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LEO BROUWER (1939 - )

By Andy Daly.

I cannot recall the time of year, but it was 1976 and as an amateur player I always listened to the late Peter Sensier's BBC Radio 3 programme "The Classical Guitar". This edition was to review the Toronto '75 Guitar Competition. Before discussing the candidates themselves, Peter asked the listener to enjoy with him a performance recorded at the festival, not by a competitor but by one of the international soloists who was there to take master classes. As I listened it was obvious to me that here was a player of great expertise, technically and musically. When it was finished Peter Sensier remarked

"Now I don't know how you feel about that, but to me it embodies all the best aspects of guitar playing, it's authoritative, musicianly, it's stamped with the personality of the soloist and is full of the sheer joy of playing music on the guitar"

Peter had put into words all the feeling I had about the performance. (Peruvian Folk Song:Danza del Altiplano).

This is my first memory of that guitarist, Leo Brouwer. I was to learn that there was a lot more to this man than just a player.

Photo © Colin Cooper with permission

Leo Brouwer was born Juan Leovigildo Brouwer in Havana, Cuba on 1st March 1939. He started to play the guitar at the age of 13, drawn to it by the sounds of Flamenco and encouraged by this father, a doctor and himself an amateur guitarist. His first real teacher was Isaac Nicola who was a pupil of Emilo Pujol (1886-1980) who in turn had been a pupil of Francesco Tárrega (1852-1909). (Both of the latter are giants in the world of guitar, not only as players but as composers and arrangers of other people's music). So Brouwer was part of the lineage of artists involved in different aspects of music through the instrument and it was natural that he played the traditional repertoire of classical and romantic pieces, giving his first public performance at the age of 17; but already his composing was coming to the fore. Prelude (1956) and Fugue (1959), influenced by Bartok and Stravinsky, show an early awareness of music outside the guitar. To further his musical education he went to America and studied composition at the Julliard School and then at Hartt College in Hartford.

Brouwer's early output (late 50's to early 60's) naturally embodies his own Cuban background and has the Afro-Cuban folk influence and rhythmic style. A good example of this period is Elogio de la Danza. Although for solo guitar, the 2nd movement is a tribute to the Ballets Russes (a Stravinsky connection) and it has been choreographed. There then followed works like Le Espiral Eterna. Guitar Concerto No. 1 and Cantincum the first part of which represents the process by which an adult insect emerges from the pupa case and incidentally, incorporates the unusually rare detuning of the guitars sixth string to E flat. (I know of only one other piece where this is used: Impromptus. No 3 . by Richard Rodney Bennett, 1936 -). This period incorporated the use of serial, 12 tone and open serial modes which are somewhat avante garde in nature.

The latest period is almost minimalistic, not going so far as a Steve Reich, for instances, but an exploration of this is evident. Brouwer describes it as a development of a modular system, Tres Ballades El Decameron Negro are probably the first in this style and Hika, In Memoriam Toru Takemitsu (1996) in memory of the Japanese composer is the most recent.

The history of the Classical Guitar has been well served by its players and composers in writing technical exercises and studies for the instrument. Notably, Fernando Sor (1778-1839), Matteo Carcassi (1792-1853) and Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959). To further the physical requirements of modern guitar playing Brouwer wrote early in his career Etudes Simples"Nos 1 – 20 (simple studies). New students of the guitar should beware of the title,"simple" they are not!.With these studies Brouwer has undoubtedly produced a major work in the development of guitar technique, making them not only demanding but also very musical.

As well as original compositions, Brouwer is an avid arranger of other composers such as Scott Joplin Elite Syncopations and The Entertainer and Lennon and McCartney's Fool on the Hill. These have been arranged for solo guitar.

As a prominent figure of the guitar, Brouwer is often in demand as a Jury member at Guitar competitions all over the world. These often require him to conduct masterclasses and performance workshops. For the 1979 Esztergom Guitar competition in Hungary, Brouwer wrote and conducted Blue Skies and Smile, a piece performed under the dome of the Basilica by the Bálint Bakfark guitar orchestra comprising 200 guitarists; a recording of which was broadcast by the BBC. Brouwer is organiser of the Havana International Guitar Festival and Competition, which is held every two years, and is still its Director.

So far we have only considered Leo Brouwer's association with the guitar, but his achievements in music go much further. He is an accomplished composer for varied media including chamber and choral works, a modern ballet, even pieces for wind band as well as many orchestral works. He has over 60 film scores to his credit, these through involvement in the Cinema Industry in Cuba where he was Director of the Music Department of the Cinema Institute (1961) and Musical Adviser to the National Radio and TV company of Havana, as well as the Professor of Composition in the Music Conservatory.

As if all this were not enough, Brouwer is a respected conductor working with some of the best orchestras across the world including Philharmonic Orchestra of Berlin, The National Orchestra of Scotland, the Langham Chamber Orchestra and the BBC Concert Orchestra. A recommended example is Brouwer conducting his own Concerto Elegiaco with Julian Bream and the RCA Victor Chamber Orchestra: RCA 09026 616052 (Julian Bream Edition Volume 22).

I am sure that Leo Brouwer will be at the forefront of not only guitar composition, but all aspects of music for a long time to come.


If you are able to help in completing this information please
An idea (passacaglia for Eli) (Kessner M.R.) (1999) Chester Music CH 64295
Cancion de Cuna
Canticum (1968) GA 424
La ciudad de las mil cuerdas for large guitar ensemble DY
Concerto No.1 for Guitar and Orchestra ESC 8191
Concerto No.2 for Guitar and Orchestra.(de Lieja) (1981) ESC
Concerto No.3 for Guitar and Orchestra. (Elegiaco)(1986) ESC 8673
Concerto No.4 for Guitar and Orchestra. (de Toronto)(1987) SGC, DY
ConcertoNo.5 for Guitar and Orchestra. (deHelsinki) (1991-92) -

Concerto No.6 (de volos) for Guitar and Orchestra (1997)
Concerto No.7 (La Habana) (1998)
Concerto No.8 (Cantata de Perugia) (1999)
Concerto No.9 (de Benicassim) (2002)
Concerto No.10 (Book of Signs)(unknown) *
* Double concerto for two guitars

Cuban Landscape with Bells SGC
Cuban Landscape with Rain SGC, DY
Danza Caracteristica (1957) GA422
Dos Canciones for voice and guitar DY
"Dos temas populares Cubanos" Max Eshing 8182 (1978).  
Elogio de la Danza (1964) GA 425
El Decameron Negro (1981) EMT 1704
Etudes Simples (4 volumes) No.1-20 ESC 7997, 7998, 8494, 8495
Fuga No.1 (1959) ESC 7995
Hika "In Memorium Toru Takemitsu"(1996) -
La Espiral Eterna GA 423
Micropiezas. (Duet) - Parabola ESC 8198
Ojos Brujos  
Paisaje cubano con tristeza (1999) DY
Piece Without Title ESC 8000
Piece Without Title Nos.2&3 ESC 8452
Preludio (1956) ESC 7996
Preludios Epigramaticos (1981-83)  
Rito de los Orishas for solo guitar (1993)   written for Alvaro Pierri DY
Sonata (1990) Opera Tres
Suite in D
Tarantos (1974) ESC 8293
Toccata for 4 or more guitars DY
Tres Apuntes (1959) GA426
Two Popular Cuban Airs: Guajira Criolla, Zapateado ESC 7999
Two Popular Cuban Themes: Cancion de Cuna, Ojos Brujos
UN DIA DE NOVIEMBRE (One Day In November) for Solo Guitar, 1968 (Now published by Chester Music)
ESC 8182
Variations on a Theme of Django Reinhard. EMT 1743
Rito de los Orishas: Exordium-conjuro, Danza de las diosas negras for solo guitar (1993)
Canciones remotas for string orchestra DY


I would like to thank Henk_Jan de Jong who has supplied details of the following additional works

Guitar works:

- Un dia de Noviembre (for guitar)
- Concierto No. 7 'La Habana' (for guitar and orchestra)
- Concierto No. 8 'Concerto Cantata de Perugia' (for guitar, SATB and orchestra)

Other pieces:
- Sonata for Solo Cello
- String Quartet No. 3
- La Vida Misma (for piano, violin, cello, percussion)
- Balada (for flute and strings)
- Cancion de Gesta (for chamber orchestra)
- Canciones Amatorios (for unaccomanied SATB)

...and to Radha who added "Trios Pieces Latino-Americaines ". This includes the piece " Danza del Altiplano".

...and to Arnold Yzaguirre who supplied the following

Rito de los orishas (GIF) (to order)
solo guitar
DO 163 - 15 min., level 4, 17,00$
A new solo piece written for Alvaro Pierri. Two sections: Exordium - Conjuro and Danza de las diosas negras. A wonderful addition to the repertoire.

Paisaje cubano con tristeza (GIF) (to order)
solo guitar
DO 287 - 6 min. level 3, 10,00$
The latest solo piece by Leo Brouwer, very accessable

Tríptico (GIF) (to order)
2 guitars
DO 342 - (SP) level 4, 25,00$

Cuban Landscape with Rain (PDF) (MP3) (to order)
4 guitars
DO 92 - (SP) 7 min., level 2-3, 14,00$
This interesting work by the famous Cuban composer uses minimalist techniques. Although it is not difficult it demands a very careful interpretation.

Toccata (GIF) (MP3) (to order)
4 guitars
DO 174 - (SP) 3 min., level 3, 15,00$
A virtuosic little encore piece either for a quartet or guitar ensemble.

Acerca del cielo (GIF) (MP3) (to order)
4 guitars
DO 350 - (SP) level 3-4, 27,00$
Originally written for a large ensemble (DO 142A, 24 guitars and DO 142, 8 guitars), this is also a very effective piece for 4 guitars.

Canciones remotas (GIF)
(to order)
4 guitars
DO 432 - (SP) 39 p., level 3-4, 33,00$

Acerca del cielo, el aire y la sonrisa (PDF) (to order)
guitar ensemble
DO 142 - (S, 8 P) 10 min., level 3-4, 29,00$
Version for 8 guitars of the work written for the Esztergom Festival in Hungary. Brouwer makes skillful use of all of the tonal colors of the guitar.

Acerca del cielo, el aire y la sonrisa (GIF) (to order)
guitar ensemble
DO 142A - (S, 24 P) 10 min., level 3-4, 60,00$
Original version, for large ensemble (minimum 24 players).

Toronto Concerto (MP3) (to order)
DO 100 - (score) 34 min., level 4, 95,00$
(Orchestra parts for hire)

DO 100A - (guitar part) 18,00$
This superb concerto was commissioned by the Guitar Society of Toronto where it was first performed on June 26th, 1987 during the International Guitar Festival. John Williams was the soloist and the orchestra was conducted by Leo Brouwer.

Toronto Concerto (GIF) (to order)
(piano reduction and guitar part)
DO 228 - (SP) level 4, 68,00$

Dos Canciones (PDF) (to order)
voice and guitar
DO 141 - level 2-3, 12,00$


EMT ………………………Editions Musicales Transatlantiques.
ESC ………………………Editions Max Eschig.
GA ……………………... …Guitar Archives-Schott.
SGC ………………………Spanish Guitar Centre. (Nottingham)

DY ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...  Doberman-Yppan

Should you find the details of any compact discs you might wish to buy we suggest you try this link.
Alvaro Pierri plays Brouwer - Analekta AN2 875 2 CD
Brouwer guitar concertos - Ricardo Cobo - Essay CD1040
Guitar Concerto Elegiaco. - Julian Bream Edition Vol 22
RCA 09026 616052
The Black Decameron - John Williams -
Sony Classical SK 61373



Naxos is currently in the process of recording all Leo Brouwer's guitar works. Volume 1. 8553630. Played by Ricardo Cobo is already available and should be explored by every serious guitar student.

Leo Brouwer Music for Guitar Vol 1:Danza caracteristica, Estudios Sencillos, Preludio, Fuga No. 1, (3) Piezas sin titulo, (2) aires populares cubanos, (3) Apuntes, Canción de cuna, 'Berceuse', Ojos brujos, Elogio de la Danza. Ricardo Cobo Naxos 8.553630

Leo BROUWER Music for Guitar Vol. 2 El Decamerón Negro Preludios Epigramáticos Canticum
La Espiral eternal Parabola Tarantos Variations on a Theme of Django Reinhardt Paisaje cubano con tristeza Elena Papandreou – Guitar NAXOS 8.554553 [73:13] Superbudget review

Leo BROUWER Music for Guitar Vol. 3 Sonata. Three Latin American Pieces. Hika. Suite No.2. An Idea - Passacaglia for Eli. Paisaje Cubano con campanas. Rito de los Orishas. Un dia de Noviembre.Graham Anthony Devine Naxos 8.554195 review

RARA: Leo Brouwer Cornelius CARDEW (1936-1981) 1. Material Hans Werner HENZE (b.1926) 2. Memories (from "Cimarron") Leo BROUWER (b.1939) 3. Exaedros I Sylvano BUSSOTTI b.1931) 4. Rara (eco sierologico) Maurice OHANA (1914-1992) 5. Si le jour parait Josep Maria Mestres QUADRENY (b.1929) 6. Perludi para guitarra Girolamo ARRIGO (b.1930) 7. Serenata per chitarra Leo BROUWER (b.1939) 8. La espiral eternal Cristobal HALFFTER m(b.1930) 9. Codex I Juan BLANCO (b.1919) 10. Contrapunto Esacial III-c Leo Brouwer – Guitar DG 471 589-2 [76:05] Review

GUITAR RECITAL JOAQUIN RODRIGO En Los Trigales JOAQUIN CLERCH Guitarresca DARIUS MILHAUD Segoviana LEO BROUWER Sonata, Hika TORU TAKEMITSU Folios, Equinox FLORES CHAVIANO Sonata, Evocacion, Boceto FRANCISCO TÁRREGA Preludio No.2, Preludio No.5 Ricardo Gallén - Guitar Naxos 8.554832 Review

2. In My Life 3. Can't Buy Me Love 4. The Long And Winding Road 5. I Will 6. Come Together*7. I Want To Hold Your Hand* 8. Help!* GEORGE MARTIN 9-11 Three American Sketches Arranged for guitar and strings LEO BROUWER From Yesterday to Penny Lane. 7 Songs after the Beatles arranged for guitar and strings 12. She's Leaving Home 13. A Ticket To Ride 14. Here, There And Everywhere 15. Yesterday 16. Got To Get You Into My Life 17. Eleanor Rigby 18. Penny Lane GORAN SOLLSCHER - Guitar PER ARNE GLORVIGEN - Bandoneon* Members of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra/Mats Rondin DG 459 692-2 Review

"Almost a Song" la guitare contemporaine Hans Werner HENZE (b.1926) Drei Tentos (1958) Leo BROUWER (b.1939) Preludios Epigrammaticos (1981) Olivier CHASSAIN (b.1957) Étoiles Toru TAKEMITSU (1936-1996) All in Twilight Georges DELERUE (1926-1992) Graphic Stephen DODGSON (b.1924) Fantasy Divisions Antonio RUIZ-PIPÓ Otoñales (1994) Edith LEJET Almost a Song Olivier Chassain (guitar) Pierre-Henri Xuereb (viola) Recorded at Studio Corydalis, Limoges, France, 1997 DDD METRONOME MET CD 1021 [69:00] Review

INSPIRACIÓN JOHANNES TONIO KREUSCH Inspiracion (Preludio) AGUSTIN BARRIOS- MANGORE Una Limosna por el Amor de Dios Vals No.3 Las Abejas La Catedral Preludio Saudade) Andante religioso Allegro solemne FRANCISCO TARREGA Capricho Arabe Maria ISAAC ALBENIZ Asturias JOAQUIN RODRIGO Invocacion y Danza LEO BROUWER Danza Caracteristica, Elogio de la Danza, Lento, Obstinato, Paisaje Cubano con Campagnas, Danza del Altiplano JOHANNES TONIO KREUSCH Inspiracion (Conclusio) Johannes Tonio Kreusch (guitar)
ARTE NOVA 74321 86937 2 [77:56] Review

to order

See also Rodolfo Betancourt's Brouwer page    Andy Daly's page on Fernando Sor    Classical Guitar



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