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Barrios Vs Segovia – Friends, Foes, Or Just Different?
Andres Segovia has the immovable status of the father of the modern classical guitar, he laid the foundation for everything that came later. Without him, this humble instrument would remain today only in popular and folk music.
There are many people who criticize his behavior and even his playing technique, so he is untouchable for the new generation of guitarists.
One thing that many people notice about Segovia is his association with the guitar composer Agustín Barrios Mangor, who is almost always in the repertoire of classical guitarists today and is often considered one of the instrument’s greatest composers (after Chopin. guitar quoted by John Williams).
Although Barrios is recognized today, he was relatively unknown in the classical guitar world during his lifetime. He did not tour in Europe or the United States, he played successfully in Latin America, but the small market did not allow him to earn a lot of money. He did not become a man of the world, unlike Segovia, who filled the prestigious theaters of the most important cities of the world.
Even though Barrios comes from a country relatively isolated from the music world, we can’t say that he didn’t have the opportunity to explode in his career. He spent a lot of time in Buenos Aires, one of the cultural centers of the world at that time. He did not take advantage of this favorable environment, and he devoted himself to playing concerts and making records, mostly of popular tunes, away from the growing community of classical guitarists in Buenos Aires. Lobet, Segovia and other famous guitarists regularly traveled to the city to play concerts and welcome the public.
Barrios oriented himself more toward the popular music public for a number of reasons discussed elsewhere. Later, in Rio de Janeiro, he met Gino Marinuzzi, the world-renowned conductor of Milan’s La Scala opera house, and he had another great opportunity to advance his career. He performed a private concert for the famous musician and his friends and warmly congratulated him. Had he been associated with Marinuzzi, he would have been able to establish contacts with impresarios in Europe and organize concerts.
The other, and perhaps the best chance he had (although this time it didn’t really depend on him) was when he met Andres Segovia. Maestro Segovia was in a much better position than Barrios in the years that followed when he met them, although he did not lead the world on guitar, and he played concerts in South America and Europe.
Segovia had heard of Barrios before meeting in 1921. Miguel Herrera Klinger (Uruguayan biographer) claims to have overheard a conversation about Barrios between Andres Segovia, Regino Sainz de la Maza, and Domingo Prat in a guitar shop in Buenos Aires. They were discussing the metal strings used by Paraguayans. As long as Barrios played the steel strings, Sainz de la Maza didn’t miss out. In Segovia’s words: “Well, as for me, I don’t know what to do with that iron fence.” This was in 1912, when Barrios was not an adult guitarist and Segovia was just beginning his career.
They finally met in Buenos Aires in 1921. By this time, Segovia was gaining more recognition and he was in a much better position than Barrios, and this determined how the encounter would unfold: Barrios was attending Segovia’s concert. After the game, they were both introduced by a friend. They talk politely and Barrios promises to meet him.
The visit took place some time later at Segovia’s house (Barrios was the one who was supposed to go after Segovia). Klinger said of this encounter: “Barrios was surprised to play a series of musical gems for the great Segovia… better: he was brought to the floor. Almost 2 hours later, the maestro congratulated him. One piece he liked so much that he would play it in his concert. Barrios gave him the original, along with the dedication. He had never played the piece, which Segovia said he wanted to program into his concerto. And logically: if he played it with extraordinary ability, which he possessed, he lifted Barrios to unattainable heights, and thus would have ruined the reputation of his art.”
The work Klinger is talking about here is La Catedral, one of Barrios’ masterpieces. Barrios probably never gave a copy to Segovia because he didn’t have it with him, so he had to ask a friend to send it from Uruguay. We do not know if the copy arrived in time before Segovia left Buenos Aires. But if Segovia was sincere, he would have helped Barrios to organize concerts in Europe and the United States. Years later, Barrios would realize that Segovia was not his friend and would say of him that he had a “dumb heart.” Barrios admitted that Segovia was an excellent technician, but he did not consider himself a “technician” in any way. Barrios prided himself on being a composer, which involved skill and talent beyond “mere” mastery of physical artistry.
This is the widely accepted version, which Segovia ignored because he was afraid and jealous of being replaced by guitarist Barrios. Rejected for other non-competitive reasons. These are technical and musical reasons.
Segovia was known to be a harsh critic, and he had no qualms about criticizing important musical figures such as Narciso Yepes and his 10-string guitar, Paco de Lucia and Abel Carlevaro. He had a clear vision of what a classical guitar should be and was not receptive to anyone going in a different direction. One of them was Barrios. Barrios’ use of the wire was a very good reason for Segovia to deny him. Also, he may not have liked Barrios’ music, as it sometimes had a Latin American folkloric feel to it. He despised everything that connected the guitar with folk music.
Segovia’s remark that Barrios is “not a good writer on guitar” is famous. David Norton, a student who asked Segovia about Barrios at the master class, posted the following in an online forum at delcamp.com.
“In public, I heard Segovia say, ‘Barrios wasn’t a very good composer on the guitar.'” Richard Stover has been repeating this as a mantra for years.
But that’s not the whole story. This post is. As fate would have it, I was the student who asked Segovia about Barrios that afternoon, and this quote was his answer to me.
Such is the context. Segovia held a master class at California State University-Northridge (CSUN). I think it was April 1981 or 1982. Not important. After the class, I was walking in front of 20 or 30 people. That being the case, Segovia answered a few questions from the students. I was not within 4 feet of him when I saw Stover (the teacher at the time) standing next to me.
I asked, “Maestro, what do you think of the Barrios music that has become so popular lately?” The wife asked me to repeat it because they really couldn’t hear it. I translated, he translated.
Segovia paused, clearly struggling for the right words. “Barrios …. he was not …. he did not write …. all the small parts (indicating that he was small with his hand, thumb and forefinger) …. not like Ponce, who writes big. No. , with Ponce or Castelnuovo in comparison, Barrios is not a good composer of la guitarra.”
Stover only really heard the last word. “You should have asked HIM in front of GOD and everyone!! And he just let go of my entire life’s work. Thank you so much!!.” And he stomped on. A week later, he apologized for his overreaction, saying, “So what? He’s an old man, who cares what he thinks? People with any brains know better about Barrios.”
No one who wasn’t there that afternoon would have known the conversation had it not been for Stover himself repeatedly speaking and attacking it in later years.
I remember the incident 23-24 years ago. The 90-year-old, clearly exhausted from 3 hours of teaching, speaks English (which has never been his strong point) and his speech is not as terrible as Stover’s sound bite. published over the years.
Make it your own.
The two masters had another encounter many years later, near the end of Barrios’ life. In March 1944, Segovia went to San Salvador to play a concert. The two masters met in a hotel room in Segovia and chatted for several hours. Barrios was in poor health, and Segovia felt some sympathy for his “enemy,” forgotten and poor in a relatively isolated country, so Knot did not play, and Segovia knew that his talent was in vogue. .
They had a polite and friendly meeting and left Segovia Barrios with a set of phones as a gift.
This story illuminates Barrios’s perspective on music. Although Segovia admired Barrios as a musician, he did not want to promote his music in a folk image, his goal was to show the world that the guitar could be considered an artistic instrument. It can also be mixed, but I’m not sure if I’m jealous.
We can blame Segovia for not showing Barrios to the world, but Barrios hasn’t done much to become what he should be. He wasn’t interested in that. His music was for the people he knew. This can be understood from his biography below.
We cannot say for sure why Segovia rejected Barrios, we can only speculate. What we do know is that Barrios and Segovia wasted a huge opportunity to make classical guitar even greater.
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