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Guitar Maestro Andres Segovia Dies at 94

June 03, 1987|BURT A. FOLKART | Times Staff Writer

Andres Segovia, marquis of Salobrena by royal decree and sovereign of the guitar by universal acclaim, has died at his home in Madrid.

The ultimate virtuoso of his instrument was 94 and died peacefully while watching television with his family Tuesday afternoon. Dr. Angel Castillo, a family physician, said Segovia's wife, Emilia, was so overcome with grief that she asked that the announcement of her husband's death be delayed until today.

Segovia had been hospitalized in New York last month during what proved to be his final tour. He last appeared in Los Angeles in April.

His passing ended an 80-year pervasively accepted endeavor to make the guitar more than just a simple instrument suitable only for accompaniment. Millions around the world had heard his adaptations of Bach, Haydn, Mozart and Scarlatti.

His body will lie in state in Spain's Royal Academy of Fine Arts on Thursday, and he will be buried the same day. King Juan Carlos, who named him Marquis of Salobrena in 1981 in recognition of his contributions to music, was expected to visit the academy.

Segovia was born in the southern Spanish city of Granada, where the guitar was played by Gypsies who performed flamenco music in taverns.

Segovia began violin lessons at 6 but abandoned them because his teacher had terrible tone and pitch "and pinched me whenever I played a bad note." He then took up the guitar.

"I was my own pupil and my own maestro," he told interviewers. "We have traveled all through life without a single quarrel."

Segovia once compared the guitar, which he likened to the female form because of its shape, to "a small orchestra--an orchestra seen through the wrong end of a pair of binoculars."

He disdained the use of a pick and, in his later years, dismissed the electric guitar as "not being a guitar at all."

Segovia's international reputation was established after a performance at the Paris Conservatory in 1924. Soon afterward, he arrived in the United States, where he made his debut at a sold-out concert at New York's Town Hall.

Segovia lived in New York during the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War and did not return to Spain until 1952, "when all the political passions were cooling."

In 1961, Segovia married his third wife, Emilia Corral, a former pupil. Nine years later, at 77, he became the father of a son, Carlos Andres. He had a son, Andres, now 65, from a previous marriage.

Segovia told an American interviewer in 1980 that he was happy to have fulfilled the four tasks he assigned himself for his career: "to redeem the guitar from its flamenco associations, to develop a real musical repertoire for it, to travel to all civilized countries and play there in order to gain a following for it and to influence conservatories to take the guitar into their curriculum at the same dignified level as the piano, the violin, the cello or the voice."

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