Biography of

Andrés Segovia

21 feb 1893 (Linares) - 2 jun 1987 ()
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Andrés Segovia in 1963

Andrés Torres Segovia, 1st Marquess of Salobreña (February 21, 1893 – June 2, 1987[1]), known as Andrés Segovia, was a Spanish classical guitarist from Linares, Jaén, Andalucia, Spain. He is widely considered to be one of the finest classical guitarists of the 20th century - and one of the founders of what we now consider "Classical Guitar"[2][3][4]

Segovia is credited for his modern-romantic repertoire, mainly through works dedicated to him by modern composers, but he also created his own transcriptions of classical works that were originally for other instruments. He is remembered for his expressive performances: his wide palette of tone, and his distinctive (often instantly recognizable) musical personality in tone, phrasing and style.


Early life

Segovia stated that he began to play the guitar at the age of six.[5] Angelo Gilardino, who has worked at the Fundación Andrés Segovia in Spain, noted: "Though it is not yet completely documented, it seems clear that, since his tender childhood, [Segovia] learnt playing as a flamenco guitarist. The first guitar he owned had formerly been played by Paco de Lucena who died when Segovia was five years old. Since then, Segovia was given some instruction by Agustinillo, an amateur flamenco player who was a fan of Paco de Lucena."[6]
Nevertheless, Segovia did not really play flamenco. Instead he preferred expressive art-music such as that by Torroba, and revived interest in the instrument as an expressive medium for the performance of classical art-music.

As a teenager, Segovia moved to the town of Granada, where he studied the guitar and spent much time at the Alhambra palace, a Moorish relic overlooking the town which he regarded as his spiritual awakening.


Segovia's first public performance was in Spain at the age of 15, and a few years later he held his first professional concert in Madrid, playing guitar transcriptions by Francisco Tárrega and some works by J.S. Bach, which he had transcribed and arranged himself. Although he was always discouraged by his family who wanted him to become a lawyer and he was looked down on by many of Tárrega's pupils,[citation needed] he continued to diligently pursue his studies of the guitar.

He played again in Madrid in 1912, at the Paris Conservatory in 1915, in Barcelona in 1916, and made a successful tour of South America in 1919.[1] The status of the classical guitar at the beginning of the twentieth century had declined, and only in Barcelona and in the Rio de la Plata region of South America could it have been said to be of any significance. When Segovia arrived on the scene, this situation was just beginning to change, largely through the efforts of Llobet. It was in this changing milieu that Segovia, whose strength of personality and artistry coupled with new technological advances such as recording, radio, and air travel, succeeded in making the guitar more popular again.

At Granada in 1922 he became associated with the Concurso de Cante Jondo promoted by the Spanish composer Manuel de Falla. The aim of the "classicizing" Concurso was to preserve flamenco in its purity from being distorted by modern popular music.[7] Already Segovia had developed as a fine tocaor of flamenco guitar, yet his direction was now classical.[8] Invited to open the Concurso held at the Alhambra, he played Homenaje a Debussy para la guitarra by Falla.[9]

Guitar by Hermann Hauser, 1937, Munich, Germany. Concert guitar of Andrés Segovia's from 1937 until 1962. Gift of Emilita Segovia, Marquessa of Salobreña, 1986 (1986.353.1). Housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In 1924, Segovia visited the German luthier Hermann Hauser Sr. after hearing some of his instruments played in a concert in Munich. In 1928 Hauser provided Segovia with one of his personal guitars for use during his United States tour and in his concerts through to 1933. When Hauser delivered the new instrument Segovia had ordered, Segovia passed his 1928 Hauser to his U.S. representative and close friend Sophocles Papas, who gave it to his classical guitar student, the famous jazz and classical guitarist Charlie Byrd, who used it on several records.

After Segovia's debut tour in the U.S. in 1928, the Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos composed his now well-known Twelve Études (Douze études) and later dedicated them to Segovia. Their relationship proved to be lasting as Villa-Lobos continued to write for Segovia. He also transcribed numerous classical pieces himself and revived the pieces transcribed by men like Tárrega. Many guitarists in the Americas, however, had already been playing these same works before Segovia arrived.

In 1935, he gave his first public performance of Bach's Chaconne, a difficult piece for any instrument. He moved to Montevideo, performing many concerts in South America in the thirties and early forties.

After World War II, Segovia began to record more frequently and perform regular tours of Europe and the U.S., a schedule he would maintain for the next thirty years. In 1954, Joaquin Rodrigo dedicated Fantasía para un gentilhombre (Fantasy for a Gentleman) to Segovia.[10] Segovia won the 1958 Grammy Award for Best Classical Performance, Instrumentalist for his recording Segovia Golden Jubilee.

In recognition of his contributions to music and the arts, Segovia was ennobled on 24 June 1981 by King Juan Carlos I, who gave Segovia the hereditary title of Marqués de Salobreña[11][12] (English: Marquis of Salobreña) in the nobility of Spain.

Andres Segovia continued performing into his old age, living in semi-retirement during his 70s and 80s on the Costa del Sol. Two films were made of his life and work—one when he was 75 and the other, 84. They are available on DVD called "Andrés Segovia - in Portrait".

Segovia died in Madrid of a heart attack at the age of 94. He is buried at Casa Museo de Linares, in Andalusia.


Segovia's technique differed from that of Tárrega and his followers, such as Emilio Pujol. Both Segovia and Miguel Llobet (who taught Segovia several of his transcriptions of Granados' piano works) plucked the strings with a combination of his fingernails and fingertips, producing a sharper sound than many of his contemporaries. With this technique, it was possible to create a wider range of timbres, than when using the fingertips or nails alone. Historically, classical guitarists have debated which of these techniques is the best approach. The vast majority of classical guitarists now play with a combination of the fingernails and fingertips.

After World War II, Segovia became among the first to endorse the use of nylon strings instead of gut strings. This new advance allowed for greater stability in intonation, and was the final missing ingredient in the standardization of the instrument.


Segovia's repertoire consisted of three principal pillars. Firstly, contemporary works, including concertos and sonatas, usually specifically written for Segovia himself by composers he forged working relationships with, notably Spaniards such as Federico Moreno Torroba, Federico Mompou, and Joaquin Rodrigo, the Mexican composer Manuel Ponce, the Italian composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, and the great Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos. Secondly, transcriptions, usually made by Segovia himself, of classical works originally written for other instruments (e.g., lute, harpsichord, piano, violin, cello) by Johann Sebastian Bach, Isaac Albéniz, Enrique Granados, and many other prominent composers. Thirdly, traditional classical guitar works by composers such as Fernando Sor and Francisco Tarrega. Segovia's influence enlarged the repertoire, mainly as a commissioner or dedicatee of new works, as a transcriber, andto a far lesser extent as a composer with such works as his Estudio sin luz.

Segovia's main musical aesthetic preferences were music of the early 20th century (and turn of the century) especially in the Spanish romantic-modern and nationalist style. This is perhaps best typified by Segovia's own work Estudio sin Luz. Many works of this and similar style were written especially for him and formed part of his core repertoire: particularly the guitar works of Federico Moreno Torroba (1891–1982), such as the Sonatina, which was first performed by Segovia in Paris in 1925.[13]


Segovia viewed teaching as vital to his mission of propagating the guitar and gave master classes throughout his career. His most famous master classes took place at Música en Compostela in the northern Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela.[14]

His teaching style is a source of controversy among some of today's players, who consider it to be dogmatically authoritarian.[15][16][17] John Williams for instance criticized his scope as a teacher and spoke of the atmosphere of fear in his classes.[18]


Segovia left a large body of edited works and transcriptions. His editions of works originally written for guitar include newly fingered and occasionally revised versions of works from the standard repertoire (most famously, his edition of a selection of twenty estudios by Fernando Sor, as well as compositions written for him.[citation needed] Many of the latter were edited by Segovia, working in communication with the composer, before they were first published. Because of Segovia's predilection for altering the musical content of his editions to reflect his interpretive preferences, many of today's guitarists prefer to examine the original manuscripts, or newer publications based on the original manuscripts in order to compare them with Segovia's published versions, so as to accept or reject Segovia's editorial decisions.[citation needed]


Segovia was awarded many prizes and honours including Ph.D, honoris causa from ten universities.[19] He received the Danish Sonning Award in 1974 and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1986.

Personal life

Segovia's first wife was Adelaida Portillo (marriage in 1918). Segovia's second wife (marriage in 1935) was the pianist Paquita Madriguera, who also made some piano roll recordings[20][21]. From 1944, he maintained a relationship with Brazilian singer and guitarist Olga Praguer Coelho, which was to last for over a decade[22]. Segovia married with Emilia Magdalena del Corral Sancho in 1962.[23] They had one son, Carlos-Andrés de Segovia y del Corral. On his death the marquessate passed to his son.[24]

See also


  1. ^ a b Stevenson, Joseph. "Andrés Segovia Biography". Allmusic. 
  2. ^ Ferguson, Jim (1979). The Guitar player book. Guitar Player Books. ISBN 0394171691. Retrieved July 16, 2010. 
  3. ^ John Noble, Susan Forsyth, Vesna Maric (2007). Andalucía. Lonely Planet. p. 46. ISBN 174059973. 
  4. ^ Castro, Iván A. (2006). 100 Hispanics you should know. Libraries Unlimited. p. 290. ISBN 1591583276. 
  5. ^ "This Day in History - January 4th". LikeTelevision. 
  6. ^ Angelo Gilardino (2007-06-04). "Segovia's early years". 
  7. ^ Carol A. Hess, Manuel de Falla and modernism in Spain, 1898-1936 (University of Chicago 2001) at 175.
  8. ^ D. E. Pohlen, Lives and Legends of Flamenco (Madrid 1964, revised 1988) at 73.
  9. ^ Eduardo Molina Fajardo, Manuel de Falla y El "Cante Jondo" (Universidad de Granada 1962; 2d ed. 1998) at 116.
  10. ^ Pablo Zinger (August 1999). "MUSIC; A Composer Who Found Strength in an Inner Vision". New York Times. 
  11. ^ "Marqueses de Salobreña". 
  12. ^ "An Armory of Famous Musicians". Heraldica. 
  13. ^ John W. Duarte. "Guitar Recital". Naxos. 
  14. ^ "John Mills: The Teaching of Andres Segovia". 
  15. ^ "John Williams Interview with Austin Prichard-Levy". The Twang Box Dynasty. 
  16. ^ "The infamous Chapdelaine Segovia incident". by Tony Morris (12 June 2007, 
  17. ^ "Abel Carlevaro technique: Technique compendium". Renato Bellucci. 
  18. ^ "John Williams—Into the New World". by Mark L. Small. 
  19. ^ "Honores y Distinciones". Andrés Segovia. Síntesis biográfica. Honores y distinciones. by Alberto López Poveda. (Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Boletín de la Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando. Segundo semestre de 1986. Número 63.) [1]. 
  20. ^ "The Great Female Pianists, Vol. 5 Paquita Madriguera". Dal Segno. 
  21. ^ "Rollography". The Reproducing Piano Roll Foundation. 
  22. ^ "Golden Era 74 Olga Coelho South American Folksongs 1944-1957". 
  23. ^ "Cronología de la Vida y Obra de Andrés Segovia (1893-1987)". 
  24. ^ Genealogía de los marqueses de Salobreña - Website


  • Alberto López Poveda: Andrés Segovia - Vida y Obra (2010; Tome1: 864 pages; Tome2: 408 pages) (1, 2), 2009
  • Alfredo Escande: Don Andrés y Paquita - La vida de Segovia en Montevideo
  • The Segovia-Ponce Letters
  • Andrés Segovia. Un secolo di storia nella musica del grande chitarrista spagnolo (2005)
  • Graham Wade: Traditions of the Classical Guitar(John Calder, London, 1980)
  • Graham Wade: Segovia - A Celebration of the Man and his Music (Allison & Busby, London, 1983)
  • Graham Wade: Maestro Segovia (Robson, London, 1986)
  • Graham Wade and Gerard Garno: A New Look at Segovia, His Life, His Music, Volumes 1 & 2 (Mel Bay Publications Inc., Pacific, Missouri, 1997)
  • Graham Wade: A Concise History of the Classic Guitar (Mel Bay Publications Inc., Pacific, Missouri,2001)
  • Machilis, Joseph. The Enjoyment of Music: An Introduction to Perceptive Listening. New York: W.W Norton and Company, 1977, Pages 107-109.

External links

Spanish nobility
New title Marquess of Salobreña
24 June 1981–2 June 1987
Succeeded by
Carlos-Andrés de Segovia y del Corral

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Andrés Segovia. Allthough most Wikipedia articles provide accurate information accuracy can not be guaranteed.
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