I recently relearned one of my favourite guitar pieces so I decided to film it – Arada by Federico Moreno-Torroba.
It’s from a set of pieces called “Suite Castillana” and the pieces of a 3 movement suite will run fast,slow, fast.
Arada is the middle movement so it’s the slow movement.
Suite Castillana was composed for Andres Segovia who was the guitar’s best known player of the first half of the 20th century and was a name that commanded respect to to his death in 1987, and beyond.
Segovia was a force of nature as is the case with all great musicians that create and leave a legacy for the world to enjoy and benefit from.
There are plenty of books written about Segovia but for me “A New Look At Segovia” by Graham Wade and Gerard Garno is invaluable, they are a “must have” for anybody interested in the guitar, both volumes 1 & 2.
The book starts with a great biography of Segovia but apart from that the two volumes present the music for over 30 pieces that Segovia recorded & played in concert.
The pieces come with excellent background and performance notes with a bio of each of the composers, its information packed!
The picture that appears of Segovia is just how driven he was and how much effort and hard work he put into his music and the promotion of the guitar.
It’s little wonder that he inspired the number of guitar players that he did and even musicians specialising in other instruments.
Sonny Rollins one of the greatest sax players said that he “wanted to be the Andres Segovia of the saxophone”.
Segovia took up the guitar as a young boy and we know that he’d had some lessons with a Flamenco guitarist early but after that he was largely self taught.
When he was sixteen his uncle arranged for the young Segovia to study with Tarrega who was known as the “Chopin” of the guitar.
Composer Fransisco Tarrega
Fransisco Tarrega composed some of the guitar’s most valuable pieces like “Recuerdos De La Alhambra” and was the guitar’s most respected player of his day.
Sadly Tarrega died before Segovia even met him but we do know that Emilio Pujol and Miguel Llobet, Tarrega’s two best students, were friendly with Segovia and they advised him on Tarrega’s approach.
Llobet actually taught Segovia some of Tarrega’s pieces and arrangements without written music.
Segovia was fully equipped to carry on Tarrega’s work and mission.
While Tarrega travelled outside Spain very little, Segovia travelled extensively to promote the guitar with his concerts and while Tarrega wrote his own compositions Segovia commissioned established composers to write new music for him.
One of those composers was Torroba who was one of Spain’s most popular composers of Spanish Musicals called Zarzuela; the music he wrote for the guitar and Segovia was outstanding and this piece here is really something special.
It’s fascinating to see what one person with drive, ambition and a clear goal can set in motion.
Len Williams – London Spanish Guitar Center Founder
Here in Australia Len Williams was influenced by Segovia and began teaching guitar in Melbourne.
He developed a teaching method based on Segovia’s approach and when it became obvious that his son John was showing promise, Len decided to move the family to London to establish a career for him.
With the move to London Len started the “London Spanish Guitar Centre” where he taught and sold guitars and books.
He also conducted interviews and was the editor of a major guitar magazine.
Len Williams established himself as one of England’s most important guitar teachers with his “London Spanish Guitar Centre” and through his teaching method his son John became one of best and most respected players in the world. So his teaching method worked…
Two of Len’s students were to become influential teachers in their own right.
Gordon Crosskey who taught at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester and Peter Calvo.
Peter was a real character, I studied with him for a few years which was quite an experience.
He started out on violin but took up the guitar in his teens and was taught by Len Williams at the London Spanish Guitar Centre where Len was to put him on as one of the Centre’s teachers.
Peter then met and married an Australian so they moved to Sydney Australia where he set up the “Sydney Spanish Guitar Centre”.
Peter Calvo had an impact almost immediately.
Peter Calvo & The Birth of The “Australian Institute of Music”
He put on a huge event called the Sydney Guitar Symposium where he brought master guitarists like John Williams and the American Jazz guitar great Joe Pass.
Peter was interested in starting a Jazz department and Joe Pass recommended that he bring the English Jazz guitarist Ike Isaacs to teach at the Centre.
Ike agreed and Peter changed the name to the “Sydney School Of Guitar”.
Later Peter added other instruments and it’s now the “Australian Institute Of Music”.
Segovia’s enthusiasm and sense of mission was infectious and like a contagion it was picked up by thousands around the world.
It’s fascinating how one generation hands down its experience, accomplishments and wisdom to the next generation.
Then that next generation does something new with what they’d been handed down.
Tarrega inspired Segovia, in turn Segovia inspired Len Williams who then taught his son John, Gordon Crosskey & Peter Calvo and Peter brought Len Williams teaching back to Australia