The guitar is the soul of Spanish music, and it was inevitably brought to the New World by the Spanish conquistadors and colonists beginning in the 16th century. The instrument became an integral part of musical life in Latin America, and is the medium through which some of the region’s finest composers have expressed their most characteristic musical thoughts. This Telarc recital by David Russell presents the works of four Latin American masters of the guitar.
One of the great pioneers of classical guitar, Augustín Barrios Mangoré was one of the first Latin American guitarists to appear successfully in Europe and one of the first guitarists to record. Honing his chops by transcribing works by Bach, Beethoven, and Chopin, Mangoré is thought to have written roughly 300 works for guitar. Featured on this recording is Mangoré’s “Maxixe” which is based on the Brazilian dance that became popular in Rio de Janeiro in the 1870s, the repeating-note “Cancíon de la Hilandera,” “Aire de Zamba” which is a concert realization of the Argentine dance, the romanza “Confesion” and “Tu Imagen” the charming waltz.
From Argentina to Mexico, Manuel María Ponce was one of the most distinguished and influential figures in Mexican music. As a gifted child, he began composition before the age of ten and was appointed chief organist in his hometown of Aguascalientes at the age of fifteen. Like so many others, Ponce’s chief inspiration was Andrés Segovia and when the two met in 1923, the repertoire for guitar was still very limited. He arranged Tres Cancíones Populares Mexicanas from 1925-26 for Segovia. Jascha Heifetz later did an arrangement (for violin) of the last work in the piece, “Estrellita” and it became so popular that it was included in the 1939 Goldwyn film The Shall Have Music.
Argentine-American guitarist and composer Jorge Morel showcases his affection for David Russell in two works that were written with the guitarist in mind. On “Recuerdos del Caribe” the piece is filled with the flavors and rhythms of the West Indies and it showcases Russell’s handiwork. “Mangoré” is dedicated to the guitarist as a tribute to the late Augustín Barrios Mangoré who shaped both of these guitarist’s lives. The other Morel works featured are the Latin scherzo “Jugueteando,” “Pampero” which shares its title with the stormy conditions that accompany a cold front moving across the plains, the “Pampas,” of Argentina and Uruguay and the “Barcarole,” a traditional song of the Venetian gondoliers.
Even though his career was focused on tango, Héctor Ayala still had a thorough understanding of other Latin American musical styles, as demonstrated by his “Serie Americana,” which closes Russell’s sublime disc of Sondios Latinos, and comprises pieces representative of six South American countries.