This CD is part of a new series devoted to "legendary" performers. (The other titles in the series are The Legendary Heifetz, The Legendary Rubinstein, The Legendary Caruso, and The Legendary Casals.) I suspect that these discs are targeted toward individuals who might not have had a great deal of prior experience with these musicians, and who might ordinarily balk at the idea of listening to material originally released on 78rpm records. (At least on the Segovia disc, before reading the enclosed annotations, the only clue to the age of the recordings is the small word "mono" on the back of the jewel box.) Don't look for specific information about the music itself, because there isn't much.
However, the digital remastering (by Wayne Hileman of Squires Productions) is impressive. I compared this disc, whose contents were recorded between 1927 and 1939, to MCA Classics' Segovia discs from the 1950s and 1960s. Although some of the MCA Classics material is in stereo, I still prefer the sound that EMI Classics has come up with; its warmth really makes you feel the communicative greatness of this master musician. In contrast, the MCA Classics discs can be steely, and the guitarist sounds like he has been recorded from farther away. On the disc under review, surface noise from the original 78rpm records is present but not obtrusive, and any filtering that has been done has not stripped away the musicality of the performances.
Speaking of the performances, this disc finds Segovia at his prime. His career in the recording studios was a long one, and the recordings that he made when he was in his 70s are like a beautiful, mellow sunset. Those recordings make it easy to forget, however, how important Segovia was in re-establishing the role of the guitar as a viable solo instrument in the recital hall, and how surprising it was in the 1920s when the still-young record companies realized, largely through Segovia, that people would buy recordings of solo guitar music. His later recordings do have a lovely autumnal aura that hangs about them, but the 23 tracks presented here are more representative of his technique and repertoire.
In short, this CD can be recommended to anyone who appreciates guitar music, but also to those who know Segovia only through his later recordings.
Copyright © 1999, Raymond Tuttle