It is quite a decent portrait, as these things go. But the one thing that struck me, the one time when Williams seemed to show some emotion, was when he was talking about studying with Segovia. He made a veiled reference to Segovia being an over-bearing teacher. Well, there is a biography of Williams about to come out entitled Strings Attached - The Life and Music of John Williams and in it, he is going to be a lot more forthcoming. Here is an article in The Guardian about the book. The critique of Segovia leads the article:
I never met Segovia and of course did not take a master class with him. I had the opportunity in the mid-70s, but I suspect it was better that I didn't take advantage of it! I have studied with two of Segovia's disciples and from that experience and a great deal of things I have heard over the years, I suspect that Williams' criticisms are, if anything, muted. Segovia was, from most accounts, a prodigious egotist and would tolerate no deviation from his concept of the music. This attitude got passed on to many of his students though not, it would seem, to Williams. An example: as a fairly mature player I studied with Oscar Ghiglia, one of Segovia's closest disciples, in Banff for a couple of summers. One year I played some preludes by an Argentinian composer, not knowing that Ghiglia (probably following Segovia's example) detested Argentinian music. After I played the first prelude, Ghiglia just made an unpleasant ethnic joke about Argentinians (that I won't repeat).
Another incident was regarding a piece by Bach. I had been previously working with the superb violinist Paul Kling. Paul called me up once and when I answered the phone said, "what are you doing?" To which I replied, "playing the Siciliano from the first violin sonata." Paul instantly said, "do you play an F# or an F natural in measure ten?" Well, I had to go look. This is how I discovered that many people play an F# because an editor in the 19th century added one. There is no harmonic reason for it. So now I play a natural as Bach intended. But Segovia, working from a 19th century edition, played a sharp. A student was playing this piece in Ghiglia's master class and I mentioned to him afterwards that it should be a natural, not a sharp. He gave me this very perplexed look and said, "you are going to go to hell!" Well, possibly he was kidding.
But the point is that whatever Segovia did was the last word. Ghiglia and I got on pretty well after a while as he got to respect my musical ideas and the fact that I wasn't going to be bullied into changing one unless there was a musical reason to do so. But Ghiglia was far less intimidating than Segovia and I was not a young student. I can imagine how very damaging an arrogant tyrant could have been to young, impressionable students. All Segovia's students tend to sound a bit like watered down versions of him. With the big exception of John Williams. Someone who was a really different kind of player, like Narciso Yepes, would not have done so well with Segovia and the story is that when a young Yepes played for him Segovia was so outraged that he threw a music stand at him.
Here is Segovia playing Recuerdos de la Alhambra followed by Yepes' recording.