Agustín BARRIOS (Mangore) (1885-1944)
Confesión: La Catedral [7:33]; Estilo Uruguayo
[3:39]; Aire de Zamba [2:48]; Vals, op 8 no 3 [4:13]; Danza Paraguaya
no.1 [2:28]; Sargento Cabral (zamba) [2:19]; Confesión (romanza)
[4:46]; Preludio, op.5 no.1 [3:55]; Choro da Saudade [5:11]; Leyenda
de España [6:17]; Las Abejas [2:26]; Oración por Todos [2:31]; El
Sueño de la Muñequita [2:45]; Vals de Primavera [5:27]; La Samaritana
[4:02]; Mazurca Apasionada [5:32]; Cueca [3:12];Villancico de Navidad
[2:50]; Una Limosna por el Amor de Dios [3:24]
Alexander-Sergei Ramírez (guitar)
rec. March 2000, Meinerzhagen, Stadthalle. DDD
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 289 471 532-2 [75:19]
In the annals of classical guitar, Agustín Pio Barrios (Mangore)
is now almost as famous as Andrés Segovia. This is remarkable
because at the time of his death in 1944, Barrios was far from
famous even in his native Paraguay, and virtually unknown outside
South America. The irony of this is that despite Segovia knowing
him, and having access to scores of his music, he did nothing
to promote this genius of the guitar. At a time when the guitar
had little repertory and Segovia was pursuing original compositions
with alacrity, he never recorded any of Barrios’s music. The reasons
for Segovia’s seeming indifference to Barrios is a matter of conjecture,
but one school of thought is that he perceived Barrios as competition
and a threat, going out of his way to ensure that he remained
Two decades after the death of Barrios, another genius of the
guitar, Jose Luis Gonzalez Julia (1932-1998) recorded several
of his pieces, including Aire de Zamba, Danza Paraguaya,
Preludio Op.5 No.1 and Medallion Antiguo. It may
have been the very first time they were recorded since the death
of Barrios. Brazilian guitarist Laurindo Almeida recorded Vals
de Concerto Op. 8 No. 4 around the same time and a recording
by Alirio Diaz in the early 1970s also contained pieces by Barrios.
The real renaissance came in 1977 when guitarist John Williams
recorded an entire disc devoted to the music of Barrios. Even
today, with many recordings of Barrios available, the early recordings
by Jose Luis Gonzalez remain visionary and outstanding interpretations.
To date no one has plumbed the depths or unravelled the Bachian
shroud in which Barrios enveloped his Preludio in G minor,
Op. 5 No. 1, quite like the Maestro from Alcoy.
Almost a decade has passed since the review disc was recorded,
but as with Agustín Barrios, passage of time has not tarnished,
only brightened its appeal. For those who may be unaware of this
recording, a review is appropriate and timely.
Alexander-Sergei Ramírez was born in Lima, Peru in 1952. His father
was a Peruvian painter and his mother a German pianist. After
studying the cello for a number of years, Ramirez taught himself
the guitar for two years, and then studied with Professor Maritta
Kersting in Düsseldorf; he subsequently studied with Jose Luis
Gonzalez in Alcoy, Spain and later with Pepe Romero in San Diego.
Ramirez is currently a professor of guitar at the Robert Schumann
Hochschule in Düsseldorf and gives master classes. He is married
to pianist Sheila Arnold with whom he plays and records duos on
Although John Williams claimed Barrios to be the greatest composer
of guitar music ever, like most composers, not all his compositions
are masterpieces. The programme here is interesting and balanced;
the well-known and loved pieces are included along with several
other treasures that are less frequently recorded.
In comparison to that of Segovia’s prime, the modern school of
guitar employs considerably less freedom in execution, and its
disciples often impress as being clone-like; it is challenging
to recognize one player from another. Ramirez’s playing strikes
one as being rather atypical for a guitarist - more in the style
of a pianist? This is probably explained, in part, by his long
association with the cello and that he also studied with pianist
Karl-Heinz Kämmerling, violinist Dénes Zsigmondy and tenor Luigi
Barrios was a master of exploiting the intrinsic technical capabilities
of the guitar and some of his music is fiendishly challenging
to play well. In his music there is ample opportunity for the
new generation of technical wiz-kids to display their prowess.
Refreshingly, Ramirez’s prime focus is on the music not display
of technical pyrotechnics, although one never doubts that when
required there is ample technical reserve.
It is difficult to fault the playing on this disc. While Ramirez
does not excel his teacher, Jose Luis Gonzalez, in Preludio
in G minor , his interpretation is nonetheless memorable. Since
the score provides no markings, expressive license is part of
the music; Barrios rarely played any of his compositions exactly
the same way. I have always admired Ramirez’s interpretive flair,
and he extracts more from his guitar than most; even if you have
previously heard alternative renditions he will invariably surprise
you. There is some interesting rubato and ponticello playing in
Aire de Zamba ; the pronounced right-hand nail, ‘rasping’
sounds in Danza Paraguay  are unique.
In general the playing has strength, a lovely tone, admirable
dynamic shading and a ‘singing’ quality to the melodic line. There
is no mention of who made the instrument employed, but its tonal
qualities reflect the best Spanish design traditions, typified
by top makers from the Granada region.
The accompanying liner-notes by Ramirez are excellent and contain
copies of several photographs of Barrios, including an autographed
photo of him in concert.
One could feel secure in conjecture that this is a recording of
which Barrios would approve - justifiably even admire.