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. As a child, Barrios developed a love of music and literature, two arts that were very important to his family. Barrios would eventually speak two languages Spanish and Guarani , and read three others English, French, and German. Barrios began to show an interest in musical instruments, particularly the guitar, before he reached his teens. Apart from his studies in the music department, Barrios was highly appreciated by members of the mathematics, journalism and literature departments.
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I believe that knowing the circumstances, motives and historical background in which a song was written can and should make a difference in your performance. So I decided to start reading and researching about the song. To my surprise, the information found on the subject is diverse. There are some differences in the facts shared by people about this masterpiece. The differences found are related to places and motives for writing the composition. So what I want to do, is share some information and historical background of this composition.
This is information I retrieved from interviews, written documents and blogs from some of the most dedicated professors, performers and historians on the music of Agustin Barrios.
This undeniable fact is commonly agreed by all Barrios researchers. It is said, he was sick at the time and he was staying at the hotel which was really close to the Cathedral at Montevideo. The story said that he was able to hear the bells of the church from his hotel room and that was his inspiration for the composition.
It is by these two movements that he described his experience with the Cathedral. This movement represents the abandonment of tranquility and the spiritual atmosphere he experienced inside the cathedral.
The contrasting sections are meant to represent the differences in his experience from the inside and outside of the Cathedral. The real motive for writing this movement is unknown. Some argue the motive was a kind of sadness he had experience because of the death of his wife his sentimental partner since we have no records of his marriage Gloria Silva Zevan according to some authors.
But, we know as a fact that Gloria Zevan was with him at the moment of his death in August, in El Salvador. Regardless of the motivations for writing this movement, I believe we all agree that this prelude just enhanced the beauty of this incredible composition.
Also, it clearly adds to the marks of religiousness and spirituality portrayed in the suite. So far, a pretty straight forward compilation of details; now the question, where are the differences in the accounts?
One of the main differences that we find in the account is in regards to which cathedral he used as an inspiration for the composition. Therefore, they argue the name of this cathedral was wrong if this was Barrios source of inspiration. This was his birthplace and it is said that after spending some time out of the city he came back to his home town and went to the cathedral. While still in his sublime experience he walks out of the church and was shocked by all the chaos outside the walls of the church.
Several concert programs from Habana, Cuba and El Salvador witness this fact. Also, there is a discrepancy about this movement in regards to the motives for writing it. There is one belief that it was written because of financial problems and another that Barrios was suffering from a kind of depression that lead him to compose the prelude. Also, as mentioned before, his woman at the time had died and he decided to write the prelude as a grief or mourning song.
Many believe that because of these circumstances he decided to write this as a totally separate work. We could mention that half way in the 20 th century it was a common trend in Europe to write music with 3 movements.
Generally, this kind of music was highly regarded by listeners, it was considered intellectual music. This could have been one of the motives for the elaboration on the prelude and make it a whole suite. On a different note, you may be wondering about the style of the suite. It is said that this composition was Barrios tribute to Bach. He was a great admirer of J. Bach works and he was one of the first guitarists to have performed a whole Lute Suite No.
This is why we can hear a clear contrapuntist style in the different movements and sections of this masterpiece. It was intended to portray the beauty and the extravaganza of the Baroque period. This concludes my little research of this magnificent composition. I hope that you have gained some insights about this incredible composition.
By: Samuel Ortiz. Categories: Historical Background on Repertoire. Amir April 16, at AM.
“La Catedral” – Agustin Barrios Mangoré
La catedral (Barrios Mangoré, Agustín)