May 27, 2024


Trailblazing music quality

Classical Guitar and Agustin Barrios Mangore, His Importance

The Paraguayan Agustin Barrios Mangore was compared by John Williams to Frédéric Chopin. He said: “His music is very guitaristic, rather like Chopin is for the piano. In this way he has filled that need of every instrument to have its composer who belonged to the instrument and at the same time wrote great music”.

The rather poor repertoire of classical guitar was greatly enriched by this guitarist of humble origins, and also humble career. He never achieved international fame during his life. It was many years after his death that his music was rediscovered thanks to people like John Williams, who recorded many of his compositions.

Andrés Segovia, considered the father of modern classical guitar, always acknowledged the scarce repertoire that the guitar had, as it was ignored by the elite of art music as an inferior instrument, only suited for popular music. This was his greatest achievement, to let the world know that the guitar was an instrument capable of making wonderful music. But I think that he made a great mistake, he ignored the greatest composer for classical guitar of his time, Barrios Mangore, even after meeting him twice.

If he had given the needed attention to the music of Barrios, if he had played in his concerts and recorded pieces by Barrios, classical guitar would had been much more benefited. Barrios, receiving the credit he merited, would have done incredible things to elevate the status of classical guitar. He would had have access to orchestras, written concertos for classical guitar, contacted the world’s most important composers and influenced them to write music for this instrument.

Barrios “unsuccessful” career was also due to his own personality. He wasn’t very motivated to achieve an international status. He was worried more about giving his music to the people around him. All his works are specifically dedicated to someone or something. He was the epitome of romanticism, always giving great importance to expression. He even improvised his music in concerts for the sake of expression, altering completely the original piece.

He wandered from town to town in South America, not hitting the great venues in Europe and the United States. He liked to stay with friends that appreciated his music. His “stays” with friend will last as long as two years.

His last years were spent in El Salvador, where he was respected and admired. Despite this he died in a relative poverty. After his death he was almost completely forgotten by the world. But thank to the effort of some people his work was rediscovered, like the Paraguayan Sila Godoy, who collected many of his compositions and Richard D. Stover, a great researcher who gave much time of his life to get this great artist known to the world.

Nevertheless his hiding from mainstream for so much time, today Barrios’ music is played by almost every classical guitarist. Some of his pieces are considered pinnacles of the repertoire, and new recordings are made often.