Musicians who specialize in a particular composer are often and
unjustifiably pigeon-holed. To name but two, Alirio Diaz is synonymous
with composer Antonio Lauro, and Leslie Howard with the solo
piano music of Franz Liszt.
Paraguayan-born Berta Rojas has become universally accepted as
a leading exponent of the music of Agustin Barrios. The magnitude
of this association can be gauged from her participation in the
BBC 4 programme, Great Lives
broadcast on 26 January 2010.
Guitarist John Williams nominated Agustin Barrios as his ‘Great
Life’ and invited Berta Rojas to join him for the interview.
Her fine recording, Intimate Barrios
was recently reviewed
in this forum.
Like an earlier recording, Cielo Abierto
from 2006, the
review disc represents some of the talented composers she has
discovered and befriended - see composer notes at the end
of this review
. The missing composer on Terruño
Barrios, and this new offering should totally negate any potential
notion or perception that Rojas is one composer specialist. The
programme here is from the pens of five composers, all of whom
are currently living - Walter Heinze excepted. We may assume
a high level of authenticity in the liner-notes as each composer
wrote about his own compositions. Guitarist, Victor Villadangos
deputized for Walter Heinze. He is particularly well qualified
for the task, having been the first guitarist to perform the Concordancias
the Guitar Seminar in Colón, Entre Rios in February 1997;
one is dedicated to him.
The title composition, Terruño
- Native Soil
is typical of the type of music that inspires Rojas. The origins
of the guitar are deeply rooted in the folklore and music of
Spain. Segovia felt that in writing music with Andalusian character, ‘composers
must remember the guitar
’. The influence of the Spanish
on South American music and culture is significant. When, irrespective
of country-specific origins, you can perceive and recognize in
music the love of land, folk music with its colours and fascinating
rhythms and a spirited freedom of execution, the true spirit
of the guitar is manifest. In Terruño
Quique Sinesi reflects inspiration from his homeland and the
feelings of being part of it. Juan Falú consciously sought
to imbue Che Galopa
 with an air of Berta Rojas’s
homeland, Paraguay. It is to her that this piece is dedicated.
The awesome beauty of the Isle of Sark, one of the smallest of
the Channel Islands (UK), is mirrored in the Five Pictures
by Vincent Lindsey-Clark. La Moinerie
is the beautiful farmhouse where the composer and his wife stayed
on Sark during their honeymoon in 1992.
People were also a source of inspiration for a number of the
by Lindsey-Clark is named
after his daughter. Written when she was still young, it is symbolic
of the joyful nature of a small child at play. Quique Sinesi’s, Canción
 - Song to You
- is a message from one
heart to another; it is dedicated to his son Augusto, and arose
out of his birth.
It may be that not every track will be to everyone’s liking
but there are some absolute treasures here. It is hard to single
out one composition above another. Under duress I would express
a particular affinity for Preludio
 by Solis. This
piece was part of the sound-track of the 2005 documentary Coiba
under the title Tema de Alicia
The playing of Berta Rojas is always technically precise and
impeccable but not at the expense of the music. She plays with
a freedom that parallels a flamenco guitarist playing personal
falsetas - for which no score exists. Her empathy is primarily
for the music, the folk roots of the guitar. It is not for the
disciplines of its academic evolution over the past several decades;
these often totally disregard the guitar’s origins. To
play the guitar like this you must deeply love the instrument
and have strong empathy for the chosen programme; not just because
it is topical, fashionable or ‘commercially correct’ but
because it permeates the soul and quickens the heartbeat.
While Berta Rojas could make a beautiful sound on any guitar,
for this recording she chose an instrument by luthier Michael
O’Leary equipped with D’Addario strings.
In relation to this new recording Berta Rojas says: Terruño,
for me evokes the scent of jasmine, the fire of the passion fruit
flower, red earth, warmth and affections, and from the stillness
of absence, embraces. The quest to fill the silence of absence
with sounds gives birth to this recording and its culmination
finds me surrounded by jasmines and red earth, confirming a suspicion
that music can be embraced and someone, somewhere in the world
will be there to warmly enfold it.
I am tempted to plagiarize these comments verbatim. Indeed, having
listened to this recording I feel their surrogate author.
Solis was born in Zarcero, Costa Rica on 22 November 1963. He
graduated in classic guitar from the University of Costa Rica,
and subsequently participated in guitar courses with Argentinean
master Jorge Cardoso and Miguel A. Girolet, among others. The Authors
and Composers Association
awarded him Best Composer of Instrumental
Music in 2007.
Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1960, Sinesi is one of Argentina’s
foremost composers and guitarists. His music is influenced by
elements and rhythms from folk music and tangos; it is a hybrid
of classic and jazz improvisation. He plays a seven-string guitar,
acoustic guitar, piccolo and charango.
A classical guitarist and composer from Argentina, he was born
on 10 October 1948. His uncle is the famous folk singer/guitarist,
Eduardo Falú. Among other awards, he received the 2005
Konex Award for best folklore group together with Liliana Herrero.
A Brazilian composer, pianist and guitarist, Gismonti was born
in Carmo, Rio de Janeiro on 5 December 1947. He commenced his
formal music studies on the piano when aged six. After studying
classical music for fifteen years, he then went to Paris and
received tutelage from Nadia Boulanger and Jean Barraqué.
On his return to Brazil, he became attracted to the popular Brazilian ‘choro’ that
employs various kinds of guitars. In order to play this music
he then embraced the guitar, commencing with the standard six-string
instrument and then changing to ten-string in 1973.
He studied guitar at the Royal College of Music and at the age
of sixteen was the winner of the Lanchester International Guitar
Competition. His London debut was at the Wigmore Hall; Lindsey-Clark
has subsequently performed there and at other major London venues.
He currently teaches guitar at the Centre for Young Musicians
in London, and at Eton College.
Heinz was an Argentinean guitarist, composer and teacher, born
in Entre Rios in 1943. He studied guitar at the Escuela de Música,
Danza y Teatro in Paraná and the Instituto Superior de
Musica de la Universidad Nacional del Litoral in Santa Fe. Many
of his ex-students are well-known soloists or members of musical
groups in Argentina.