Thursday, December 1, 2011

La Catedral - a guitar monument

Without question one of the most famous guitar compositions is La Catedral. It is one of the most preformed guitar pieces written by Agustín Barrios Mangoré.

This impressive work (a real guitar monument) was written in 1921 as two-movement piece without the famous Preludio.

The work got even highly praised by the very own Andrés Segovia - the biggest authority on the classical guitar at the time. An unusual fact, considering that Segovia didn't admire much Barrios' guitar opus.

Barrios dedicated this work to a beautiful cathedral located downtown in the capital of Uruguay - Montevideo. For many years it was thought that the piece was dedicated to the Asunción Cathedral in Paraguay or to the San José Cathedral in Uruguay. One of the possible reasons for such assumption is the fact of the three Cathedrals being very similar.

Barrios played this piece quite often throughout his performing career. In fact, more often than any other guitar pieces. That points to the assumption of how praised the piece became.

Many years after writing La Catedral, Barrios added the exquisite Preludio thus completing one of the finest guitar compositions I've ever heard - and played.

This new movement is subtitled as Saudade which means nostalgia. It was written in Havana in 1938, when Barrios was suffering from a decline in health. Lack of money and a consequent stress to his marital life even more worsen his health. By hearing this lovely guitar movement, one can feel the nostalgia for better times just as Barrios did, I'd guess.

Barrios performed La Catedral with the prelude for the first time in San Salvador on 25th of July, 1938.

The second movement of this incredible guitar work is called Andante. Its character is religious and mystical and in some way works as an introduction to the third movement - an impressive Allegro Solenne. It's not surprising that the Andante and Allegro Solenne sound as a one unit itself because La Catedral was originally a two-movement guitar piece.

Where to find this piece?

Bellow follows a couple of links to some scores of Barrios' music that I have found at Sheet Music Plus. This online music shop has some nice offers.

This is an edition by Richard D. Stover - the most qualified person to do the job in my opinion. It's in standard notation (no tablature) and includes fingerings and an introductory text. It was published by Alfred Publishing.

Again by Richard D. Stover! This man dedicated his entire life investigating about Barrios. As a result here is Barrios' complete opus in a two volumes. For the first time in one edition you are offered with the complete collected works of Barrios. This is the first edition of Barrios music based on all available sources: manuscripts, phonograph recordings and published editions (pre-1970s). The two volumes are illustrated with period photographs, concert programs and Barrios own drawings. This volume contains 67 musical works including La Catedral.

This volume includes 65 original compositions in standard notation plus a unique CD featuring Barrios himself playing 21 original works among which is La Catedral. Included are also 82 pages of exhaustive Critical Notes on the Barrios catalog.

Have you ever heard the very own Barrios playing his own compositions?!
I've also found his complete guitar recordings. The first one was made in 1913!, and the last one in 1942. Now they are re-mastered and available in a 3 CD set - more than 3 hours of music. And included in it is, of course, La Catedral. Click here to purchase it or get more information from Sheet Music Plus.

I sincerely hope I've provided you with some valuable insight on this beautiful guitar work, La Catedral. In my opinion one of the most incredible pieces of music ever written for the instrument.

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