Agustín Barrios Mangoré
Agustín Barrios Mangoré
It has been generally accepted that the guitarist was born in San Juan Bautista in Misiones, however, there is no definitive proof of this as his baptismal document found in the book of registries in the cathedral in San Juan Bautista does not state his precise place of birth. Also, several biographers and authorities present convincing documented evidence that Barrios was born, instead, in the nearby town of Villa Florida, Misiones, situated on the Tebicuary River some 30 km north of San Juan Bautista. When he was a child, Barrios began to develop a love for music and literature, two areas that were very important to his family. Barrios would eventually speak two languages (Spanish and Guarani), and read three more (English, French and German). Barrios began to show an interest in musical instruments, particularly the guitar, before he reached his teens. He went to Asunción in 1901, at the age of fifteen, to attend a university (Universidad Nacional de Asunción) with a scholarship in music, thus becoming one of the youngest university students in Paraguayan history.
Apart from his studies in the college's music department, Barrios was also well appreciated by members of the college's mathematics, journalism and literature departments. After leaving college, Barrios dedicated his life to music and writing poems. He composed more than 300 songs for which he would first write the lyrics and then the guitar accompaniment. Barrios made several friends during his multiple trips across South America. He was known for giving his friends and fans signed copies of his poems.
Because of that, there are several different versions of his poetical works which have surfaced across South America, other areas of Latin America and the United States. Many current collectors warn potential buyers to be careful when they come across a poem reportedly autographed by Barrios. Barrios was famed for his phenomenal performances, both live and on gramophone recordings — although Barrios is usually credited as the first classical guitarist to make recordings in 1909/10, a myth perpetuated by the guitarist John Williams, the first guitarist to record was the Mexican guitarist Octaviano Yanes performing his "Mexican Dance" (Habanera). The record, Victor 05662, is dated August 25, 1908. Another version of this piece exists on Edison Foreign Series cylinder (catalogue number 20204).
For some years, it was Barrios's habit to perform in concert in traditional Paraguayan dress (he was partly of Guarani origin), assuming the persona of Nitsuga Mangoré ('Nitsuga' being Agustín spelled backwards, and 'Mangoré' being the name of a cacique of the South American indigenous group Timbú). His works were largely late-Romantic in character, despite his having lived well into the twentieth century. Many of them are also adaptations of, or are influenced by, South American and Central American folk music. Very many of them are of a virtuosic nature. The Bach-inspired La Catedral (1921) is often considered to be his most impressive work, even winning the approval of Andrés Segovia, who said "In 1921 in Buenos Aires, I played at the hall La Argentina noted for its good acoustics for guitar, where Barrios had concertized just weeks before me. He was presented to me by his secretary Elbio Trapani.
At my invitation Barrios visited me at the hotel and played for me upon my very own guitar several of his compositions among which the one that really impressed me was a magnificent concert piece The Cathedral whose first movement is an andante, like an introduction and prelude, and a second very virtuosic piece which is ideal for the repertory of any concert guitarist. Barrios had promised to send me immediately a copy of the work (I had ten days remaining before continuing my journey) but I never received a copy." Barrios died and was buried in the Cementerio de Los Ilustres in San Salvador, El Salvador on August 7, 1944. Barrios is still revered in Paraguay, where he is seen as one of the greatest musicians of all time by many. John Williams has said of Barrios: "As a guitarist/composer, Barrios is the best of the lot, regardless of era. His music is better formed, it's more poetic, it's more everything! And it's more of all those things in a timeless way." Read more on Last.fm.
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