Monday, April 25, 2016

Villa and Segovia

I'm reading Don Andrés and Paquita: The Life of Segovia in Montevideo, Alfredo Escande's 2012 book. Though the relationship between the great guitarist and his second wife, the pianist Paquita Madriguera, is the key one in this book, his professional connections, especially with composers, were of course very important, and Villa-Lobos looms large in this story.

Segovia and Villa had met at a party in Paris in 1924, and there was both an immediate connection and a wariness between them. Each of them had a different memory of what happened. Once Segovia fled Spain for Uruguay in 1936 he and Villa were bound to run into each other more often. Villa eventually dedicated his 12 Etudes for Guitar to Segovia, but the guitarist was not enamoured of these works at all. Indeed, he says this in a 1928 letter to Manuel Ponce: “From his swollen number of compositions I do not exaggerate in telling you that the only one that is of any use is the study in E Major." Segovia never recorded the complete Etudes, but the few he did are masterful. Here's no. 7 in C sharp minor:

As to the Preludes, again Segovia wasn't impressed at first, but later he wanted to get on the band-wagon, as had happened with the Etudes. I talked about this in my sneak-preview post about Escande's book, from last month.

When Villa-Lobos's friend, the soprano and guitarist Olga Praguer Coelho travelled to New York in 1938 she sang for Eleanor Washington at the White House, and began her American recording career at RCA Victor. She also met Segovia, and began a liaison with him that eventually ended his marriage.Villa-Lobos dedicated his arrangement of Bachianas Brasileiras no. 5 for guitar and voice to Olga, and Segovia provided the fingering.

Here are Villa-Lobos and Don Andres many years later, again in New York, with Mindinha and Olga.

Villa & Arminda; Don Andres & Olga - photo from O Globo

This was the period when the two began their closest collaboration, over Villa's Guitar Concerto, which began as the Fantasia Concertante in 1951. But that's beyond the scope of this excellent book, and a story for another time.

1 comment:

  1. I mis-spoke above when I said Villa dedicated the guitar/voice adaptation of BB#5 to Olga Coelho. The dedication on the autograph score is "A Mindinha". Coelho commissioned it for her double-threat talents as a singer and guitarist.