February 21, 2024
The Spanish virtuoso classical guitarist Andrés Segovia was born on this day, February 21, 1893. Segovia’s first music lessons were on the violin, but he soon gravitated to the guitar—at first mainly self-taught. His first public performance age sixteen was in Granada, and subsequent performances on the international stage coincided with a renewed interest in the guitar as a concert instrument.
Although Segovia’s technique was deemed idiosyncratic, he was greatly admired for his expressive and deeply personal style of performance. During the course of his decades-long career, he composed for the guitar, transcribed classical and baroque works, and also commissioned compositions by some of the world’s most distinguished composers. And as a teacher, Segovia has left a remarkable artistic imprint on the guitar world through his many students, and then their students.
On a European concert tour some years ago, I met the guitarist Eliot Fisk, who as a young man had studied with Segovia. Over a dinner filled with lively conversation, Elliot told me the following story.
A rock band arrived at a concert hall in the afternoon for their planned performance that evening. The two stagehands assigned to the auditorium spent several hours hauling equipment from the musicians’ truck onto the stage, setting up and placing the guitarists’ sound system, and helping them adjust the sound quality and volume—all to their exacting requirements.
The next week, Andrés Segovia performed at the very same concert hall. The two stagehands approached Segovia when he arrived, and asked what kind of equipment he would need for his performance. “Only a chair,” Segovia answered.
After the concert, the two stagehands went out for a beer. “I don’t get it,” one of them said to the other over half-consumed drinks. “We busted our butts for hours last week hauling all kinds of stuff, and dealing with finicky guitarists who had to have everything—equipment, mics, sound—just right. And tonight, the guy walks in with his guitar an hour before the gig and only asks for a chair.”
“You know what?” said his friend, shaking his head sadly. “Some people just don’t give a shit.”
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