Many consider Barrios
to be the greatest guitar composer ever.
Unfortunately he wrote down little of
his music. Many important scores have
had to be reconstructed from recordings,
which accounts for the delay in his
music coming to appreciation and currency.
His music is distinguished by a Mozartean
ingenuity at variations, his almost
Bachian ability at the arpeggio prelude
style, his rich melodic sense and adventurous
harmonic sense. There are occasional
clear echoes of Villa-Lobos, not surprising
since Villa-Lobos was one of the great
original stylists in Latin American
guitar music; any guitarist of this
period would expect to learn a great
deal from him. However this is all highly
are all "white" with none
of the African influence we expect to
hear in Spanish and Latin American guitar
music. This gives his music the sound
of classical period keyboard music.
Yet, almost all of this music is Romantic
in feeling and introspective in mood.
The titles of these pieces - Prayer
to My Mother, Sleep of the Little Doll
- may lead you to expect this music
to be heavily sentimentalised, but that
is not the case. Even Invocación
a Mi Madre is thoughtfully lyrical
without being maudlin. The first number
from La Catedral (as well as
several of the other pieces) resembles
the "raindrop" etude of Chopin
in both mood and texture, while the
last number is a dazzling virtuoso work
in style halfway between a Bach lute
prelude and Albéniz’ Leyenda.
Confesión is a clear,
The guitarist skilfully
encompasses these changes in style and
the wide variety of techniques and shows
a deeply personal sense of commitment.
see also review
by Kevin Sutton