BARRIOS MANGORE: Guitar Music, Vol. 1 (Antigoni Goni/ Bonnie Silver) (Naxos: 8.554558)
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Guitar music, Vol. 1
Agustin Pio Barrios Mangore was born in southern Paraguay on 5th May,1885, and died on 7th August, 1944, in San Salvador, El Salvador. Many considerBarrios to be the greatest guitarist composer of all time. In view of thisfact, it is curious that his music lay undiscovered and unappreciated for overthree decades after his death. In the mid-1970s comprehensive editions of hismusic appeared, making it possible for guitarists of Antigoni Goni's generationto include in their study the music of Barrios, augmenting and complementingmore traditional repertoire by Sor, Giuliani, Carcassi, Tarrega and VillaLobos. The revival began in 1977 when John Williams released an entirerecording of music by Barrios which focused a long overdue recognition on thisforgotten Latin American guitarist. Today Barrios' music is frequentlyperformed by major concert artists and is appreciated by audiences world wide.
Young Barrios never studied in a formal music conservatory, andcompleted only two years of high school. He made his living from performing,and had no other professional skills in any other pursuit except playing theguitar and composing music. Performing according to a life-style which requiredhim to travel constantly, Barrios never really settled down in one particularcountry. He lived extended periods of time in Brazil (1915-1919), Uruguay(1912-1915, 1919-1927) and El Salvador (1939-1944). In none of these places didhe establish a conservatory nor did he pursue the systematic publication of hismusic. He escaped from Latin America only once, in 1934, when he visitedEurope, staying just fifteen months, but his lifelong goal of reaching theUnited States never came to fruition.
Barrios unfortunately never received the recognition and materialsuccess that his talent merited. Thus it is particularly fitting that his musicbe featured in a number of Naxos recordings. The initial volume offered here byAntigoni Goni begins with Maxixe, an urban dance from Brazil. Barrioshimself recorded this work in 1929 but he did not perform it in concert to anygreat degree. A virtuoso display of both technical prowess and compositionalskill, Maxixe is one of Barrios' greatest works in the genre of musicinspired by folk tradition.
The lively Maxixe is followed by the majestic tremolo piece Unsueno en la floresta, perhaps the most difficult and complex tremolo pieceever conceived for the guitar. The extremely romantic flavour and soaringmelody belie the fact that the technical work required here is formidable,requiring extended left-hand stretches, long musical phrases, intricateindependent movement of voices, a virtuosic cadenza and even a high C thatrequires a twentieth fret on the traditional nineteen-fret classic guitar.
(Barrios had the Brazilian luthier Romeo DiGiorgio make him a specialinstrument with twenty frets). Un sueno en la floresta elevates thetechnique of tremolo to a new level, carrying it well beyond the earlierFrancisco Tarrega's Recuerdos de la Alhambra and sueno. Barrioswrote this piece about 1917 and recorded it in 1929.
The romantic waltz, Vals Op. 8, No. 4, also called ValsBrillante, was composed in Paraguay in 1923. Only three of Barrios' workscarry opus numbers: Waltze, Nos. 3 and 4 of Opus 8 (which supposedlyincluded a total of six waltzes) and Preludio, Opus 5, No. 1. Thetuneful Vals, Opus 8, No. 4, is one of Barrios' most frequentlyplayed pieces and features an extended passage using the technique of campanella(playing stopped strings against a repeated pedal note on an open string).
Barrios was influenced by nineteenth century romanticism (he greatlyadmired Chopin and Beethoven). A humoresqueis defined as a nineteenth century composition of a fanciful, or simplygood-humoured nature. Here the music lives up to this description. Barrioscreated his Humoresque in Uruguay in 1921 and it is one of only tenworks that he ever published.
Sarita ('Little Sara') was dedicated to the daughterof a friend and probably written in the early 1920s. Barrios recorded the piecetwice in 1924 and 1928. The style here is typical, being an eclectic blend ofromantic and popular traits in the classical form of a mazurka.
Madrigal - Gavota again demonstrates the tendency in Barrios tomix and juxtapose in his compositions harmonic forms and ideas from differentmusical periods. A madrigal is a vocal work dating from the Renaissance and a gavotteis a popular seventeenth century baroque dance where the accent is on thethird beat of the bar in common time. Barrios combines a striking melodic linethat does indeed sound as if it could be sung with words with the rhythmicaccent of the gavotte. Dedicated to one of his six brothers, thepoet-playwright Martin, Barrios created this work in 1918 and recorded it twicein 1921 and 1929. It is the first original work that incorporates manycharacteristics of Barrios' music, including four-voiced harmonic texture, astrong melodic identity, use of all registers of the guitar, and an expressive,emotional quality, which dominates the work.
The traditional vidalitais a slow, minor key song form dating from the eighteenth century andcultivated by the gauchos of the pampas region of Argentina. Barrios createdhis Vidalita con variacianes early in his career and recorded it in 1914in Buenos Aires. This work is typical of Barrios' early period when heperformed in cinemas and theatres as interval entertainment.
The waltz Junto atu carazon ('Close to Your Heart') is another unique mosaic of classicaland popular elements. This piece is in the form of a valse Bostan, knownfor its sophisticated rhythm and contrasting slow minor key section. Barriosrecorded this work in 1928 and it is probable that it was included in the sixwaltzes of Opus 8.
Mabelita ('Little Mabel') is dedicated to the daughterof a good friend in Uruguay and dates from the early 1920s.
Tu y Yo ('You and I') is a transcription of a work bythe nineteenth century composer Alphons Czibulka. Barrios transcribed andperformed Tu y Yo early on in his career and the first reference to itis from a programme in Brazil dated 1918. Also called Gavota romantica, thiswork incorporates all the pathos and expression of popular romantic music fromaround the turn of the century.
Villancico deNavidad ('Christmas Carol')was written in El Salvador in 1943 and dedicated to the infant Matilda Ariaswith the dedication Los angeles del ciela cantan a Matilda en sus dias ('Theangels sing to Matilda in her days').
The extended waltz Pepitais a work dating from about 1913 and shows the influence of late nineteenthcentury composers like Emil Waldteufel (1837-1915) whose popular waltzesBarrios admired and transcribed, often including in his concerts Waldteufel'sfamous Skater's Waltz.
Barrios grouped fourworks together as the Suite Andina ('Andean Suite') though no evidenceexists to suggest that he actually performed them in concert as such (anothersuch case was the Suite Aborigen, which purportedly included one of hismajor lost works, Invocacion a la Luna).
Aconquija is the name of a peak in the Andes in northernArgentina. The single note opening phrase is based on a melody Barrios heard