Alexandre Lagoya was one of the foremost guitarists of the twentieth century. Born in Alexandria, Egypt, to a Greek father and Italian mother, he began serious study of the guitar as a prodigious eight-year-old at the local conservatory.
In 1948, he relocated to Paris and studied guitar with Jean Saudry and composition with Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos. By this time, he was already a veteran of the recital stage with more than 500 concerts to his credit. Lagoya later studied with Andrés Segovia during summers at Siena. It was here, in 1950, that he met his future wife, virtuoso guitarist Ida Presti. The couple married in 1952 and decided to forego their largely successful solo careers in order to form a duo. Their decision was risky: Segovia and others were still pressing for wide acceptance of the guitar as a solo instrument; moreover, repertory for duo guitarists was practically nonexistent. The pair initially played transcriptions of keyboard works by Bach, Debussy, Falla, and others, but they eventually drew commissions from prominent composers. Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco wrote a Concerto for two guitars for them, as well as the Preludes and Fugues (24). Additional works came from Joaquín Rodrigo, André Jolivet, and others. The two made numerous recordings during the 15 years of their partnership and gave an estimated 2,000 concerts. Presti died in 1967 from complications of lung cancer. Her premature passing was a devastating blow to Lagoya: he withdrew from performance, but took on a professorship at the Paris Conservatory in 1969. Starting in 1960, he had taught a summer course in guitar at the International Academy of Music in Nice with his wife, an activity he continued after her death. Among his students at the Nice Academy was the now-famous Canadian guitarist Liona Boyd. Lagoya resumed his solo career in 1972 and also returned to the recording studio. His friendship with composer/pianist Claude Bolling resulted in the latter's Concerto for classic guitar and jazz piano trio in 1979, which he later recorded with Bolling. Lagoya remained active throughout the 1980s and for most of the following decade, though he retired from his posts at the Paris Conservatory and Nice Academy in 1994.