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Agustín BARRIOS (1885–1944)
Guitar Music – Volume 5
Celil Refik Kaya (guitar)
rec. 2018, Fellowship Church, Englewood, USA
NAXOS 8.573898 [84:32]

Agustin Barrios Mangoré, which was his full name, is one of the most important guitar composers – and guitarists. He recorded quite extensively (and was the first guitarist to do so) and the complete recordings have been transferred to CD. When he first appeared in public he was presented as “the Paganini of the guitar from the jungles of Paraguay” but this soubriquet was soon removed. He didn’t need any exotic references to his extraction. His preserved oeuvre encompasses more than 300 compositions, the earliest known, Abri la puerta mi china (tr. 16) from 1905. Naxos’s series with Barrios’s works has progressed slowly. I reviewed volume 3 in October 2007 and unfortunately I missed volume 4, also played by Celil Refik Kaya. He is an eminent guitarist and the technical challenges, which are sometimes quite testing in Barrios’s music, are negotiated elegantly and effortlessly. The recording and production at large are in the safest of hands with radar couple Norbert Kraft and Bonnie Silver in charge and with Graham Wade’s all-embracing liner notes as guide book. There is also uncommonly extended playing-time, more than 84 minutes! You get a lot of music for your money. Of course you don’t count musical quality in minutes, but with Barrios you can always count on surprises in various directions – and plenty of listening value.

Take for instance the opening beautiful waltz, composed in Brazil around 1919 and one of the few pieces that was given an opus number. Pericón is the name of a Uruguayan national dance and Barrios obviously felt very strongly for it, even though he was Paraguayan himself. It is a virtuosic piece and it well worth adding to any collection of South American music. Barrios recorded it in 1928. Julia Florida was written in 1938 for a pupil of his and the gently rocking barcarolle is inspired by one of Mendelssohn’s Lieder ohne Worte: Venetian Gondola Song. Very beautiful it is. His studies are far more than plain exercises, and there are several of them on this disc. No. 3 is influenced by Father Bach and No. 2 is as the title suggests, a study in arpeggios. This latter has a really catchy tune. Another master piece is Choro da saudade (tr. 7) with Brazilian influences. “saudade” is a Portuguese word referring to ‘a feeling of longing, melancholy, or nostalgia, supposedly characteristic of the Portuguese or Brazilian temperament’, as Graham Wade puts it in the liner notes. The little prelude in E minor that follows is a breakneck study in 27 seconds. And then comes Barrios’s equivalent to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, the Invocación a la luna (tr. 9), a more apt depiction of the moonlight. The title of the piece is Barrios’s own, while Beethoven’s isn’t. The Petit Pierrot, Marcha is a hefty joyous march.

The Gavota al estilo antiguo (tr. 12) is a tribute to the Baroque. The Preludio in G minor from 1921 was one of the first works by Barrios that was recorded by a younger generation. It was Laurindo Almeida who in 1955 issued an LP album with Latin American Guitar Music. During his traversals of South and Central America Barrios also reached Trinidad, where he composed his Zapateado Caribe (tr. 15) in 1931. Zapateado refers to the flamenco dance at literally means ‘tapped with the foot’. It is an elegant piece with easy flow. It is followed by his earliest known composition, Abri la puerta mi china, mentioned above. It is based on the tango rhythm and utterly attractive.

In Estilo y pericón (tr. 19), date unknown, he returns to the Uruguayan and Argentinian dance (see track 2) where a characteristic is the waving of handkerchiefs. Isabel is a tribute to his lover Isabel Villaba, written around 1908. They had two sons together but eventually they separated, no doubt due to his eternal travelling. The attractive melody tells us, I presume, that he really loved her. Vals de primavera (tr. 23) is a charming tribute to the season we are all longing for. It is played with a lot of subtle rubato, and it is a very apt trip of nostalgia when I write this one week into May when the temperature has gone down to near freezing-point, after a heat-wave in late April which made us believe that summer had arrived.

Diana Guarani is a long composition and certainly the most remarkable of all on this disc. No manuscript exists, but guitarist Rico Stover has reconstructed it from a number of non-commercial recordings by Barrios made in El Salvador in 1943. Here are effects like drum imitations, scale runs, arpeggios and various ornamentations.

The encore is one of the Western world’s most popular tunes, the habanera La Paloma (The Dove) written by Sebastián de Iradier (or Yradier) in the 1850s. It is said to be the most recorded song ever, together with The Beatles’s Yesterday. The arrangement by Barrios is elegant and constitutes a worthy conclusion to this eminent programme. Celil Refik Kaya’s playing is impeccable and worthy of high sales figures. It should be pointed out that most of the facts in this review have been collected from Graham Wade’s liner notes – as always a great source for information.

Göran Forsling
1. Vals, Op. 8, No. 3 (’Waltz’) (c. 1919) [4:05]
2. Pericón (1928) [5:07]
3. Julia Florida (1938)
4. Danza paraguaya No. 1 (‘Paraguayan Dance’) (c. 1926) [2:03]
5. Estudio in G minor (1920) [2:24]
6. Estudio No. 3 [2:04]
7. Choro da saudade (c. 1929) [6:00]
8. Preludio in E minor ‘Pequeño preludio’ (‘Little Prelude’) (1939) [0:27]
9. Invocación a la luna (‘Invocation to the Moon’) (1932) [4:04]
10. Petit Pierrot, Marcha (‘Little Pierrot, March’) (1913) (arr. Tony Morris) [3:18]
11. Estudio No. 2 ‘Estudio en arpegio’ (‘Study in Arpeggios’) (1941) [2:14]
12. Gavota al estilo antiguo (‘Gavotte in the Old Style’) (1941) [2:04]
13. Preludio in G minor, Op. 5, No. 1 (1921) [5:23]
14. Romanza No. 1 ‘Romanza en imitación al violoncello’ (‘Romance in Imitation of the Cello’) (1918) [3:07]
15. Zapateado caribe (‘Caribbean Zapateado’) (1931) (version for solo guitar) [2:56]
16. Abri la puerta mi china (‘Open the Door, My Country Girl’) (1905) [4:17]
17. Estudio del ligado in D minor (‘Slur Study’) [1941) [1:40]
18. Variación al estudio No. 3 (1941) [2:29]
19. Estilo y pericón [2:51]
20. Estudio del ligado in A major (1941) [0:56]
21. Isabel, Gavota (1913) (arr. Tony Morris) [2:39]
22. Variación al estudio No. 6 [1:02]
23. Vals de primavera (‘Springtime Waltz’) (c. 1921) [5:07]
24. Diana Guarani (1924) (arr. R. Stover) [8:47]
Sebastián de IRADIER (1809 – 1865)
25. La paloma, Habanera (‘The Dove’) (1859) (arr. A. Barrios Mangoré) [3:36]

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