, engineered and edited this album. The well-chosen recording site was Holy Trinity Church in Weston, Hertfordshire in southern England.

I’d recommend this French album, and its Spanish companion, to anyone interested in the full range of solo guitar sound who is looking beyond the well-known composers for the instrument.

—Paul Kennedy

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