Segovia Tribute Is a Chance to Hear the Repertory He Popularized
“A natural storyteller”
“Villegas’s subtlety, passion, technical command, and dramatic flair made this the high point of the evening.”
“The program ended with a standing ovation”
Spanish guitarist Pablo Sáinz Villegas brought his Tribute to Segovia to San Francisco’s Herbst Theatre on Saturday, commemorating the 125th birthday of Andrés Segovia, the artist responsible for the 20th-century revival of the guitar as a concert instrument.
Segovia had conservative tastes in music. He favored Romantic repertoire but loathed both folk music and modernism. He had complicated relationships with composers who were his contemporaries, going so far as to admonish Heitor Villa-Lobos when the two met in Paris in 1924. Segovia told the story differently, but nevertheless, an unlikely friendship was born, and Villa-Lobos subsequently dedicated his Cinq Préludes to Segovia.
Villegas opened the evening with a performance of this masterwork that was both introspective and passionate. Prelude No. 1 was alternately melancholy and exuberant, Prelude No. 2 humorous, Prelude No. 3 expressive in the manner of a Bach sarabande, Prelude No. 4 an homage to the indigenous people of Brazil’s jungle wilderness, and Prelude No. 5 a joyous, urbane portrait of the musical night life of Rio de Janeiro.
Segovia also had a strained relationship with Agustín Barrios, the Paraguayan guitarist and composer whose work remained relatively unknown until the 1970s: he is now commonly regarded as the greatest guitarist/composer of the 20th century. Villegas performed Barrios’s Un Sueño en la Floresta, a program work depicting the mythical origin of the guitar as a gift from the gods, which Barrios said allowed him to reveal the “marvelous symphony of all the virgin voices of our America.” Villegas performed the rich chordal harmonies, tremolo, harmonics, glissandi, and passionate melody in various registers with the sensitivity of a natural storyteller. (more…)