Seven Countries, Seven Master Composers:

Guitar Music of Latin America


Suite del Plata No. 2                                         Máximo Diego Pujol (b. 1957)
I- Preludio
II- Tanguito Madrugador
III- Milonguita Siestera
IV- Bluesecito de la Esquina
V- Candombecito Fiestero

Retrato Brasileiro                                  Baden Powell de Aquino (1937-2000)
Só Por Amor
Tema Triste
Valsa Sem Nome

Una Limosna por el Amor de Dios                    Agustín Barrios (1885-1944)
Julia Florida

Berceuse (Cancion de Cuna)                                      Leo Brouwer (b. 1939)
Danza Característica


Preludios Americanos                                          Abel Carlevaro (1918-2001)
No. 1 - Evocación
No. 2 - Scherzino
No. 3 - Campo
No. 4 - Ronda
No. 5 - Tamboriles

Three Venezuelan Waltzes                                  Antonio Lauro (1917-1986)
Maria Luisa
El Niño
El Marabino

Cuatro Canciones Populares Mexicanos                          Manuel Ponce (1882-1948)
La Pajarera
Por Ti, Mi Corazón
La Valentina



Seven Countries, Seven Master Composers:
Guitar Music of Latin America

Program Notes by TK Gardner

            The guitar has played an important role in the music of Latin America (roughly all regions directly south of the United States extending from Mexico and the Caribbean to Tierra Del Fuego and Cape Horn) since its introduction in the Sixteenth Century during the Spanish Conquests. It is not known if guitar-like instruments existed on the South American continent previously, but since its introduction by Europeans, the guitar has become a most popular instrument for all kinds of music, from serious (classical) to dance and entertainment.
Although the music on the present program is from the “serious music” category, there can be no mistaking the influence of popular culture and recreational music in almost all of these pieces. Dances, waltzes, songs, and other popular forms are the basis of a large portion of this music. Although each composer is from a different country, they are all Twentieth-Century Latin-American composers, and all had at least some formal musical training in the European tradition.
There can be no doubt that in the last century some of the most charming and infectious music for the guitar was written in Latin America. The immense contingent of guitarists and musical styles to emanate from the region in the last one hundred years is a tribute to the deeply romantic, spiritual, and passionate people from all of the countries that make up Latin America. From Mexico and Cuba, to Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina comes music that is both melodic and rhythmic, sharing a similar genesis but expressing each country’s special cultural nature.
Máximo Diego Pujol (b. 1957) is the youngest composer represented here. His Suite del Plata No. 2 consists of diminutive examples of several musical forms popular in the Rio de la Plata region of his native Argentina. After a short Prelude (which could have been titled Preludito) come a small Tango, Milonga, Blues, and Candombé. The Bluesecito is an Argentinian adaptation of the North American musical staple. The other forms are quite prevalent and popular in Argentina, as well as the rest of Latin America. Pujol is an award-winning guitarist and composer, and studied with, among others, Leo Brouwer and Abel Carlevaro.
Roberto Baden Powell de Aquino (1937-2000), known more
commonly as Baden Powell was an extremely influential Brazilian jazz and classical guitarist, famous for his songs written in collaboration with Vinicius de Moraes. (His father admired Sir Robert Baden-Powell, the British founder of the Boy Scouts movement, and named his son after him). Baden Powell (the guitarist) was one of the founders of the bossa-nova movement in Brazil that soon swept the world and is still popular today. The four pieces here are elegant examples of Baden-Powell’s classical arrangements of his own popular songs. The last, Só Por Amor, is still a widely performed bossa-nova piece.
Agustín Barrios Mangoré (1885-1944) was recognized early as a musical prodigy in his native Paraguay. While still very young he enrolled in the Instituto Paraguayo in Asuncion, where he was exposed to the guitar methods of Aguado and Sor. He became one of the great virtuosos of the Twentieth Century, sometimes billing himself as the Paganini of the guitar. A talented and facile guitarist, he was able to translate his formidable technique into compositions so beautiful that they belie the immense agility required to perform them. Julia Florida is a softly rocking barcarola,while Una Limosna por el Amor de Dios   (the last piece he ever wrote) is a tremolo piece featuring a hummingbird-like melody lightly floating over an ostinato accompaniment, which is said to represent “a beggar’s knocking at the door of heaven.”
Leo Brouwer (b. 1939) is one of Cuba’s premier composers, who had a fine career as a young concert guitarist, and now composes music for all kinds of ensembles as well as solo guitar. He led the avante-garde movement in Cuba during the ‘60’s before developing a style he calls the “new simplicity.” Berceuse (Cancion de Cuna) is a lullaby, based on a melody by the Cuban composer Elisio Grenet. Danza Característica is a fiery piece with characteristic Afro-Cuban rhythms. Brouwer is an internationally respected composer, film-composer, conductor, arranger, musician and ambassador of music to the world, reminding people of the deeply rich cultural heritage of Cuba.
Abel Carlevaro achieved fame as a guitarist, a composer and as an enigmatic educator. His Serie Didactica Para Guitarra books have been used the world over by teachers of the instrument, and he was known as an uncompromising technician on the instrument. As a composer for the guitar Carlevaro writes music that is very friendly to
the instrument, infusing a slightly atonal style with interesting melodies and rhythms reflective of his Uruguayan roots. The five Preludios Americanos were first published separately and were probably not originally conceived as a set, but the varied tempos, rhythms and styles of the pieces allow for a coherent and satisfying musical experience when the pieces are played consecutively.
Antonio Lauro (1917-1986) is one of Venezuela’s most revered and loved composers. Brought up in a musical household and originally trained in piano and composition, he became inspired to learn to play the guitar after hearing a concert by the famous Paraguayan master Agustín Barrios. A fervent nationalist during a time of revolutionary upheaval, he was jailed by the military junta of General Jiménez from 1951 through 1952. Lauro’s music is very melodic and he is most known for his Venezuelan waltzes, which often feature a melody in 2/4 against an accompaniment in 3/4. Maria Luisa was named for his wife and he commented once that the piece was almost as difficult as she was, which is said to have brought a smile to his wife’s face. El Niño is dedicated to his son who today continues to promote the work of his father augmenting, the efforts of another Venezuelan luminary Alirio Diaz who has championed Lauro’s music for many decades now.
Mexico’s Manuel Ponce (1882-1948) may be the most accomplished composer in this distinguished group (followed closely by Brouwer) and his long association with Andrés Segovia yielded a stunning collection of songs, arrangements, sonatas and other works that are the very foundation of the Twentieth Century guitar repertoire. He also composed many important orchestral and chamber works for other instruments. Of the four songs in this program, Por Ti, Mi Corazón and Estrellita were composed and arranged by Ponce (although the arrangement of Estrellita heard in this program is by Manuel Barrueco and Mario Abril). The other two songs are traditional folk songs and are still heard today throughout Latin America.
The music of the seven composers featured in this program, each from a different Latin American country, demonstrate the great power that Latin America exerts over the musical world, and shows that while these are not the greatest economic countries in the world, they are rich with cultural and spiritual humanity, producing music imbued with the great beauty of the people who live in this region.