December 12, 2023

Andres Segovia & modern classical guitar

For today’s post we’re going to take a quick look at the classical guitar and a few key players thereof. If you’re interested in taking a a quick tour through the guitar’s history then a shortlist of great players might have to include the following:

Gaspar Sanz (1640-1710), Fernando Sor (1778-1839), Mauro Giuliani (1781-1829), Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909), Andrés Segovia (1893-1987), and John Williams (1941) and Julian Bream.

During the Golden Age of Flamenco, between around 1869–1910 guitar players supporting flamenco dancers had gained an increasing  reputation and flamenco guitar as an art form was born. By the beginning of the Twentieth Century however the status of the classical guitar was in decline, 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.

The classical guitar is a plucked string instrument from the family of instruments called chordophones. The modern classical or Spanish guitar typically has 6 nylon strings (the 3 bass-strings additionally being wound with a thin metal thread). The basic characteristics of the shape of the modern classical guitar were established by the nineteenth century Spanish luthier Antonio Torres Jurado.

When Andres Segovia arrived on the scene, this situation was just beginning to change, and it was in this changing milieu that Segovia, whose artistry coupled with new technological advances in recording, radio, and air travel, succeeded in moving the guitar forward to become more popular again. Segovia said that he began playing the guitar at the age of six but it is important to note that Segovia did not play flamenco guitar and his personal mission was to elevate the guitar to an instrument capable of expressive art-music. Segovia delineated a new style utilising both fingernails and fingertips which, although frowned upon by the students of the great flamenco player Francisco Tarrega, made it possible to create a wider range of timbres.  Both Segovia and Tarrega transcribed works by the great composers (for example Bach, Mendelssohn and Beethoven) for the guitar.

Well, That`s all folks,

Jake Edwards

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