David_Norton wrote:In the GFA's "Soundboard" magazine, Vol 37 #4 from late 2011, there is a lengthy and very detailed article by Mark Small titled In Pursuit of the New Poets: Observations on whether The Segovia Phenomenon Could Happen Again". The article goes beyond Segovia, and addresses some of the reasons for the career success of The Big Three. A key paragraph begins:
"Notwithstanding the popularity of extraordinary and hard-working recitalists such as Pepe Romero, Parkening, Fisk, Barrueco, Isbin, and others who built a profile in the 1960s and 1970s, the careers of Segovia, Bream, and Williams represent a different order of magnitude." He solicited input on this "phenomenon" from Jason Vieaux, Ana Vidovic, David Russell, Eliot Fisk, and Ben Verdery.
Summing up, "things are different today" than 50-60-80 years ago. Record labels are no longer "kingmakers", high-profile impresarios such as Sol Hurok or Columbia Artists Management are a thing of the past. The novelty of solo guitar playing is gone, we hear solo guitar played on countless TV programs and movies and radio jingles. Social Media is now a dominant force. People balk at the idea of "paying for music" and seek free downloads and YT videos instead. There's too much competition for people's attention spans and wallets.
Taken all together, the dominance of the Segovia-Bream-Williams troika of roughly 1950 to 1975 was a unique event, very unlikely to ever be seen again.
I think this nails it. The growth of classical guitar as a concert instrument took root in the 1950s' and you have to look to history to understand why. Segovia sowed the seeds prior to WW2 but it didn't really happen until after then. People were looking for something different, they had just gone through the worst period in modern history and anything new was refreshing and didn't remind them of what existed prior to 1939. The UK was still going through massive depredations with rationing and depressed living standards so when Bream starts gaining attention here was a chance to fly the flag again, a local boy makes good. Williams really built on that. Despite being born in Australia he made his name in the UK and was in some ways adopted by that country. He credits Bream as giving him his start on the circuit as by the early 60s' Bream was being offered more work than he could cope with. He offloaded it to Williams. The public at the time accepted the guitar as a classical instrument.
So by the end of the 60s' you had these 3 dominating the public perception of the instrument, with I hasten to add, some really excellent players also spreading the word but that was also the decade when rock n' roll became a huge industry and public interest began to change. Any new classical guitarist was having to fight to make it into the public perception and aside from the aficionados, the was a decreasing pool thus making it very hard to achieve the heights of the original three. Unfortunately, I believe the trend since the 1970s' has been for the guitar to become a niche instrument in the classical world; appealing to the cognoscenti but a side show for anyone else.
I really don't think anyone else will ever attain the public heights that Segovia, Bream and Williams achieved which is tragic because now, in so many ways, the technical level is way up, luthier skills are second to none and more is know about musical interpretation than ever before, but the public has moved away from accepting the instrument and there is little that can be done about that, no matter how good the player may be.