of Lawrence Johnson
Player (Sept. 1989) by Jim Ferguson
LIVES! Although the 19th-century virtuoso/composer's
music is considered the cornerstone of the classical guitar
repertoire, ironically only a small percentage of it has ever
been performed or recorded - but 47 year-old Lawrence Johnson
is changing all of that. In 1983 he began the massive project
of recording Sor's hundreds of solo guitar works. One compact
disk and five cassette tapes later, he is well on his way
of accomplishing his goal. Recording Sor's complete pieces
is not unprecedented - controversial virtuoso Kasuhito Yamashita
documented the composer's works on a set of compact disks
issued in Japan. However, instead of interpreting Sor's music
from the classical perspective shared by most players, Johnson
takes a romantic approach that favors expression and freer
playing. Although this departure from tradition has invoked
the ire of some critics, Johnson's eloquent and soulful playing
speaks for itself.
longtime resident of Rochester, New York, Lawrence Johnson
participated in Segovia's 1966 master class in Winston-Salem,
North Carolina, and he has also studied with Christopher Parkening,
John De Rose, Sophocles Papas, and Oscar Ghiglia.
Although he teaches at Roberts Wesleyan College, most of his
living comes from his day job driving a bus in the Rochester
area. "I have a family to think about." he says,
addressing one of the realities of being a musician. "I
don't like teaching enough to make a career of it, so driving
a bus is a good alternative. My wife Salena is incredibly
supportive and I find time to be an artist in my spare time."
Johnson's five volume (to date) tape series Solo
Guitar Music of Fernando Sor, is issued by CRG (Box 11132,
Rochester, NY 14611 $11.95 per cassette, $13.95 foreign).
His CD. Solo Guitar Music of Fernando Sor, features
selected works from the tape series and is available from
Elan (P.O. Box 748, Adelphi, MD 20783)
Regardless whether you agree with Johnson's interpretations of
Sor, it's difficult to not at least admire his commitment
to exploring a new approach to 19th century music.
While all too many players drift away from the guitar as time
passes and life's responsibilities increase. Lawrence Johnson
has found a unique way to make an important contribution to
SEGOVIA AND CHRISTOPHER PARKENING - Two of your teachers -
are known for playing short pieces. How did you gravitate
toward the extreme of working on a complete body of work?
I've always loved Sor's music. In fact when I played for Segovia,
I mostly did Sor's works. I don't care what a guitarist plays,
as long as it's well done. It doesn't matter if it's a bunch
of three-minute pieces, or a full Bach lute suite. I don't
find it ironic that I studied with Parkening, because it's
his expressive playing that touches me. I'm not doing Sor
because it's fashionable. One of the first things that turned
me on to him was a Segovia recording of the Mozart variations
[Opus 9], after which I started working with some of Sor's
early studies to see what I could make of them.
did you get into doing the complete works?
One day I decided to take a detailed look at Opus 11 [Deux
Themes Varies Et Douze Menuets ], and find if there was
enough quality there to merit playing the entire thing. You
can't get a good idea of a composition just by sight-reading
it; you have to work on it for a while. Too many guitarists
judge a piece of music based on a superficial read-through.
I was amazed at how much I loved Opus 11, and the more I played
other works, the more I wanted to record everything Sor wrote.
So the series started back in '83, when I recorded Opus 11,
parts of Opus 6 [Twelve Studies], and a few other
things. At first I didn't have the idea of recording everything
myself. I knew that I wanted to do a lot of Sor, and I wanted
to do a complete opus number at a time to do justice to the
music's quality. Not surprisingly, I couldn't find a company
interested in doing a project that expensive, so in 1985 I
decided to do it myself.
concert guitarists like to work with a piece
for a year before they play it in public or record
I pretty much don't record anything until I've played it for
a year, off and on. I approach a piece by learning it, dropping
it for a few months, and picking it up again. That way, my
mind subconsciously works on the piece during the off periods,
which gives me a chance to practice something else. How to
perfect a piece is very difficult to pinpoint. Of course,
when you're doing an entire body of work, you can't be too
picky, or you'll never complete the project.
your expressive approach to Sor inspired by Segovia?
Yes. There has been a trend to get away from Segovia's influence,
but l don't think that's a good idea. Maybe he did some things
that weren't good, but he was a great musician who knew more
about playing the guitar expressively than anyone I've heard.
Segovia played a very large body of music from different centuries.
People either like Segovia or they don't; there doesn't seem
to be a middle ground, which is ridiculous. Of course he was
human and had his faults, but he was one of the greatest artists
of the period.
you think there is too much emphasis on perfection, and not
enough on expression?
Yes. Segovia had such a long career because he communicated
with an audience. I have a tape of him playing at the White
House in 1979 when he was in his eighties. If you compare
it to the recordings made during his prime, then you're liable
to think that it's pretty bad; however, you have to remember
that it's a performance and not a recording. Today, people
expect your playing to be just like a recording, which removes
the human element and makes it very difficult for you to communicate
with an audience. For example, playing for a guitar society
is especially difficult, because the members tend to listen
to your technique rather than the music. Non-guitarists have
more realistic expectations.
source material are you using for the Sor project?
Brian Jeffery's facsimile editions are the basic source [Ed.
Note: Jeffery's Fernando Sor: Complete Works For Guitar is
available from TECLA Editions, (www.tecla.com
P.O. Box 7567 London NW3 2LJ) Over the years I've collected
a lot of different editions. I generally agree with Jeffery
that the earliest edition is the best, but not always. For
example, a later version of Opus 11, No.4, is much superior
to the earlier edition. The early edition was by Meissonnier,
and the later edition comes out of Buenos Aires. It's very
difficult to tell what is authentic Sor and what isn't, since
the original manuscripts don't exist.
combining performance and musicology a little risky,
especially if there are no original manuscripts?
Sure. Whenever you begin to favor one edition over another
and develop an interpretational approach, you open yourself
up to criticism. For example, I agree with Jeffery that the
earliest version of Opus 14 ["Grand Solo"] is the
best, and I played that version on my first cassette. To generate
sales, I sent tapes to about 100 members of the Guitar Foundation
of America, and I got some letters back complaining that I
was disobeying Sor's notations and this and that. Apparently,
they'd heard Julian Bream or someone play it from a different
edition, and assumed it was definitive. I couldn't believe
that people had such strong opinions about something they
hadn't bothered to investigate.
you experienced much bias against Sor's music?
Yes, but it's based on ignorance. Most people are familiar
with only the Mozart variations, a few of the studies, the
"Grand Solo," and a couple of other things that
represent only a very small percentage of his total output.
Some of the reviews I've gotten have displayed a lot of ignorance.
For example, a reviewer in a British classical guitar magazine
stated something to the effect that there were only six good
works by Sor. Ten years down the road, that statement is going
to come back to haunt him.
easy is it to be authoritative about such a large body of
It isn't. I certainly don't know all there is about Sor's
music. I've read through just about everything that Sor did,
but there is no way I could know it without studying it. There
are probably some pieces that I wouldn't recognize even if
I heard them.
you get tired of playing Sor?
His music has incredible depth, but sometimes it is good to
take a break and do something else. Recently I've been playing
music by the 16th-century vihuelist Fuenllana, which I read
directly from the tablature. He was such a great contrapuntalist,
which makes me wonder why his music isn't played very much.
I've also been doing some of the pieces that Segovia wrote,
such as Five Anecdotes, "Neblina," and
"Oracion" [Belwin-Mills]. They're exquisite little
pieces that are deeper than some of the short things he did
by Tedesco and Ponce, but they probably aren't fashionable
right now because they're miniatures.
you considered playing the Fuenllana or Sor on period instruments?
I prefer the modern guitar, although some period fanatics
think you're a fool for playing old music on a contemporary
instrument. I have a 19th-century German instrument, and sometimes
I pull it out to hear how certain pieces sound on it, but
if you're playing for an audience, a modern guitar projects
so much better.
instruments do you play?
I did my earliest recordings on a guitar built in 1964 by
Jose Mercado, a Puerto Rican who lived in New York. Recently
I acquired a 1986 Jesus Marzal, who worked at the Ramirez
workshop in Barcelona, and then opened his own shop.
did Sor evolve as a composer?
Most people are familiar with his early works. As he evolved,
he adopted a freer approach to form, for one thing. Opus 59 [Fantasy Elegiaque] is a fairly good example of a
later work. It's big, and it has nothing to do with the sonata
form of his early period. But none of his sonatas follow the
classical sonata form, except Opus 15b ["Sonata Seconda"].
If you compare Opus 22 [Grand Sonata] to Opus 25 [Deuxieme Grand Sonata], which evidently is a later
work, you'll notice that Opus 25 is more like a fantasy.
observations have you made about Sor's use of harmony?
He never got away from a classical sense of harmony, although
once you make a generalization like that, you'll find a work
where he goes all over the place. He obviously knew modulation,
as well as how to do unusual things. For example, Opus 14
suddenly goes into Db. If you interpret it right, it's very
effective. He does things like that when he wants, but not
with the freedom of say, Schubert; however, it's not fair
to make comparisons like that. In Sor's own terms, he's a
masterful composer. If you compare him in terms of Mozart,
Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, and Chopin, you're going
to say they're better, since they're already recognized. It's
easy for people to criticize Sor, since most people haven't
heard his music and there isn't a performance tradition, but
that will change.
Sor's works change technically?
Yes. For example, Opus 52 ["Fantasie Villageoise"]
features 6th-fret harmonics. Although they're out of tune
compared to equal temperament, he used them to create an almost
impressionistic atmosphere that's very effective. I haven't
heard anyone bring that piece to life so far, but I think
that's because Sor hasn't been approached from a romantic
perspective. The Romantic period [1820 to 1900] was well underway
during the later part of Sor's life, and by the time he died
in 1839, Chopin had written half of his works.
players aren't aware that Sor wrote over 100 studies.
He wrote 121 studies, to be exact. Many of them haven't been
played. For example, Opus 31, No.18, in B minor,
is exquisite; I like it a lot better than the B minor
piece referred to as "Study No.5" in Segovia's Studies
For The Guitar By Fernando Sor [Edward B. Marks Music,
dist. by Hal Leonard, 7777 W. Bluemound, Milwaukee, WI 53213].
Sor's studies have a high degree of musical content. Of the
121, only about three of four don't pass muster.
editions of Sor often don't coincide with Jeffery's facsimilies.
What is your attitude regarding changing a piece of music?
I use my instincts. I like some of the changes represented
in Segovia's editions, and I play them. Since there are no
original manuscripts, the subject of authenticity is vague
anyway, so if I feel like doing something, then I go ahead.
much do you intellectualize your interpretations?
Mostly I play from the heart. Although I feel that Sor's dynamic
and tempo indications should be followed somewhat, if I feel
that something else works, then I do it. I try what's indicated
in the score, but if I feel it doesn't work, then I go in
another direction. For example, Opus 35, No.22, which Segovia
calls "Study No.5," is marked Allegretto; however,
the piece doesn't make much sense that way. To me, it should
be played lento, and very smoothly and lyrically.
I don't expect everyone to accept my interpretations as gospel,
but I don't think that Sor's dynamic and tempo indications
should be taken all that literally. Some of the things I do
could be wrong, but they feel right to me.
advice can you offer to help someone develop an interpretation?
Listen to music for violin, piano, chamber group, and orchestra
- non-guitar music. It's difficult to teach interpretation
and how to play with feeling. Segovia taught by having his
students imitate him, which I think is a good way. After all,
jazz guitarists learn by copying players such as Charlie Christian and Wes Montgomery. Of course, you have to have an
excellent example to pattern yourself after. It seems as if
it's almost unfashionable to play with feeling these days,
which has led to things being very mechanistic. If Segovia
felt like rolling a chord or sliding up to a note, he'd do
it; but if a guitarist does that today, then the critics get
up in arms.
would you assess the technical
demands of Sor's music?
To play Sor, you have to have a terrific left hand; in that
regard, his music is as difficult as anything. And he didn't
avoid certain keys because they're difficult on the guitar.
For example, he liked the key of C minor, and included long
passages in Eb that are hard to play. Giuliani was a fine
composer in his own right, but his music is much more guitaristic,
in that it falls into certain patterns that work well on the
instrument and are very flashy. However, Sor was
interested in achieving his musical ideas. Some of Sor's slow
music is tough. For instance, the adagio section
to Opus 22, which is in C minor, has to be played very flowingly,
which isn't easy. Sor evidently could handle it, so he wrote
it that way. He included a lot of arpeggios and harmonics,
and he used etouffe [a muting effect]. On the other
hand, he doesn't use a lot of fast scales. One of the trickiest
aspects of playing Sor is being able to bring out the important
lines. Basically, you have to be a darn good guitarist to
play his music.
International, February 1988, Vol. 16 #7. Issue 187
Johnson, Guitarist With a Mission
by David McConnell
Johnson is an American guitarist devoted to performing music of the
19th century guitarist composers, particularly Fernando Sor, whose
complete works he is currently recording. (The American company Elan
Records are also issuing highlights from Johnson's recordings).
Johnson doesn't concertize much it is through his recordings that he
has become known to the public and the critics; certain of the
latter becoming very upset with both the project and Johnson's
overtly romantic approach to Sor. Interestingly, the critiques of
non-guitarists have been uniformly favourable; such as that in the
American classical record magazine "Fanfare" (May 1986) by
John D. Wiser, an erudite music critic who praised both the music
and the performer's "eloquent playing." A year later this
reviewer had much the same thing to say about Johnson's second
recording: "Johnson is a dependable and stylish performer and
his recording conveys solidity and plentiful detail. . . "
our asking David McConnell to interview the guitarist was not out of
quixotic sentiments but simply because Lawrence Johnson's sturdy
individualism suggested strong and interesting views.
Johnson was born in North Tonawanda, New York on the 20th July 1942.
He began playing the steel strung guitar at the age of fifteen,
during the Rock and Roll era, accompanying himself in songs by Elvis
Presley, Bobby Darren and others. At the age of seventeen, his
father bought him a Segovia record, and it was this that projected
him permanently into the world of classical guitar and classical
Johnson comes from a musical family, his mother taught and played
the piano; his father also taught music, and played violin and viola
in the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. Lawrence's mother attempted
to teach him the piano, which turned out to be a hopeless task; his
father then sent him to the preparatory department of the Eastman
School of Music, but the young Lawrence kept breaking his'cello to
get out of practising, so this venture also bore no fruit. (One is
here reminded of the late Andres Segovia, who was once ousted from
the Conservatoire with his 'cello, with the remark that he "had
I was seventeen, I converted my acoustic steel string guitar to
nylon strings. I took a piece of wood and made
a bridge and tied some nylon strings on and that was my guitar for
about three or four months. I found a book down in one of the local
music stores here by a fellow named Arai entitled "Learning the
Classical Guitar." It was quite a popular method back then. It
had both tablature and music notation. Well, I already had some
experience with musical notation, so I knew how it worked but the
tablature gave me a great deal of help, so I started learning pieces
from the book.
began to study by myself for the first year and a half as there was
no teacher in Rochester. There was nobody in the whole area. I
didn't know how to find a teacher. So, for the first year and a half
at least, I tried to teach myself. There was a fellow who claimed to
be a teacher but he evidently heard that I played better than he did
and so, every time I went over to his house, he would be gone some
place. Finally, through Sophocles Papas I found a teacher in Niagara
Falls, New York, which was about 70 miles away, whose name was John
De Rose. He was really quite a fine guitarist. He taught me much
about using the nails and so forth - I had no idea what to do with
my nails! I started using my nails before I got to him because I had
read in a guitar magazine that the nails were to be used. But
naturally, not knowing anything about it, I did it all wrong.
also found another teacher in Buffalo who is still there. His name
is Oswald Rantucci. He was of the school of Alexander Bellow in New
York. I didn't really understand his school but I did what he wanted
me to do and I turned it around and ended up playing off the right
side of the nails A la Ida Presti and Alexandre Lagoya. To this day,
I play off both sides of the nail. It amuses me that there are these
schools of thought on this simply because there are qualities to be
obtained playing off both sides. So that is how John De Rose used
the Segovian left side of the nail method, or supposedly Segovian,
though I believe Segovia occasionally used the right side himself I
watched some of his films and so forth, and it appears that
occasionally he does sneak over and use the right side."
lessons didn't work out too well and two years later, Lawrence moved
to Washington to study with Sophocles Papas. "I took about six
months of lessons with Sophocles Papas and I met a number of other
guitarists down there and it was a very healthy situation. Not so
much the lessons with Mr. Papas but mostly being around other people
who played the instrument. . I'd been so alone in Rochester, there
was only one other person who played at all, who I found later on,
and we formed a Guitar Society but it was a very isolated kind of
situation. I lived in Washington for about two years and made a
number of friends who played guitar, heard many concerts and really
got involved with the guitar there."
two years, Lawrence decided to move to New York City. Before
leaving, however, Lawrence attended a master-class given by the
Presti-Lagoya duo in Sherbrooke, Quebec.
learned a great deal from them about playing off the right side of
the nails but I still believe to this day that their method of
exclusive right side playing is not ideal.
New York, I taught in several schools for a living. I didn't study
with anyone but in 1966 I went to a Segovia Masterclass at
Winston-Salem in North Carolina. That is where I met Christopher
Parkening and Michael Lorimer and met Guillermo Fierens and many
that Masterclass, I decided I needed some more work so between 1970
and 1973 I took several classes with Oscar Ghiglia in Toronto and in
St. Louis, Missouri. I didn't study with anybody after that. I
eventually married and had various problems of trying to rear my
children and make enough money to support my family. One thing about
my existence is that I have always been fortunate to find some other
work besides playing and teaching the guitar, I worked as a mail
clerk in the Library of Congress. In Rochester I did construction
work, roofing, a lot of different things. Right now I drive a bus
for a living. I became too old to do all those physical jobs. This
is the best job I have had and it gives me enough money to finance
the summer of 1983, Lawrence Johnson studied with Christopher
Parkening, whom he had met at the Segovia Masterclass in 1966.
was really quite a happy reunion. He remembered me because we had
been quite friendly at the 1966 Segovia Masterclass but I had more
or less lost contact with him. I studied with him at Messiah College
in Grantham, Pennsylvania, in the Summers of 1983 and 1984.
Johnson made his first recording in 1970; this consisted of some of
his own compositions, a sonata and several short works. This was
followed in 1974 by a second record.
this I included Sor's sonata Op. 25 complete. I believe it was the
first recording ever of the Op. 25 piece. There was a Fantasia by
Francesco da Milano which, I believe, was a first recording. All the
music at that time, I believe, were first recordings. Believe it or
not, in 1974 the Bach Prelude and Presto from the 3rd Lute Suite had
not been recorded before. Also, there was a short work by John
Duarte that I found in an old Guitar Review, also Sor's Sicilienne from Op. 33 and a Presto from Op. 36. I
still have several copies of that record but I am not too proud of
it, so I don't push it any more."
has studied theory, harmony and composition with David Russell
Williams, who was a professor at the Eastman School of Music, and
has written some music, but decided to eschew composition in favour
of specialising in the interpretation and study of 19th century
guitar music, with particular emphasis on the works of Sor.
in old music were not neglected, and Lawrence delved into the 16th
century works of the Spanish Vihuelistas, reading direct from
tablature. He also plays some lute music, notably that of Francesco
da Milano and some of the English school, as represented in the
"Varietie of Lute Lessons" (1610) of Robert Dowland.
Nevertheless, his main field of interest is 19th century music, and
he believes the Sor project will help to educate detractors to
realise that there is much fine music in this period worthy of
various attention. Not impressed with the sound of 19th century
guitars that he has heard, Lawrence believes the music derives
greater benefit from being played on the modern instrument with its
greater tone and sonority.
feel we have to get one composer very well documentated so that we
can, perhaps, see that there is a great deal of good literature in
the 19th century. I feel that Sor is, perhaps, the best of these
composers, although I don't wish to put value judgement on this. If
someone came along and said Giuliani was better, I would say 'that's
fine, that's your opinion.' But I would like to record all the works
of Sor with the idea that people could see that we would have a real
treasure there. Unfortunately, most people go by their prejudices
and won't even listen. Most people seem to believe that there isn't
that much good 19th century music and so they won't even listen to
new 19th century music with an open mind.
enough I have never seen or played a 19th century guitar. I have
heard recordings of it and I am not particularly impressed. I do not
feel that playing a 19th century guitar is part of my mission. Lots
of people play this music on the guitar and the guitars that people
have are not 19th century guitars - they are modern instruments, and
that is what people are learning to play these days - modern
instruments using nails. Unfortunately, we guitarists seem to get
hung up with these things even more so than other instrumentalists.
You never see any criticism against a pianist playing Beethoven on a
modern instrument. In reviews of people in the piano world who play
original instuments or copies, it is always treated as a curiosity,
and sometimes is given praise for what it is. But that doesn't
disallow playing that music on a modern piano.
feel that Sor should be mostly played on a modern instrument. If I
knew of somebody who has a Panormo guitar, I would like to try it
and see what it sounds like. Of course, to be authentic, you have to
play it the way Sor played it and he didn't use nails. We really do
not know how he didn't use nails. He gave some clues in his method
as to how he might have played some things. For instance, the
etouffe sound is quite different from modern etouffe sound and yet
people today when they come across an indication in Sor's music to
play etouffe, play it with the modern etouffe sound. According to
his method, it is done completely different. It is done with the
left hand. So really to me it is almost a hoax when I hear somebody
playing 19th century music on a 19th century guitar. How authentic
is the sound. I do not believe it's authentic at all. Usually the
result to my ear has been pretty much dead. Maybe I haven't heard
the right people. I don't wish to name names so I won't. Sor is a
romantic composer and is full of life; so full of good humour.
Sometimes very sad, sometimes very happy; sometimes it is just deep
and profound and these people who do this on the 19th century guitar
- the effect is just boredom to me. I'd much rather listen to many
of Sor's pieces played by Julian Bream or Segovia, and played with
good warm sound and a few slides and things which people are afraid
to do today than to hear these people get up and play these old
Johnson has always been inspired by Segovia and this is very evident
in his performances, therefore it comes as no surprise to him that
in today's so-called eclectic atmosphere where even a 'neutral' tone
or 'harpsichord' tone is preferred to a warm 'Spanish' tone, this
aspect of his playing isn't to everyone's taste.
people in the guitar community are in infantile adolescent rebellion
against the influence of Segovia. At least this is my belief.
Matanya Ophee seems to be hung up on this. He seems to want to
criticise Segovia at all costs under a pseudo scholastic approach.
He's a very smart fellow but his aim seems to be more to be critical
of Segovia rather than to provide us with erudite scholarly
articles. I find this is true in a lot of guitarists I have talked
to. They want to disassociate themselves from Segovia; from this
influence. Segovia is the father of modern guitar playing. Segovia
could express more on our instrument than any other guitarist I
know. We should learn how he expressed things. Many lessons are
still to be learnt from Segovia. The man was one of the greatest and
was recognized in the whole firmament of classical music, not just
the guitar community, as one of the greatest performing artists of
the mid 20th century. We are crazy if we reject his influence. I am
not saying do everything like Segovia. I don't believe I do. But try
to get his warmer tone; try to project a magic in your performance
as Segovia did. I used to go to Segovia's concerts and sit there
enthralled. Not all the time - he had his bad moments and his good
moments. Even the last concert I attended, which was about ten
years' ago, about half of the concert was simply enthralling. He
didn't play technically as well as many younger guitarists at the
time but there was nobody who could play the guitar so exquisitely
and as beautifully as Segovia. The guitar has gone downhill. People
talk about the excellence of modern players but this is not true.
Modern players are not as good in musical expressive sense as
Segovia was. Now we have a greater technical level and some of the
guitarists are really quite good musicians too, but we don't have
any level of magic in the performance as we had in Segovia's
performances. Segovia does many wonderful things. The use of
glissando; the way he often rolled chords. Alright, sometimes he
might over do this feature in his playing, or over do glissandos and
portamento and things like that. But his use of wonderful,
beautiful, etherial tone; his use of little effects like holding the
top voice of a chord to sing the melody a little more; these are all
things which created a magic in his playing and these are all things
which could create magic in anybody else's playing. What we need to
find is how to use many of these expressive elements that the guitar
is good at in a different way from which Segovia used them, but not
to just reject them altogether. The guitarists today are on the war
path against Segovia's fatherly influence. This is absurd. I suppose
you will find pianists and violinists who to a certain extent don't
play the same way as Fritz Kreisler or Serge Rachmaninov played them
many years ago but it's no way near to the absurd level that the
guitarists try not to play like Segovia played. I'm influenced by
him. I love Segovia. I'll openly and unashamedly admit that I am
influenced by him. For my money I can listen to a Segovia
performance - a recording of Segovia of thirty, forty, fifty years'
ago and it is more vital today than the most modern performance that
was done a year ago or two years' ago or three' ago. It has more
vitality today, more meaning today than the most modern performance.
Segovia's performances, especially the ones he did back in the
nineteen thirties all the way through to the nineteen sixties, they
are much better than anything being done today. Although the
technical level, you might say, has improved, we don't have the
artistry that was prevalent; we don't have the peaks that were
prevalent. I think a lot of this has to do with attitude. We have an
attitude sort of like a bunch of junior executives today. We don't
want to offend anybody so we get a good tone but not a great tone
and we have a good rhythm but not a great rhythm; we try not to do
anything which might offend anybody. We don't put too much vibrato
in; we don't put too many split notes in; don't break too many
chords; don't say anything that is vital today. It's music to be
unoffensive, you might say. It is really a sort of lack of courage.
Segovia and other performers of his era, violinists, pianists and so
forth, got out there and took a chance and had courage and stood up
for the way they played. Today nobody seems to have that kind of
courage. We're like the junior executive who is afraid of offending
the senior executive; the one with all the money or whatever. That
is not what art is all about though unfortunately.
believe that we're in a winter season right now. But beautiful
playing will come back. A hundred and fifty years from now
guitarists will listen to Segovia and they'll say 'this is beautiful