The majority of guitar music with merit, written
in the 19th
century, is from the pens of that instrument’s
virtuoso players. Segovia’s challenge was not the size of the
extant repertory, but the quality.
To place the guitar on an equal footing with other concert instruments,
he needed to develop a corpus of works that would complement the guitar’s
evolution from salon to the concert stages of the world.
While the tradition of the guitar virtuoso/composer continued into the
century, it was finally eclipsed by the contributions
of composers, often encourage by Segovia, who perceived the latent possibilities
of the guitar. Although the Paraguayan virtuoso/composer Agustin Barrios
composed some quite magnificent smaller pieces, Segovia totally ignored
them, excluding all from his recordings and live performance; he even
went as far as banning them from performance in his master classes.
One of the most popular guitar virtuoso/composers of the 20th
century was Antonio Lauro. Writing in a diverse style, it is his Venezuelan
Waltzes for which he is most remembered and revered. The Waltz No
(18), is one of the best-known, and loved, items in the
Lauro was born in 1917 in Angostura (Ciudad Bolívar), Southern
Venezuela. His father died when Lauro was five years old, and in 1926
Lauro moved to Caracas and studied piano with Slavador Llamozas. Strongly
influenced by Agustin Barrios, Lauro entered the School of Guitar at
the National Conservatory in 1934 to study with Raúl Borges.
While studying guitar Lauro worked as a guitar accompanist on radio.
He formed a vocal-guitar trio, and not only arranged the music, but
also played principal guitar, and sang baritone.
His almost two-year tour from Venezuela to Chile with the trio, commencing
in 1940, marked his entire creative existence. He began to write new
waltzes such as El Marabino
. He gathered material
and influences that would blossom in his final creative period when
he would writeNelly
a ‘gaita marabina’ and Cueca
. When he returned to Venezuela he devoted himself almost
entirely to studying composition with Vicente Emilio Sojo.
Lauro began to get international recognition in the 1960s especially
as a result of the concert performances of his music by Alirio Diaz.
His Venezuelan Waltzes Maria Luisa
date from this period. Lauro died on 18 April 1986 in Caracas at the
age of 68.
The review disc comprises an all Lauro programme constituting thirty
tracks. It is well balanced and includes not only the more famous compositions,
but others which are not frequently recorded. Many of the items are
selected from important composing periods and phases of Lauro’s
Carlos Pérez was born in Santiago, Chile in 1976. Influenced
by his father, the young Carlos began his association with the guitar
at an early age. He studied at the Arts Faculty of the University of
Chile under Ernesto Quezada, and graduated with honours. Carlos Pérez
has been awarded top prize in major international guitar competitions
in Europe and America. He is a professor of guitar at the Arts Faculty,
University of Chile.
This reviewer’s introduction to Carlos Pérez was serendipitous:
one of his two DVDs came into his possession unexpectedly: Guitarra
(MB21399DVD) is not the subject of this review, but
it is appropriate to say that it is excellent in every way, and a strong
motivation to further pursue the performances of Pérez; you can
see an extract on YouTube
One thing that impresses when first hearing Carlos Pérez, is
his significant technical facility. Visually and audibly, even the most
complex and technically challenging music is executed with what appears
consummate ease. Despite technical facility, some players appear to
be making ‘hard work’ of more difficult pieces. Facial expressions
quickly lead one to this conclusion, erroneous though it may be.
Then there is the sound: a beautiful full, round tone and inordinate
attention paid to the various voices within the music. This preoccupation
is particularly evident on the review disc where under Lauro’s
often tender melodies, the inner voices are constantly moving. The traditional
music on which Lauro based his waltzes demands a strong rhythmic sense
from the guitarist. They feature syncopation and rhythmic interplay,
blending and layering accents of 3/4 and 6/8 time. Pérez’s
empathy for these demands is exemplified in his winning of the First
Prize in the Alirio Diaz Competition in Venezuela.
Having listened primarily to one man, Alirio Diaz, play the works of
Lauro supremely, and without effective competition for almost four decades,
it may be that inculcated preference alone will inhibit these renditions
being supplanted. That said, the current offerings by Carlos Pérez
leave nothing to be desired and everything to be admired; all else is
just a matter of personal preference.
The guitar Carlos Pérez plays on this disc is an impressive instrument
by Manuel Contreras II, Madrid, 2003. It is responsive to the player’s
preoccupation with the inner voices of the music. This capability of
traditional fan-braced guitars is often lost in designs that depart
from tradition in the pursuit of louder volumes. The very latest instrument
played by Carlos Perez is from the hands of Angel Benito Aguado.