Segovia: Phillip de Fremery's New Transcriptions Preserve the
Hans J. Massaquoi
When MHC guitar instructor
Phillip de Fremery played Mussorgsky's "The Old Castle"
for renowned classical guitarist Andrés Segovia in 1966,
he flattered his teacher by the purest form of imitation. The
young guitarist had written the piece down, complete with the
maestro's fingerings, by listening to it on Decca's Golden
Jubilee, Segovia's landmark three-record set released in honor
of the fiftieth anniversary of his first concert. "Where
did you get that?" asked Segovia, surprised and pleased.
Almost thirty years later, Segovia's widow, Emilia Segovia, the
Marquesa de Salobreña, remembered de Fremery's skill and
commissioned him to listen to and create manuscripts of fifty-six
of Segovia's recordings, from Bach to Mendelssohn. The result
of de Fremery's five-year labor, Andrés Segovia, Transcripciones,
was released in four languages in November by publisher Edizioni
Musicali Bèrben, Ancona, Italy. Since they are taken directly
from recordings, the pieces form the first worldwide publication
of Segovia's actual performance editions.
Drawn from all periods
of Segovia's recording career, the transcriptions represent "the
vast panorama of one of the world's most illustrious recording
careers," writes de Fremery in the book's foreword, pointing
to specific examples of Segovia's expert judgment in style, phrasing,
and choice of octave, and inviting listeners, teachers, and musicians
to pursue and experience dozens more. He writes, "Those who
through their unconditional love of the guitar do make a practice
of returning to his example will always find themselves energized
with renewed spirit and hope."
Emilia Segovia (center), was impressed by
the musical skill of Phillip de Fremery (left) when he took
guitar master classes with her husband Andrés Segovia
(right) during the 1960s. Three decades later, she commissioned
de Fremery to create manuscripts of fifty-six of Segovias
recordings, now compiled as Andrés Segovia, Transcripciones.
Segovia (18931987) is considered by many to be the father
of modern classical guitar. He elevated the instrument to the
concert stage, widely expanded its repertoire, and won many admirers
and students. Among them is de Fremery, who took master classes
with Segovia and earned this praise: "Phillip de Fremery
. . . has shown much love for the guitar and has the good sound.
I am sure that, in time, he will be a fine performing guitarist
of the future, and a credit to the San Francisco Conservatory
of Music, where he received his first training." Upon his
graduation in 1970, de Fremery indeed became well known for his
performances on radio and television and in various recital halls
in the United States and Canada. He began teaching at Mount Holyoke
for the guitar in a way that few of us can now imagine,"
writes de Fremery, describing Segovia's incessant efforts to redefine
tempi, articulation, and key and, despite international acclaim,
to constantly move beyond the trends he himself had invented.
"We may safely say that a great amount of personal anguish
was necessarily borne simply because his beloved instrument was
universally dismissed as being devoid of serious potential,"
he writes. "What is less obvious, yet in truth far more problematic
and demanding, is the comparatively uncharted rigor of his daily
quest for truth in expression; the dues, if you will, that he
could never consider fully paid." The transcriptions, says
de Fremery, yield an opportunity to observe the ever-evolving
Segovia, who refused to adhere to a set of preferences in "paint
by number" fashion. Writes de Fremery, "One of the priceless
blessings of his artistic nature was the firm knowledge that since
he wished to be deeply loved as a performer he was going to have
to earn itday in, year out."
Although Segovia constantly
reworked his performance versions, he saw no practical reason
to write them down. In his introduction to Transcripciones,
Angelo Gilardino, artistic director of the Andrés Segovia
Foundation of Linares, Spain, explains that Segovia published
just a few pieces and committed the majority to memory, not to
paper. "The rift between the original source and the text
as elaborated by him is always quite remarkable, no matter what,"
writes Gilardino. Remarkable, too, is the "truly portentous
musical ear" that allowed de Fremery to take on the "daunting
task of transcribing every single note straight from recordings
which, at times, were far less than crystal-clear." This
painstaking work, says Gilardino, is a major step toward preventing
a sizable part of Segovia's art from vanishing for good.
Classical guitar lovers
may hear de Fremery in solo recital on Sunday, April 7, at 2 pm
as part of the recital series in Springfield's Saint Michael's
Cathedral. The program will concentrate on Spanish music but will
also include "The Old Castle," which now for the first
time is published in Segovia's transcription in the new Bèrben