Manuel Ponce (1882-1948)

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01Tradition And Innovation20160208

Donald Macleod explores Manuel Ponce's early career and influences.

Donald Macleod explores Mexican composer Manuel Ponce's early career and the influence on his music of the landscape in which he grew up and the folk songs he heard as a child.

In a tribute shortly after Manuel Ponce's death, his great friend and collaborator the guitarist Andres Segovia said "Anyone who loves the guitar, unless he be hard-hearted and empty-headed, must revere the memory of Ponce. He lifted the guitar from the low artistic state in which it had lain. He undertook the crusade, full of eagerness to liberate the prisoner. Thanks to him, the guitar was saved from music written only by guitarists."

Ponce was also instrumental in connecting classical music with the folk tradition. He wrote "I consider it the duty of every Mexican composer to ennoble the music of his native country, giving it artistic form, dressing it with polyphonic clothing and preserving with love the popular melodies which are the expression of the natural soul." This philosophy wasn't always well-received by the Mexican musical establishment and he recalled in his early days being accused of "making music that smelled like Indian sandals." Manuel Ponce was one of Mexico's greatest composers, musical innovators and educators, yet he wore his genius lightly. His contemporaries described him as affable, intelligent and modest.

Today Donald Macleod recalls Ponce's childhood, growing up in Aguascalientes in the highlands of Central Mexico and charts the early stirrings of a nationalistic feeling in his music, inspired by Mexican art and folk traditions.

Concierto del Sur - I. Allegro moderato

Andres Segovia, guitar

Symphony of the Air

Enrique Jordá, conductor

A la orilla de un palmar

Tito Schipa, tenor

Balada Mexicana

Jorge Federico Osorio, piano

Piano Trio (Trio Romantico) - II. Andante romantico and III. Scherzino - vivace

Trio Tulsa

Estrellita

Rebeca de Vivar, singer

Luis Miranda, guitar

Orchestre La Belle Epoque

Miguel Pacheco, conductor

Estampas nocturnas - I. La Noche

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Enrique Batiz, conductor.

02The Scent Of Flowers20160209

Donald Macleod explores the two most important relationships of Ponce's life.

Donald Macleod explores the two most important relationships of Ponce's life: his marriage to Clementina Maurel and his life-long collaboration with the great guitarist Andres Segovia.

In a tribute shortly after Manuel Ponce's death, his great friend and collaborator, the guitarist Andres Segovia said "Anyone who loves the guitar, unless he be hard-hearted and empty-headed, must revere the memory of Ponce. He lifted the guitar from the low artistic state in which it had lain. He undertook the crusade, full of eagerness to liberate the prisoner. Thanks to him, the guitar was saved from music written only by guitarists."

Ponce was also instrumental in connecting classical music with the folk tradition. He wrote "I consider it the duty of every Mexican composer to ennoble the music of his native country, giving it artistic form, dressing it with polyphonic clothing and preserving with love the popular melodies which are the expression of the natural soul." Manuel Ponce was one of Mexico's greatest composers, musical innovators and educators, yet he wore his genius lightly. His contemporaries described him as affable, intelligent and modest.

In 1915 Ponce went into temporary self-imposed exile in Cuba. The piano works he composed there showed the influence of the music he was hearing around him - and the Cubans appreciated it: "Ponce is a sublime and inspired composer. He has captured our ambiance; he has enclosed our sky's clarity and beauty and has distilled our flowers' scent into his music." Donald Macleod also considers the close, supportive and creative relationship between Manuel and his wife Clema and recalls Ponce's first meeting with Segovia.

Tres canciones populares mexicanas - I. La Pajarera

Eliot Fisk, guitar

Suite cubana

Jorge Federico Osorio, piano

Chapultepec

The State of Mexico Symphony Orchestra

Enrique Batiz, conductor

Sonata mexicana (A major) - I. Allegro moderato II. Andantino affettuoso III. Allegretto in tempo di serenta

Gerard Abiton, guitar

Theme, Variations and Finale

Stephen Marchionda, guitar.

03Paris20160210

Donald Macleod focuses on Ponce's move to Paris to study composition.

Manuel Ponce moves to Paris to study composition. He also develops his artistic relationship with Andres Segovia and, as Donald Macleod recounts, the two men cook up a musical practical joke.

In a tribute shortly after Manuel Ponce's death, his great friend and collaborator, the guitarist Andres Segovia said "Anyone who loves the guitar, unless he be hard-hearted and empty-headed, must revere the memory of Ponce. He lifted the guitar from the low artistic state in which it had lain. He undertook the crusade, full of eagerness to liberate the prisoner. Thanks to him, the guitar was saved from music written only by guitarists."

Ponce was also instrumental in connecting classical music with the folk tradition. He wrote "I consider it the duty of every Mexican composer to ennoble the music of his native country, giving it artistic form, dressing it with polyphonic clothing and preserving with love the popular melodies which are the expression of the natural soul." Manuel Ponce was one of Mexico's greatest composers, musical innovators and educators, yet he wore his genius lightly. His contemporaries described him as affable, intelligent and modest.

In May 1925 Ponce and his wife Clema left Mexico for Europe. They planned to stay in Paris for six months but in the end they remained for nine years. Ponce enrolled in Paul Dukas's composition class and set up a music journal. As Donald Macleod explains, Ponce's time in Europe also gave him the opportunity to deepen his friendship and his musical collaboration with the guitarist Andres Segovia. Segovia commissioned many new pieces from Ponce, building up a new repertoire for the guitar. On one occasion the two men devised a musical joke to play on the po-faced musical community, Ponce composing a suite which Segovia performed, passing it off as the work of a contemporary of J.S. Bach.

Preludio

Guillermo Fierens, guitar

Sonata for Guitar and Harpsichord

Adam Holzman, guitar

Stephanie Martin, harpsichord

Guitar Sonata No 3 in D minor

Andres Segovia, guitar

Suite in A minor

Jukka Savijoki, guitar.

04Mi Querido Manuel20160211

Donald Macleod explores the correspondence between Ponce and Andres Segovia.

Donald Macleod delves into the correspondence between Manuel Ponce and Andres Segovia to explore their creative collaboration. Their letters also reveal their friendship, candour and humour.

In a tribute shortly after Manuel Ponce's death, his great friend and collaborator, the guitarist Andres Segovia said "Anyone who loves the guitar, unless he be hard-hearted and empty-headed, must revere the memory of Ponce. He lifted the guitar from the low artistic state in which it had lain. He undertook the crusade, full of eagerness to liberate the prisoner. Thanks to him, the guitar was saved from music written only by guitarists."

Ponce was also instrumental in connecting classical music with the folk tradition. He wrote "I consider it the duty of every Mexican composer to ennoble the music of his native country, giving it artistic form, dressing it with polyphonic clothing and preserving with love the popular melodies which are the expression of the natural soul." Manuel Ponce was one of Mexico's greatest composers, musical innovators and educators, yet he wore his genius lightly. His contemporaries described him as affable, intelligent and modest.

As Donald Macleod reveals, the correspondence between Andres Segovia and Manuel Ponce is candid, touching and often humorous. Above all it shows the deep affection between the two men. Segovia begins almost all his letters: "Mi querido Manuel..." and usually ends by sending hugs. In Paris, Ponce was encountering financial problems and Segovia's letters to Ponce regularly include offers of money to tide his friend over.

Ponce's financial situation became so acute that he couldn't any longer afford the monthly fee for the composition classes he was taking with Paul Dukas. When he wrote to Dukas to withdraw from the class, Dukas replied to his star pupil that "You are more necessary to me as a listener than I would be missed by you as a teacher....my classroom will always be cordially open to you, as if it were your own home".

Variations on a Theme of Paganini

Stephen Marchionda, guitar

Preludios encadenados

Rodolfo Ritter, piano

Thème varié et Finale

Tillman Hoppstock, guitar

Sonatina meridional

Michael Tröster, guitar

Violin Concerto - II. Andante and III. Finale

Henryk Szeryng, violin

Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra

Jan Krenz, conductor.

05Manuel The Composer20160212

Exploring Ponce and Segovia's tour of Uruguay, where they were given a rapturous welcome.

Despite Manuel Ponce's failing health, he and Andres Segovia embark on a tour of Uruguay and are given a rapturous welcome.

In a tribute shortly after Manuel Ponce's death, his great friend and collaborator, the guitarist Andres Segovia said "Anyone who loves the guitar, unless he be hard-hearted and empty-headed, must revere the memory of Ponce. He lifted the guitar from the low artistic state in which it had lain. He undertook the crusade, full of eagerness to liberate the prisoner. Thanks to him, the guitar was saved from music written only by guitarists."

Ponce was also instrumental in connecting classical music with the folk tradition. He wrote "I consider it the duty of every Mexican composer to ennoble the music of his native country, giving it artistic form, dressing it with polyphonic clothing and preserving with love the popular melodies which are the expression of the natural soul." Manuel Ponce was one of Mexico's greatest composers, musical innovators and educators, yet he wore his genius lightly. His contemporaries described him as affable, intelligent and modest.

After nine years studying in Paris, Manuel Ponce returned to Mexico where he eventually took up the post of Director of the National School of Music. He had never enjoyed very robust health, and as time went on, he suffered increasing bouts of illness, some of them forcing him to be away from work for several months at a stretch.

Nevertheless, in 1941 Ponce and Segovia embarked on a triumphant tour of Uruguay. The enthusiastic response of the Uruguayan audiences touched Ponce, who wrote to his wife Clema: "God be thanked, enormous success last night... the public was delirious. You will see from the newspaper accounts what a reception they gave my music. Kisses from Manuel the Composer."

Four Mexican Dances

David Witten, piano

Ferial - Divertimento sinfonico

San Luis Potosi Symphony Orchestra

Zaeth Ritter, conductor

Poeme elegiaco

State of Mexico Symphony Orchestra

Enrique Batiz, conductor

Variations on a Theme of Cabezon

Jukka Savijoki, guitar

Concierto del Sur - II. Andante and III. Allegro moderato e festive

Andres Segovia, guitar

Symphony of the Air

Enrique Jordá, conductor.