BarriosAgustín Barrios Mangoré

Agustín Barrios Mangoré was one of the best guitar composers, as well as guitar players. Barrios was born in 1885 in a small village in Paraguay called San Juan Bautista de las Misiones. The Barrios family was cultural as they greatly valued arts of music and literature, and the young Agustin received a good cultural immersion right from the start of his life. Hence, Barrios started to play guitar at an early age, and already as a young teenager he was admitted to Colegio Nacional de Asuncion, studying not only the cultural subjects, but also being well versed in mathematics and journalism, in addition to calligraphy and graphic art. As Barrios said: "one cannot become a guitarist if he has not bathed in the fountain of culture". He also found himself reading about questions regarding life itself, on a metaphysical level: philosophy, theosophy, and religion had a great influence in Agustin Barrios' life. Luckily for us guitarists, he put enough stress on music so that we can enjoy playing and listening to Barrios guitar compositions.

Barrios first formal guitar teacher was Gustovo Sosa Escalada who not only made the young guitarist move to Asuncion, but also introduced him to the guitar music of the other masters like Tarrega, Sor, Aguado. Barrios also started composing more seriously at the age of 20, following up his education in a Jesuit school as a young boy, and his compositions were grounded in his previous music and life experience - folklore, religion, and imitation of other composers (or rather, musical eras like Baroque or Romanticism). The folkloric influences are clearly noticable in many compositions as they are framed within the patterns of traditional South American folk songs, including zamba, and the Paraguayan valse and danza. Also, the Brazilian Choros, the Argentinian Tango, and the Chilean Cuecos were adapted in Barrios guitar compositions. Barrios could also mix the traditional folklore influences with his imitations of Baroque or Romantic music style, both regarding harmonies and counterpoint. Barrios was particularly fond of Bach, and the imitations of Bach can be clearly heard in many of his guitar pieces. Besides the imitative nature, Barrios was also deeply religious, and many compositions are marked with this influence, the most notable probably being "La Catedral".

As Barrios became more famous, in 1932 he decided to pay tribute to a legendary Guaraní chieftain, leader of the Timbúes people, who resisted Spanish conquistadors: he started to call himself by the name of this chieftain - Mangoré - and also by reversing his first name to Nitsuga. His concert announcements were therefore displaying his name as Nitsuga Mangoré, although after several years he simply called himself Agustín Barrios Mangoré.

For the above reasons, Barrios' guitar music is distinguishable from the other classical guitar music, as it carries a taste of originality, some exotism - after all, Barrios was South American - as well as fine touch of poetic harmonies and melodies, blending well together and often requiring a great deal of technical skill and fine interpretation from the guitar player. John Williams, the world's maybe best classical guitar player regards Barrios as the best guitar composer, as he says the music carries "more [of] a timeless way." Barrios left the world with over 300 guitar compositions, but only over a hundred works survived to being enjoyed by the rest of the mankind. Although some of the compositions are more famous and more frequently played than others, it can be encouraging to dig deeper into Barrios' legacy and find some of these "hidden gems" that may not look as appealing as his famous works (at first glance), but with the right touch of interpretation can actually be exploded into passionate music. It may be interesting to notice that Barrios' music was virtually forgotten for nearly two decades following his death in 1944, and it still feels like most of his music has not been sufficiently rejuvenated in the ears of wide audience of music lovers.

Barrios guitar compositions - links to free sheet music on our main site

Folklore influences

Danza Paraguaya no.1
Danza Paraguaya no.2 (Jha Che Valle!)
Danza Paraguaya no.3 (London Carapé)

These three dances bear a clear reference to the Paraguayan folklore. They are written based on his native country's galopa rhythm and themes. Not only the rhythm, but also the harmonic texture tries to adapt the folklore influence as it imitates the Paraguayan folk harp (Danza Paraguaya no.1 and no.2). As for the additional names of the dances: "Jha Che Valle!" is Guaraní for "Oh my homeland!", and "London Carapé" means "Little London" and is ascribed to the 19th century Asució.

Caazapá is another popular Paraguayan song in 6/8, worth playing.
Choros de Saudade is based on choros form which originates in the region of Rio de Janeiro.
Cueca is a Chilean dance form, also adapted by Barrios in this composition.
Don Perez Freire is a tango, another dance form, but originating in Argentina.

Imitative works

Un Sueño en la Floresta is a popular piece involving elements of the Romantic and Impressionistic eras. A large part of this piece is tremolo, although it also includes beautiful harmonies and harmonics, requiring great attention to detail when played. One small detail that is seldom heard is the usage of high C on the 20th fret of the guitar (might require some practice since it's so unusual in guitar compositions!). Another technical requirement and also a novelty in Barrios' time were the left-hand extensions. A very demanding, but also very beautiful piece of music, if performed with passion.

Confesión - Romanza is imitating cello as it puts the melody in the bass and lets the higher tones accompany this melody with harmonic intervals. When playing then, make sure to stress the bass as it carries the main melody of the piece. Another work that used this technique is "Romanza en Imitación al Violoncello"

Religious influences

La Catedral is probably the most famous work of Barrios, and it has clear marks of religiousness or spirituality. Supposedly, Barrios wrote this piece based on an experience he had when once entering the San José Cathedral in Montevideo. The first movement, Prelude, was actually written 19 years after he wrote the following two movements - Andante religioso and Allegro Solemne. The Prelude, besides its spirituality, also conveys the imitation of piano as it uses high tone melody and broad arpeggiated chords. Andante religioso imitates a church organist playing Bach, and Allegro solemne conveys Barrios overwhelmed by chaos of the streets of Montevideo as he exits the quiet, spiritual cathedral. In all, a deep and emotional piece of music, which is probably why people endear it so much.

Una Limosna por el Amor de Dios is the last work that Barrios has written. In it, one can feel that Barrios, knowing that death was near, tried to put in all his greatest values that he carried in life - his love of beauty, love itself, goodness, spirituality. This work features tremolo technique, wherein the lower voice contains a motif described as "a beggar knocking on the door", and the tremolo in the soprano carries a different melody. After composing this work, Barrios spent his last days living silently and contemplating on his life. Finally, on August 7, 1944 he suffered from cardiac arrest and passed away.

Links to all Barrios sheet music on our site

A. Barrios - Abri la Puerta Mi China

A. Barrios - Aconquija

A. Barrios - Aires Andaluces

A. Barrios - Aire de Zamba

A. Barrios - Allegro Sinfonico

A. Barrios - A mi madre

A. Barrios - Andaluse Melody

A. Barrios - Arabesque

A. Barrios - Armonias

A. Barrios - Ayayay

A. Barrios - Caazape

A. Barrios - Cancion Cuna

A. Barrios - Cancion de la Hilandera

A. Barrios - Capricho Espanol

A. Barrios - Choro de Saudade

A. Barrios - Confession - Romanza

A. Barrios - Contemplacion

A. Barrios - Cordoba

A. Barrios - Cueca

A. Barrios - Danza

A. Barrios - Danza Guarani

A. Barrios - Danza Paraguaya

A. Barrios - Diana Guarani

A. Barrios - Dinora

A. Barrios - Divagacion

A. Barrios - Don Perez Freire (Tango)

A. Barrios - El Sueno de la Munequita

A. Barrios - Escalada Y Preludio

A. Barrios - Estilo Argentino

A. Barrios - Estilo Uruguayo

A. Barrios - Estudio de Concierto No.1

A. Barrios - Estudio De Concierto No.2

A. Barrios - Estudio de Ligados en Re Menor

A. Barrios - Estudio en Arpegio

A. Barrios - Estudio en Si Menor for two guitars

A. Barrios - Estudio en Sol Menor

A. Barrios - Estudio Inconcluso

A. Barrios - Estudio Ligado en La

A. Barrios - Estudio No.3

A. Barrios - Estudio No.6

A. Barrios - Estudio Para Ambos Manos

A. Barrios - Estudio Vals

A. Barrios - Fabiniana

A. Barrios - Floresta

A. Barrios - Gavota al estilo antiguo

A. Barrios - Hilandera

A. Barrios - Humoresque

A. Barrios - Invocacion a la Luna

A. Barrios - Jha Che Valle!

A. Barrios - Jota

A. Barrios - Julia Florida

A. Barrios - Junto a tu Corazon

A. Barrios - La Catedral

A. Barrios - Las Abejas

A. Barrios - Leyenda de Espana

A. Barrios - London Carape (Danza Paraguaya no.3)

A. Barrios - Luz Mala

A. Barrios - Mabelita

A. Barrios - Madrecita

A. Barrios - Madrigal

A. Barrios - Marcha Paraguaya

A. Barrios - Mazurka Apasionada

A.Barrios - Maxixe

A. Barrios - Medallon Antiguo

A. Barrios - Minueto en do

A. Barrios - Minueto en la

A. Barrios - Minuet in A major

A. Barrios - Minuet in B major

A. Barrios - Oracion

A. Barrios - Oracion por Todos

A. Barrios - Pais de Abanico (Country of the Fan)

A. Barrios - Pepita Vals

A. Barrios - Pericon

A. Barrios - Prelude in A minor

A. Barrios - Prelude in C minor

A. Barrios - Prelude in E major

A. Barrios - Prelude in G major

A. Barrios - Prelude Op.5 no.1

A. Barrios - Prelude in E major

A. Barrios - Romanza en Imitacion al Violoncello

A. Barrios - Tango

A. Barrios - Tarantella

A. Barrios - Tarrega Variations

A. Barrios - Tua Imagem Vals

A. Barrios - Tu Y Yo (Gavota)

A. Barrios - Una Limosna por el Amor de Dios

A. Barrios - Un Sueno en la Floresta

A. Barrios - Vals Op.8 no.3

A. Barrios - Vals Op.8 no.4

A. Barrios - Vals Tropical

A. Barrios - Vals de la Primavera

A. Barrios - Vidalita

A. Barrios - Villancico de Navidad