Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Agustín Barrios

Guitar Music Vol. 1
Guitar - Antigoni Goni
Naxos 8.554558
  AmazonUK   AmazonUS

  1. Maxixe
  2. U sueño en la floresta
  3. Vals, Op.8, No.4
  4. Humoresque
  5. Sarita (Mazurka)
  6. Madrigal - Gavota
  7. Vidalita con Variaciones
  8. Junto a tu corazón - Vals
  9. Mabelita
  10. Tu y Yo (Gavota romántica)
  11. Villancido de Navidad
  12. Pepita
    Suite Andina
  13. Aconquija
  14. Aire de Zamba
  15. Córdoba
  16. Cueca

The Paraguayan, Agustín Píu Barrios Mangoré (1885-1944) was arguably one of the most colourful guitarist/composers to emerge from South America. The complexity of his music, not only in its harmonic structure but also in its technical difficulties belies his Guarani Indian origins.

A guitar virtuoso, he toured extensively across South America, briefly visiting Europe and was probably the first classical guitarist to make gramophone records (circa 1914). Not only did he play his own compositions in concerts but also those of the guitar repertoire of the 19th century, plus transcriptions of music including Beethoven and Chopin. It was these diverse musical influences together with the Indian folk traditions of his background which enabled him to develop his own musical style.

For the most part guitarists rarely played Barrios's music after his death (Aliro Diaz occasionally performed a small selection). It was not until John Williams championed his music in the mid seventies that Agustín Barrios finally gained the recognition that he deserved, but even then it was usually only a small number of works that seemed to reoccur in concerts and recordings. I suspect that this disc, in keeping with Naxos's policies, is going to be the first volume in a Complete Works series. Although another set is available by the guitarist Philippe Lemaigre, Naxos should be ahead of most competition with their super budget price and the stable of outstanding young guitarists at their disposal.  

On this current disc the programme is a good mix of well-known works along with less familiar pieces. The guitarist Antigoni Goni's formidable skills are put to excellent use. Her knowledge of the various ingredients of musical traditions, styles and forms that Barrios used to such good effect is well established in her playing, the juxtaposition of voicing within the harmony that is so important in conveying the unique flavour of Barrios's music is assured, as is her use of tonal colouring and dynamics. An intelligent choice of speeds gives a sense of space that allows the music to breath without inhibiting the rhythmic pulses. The technical hurdles for the guitarist playing this music are notorious (even John Williams, the master virtuoso, commented on them) but Goni's performances, particularly "U sueño en la floresta", which relies heavily on the even execution of right hand tremolo combined with extreme left hand difficulties, are dispatched with apparent ease. I do feel however, that her tambora effect used in "Cueca" (the tapping of the strings at the bridge using the outside of the right hand thumb whilst fingering a melody with the left hand) is a little booming and more clarity could have been achieved to bring out the melody line (John Williams 1995 recording of "Aconquija" is a good example) but this is a minor point.

Of the recording itself the sound is excellent, the regular location of St Chrysostom Church, Newmarket Canada and producer Bonnie Silver proving to be an ideal combination for recording the guitar.

The most informative detailed inlay notes are by Rico Stover* who is probably the foremost authority on Agustín Barrios.

*Six Silver Moonbeams - The life and times of Agustín Barrios Mangoré By Rico Stover Guitar solo publications / San Francisco $29.95

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