Playing for Segovia

While studying with Michael Lorimer in a special year-long master class off the coast of Wilmington, North Carolina in 1980 I was given the opportunity to play for my teacher’s teacher, Andres Segovia.

Maestro Segovia was to be awarded the Albert Schweitzer award for music, coincidentally, at the University of North Carolina in Wilmington, where our year long master class with Michael Lorimer was held. Having heard that Segovia hated beards I shaved mine off the night before and arrived only assured that I, along with the other students, would get to meet him.

Michael and Jude met with the Maestro first as we all nervously awaited our introductions.

Jude and Michael with Segovia


After introductions and a few autographs Segovia sat with Michael and began to speak. We sat at Segovia’s feet with a ring of newspaper and television reporters forming a ring around the group, cameras clicking and whirring. Eventually Segovia asked if some of Michael’s students would like to play. Fear ran though my body like an electrical shock. But as each student got up to play I was envious.

Dominic Bertucci playing for Segovia with Elias Barriero looking on

Envy would return to fear as each player finished and I kept my gaze away from Michael’s but alas, my name was called.

 

I was working on the Tarentella by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. The Tarentella represents a frantic 17th century dance which a tarantula bite victim was to engage in to save his life. A more fitting piece I couldn’t have chosen.

As I began to play I noticed how fast I was playing. Wow, I thought to myself, I can’t slow this thing down. Faster and faster the piece went, I was in ‘no-man’s-land’ and on the verge of a total wipeout – feeling like I was riding a roller coaster and the car was cornering on two wheels. But, hey, I finished! I remember being somewhat pleased with myself.

That's me performing the "Tarentella" by Tedesco

A long pause followed. After each student’s performance Segovia had made a few nice comments, smiled and clapped lightly. But for my performance he was silent. He then turned to Michael and said in a thick Spanish accent “he, ah plaze ah do fayst” (“he plays too fast”). With a look of strained anger he turned to me and repeated, “you ah playa do fayst, DO FAYST!!!!”. Next came more comments, this time in Spanish, accompanied by the waving of his hands and while the cameras whirred in the background he stood up (at which point, in reference Michael and I stood also) and looking at the crowd, just in case my humility hadn’t reached the media, Segovia said to everyone “Do fayst”, turned and stormed out of the room. As Michael followed I got a glance of utter disgust. There I stood, all the world to see, my fellow students, the media, for all I know my mother, my father, Gail Truesdale, my first girlfriend in grade school, all shaking their heads in disgust.

I’ve only felt what I’m about to describe twice in my life (both times with the guitar in front of me). I felt as if I were falling between two slabs of ice, into a bottom-less pit. My head spun and my stomach turned and while I stood there in shock the reporters began to pack their cameras up as my fellow students got up to congratulate each other.

Heading over to a local brew hall afterwards I sat amongst my friends yet all alone. Numb, silenced. I would have drunken myself into a stupor if it weren’t for the realization that when I came to I’d still have the memory, along with a hangover.

So here’s the rub – some 30 years later I reunited with my teacher Michael Lorimer in preparation for the recording of my CD Romance for Guitar. As the week wound down Michael was in a rare form, telling Segovia stories. I mentioned the events and we laughed and then he revealed something. Segovia had heard that Castelnuovo-Tedesco was disappointed with Segovia’s recording of his works, in particular, the Tarentella. Segovia confronted the composer and after a series of poison pen letters vowed to never ‘offend’ Tedesco by playing his music, ever again. A few months later I stepped in it with my reminder.

So, I guess I can stop feeling so bad and heck, I’ve had other humiliations along the way….but I’ll save those for another posting.

Scott Kritzer

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12 Responses to Playing for Segovia

  1. Dear Scott,

    Your story about your Segovia performance is wonderful. So often we find ourselves in these pressure situations and don’t play as well as we should. But what’s great about your story is your honesty and humility so that students of the guitar know that great guitarists like you have had difficult moments or should I say outright humiliating moments. It’s the continuation of our studies and our perseverance that turn these failures into triumphs. Michael Chapdelaine once told me an amazing story about him playing for Segovia that didn’t turn out as planned. I never played for Segovia but a couple of times I played for my teacher’s teacher in 1984 and he pointed in the direction of guitarist sitting in the hallway playing and said, “Now that’s a guitarist”. How discouraging it was but I’m proud to say that I went on to complete my masters degree long before friend of mine in the hallway. Both my friend in the hallway and I became professional classical guitarists. On a bad day even a great teacher can misjudge us.

  2. Scott Kritzer says:

    Craig,

    Thanks for your comments and compliments. Yeah, not hard to stay humble in this profession!

    Scott

  3. Donna says:

    Great story. I think you’ve told it before at CGI, but not with all the detail. I , too, really appreciate your honesty and humility. It is an inspiration. I have recently had quite a humiliating performance experience (not near the intensity of this, but tough nonetheless) and hope to get past it and grow from it. Reading your story at this time, it’s VERY helpful! :) Lots of players crumbled under Segovia. You survived it and have gone on to be amazing and an inspiration. Thank you!

  4. Scott Kritzer says:

    Thanks – and you keep up the good work Donna!

  5. Love the story Scott, thanx for sharing!

  6. Scott Kritzer says:

    You bet Kenny, thanks for reading.

    Scott

  7. Krys K. Schlegel says:

    Dear Scott,

    Was your performance recorded? I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts it was fine. I think it’s obvious his ego never recovered from Tedesco’s response to his own recording of the piece. He was unable to deal with criticism in a skillful manner and instead chose to kick the crap of a young student guitarist. I am hopeful that, as the “next generation” of the classical guitar community we can encourage each other in an atmosphere of enthusiasm and joy of playing the instrument instead of the thinly concealed cage match it has been in the past. You are a terrific role model for a bright future in this regard. Thanks, Krys

  8. Scott Kritzer says:

    Krys,

    Thanks for your comments! Looking forward to having you in the upcoming Technique Workshop – I’ll try to keep my ‘kindler and genler’ approach in force!

    Scott

  9. Paul says:

    Ah yes Andres Segovia….
    The problem with Segovia, is that most people believe what they want about him, and project things onto this “Icon, which Segovia has become”.

    Andres Segovia has become an icon of spoken and written propaganda, to the extent that people simply link “technical finesse, true musicianship, artistic power” with Segovia – often without even knowing a lot about him (and his performances – often of inferior quality, etc.).

    People often don’t even know that there is a lot of controvery and Criticism of Segovia.
    To learn more, have a look here:

    Andres Segovia Criticism (link)

    Don’t be like the feeble-minded people, who only think of Segovia as an Icon, and when asked for their favourite guitar player blabber out without thinking: “Segovia”

  10. Bo Ridgeway says:

    Scott —
    I must say I TRULY admire your honesty about playing for Segovia. From my understanding, a lot of Segovia’s performances got off to a rough start. I play guitar also and sometimes it seems like the damn thing has its own autonomy. Your article has provided a great relief to others who go through the same thing. In closing, I would like to say that outside of learning one’s craft, it does appear that humility seems to be a prerequisite for playing the guitar. But you know what? You got through the piece under the most difficult circumstances. That’s what ‘s important. Bo Ridgeway

  11. admin says:

    Craig,

    Thanks for your comments, especially “perserverance that turn these failures into triumphs”!

    Scott