I have to start this post by saying that, even though I researched thoroughly, it is very hard to find official, definite answers to this topic. There is a shroud of mystery and many questions unanswered. Some of those that led to the creation of this post include:
- Who is the “gentilhombre” (gentleman) in the Fantasia para un Gentilhombre?
- Why didn’t Segovia ever play Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez, by far the most famous concerto ever written for the guitar?
- Why did Rodrigo dedicate the Concierto de Aranjuez to Regino Sainz de la Maza and not Segovia?
In search of the answers to these questions, I uncovered some possible explanations. According to author Alberto Lopez Poveda, in his book Andres Segovia, vida y obra, he states the following:
“In 1940, Joaquin Rodrigo premiered the “Concierto de Aranjuez para guitarra y orquesta”. The composer offered Segovia the opportunity to participate in the premiere. The Maestro examined the score, and considered the second movement perfect to interpret on his instrument.
“However, he considered the pitches of the first movement to be too high, and advised the composer that it would be convenient to lower them. Rodrigo did not accept this suggestion.
“Also, Segovia indicated that the premiere should be delayed since he was living in South America due to the Second World War. Rodrigo was impatient, wishing the premiere to be sooner, and did not concur with the delay.
“These are the reasons why Segovia did not participate as soloist in the premiere of the ‘Concierto de Aranjuez para guitarra y orquesta.’ The world premiere of the concerto was in Barcelona on November 9, 1940, and premiered in Madrid on December 11 of the same year, with Regino Sáinz de la Maza as soloist.
“Andrés Segovia greatly regretted not being able to perform this piece with Rodrigo; nonetheless, he heard it on many occasions. He has told us ‘I consider the music of the Concierto de Aranjuez a wonderful success; it is truly beautiful, and there are not praises enough for it.’”
This is great information, but it still doesn’t answer the question, “Why didn’t Segovia play the concerto if he thought it was so good?” There was no exclusivity rights to Sainz de la Maza or anything like that.
Angelo Gilardino, the artistic director of the Andrés Segovia Foundation, tells a different version of events:
“Segovia, who had left Spain at the beginning of the Civil War in 1936, was living in Montevideo (Uruguay), had no connection with Rodrigo, and he did not ever know of the existence of the ‘Concierto de Aranjuez,’ which he heard from Regino Sainz de la Maza in South America sometime around 1947 (his reactions are clearly those of a listener who never saw the score and who depends from an audition and not from a reading: see the letter he wrote to Ponce on July 26th, 1947, in the volume of Segovia’s letters addressed to Ponce).
“A connection between Rodrigo and Segovia was established only after Segovia’s return to Spain: we can fix a conventional date for this gentlemen’s agreement on 1954, the year that Rodrigo dedicated mainly to compose for Segovia.
“In fact, in 1954 he wrote the set of ‘Tres Piezas Espanolas’ (Fandango, Passacaglia, Zapateado) for guitar solo and the ‘Fantasia para un gentilhombre’ for guitar and orchestra (after Gaspar Sanz’ themes) for Segovia, to whom they were dedicated. At that time, the ‘Concierto de Aranjuez’ was still covered and restrained to the domain of Regino Sainz de la Maza. Segovia said he liked it, but not for playing.
“It would have been, shortly after, the great conductor Ataulfo Argenta to make the fortunes of Aranjuez, but not cooperating with Regino. He called instead on the hot seat the young Narciso Yepes, whom was taught how to perform the piece note by note. Argenta played the shapes at the piano and the guitarist absorbed them with his skillfulness.”
So, we have contradicting information. However, Gilardino’s version has some holes in it, when he says that “until 1954, the Concierto was still covered and restrained to the domain of Regino Sainz de la Maza.” Actually, Ida Presti gave the French premiere of the concerto in 1948 and not Sainz de la Maza.
Now comes the speculative part from my side: Segovia did a lot for the guitar world, commissioning countless pieces for the instrument, and by chance, the most successful concerto ever written for guitar was not dedicated to him. This must have been quite a blow to his ego.
It was the first concerto ever written by Rodrigo. Before that, he had only written three guitar pieces: Zarabanda Lejana (1926), Toccata (1933, premiered in 2006 by Marcin Dylla) and En los Trigales (1938). Nobody would have guessed it would be such a huge success. Playing that music would just remind him of that.
I think that’s what motivated Rodrigo to write the Fantasia para un Gentilhombre for him, fourteen years later. And, in my interpretation of facts, I find the title “para un gentilhombre” (for a gentleman) super ironic. Rodrigo was aware how upset Segovia was and that he did not want to play Aranjuez, but instead, wanted a new one dedicated to himself.
In my mind, Rodrigo, knowing Segovia and his character probably added the title in an ironic way and Segovia never got the joke, but this is just speculation from my part.
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