Anyone who loves the classical guitar must also love Andrés Segovia -- even if he/she doesn't know it yet. He is credited with garnering -- almost single-handedly -- big-league status for the plucky six-string, and virtually every modern player stands on the foundation of his legacy. Anyone wanting to hear why this is true would do well to start with Deutsche Grammophon's lovingly prepared The Art of Segovia
, which pays tribute to both his playing and his tireless repertory building. His performances of guitar staples by Sor, Torroba
, and Rodrigo
are coupled here with his nimble transcriptions of works for keyboard, cello, violin -- even string quartet -- by Bach
, César Franck
, and others; these two elements combine to give as complete a picture as possible (considering the limitations of space on a modest two-disc set) of his technique and ingenuity, and of course his grasp of the guitar's possibilities. Audiophiles won't find ideal sound here; many of the tracks were recorded monaurally, and the performances seem a little unkempt next to airbrushed digital equivalents. But this is what makes it so interesting; you can practically see his fingers intuitively working their way across the instrument, and the occasional squeak or buzz only makes the experience more vivid. The many highlights include Fernando Sor's "Theme and Variations on a Theme from The Magic Flute" and Segovia's transcription of the Prélude to Bach's "Suite No. 1 for Cello," both of which sound intricate and easy. One of the few disappointments is the "Sarabande" from Handel's "Suite No. 4 for Harpsichord"; it, more than any other transcription here, sounds homesick for its native instrument. But this is nitpicking. These performances convey an infectious love and understanding of the guitar that is a joy to experience.