Richard Jernigan -> RE: Segovia video (Apr. 15 2021 23:07:25)
I saw Segovia live many years ago when he was about 80. But he was sensational, very clean and expressive, without amplification.
But he seems to have been very prepotente: didn´t treat people very well, even Ramirez[;)]
I never met Segovia, nor heard him in person, but I am old enough to have experienced the finale of the era of the Great Maestro.
Both my trumpet teacher, Lloyd Geisler, Principal Trumpet of the National Symphony in the 1950s and first President of the International Trumpeters Guild, and R. L. Moore, Member of the National Academy of Sciences, President of the American Mathematical Society, immensely productive researcher and author, and mentor of 50 PhDs who dominated their field in the mid-20th century, were Great Maestros.
Also, during all four years I was in high school, fourteen generals lived on our street on Bolling Air Force Base. My father was one of them. He was a kind and loving father, but he was easier for the average person to get along with after a few years of retirement.
Having once attained the status of Great Maestro, such figures, like the Pope, were infallible when speaking ex cathedra. One did not question their direction as a student or their opinion in their field of expertise. The student was expected to behave with the humility appropriate to his lesser status.
A pair of anecdotes might illustrate.
The great violinist Isaac Stern did not insist upon the status of Great Maestro, nor did he take offense when students exhibited a degree of famiiarity. There is a video of him teaching an Israeli string quartet, advanced musicians at the graduate level. The quartet plays Beethoven vigorously, with technical mastery. At one point Stern raises a hand. The quartet stops instantly. Stern says, "Remember what we talked about yesterday?" and gestures for them to play. They repeat the passage, with different phrasing and expression. Stern nods in satisfaction. Afterward Stern is interviewed. He is asked whether he expects the quartet always to play the way he taught. "Of course not," Stern replies. "They are mature musicians. They are responsible for their own choices. But they need to know what the tradition has to offer."
The notorious video of the Segovia master class with Michael Chapdelaine affords a contrast. Chapdelaine starts to play a piece which was edited and fingered by Segovia. Segovia stops him, and corrects his fingering. Chapdelaine starts over, with the same fingering. Segovia stops him again. "Why do you change the fingering?" he asks. Instead of explaining, Chapdelaine, nervous at Segovia's obvious annoyance replies, "I thought it was a good idea." Segovia says, "If you come to me to learn my piece, I teach you my piece. If you want to learn something else, you go to someone else. Fuera!."
Kicking Chapdelaine out of the class is often cited as evidence that Segovia was an a**hole. Not necessarily. There had been a radical shift in manners between the time when Segovia became a Great Maestro and Chapdelaine's experiences as an advanced student. Chapdelaine intended no offense. In his experience it was okay to have a conversation with a teacher. Flustered by Segovia's annoyance he failed to explain himself. Segovia interpreted Chapdelaine's remark as rudeness and defiance, which it would have been 40 years before.
My two Maestros had great respect, even affection for their students. They were never rude. But if they were dissatisfied they expressed it quite clearly. Moore in particular never made a negative or critical remark to a student. He simply exposed the student's error with a penetrating question. If the student was embarrassed, so be it. Both Maestros had the student's best interests at heart.
But neither of them was your friend. Moore deferred to no living mathematician. He made many enemies on the University faculty by his superior attitude and biting wit. His successful students were utterly devoted to him.
Gelsler had a friendly and collegial relationship with his peers. He brought advanced students along to an occasional ensemble gig for performing experience.
Talking to Contreras padre, Manzanero, and Jose III, it was clear that Ramirez was himself a Great Maestro. But Segovia's approval was absolutely needed for Ramirez's business plan, so he had to treat the guitarist with the courtesy and respect due to a valued customer.
Jose III liked to tell the story of his great-uncle Manuel's generosity in giving Segovia a fine guitar for his Madrid debut. Could it have inspired Jose III's plan to enlist Segovia's support?
Many in Montevideo were harshly critical of Segovia's infidelity to his second wife Paquita Madriguera, but as adults Madriguera's daughters spoke well of him.
John Williams hasn't hesitated to bad-mouth Segovia. Williams's relationship with his father-his first teacher-and the egalitarianism of his Australian childhood contrasted sharply with Segovia's authoritarian manners and presumptuous attitude--as told by Williams.
The former Artistic Director of the Segovia Foundation, himself a noted guitarist and composer, never mentioned Williams's name. He called him "a mere virtuoso." The A.D. never deified Segovia's memory. He may not even have particularly liked him, but clearly saw him as a serious and important artist.
Several other Segovia students had nothing but warm praise for him.