Linares honors its greatest son

3/2/2008 – Forget chess for a moment, on this free day of the Super-GM in the Andalusian capital. Forget the games and cross tables. We took a stroll to the Andrés Segovia museum, built for one of the greatest classical guitarists who ever lived. He was born in Linares and almost single-handedly turned the gut guitar into the concert instrument it is today. Pictures and videos.

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Andrés Torres Segovia was a Spanish classical guitarist, born in Linares on February 21 1893. He is widely regarded as one of the most important figures for the classical guitar in the beginning and mid 20th century – the man who "rescued the guitar from the hands of flamenco gypsies" and built up a classical repertoire to give it a place in concert halls.

In recognition of his contributions to music and the arts, Segovia was ennobled June 24th, 1981 by the King of Spain (S.M. el rey Juan Carlos) who elevated Segovia into the first hereditary marquess of Salobreña. He died on June 2nd 1987.

[Segovia is one of the two great heroes of Linares. The other is Manuel Laureano Rodríguez Sánchez, a bull-fighter better known as Manolete, who died in combat at the age of 30 and achieved mystical character. The Linares bullring contains within its walls a shrine to his memory, and his death put the remote town on the map. If you have the nerve you can watch this video on Manolete's Death (in Spanish). For the 60th anniversary of his death a film was made: Blood of the Matador, with Adrien Brody and Penelope Cruz. We reported on Manolete in a Linares report in 2003.]

But back to the first great son of which Linares is so proud. A statue of Segovia dominates the main prominade and a museum is maintained, the Centro de Documentación Musical Museo Andrés Segovia, which our reporter in Linares, Nadja Woisin, visited.


The famous statue of Andrés Segovia in Linares


The clock of the Ayuntamiento (City Council) of Linares is adorned with the silhouette of a guitar and, on the hour, offers music fragments of Segovia's work "Estudio sin luz" (Study without light).


Unassuming: the entrance to the Segovia Museum


Inside: the patio of the museum


The museum gardens with the obligatory fruit-bearing orange trees


The guitars of Andrés Segovia

The curator of the museum told Nadja a story about the time, in 1912, when Segovia was not yet famous and did not have the money to buy the guitar he wanted. So he went to the famous guitar manufacturer José Ramírez and and said: "I am Andrés Segovia, a guitarist. I've come to Madrid a few days ago to give a concert, but the guitar I have, Sr. Ramirez, doesn't respond to what I demand of it. I would like you to provide me with the best instrument you currently have. I can't afford to buy such an instrument, but I would be willing to rent it just as music stores rent concert pianos. Moreover, if the guitar serves me well, and I like it, I will propose that you sell it to me."

Somewhat taken back by the proposition, Sr. Ramirez asked an assistant to get a guitar they had produced for a musician who had complained that it lacked volume and sustain; that some notes were duller than others; that the frets were uneven -- trying with his criticism to reduce the price. Segovia began to play the guitar and Ramirez, upon hearing him, said he could not rent it to him but only give it to him as a gift. Segovia used the 1912 Ramirez for the next 25 years of his career, and today it is in the Metropolitan Museum of New York. The one in the picture above is a similar instrument made my Ramirez.


A cabinet with casts of the hands of the great magician of the guitar


The hands that musically enchanted the world


Awards, and pictures of those famous hands


Personal belongings: pipes, spectacles, passports


The golden cuff-links of a great guitarist


Countless plaques and certificates honoring the artist


Pictures, books, his rocking chair, his piano – memories of Andrés Segovia

All pictures by Nadja Woisin in Linares


Listen to Segovia

Don't read our Linares reports, don't replay the games – watch the following video with Andrés Segovia. Listen to him speak about his Andalusian homeland, his musical development, in his charming Andalusian intonation ("I cannot remember when I was born – I was told that it was in Linares"). As background music you hear the famous guitar piece "Recuerdos de la Alhambra". If you are not deeply moved by this video, seek medical council. What a great man, what a great instrument, what a great musician! In the second video he plays and recites the piece he speaks about at the end of the first.


Andrés Segovia on Linares and his music backgrounds


Andrés Segovia plays La Arrulladora (The Lullaby)


Segovia plays "Asturias" (by Isaac Albéniz) in the
Alhambra Palace in Granada


Andrés Segovia on the special qualities of the classical guitar

Segovia plucked the strings with a combination of his fingernails and fingertips, producing a sharper sound than most of his contemporaries. With this technique, it was possible to create a wider range of timbres, or tones, than when using the fingertips or nails alone. Historically, classical guitarists have debated which of these techniques is the best approach. While the majority now play with a combination of the fingernails/tips, some still prefer the convenience and mellower sound of flesh alone.


Segovia plays Bach's Gavotte

If you are lured by the above (as we were) into spending a few hours immersed in the music of Andrés Segovia, you can find any number of pieces here in YouTube.


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