MADRID, Spain -- Andres Segovia, hailed as the greatest guitarist of all time and whose 71-year career raised the folk instrument to the classical realm, died peacefully surrounded by his family, it was announced Wednesday. He was 94.
Segovia was sitting in his favorite easy chair, watching television Tuesday with his third wife, Emilia Corral, and their 16-year-old son Carlos Andres, when he slumped over, stricken by a heart attack.
'It was a quick and peaceful death,' Dr. Angel Castillo told United Press International in a telephone interview at the family apartment in downtown Madrid.
Castillo said Segovia's wife, a former prize pupil who took an active role in managing his career, was 'overcome with grief and sadness' and requested that his death not be disclosed until Wednesday.
'She asked for time to assimilatewhat had happened,' he said.
Known simply as 'el maestro,' Segovia said on his 94th birthday Feb. 21 that 'work is what keeps a person alive.' Despite a heart attack two years ago, he kept up a busy schedule of performances and master classes.
He returned last week from a three-month concert tour in the United States 'full of vitality,' according to painter and close friend Manuel Ribera.
As usual, Segovia had reserved a seat on the flight to Madrid for 'Miss Segovia' -- his guitar.
Castillo said Segovia died of a heart attack brought on by lung congestion.He said his health took a turn for the worse in early April when he was hospitalized in New York with cardio-respiratory problems.
Segovia also was survived by a 60-year-old son, Andres, from a previous marriage. Segovia fathered his younger son at the age of 78.
City authorities said Segovia's body will lay in state for four hours Thursday at the Fine Arts Academy, where a mass will be said before his burial at the San Isidro cemetery.
Composer Joaquin Rodrigo praised Segovia as 'the greatest guitarist we have known... With him, the guitar rose to the realm of the great instruments.'
Culture Minister Javier Solana said Segovia was 'one of those Spaniards who fill an entire era, one of the greatest figures of Spanish culture in the 20th century.'
Segovia was credited with raising the guitar's image from a gyspy instrument to concert stage category and his repertoire ranged from Bach and Debussy to Manuel de Falla.
Little classical music for the guitar existed when Segovia began his career and he spent a lifetime adapting the works of such classical composers as Bach, Haydn, Handel and Mozart. Segovia transformed 200 works originally conceived for the piano, harpsichord, lute and other instruments into fresh music for the guitar.
Segovia said there was nothing particularly Spanish in his music. In 1986 he noted some 4 million Japanese were studying classical guitar.
'The future of the guitar is assured,' he said. 'I put the guitar at the level of the piano, the cello or the violin.'
In 1977 he published 'Segovia: An Autobiography of the Years 1893-1920,' and in 1979 'Segovia: My Book of the Guitar.'
He was born in the southern town of Linares on Feb. 21, 1893, and gave his first stage performance at the age of 16 after learning to play the guitar by ear.
Segovia once said his interest in the guitar began when he was 8-years-old.
'One day a man walked by me in the street playing a guitar. He put my fingers on the strings and I played, not as if I were learning but as if I were remembering.'