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Barrios Mangoré Augustin (1885-1944)

Biography of Barrios Mangoré Augustin:

Agustín Barrios Mangoré (1885-1944) was, apart from Andrés Segovia, a virtuoso of his century on the guitar. As a composer for guitar he is one of the outstanding personalities in the first half of the 20th century. He was born in San Juan Bautista de las Misiones, in the southern part of Paraguay, and grew up in a large family as the fifth of seven sons. For his parents art and culture were important values. The young Barrios had his first contacts with music through the folk music of his native country Paraguay. Inspired by his mother, Barrios already started playing the piano in his youth. Thus, he developed a love for music and literature early on. From 1898 Barrios was taught and made familiar with the repertoire of classical guitar music by Gustavo Sosa Escalada (1844-1944). Barrios already left his small home town at the age of 15 and moved to the capital Asunción to go to the Universidad Nacional de Asunción, and lived there with his brother. He performed here as a guitarist, transcribed piano pieces by Bach and Beethoven for guitar, and developed a great interest in mathematics, literature and philosophy. Later he commented as follows:”You cannot be a guitarist if you haven’t bathed in the fountains of culture.” In Asunción, Barrios received further musical education from Gustavo Sosa Escalada, later additional studies followed at the Instituto Paraguayo with the Italian-born musician Nicolino Pellegrini. In 1910 Barrios went on a successful concert tour to Argentina, and in the next two decades gave concerts in almost all countries in South and Central America. During this time Barrios mainly played traditional music from South America in his concerts, and not the standard repertoire of the classical guitarists of that time with compositions by Sor, Aguado etc. According to tradition, he used waxed strings, as used by folk musicians. European classical guitarists such as Miguel Llobet, Andrés Segovia and Regino Sainz de la Maza, who performed with Barrios in South America at the same time, used gut strings (as there were no nylon strings at that time), and they regarded the use of strings as strange and rejected them. In 1928 Barrios returned to Argentina and planned three concerts. However, audiences failed to appear, and only one single performance took place. Grievously disappointed by this failure, Barrios never went back to Argentina. Many guitar lovers rejected him. The strings may have been one reason for this, but also his repertoire, which was more suitable for the 19th century. In order to make it clearer: Segovia was in Buenos Aires at the same time, filling the concert halls with a “modern repertoire” with music by Ponce, Tórroba, Turina, Tansman etc. The rejection that Barrios experienced was perhaps decisive for changing his identity to Nitsuga Mangoré. He adopted the name of a Guaraní Chief “Mangoré”, and appeared in the first half of the programme as the native “Nitsuga” (Agustín backwards) Mangoré, the “Paganini of the guitar from the Agustín Barrios Mangoré (1885-1944) was, apart from Andrés Segovia, a virtuoso of his century on the guitar. As a composer for guitar he is one of the outstanding personalities in the first half of the 20th century. He was born in San Juan Bautista de las Misiones, in the southern part of Paraguay, and grew up in a large family as the fifth of seven sons. For his parents art and culture were important values. The young Barrios had his first contacts with music through the folk music of his native country Paraguay. Inspired by his mother, Barrios already started playing the piano in his youth. Thus, he developed a love for music and literature early on. From 1898 Barrios was taught and made familiar with the repertoire of classical guitar music by Gustavo Sosa Escalada (1844-1944). Barrios already left his small home town at the age of 15 and moved to the capital Asunción to go to the Universidad Nacional de Asunción, and lived there with his brother. He performed here as a guitarist, transcribed piano pieces by Bach and Beethoven for guitar, and developed a great interest in mathematics, literature and philosophy. Later he commented as follows:”You cannot be a guitarist if you haven’t bathed in the fountains of culture.” In Asunción, Barrios received further musical education from Gustavo Sosa Escalada, later additional studies followed at the Instituto Paraguayo with the Italian-born musician Nicolino Pellegrini. In 1910 Barrios went on a successful concert tour to Argentina, and in the next two decades gave concerts in almost all countries in South and Central America. During this time Barrios mainly played traditional music from South America in his concerts, and not the standard repertoire of the classical guitarists of that time with compositions by Sor, Aguado etc. According to tradition, he used waxed strings, as used by folk musicians. European classical guitarists such as Miguel Llobet, Andrés Segovia and Regino Sainz de la Maza, who performed with Barrios in South America at the same time, used gut strings (as there were no nylon strings at that time), and they regarded the use of strings as strange and rejected them. In 1928 Barrios returned to Argentina and planned three concerts. However, audiences failed to appear, and only one single performance took place. Grievously disappointed by this failure, Barrios never went back to Argentina. Many guitar lovers rejected him. The strings may have been one reason for this, but also his repertoire, which was more suitable for the 19th century. In order to make it clearer: Segovia was in Buenos Aires at the same time, filling the concert halls with a “modern repertoire” with music by Ponce, Tórroba, Turina, Tansman etc. The rejection that Barrios experienced was perhaps decisive for changing his identity to Nitsuga Mangoré. He adopted the name of a Guaraní Chief “Mangoré”, and appeared in the first half of the programme as the native “Nitsuga” (Agustín backwards) Mangoré, the “Paganini of the guitar from the While Barrios was composing “Una Limosna por el Amor de Dios”, he sensed that his end was near. He suffered form heart problems, and spent his remaining days in peace, comfort and meditation, preparing his approaching death. On 7 August 1944 he had a cardiac arrest, and died with his wife and friends at his side. Barrios’ work can be subdivided into three essential categories: ethnically, imitatively and religiously characterised music. The influence of Latin American folk music often comes across in Barrios’ compositions. Many of his compositions are influenced by this, e.g. “Danza Paraguaya” or “Chôro da Saudade”. He kept on playing folk songs from Paraguay, also recording them. For the imitative compositional techniques Barrios mainly uses baroque and romantic features. A good example thereof is “Un Sueño en la Floresta”. Barrios wrote this romantic tremolo piece in 1918. The influence of the European Romantic period is unmistakable in his music. This is shown by the numerous waltzes, mazurkas and romances. Religious creeds and experiences played an important part in Barrios’ compositions. “Una Limosna por el Amor de Dios” (Alms for God’s love) is a good example for a composition inspired by religion. This tremolo piece demonstrates the absolute mastery of this technique, an ostinatively rhythmic motif in the middle voice weaves around the melody in the top voice. His most well-known work “La Catedral” also belongs into this category. In it, Barrios uses baroque compositional techniques, which are very reminiscent of Bach. The story goes that Barrios heard organ music by Bach in the Cathedral San José of Montevideo. He was so mesmerised by this sound experience that he tried to copy it in his composition “La Catedral” with solemn, block-like set chords. He also repeatedly included the broken latent polyphony of Bach’s preludes. It is to Barrios’ great credit that he makes the most of the musical strength of the guitar and its technical possibilities. Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909) is surely to be regarded as a model for playing and compositional technique. Barrios composed throughout his life. His works stand out because of their unique expressiveness. They consist of an abundance of elegant character pieces, which are clearly expressed in their musical form and often create the impression of Latin American folklore. The compositions are composed entirely from the guitar, similar for instance, to Chopin and the piano. Often the music has an improvisatory character. This is also demonstrated by the fact that there are frequently different versions of the same piece. Barrios often wrote down his works hastily, and long after they had been created. They are typical guitar pieces, ambiently close and with flowing tonal beauty, but technically in part very sophisticated. His compositions are a revelation for the guitar repertoire, always spontaneous, passionate and challenging. Barrios was presumably the first classical guitarist to make his own recordings (1913), and the first guitarist, who played a complete Bach lute suite on the guitar in a public concert. Approx. 105 of altogether roughly 300 works are known, among them several principal works of romantic guitar literature. In 1974, the American guitarist and musicologist Rico Stover undertook extensive research in Central America into the enigmatic character of Agustín Barrios. As a result of his research many new works by Barrios were discovered, and significant biographical data regarding the last years of the great Paraguayan master in El Salvador (1940-44) emerged. Rico Stover finally published the fruits of his research in the first comprehensive edition of Barrios’ compositions. “Music in four Volumes” (Belwin Mills Publishing Company 1976), thus enhancing guitar literature by some of its most beautiful compositions.

CD's with Barrios Mangoré Augustin
Barrios Guitar Works played by Michael Erni

ArtNr. GMCD 7356

The Musical Colours of Guitar

ArtNr. GMCD 7357

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