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GUITAR MUSIC

OF COLOMBIA
Adolfo Meja Gentl Montaa
Lucas Saboya Hector Gonzlez

Jos Antonio Escobar, Guitar

Guitar Music of Colombia: Adolfo Meja (1905-1973) Gentl Montaa (1942-2011)


Lucas Saboya (b. 1980) Hector Gonzlez (b. 1961)
Colombia, in the north-west corner of the vast continent of
South America, was colonized by the Spanish in the
sixteenth century, gaining its independence from Spain in
1819. The countrys fertile musical traditions extend to the
early colonial period and in the nineteenth century
European influence became particularly potent. At all
times a thriving folk culture provided a powerful
indigenous source of inspiration in a complex heritage
derived from Spanish, sub-Saharan Africa, and
Amerindian elements.
The varied geographical parts of Colombia
demonstrate their own characteristic musical identities,
comprising the Atlantic and Pacific coastal areas, the
Andean mountain plateau, the Llanos (the grassy plains of
eastern Colombia), and the south-eastern Amazonian
region. The music for guitar as represented here by modern
composers provides a synthesis of many dance forms and
styles in a rich blend of colour and rhythmic vitality.
Adolfo Meja was born in Cartagena de Indias, where
he began his musical studies at an early age at the
Instituto Musical de Cartagena. In 1930 he visited New
York to record his compositions with the Columbia
recording company. After returning to his homeland in
1933 he worked as a librarian in Bogot and studied at
the National Conservatory. In 1938 Meja won the
Ezequiel Bernal prize for his composition, Pequea Suite,
and thus gained a scholarship to study in Paris at the
Ecole Normale de Musique with Nadia Boulanger, Dukas
and Koechlin. Returning to Cartagena he worked as a
conductor and teacher. In 1970 he was awarded the
National Composition Prize from the Instituto Colombiano
de Cultura, and the University of Cartagena recognized
his stature in Colombian cultural life with an honorary
doctorate.
The bambuco, the characteristic dance form of the
Andean region, presents a lively spectacle. Its
choreography is a pursuit dance, where the woman
moves back as the man moves forward, advancing
towards him when he retreats. The dancers face each

other, hands on hips, touching elbows as they turn. At the


end of the dance, the man offers his partner a coloured
handkerchief as a gift. Mejas dance begins and ends
with a section in three-four time before the Bambuco itself
is played in six-eight time with lively syncopated melodic
patterns and its insistent bass accompaniment.
The bambuco, of African origin, takes its name from a
town in western Africa named Bambuk, from which slaves
were transported to Colombia. In folk culture it is usually
sung to the accompaniment of the tiple (a small guitar, the
Colombian Andean tiple has four courses of triple metal
strings) and bandola (a flat-backed lute with six courses of
strings, played with a plectrum). A Colombian poet found
in the bambuco a blend of diverse qualities:
he fundado aquel aire
la indiana melancola
con la Africana ardentia,
y el guapo andaluz donaire
I have found in this song
Indian melancholy,
with African ardor,
and the beautiful Andalusian gracefulness
Gentl Montaa, born in Ibagu, southern Colombia, into a
musical family, took up the guitar at an early age,
performing with his father who played folk-music
professionally. In the 1960s, after several years of
composing his own songs, Montaa began studying the
classical guitar and in 1975 was awarded third prize in the
Alirio Daz Competition in Caracas. From 1976 he visited
Europe and lived for a few years in Madrid, but also
travelling to Greece. In 1981 he returned to Colombia
where he opened a music school under the name of
Fundacin Gentl Montaa. His aim, following the years of
violence and disorder in his country, was to exchange
arms of destruction for musical instruments and develop a
true tradition of the guitar in Colombia.

In Suite Colombiana No. 3, the first movement,


entitled La Cancin del Soador (The Song of the
Dreamer), is written in the form of the Colombian pasillo, a
dance style from the early nineteenth century which
reveals a strong Spanish colonial influence. Particularly
popular in the Andean regions of Colombia, like the
bambuco it has the dual metre of three-four and six-eight
but is more flowing and less sharply accented. Emirto de
Lima wrote about the dance that it possesses the
aristocracy and the distinction of the waltz, the light
cadence of the contradanza, the winged subtlety of the
gavotte, and the serene grace of the minuet. What the
composer has given us here is a virtuosic work full of
colour and vivacity, with subtle mood changes, strong
rhythms, and a powerful sense of momentum.
The second movement of the suite, Nunca te olvido (I
never forget you), represents Colombian guitar music at
its most poignantly expressive, and is a good indication of
why the composer is often regarded as a second Barrios
Mangor. In terms of idiomatic writing for the instrument
the piece is flawless, combining superb lines of melody
with exquisite harmonic progressions.
Daniela, (named after the composers daughter, to
whom the piece is dedicated), is in the form of guabina, a
song form in triple metre performed at a medium tempo
from the Andean regions of Colombia. Widely associated
with the peasant population, the genre is usually played
as background music for the accompaniment of sung
improvisations and danced in its traditional style by
couples holding hands. But Montaas contribution here
offers great variety of texture with passages in harmonics,
ingenious harmonies and modulations, and some
complex rhythmic patterns.
With Germn (named after one of the composers
sons), we return to the bambuco, but this guitar version
offers greater intricacy than the average traditional dance
style. The interplay between bass and treble at the
opening, the excitement of rhythmic chords, and the vivid
sparkle of the treble line against its imaginative
accompaniment, makes this a piece to cherish.
A final dance has been added to the sequence: Porro,
a dance from the Caribbean region of Colombia, is very

traditional in the Afro-Colombian culture of that region.


Written in four-four metre, with a distinctive rhythmic bass
line, the Porro can be either sung or danced and is often
accompanied by various percussion instruments.
Suite Colombiana No. 2 is well rooted in Colombian
rhythms but at the same time offers homage to
Venezuelan music and its great guitarists. The suite
begins with El Margariteo (pasillo), meaning a person
from Isla Margarita in Venezuela, and is thus dedicated to
the great maestro Rmolo Lazarde, born on the island.
The music evokes the waltz style of Antonio Lauro as well
as representing the accelerated waltz that is the pasillo.
The second movement, Guabina Viajera (Traveller
Guabina), is dedicated to the greatest Venezuelan
guitarist of the twentieth century, Alirio Daz (b. 1923).
This is in the form of a slower waltz style, with a steady
three-four metre without the syncopations of occasional
excursions into six-eight characteristic of the previous
movement. A fast and adventurous Bambuco follows,
dedicated to Rodrigo Riera (1923-1999) from the State of
Lara, Venezuela, one of the most important personalities
in the development of the classical guitar in his country.
The final movement is an extended Porro, dedicated
to the composers brother, Carlos Montaa, the living
legend of the requinto in Colombia (the requinto being a
small guitar with four courses used in Spain, Colombia,
Ecuador and Mexico, played with a plectrum). In this
Porro the distinctive pulsing bass is a vital aspect of the
musical structure and over the insistent rhythm can be
heard a number of intricate chordal rhythmic patterns.
Lucas Saboya (b. 1980), born in Tunja, Boyac,
studied at the Escuela Superior de Msica there. In 1995
he founded the music trio Palos y Cuerdas with his
brothers to perform traditional Colombian music. Saboya
later studied composition with Gustavo Parra. His prolific
compositions have been widely performed and recorded
internationally and he has been appointed professor at
the Colombian University of Pedagogy and Technology.
The composer has provided a guide to this composition:
Composed in 2011, Suite Ernestina is dedicated to
Ernestina Vargas de Saboya, the composers
grandmother, and was written for the guitarist Daniel

Saboya, his brother. The title of the first movement


Costurera (Seamstress) pays homage to one of
Ernestinas frequent activities. The second movement, De
algn modo (Somehow) is based on the guabina, a
traditional rhythmic dance of the Colombian interior. Its
theme is from one of the composers earlier works for a
typical Colombian trio of the Andean region, comprising
bandola, tiple, and guitar.
The title of the third movement, Cancin de cuna
para seis (Cradle Song for Six), refers to Ernestinas sons
and daughters. The final movement, Zamba Negra (Black
Zamba), is an Argentinian zamba evoking the African
elements of Latin-American folkloric music. There is a
small quote here from Manuel Ponces Sonatina
Meridional and also an allusion to Danza Negra from
Antonio Lauros Suite Venezolana. This is a fast zamba
and includes virtuosic scale passages, harmonic
modulations, and melodies characteristic of the
continents southern folkloric music.
Hector Gonzlez, guitarist and composer, studied at
the Conservatory Antonio Mara Valencia, in the city of

Cali, in the southwest region of Colombia under the


direction of Hernn Moncada and at the Conservatory
Oscar Espl, in Alicante, Spain with the renowned
teacher, Jos Toms. He has been appointed professor
at the Conservatory of Cali and at the Universities of
Cauca, and Valle. Hector Gonzlez performs on lute
(Renaissance and Baroque), and vihuela, as well as
guitar, and has made a number of recordings. He has also
published a number of books and given concerts
throughout South America and Europe.
His Preludio re-creates one of the rhythmic patterns of
the Caribbean dance known as the paseo. The ostinato in
the bass that informs the structure of the entire work comes
from the characteristic beat played on a small conical drum
known as caja, one of the traditional instruments.
Graham Wade
Grateful acknowledgement in the writing of these notes is
due to Jos Antonio Escobar, as well as to Rico Stovers
editions of the music of Gentl Montaa.

Jos Antonio Escobar


Jos Antonio Escobar is one of the most distinguished and versatile
classical guitar soloists of his generation. He is especially known for
the perfect balance he achieves between intense musical expression
and a vast knowledge of various musical styles and periods. He was
born in Santiago, Chile, where he graduated with top honours after
studying at the Conservatory of Music, University of Chile.
Immediately after graduating he continued his studies at the
Hochschule fr Musik in Augsburg, Germany. Under the influence of
his first master, the lutenist Ernesto Quezada, he became deeply
interested in early instruments of the guitar family. This motivated
him to complete his studies by attending Early Music courses and
master-classes with renowned specialists such as Hopkinson Smith,
Photo: Jose Antonio de Pablo
Eduardo Egez, and Juan Carlos Rivera. He combines his interest in
early music with the contemporary, with particular attention to Chilean composers. He has been awarded some fifteen
prizes in leading international guitar competitions, including the Francisco Trrega (Spain), Alessandria (Italy), Alhambra
(Spain), Guitar Foundation of America (USA), Julin Arcas (Spain), and Karl Sheit (Austria), among many others. He has
appeared widely as a soloist with orchestra and in recital and has a number of successful recordings to his credit.

Colombias thriving cultural heritage derives from Spanish, African and Amerindian elements.
The rich blend of colour and rhythmic vitality found in the synthesis of dance forms and styles,
notably the sharply accented Andean bambuco (pursuit dance), the flowing, graceful pasillo and
the traditional, rhythmic guabina, recurs throughout this programme. Poignant expressiveness
and intricate virtuosity are features of Montaas Suite Colombiana Nos. 2 and 3. Saboyas Suite
Ernestina includes characteristically South American melodies and rhythms, while Caribbean
rhythmic patterns are recreated in Gonzlezs Preludio. Jos Antonio Escobars Guitar Music of
Chile (Naxos 8.570341) was described as absolutely stunning by MusicWeb International.

GUITAR MUSIC OF COLOMBIA


1

Adolfo Meja (1905-1973): Bambuco en mi (1967)


Gentl Montaa (1942-2011): Suite Colombiana No. 3

2
3
4
5
6

I. La Cancin del Soador Pasillo


II. Nunca te olvido Danza
III. Daniela Guabina
IV. Germn Bambuco
V. Porro*

7
8
9
0

I. Costurera
II. De algn modo
III. Cancin de cuna para seis
IV. Zamba Negra

!
@
#
$

I. El Margariteo Pasillo
II. Guabina Viajera
III. Bambuco
IV. Porro

Hector Gonzlez (b. 1961): Preludio (1999)


* WORLD PREMIRE RECORDINGS

Lucas Saboya (b. 1980): Suite Ernestina (2011)*

Gntil Montaa: Suite Colombiana No. 2

3:08
23:45
5:08
6:20
4:31
3:25
3:51

16:04
4:05
2:16
5:53
3:50

16:39
4:36
5:56
2:47
3:20

4:19

Jos Antonio Escobar, Guitar


Recorded at St John Chrysostom Church, Newmarket, Ontario, Canada, from 21st to 24th September, 2012
Producers: Norbert Kraft and Bonnie Silver Engineer: Norbert Kraft Editor: Bonnie Silver
Booklet notes: Graham Wade Publishers: Adolfo Meja (track 1); Caroni Music (tracks 2-6, 11-14);
Editora Msicas de Colombia; (tracks 7-10); Hector Gonzlez (track 15);
Guitar by Paco Santiago Marn (Granada, 1994) Cover photograph by DC_Colombia (iStockphoto.com)