You are on page 1of 13

Agustn Po Barrios was born in southern Paraguay on 5 May 1885, and died on 7 Augus

t 1944, in San Salvador, El Salvador. To many, Barrios was the greatest of all g
uitarist/composers. In view of this, it is curious that his music lay undiscover
ed and unappreciated for over three decades after his death. In the mid-1970s co
mprehensive editions of his music appeared, making it possible for guitarists of
a younger generation to study his music, augmenting and complementing more trad
itional repertoire. The revival began in 1977 with a release by John Williams of
an entire recording of music by Barrios, bringing overdue recognition to this f
orgotten Latin American guitarist. Today Barrios music is frequently performed by
major concert artists and is appreciated by audiences worldwide. As a young man
, Barrios never studied in a formal music conservatory, and completed only two y
ears of high school. He made his living from performing, and had no other profes
sional skills in any other pursuit except playing the guitar and composing music
. The exigencies of life as a performer brought constant travel and he never rea
lly settled down in one particular country. He spent extended periods of time in
Brazil (1915 1919), Uruguay (1912 1915, 1919 1927) and El Salvador (1939 1944). In none
of these places did he establish a conservatory, nor did he pursue the systemat
ic publication of his music. He escaped from Latin America only once in 1934, wh
en he visited Europe, staying just fifteen months, but his lifelong goal of reac
hing the United States never came to fruition. Undoubtedly one of Barrios most-pe
rformed compositions,La Catedralwas written in 1921. Many years later he added th
e exquisitePreludio, providing a complete work that is an example of his finest w
riting. Barrios performed this work quite often throughout his career, probably
more than any other of his compositions, a reflection of its popularity with the
concert public. ThePreludio, subtitledSaudade(Nostalgia) was written in Havana in
1938, when Barrios was suffering from a decline in health complicated by a lack
of money and the inevitable stress to his marital life that these difficult cond
itions created. In thePreludiohe pours out his heart, yearning for the joy and co
mfort of former times. He performedLa Catedralwith the prelude for the first time
in San Salvador on 25 July 1938.
Barrios greatly admired Beethoven and early in his career transcribed the well-k
nownMinuet in D, which he included regularly in his concerts. He also performed m
inuets by Fernando Sor. This affinity he felt with the nineteenth-century master
s no doubt served as inspiration for his six minuets.
Barrios discovered the music of the great Spanish guitarist and composer Francis
co Trrega (1852 1909) around 1917, and grew to admire him greatly. Recognizing the
importance of the Spanish master s work in the development of the guitar, Barrios
declared: Without Trrega, we would not be . He regularly performed Trregas music in hi
s concerts and recordedCapricho Arabeon two different occasions. In 1939 in Guatem
ala, Barrios composed a set of six variations on Trrega s ever popular student workLg
rima, creating a sophisticated virtuoso display of the theme, using arpeggios, a
ppoggiaturas, tremolo, melodic harmonics, and other devices.Variations on a Theme
of Trregais one of his most mature compositions, reflecting a lifetime of devotio
n to and a thorough mastery of the instrument he loved.

Biography of Agustin Barrios Mangore - Part 1


SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2009
Early Years
In the year 1885, Barrios was born in the small and quiet town of San Juan Bauti
sta in the Department (district) of Misiones. Located at Southern Paraguay, an a
gricultural and undeveloped area, as was much of the country. If you would have
seen this simple little town at the time Barrios was born, and then today, you w
ouldn t notice many changes, except two monuments to his memory in the central pla
za. Although born to a musical family, nobody would have guessed that this boy i
n this small country in South America would become one of the most successful ma
sters of an instrument.
Agustn s father was an Argentinean, Doroteo Barrios, married to a Paraguayan woman,
Martina Ferreira. Doroteo held the position of Argentine vice consul in the Mis

iones Department. Martina was a school teacher. Agustn probably inherited from he
r the love for poetry and literature.
Both parents were cultured persons, who loved the arts. Doroteo had an extensive
library, one of the most complete in the area of Misiones. Seven sons were born
to them: Rmulo (1874), Hctor (1875), Virgilio (1874), Jos (1881), Agustn (1885), Di
odoro (1888) and Martn (1895).
Doroteo played the guitar, and with his brothers Pedro and Cornelio, who played
the violin and the flute formed a musical trio that played for special occasions
. Doroteo was a folk guitarist who played rhythm to popular tunes, such as polca
s, vals and zambas. Barrios learned by imitating his father. Doroteo got for him
a small guitar from which he drew extraordinary sounds and delighted his friends.
Later, his family formed a new small orchestra . Rmulo played the harp, Hctor the vio
lin, Virgilio the flute and Jos, Agustn and Diodoro played guitars.
Barrios only teacher, Sosa Escalada
In 1898, Barrios met one person that would be one of the most influential in his
life: Gustavo Sosa Escalada (1844-1944). He was an argentine-born Paraguayan. H
e spent his youth in Buenos Aires where he studied classical guitar with Carlos
Garca Tolsa, Juan Alas and Antonio Ferreyro.
He returned to Paraguay in 1895, where there is a record of his participation in
a concert in Asuncin. He taught classical guitar from 1897 to 1909 in a private
school. He utilized the guitar methods of Fernando Sor, Dionisio Aguado and Fern
ando Carulli. He had a friendship with Hctor Barrios, which led him to spend some
vacation time in San Juan Bautista in 1898. During this stay in the Barrios hom
e he first heard Agustn play the guitar. He immediately began giving lessons to t
he talented boy. And then advised his parents to send him to Asuncin to continue
with his studies of music and the guitar.
Later, in a Guatemalan newspaper, in 1933, Barrios declared about this first mee
ting:
I listened to him play and great was my surprise in discovering that the pampa ins
trument that I played with such joy contained such marvelous possibilities.
To the Capital
In 1899 young Agustn went to Asuncin. He lived with his older brothers and studied
guitar with Sosa Escalada. He entered the National High School in 1901. He was
15 years old, two years older than most of his fellow first-year students.
Barrios was a talented artist who many times would draw caricatures of classmate
s and teachers while classes where in session. He also was an avid reader, whose
favorites were Don Quijote, Martn Fierro and A Thousand and One Nights.
By 1903 he became more and more involved with the guitar and left high school. N
o doubt during this period a good deal of time was spent studying classical guit
ar fundamentals and developing his skills. In December, 1903, he made his formal
concert debut as a guitarist. This concert had a last minute change in its prog
ram: a singer named Mara Barbero was to have performed a vocal selection, due to
illness she wasn t able to assist. This gave him the opportunity of performing a g
uitar duo with Juan de la Cruz Samaniego, Fantasa en Imitacin al Piano by Vias.
Even though he was only a last minute replacement, this was an important step fo
rward for him as an artist.
However, he realized that he couldn t make a living from a guitar. He began trying
various jobs: as a scribe at a Bank, in the Paraguayan Navy and even as a newsp
aper reporter. He wasn t successful at any of these posts. His only true passion w
as the guitar.
Barrios and the Maestro Pellegrini
At this time he met another important person in his life and career. Nicolino Pe
llegrini, born in Viggiano, Potenza, Italy. Studied violin in Geneva, Switzerlan
d and Paris. In 1888 he traveled to Porto Alegre, Brazil. He came to Asuncin in 1
893. Settling there, he began teaching violin, tuning pianos and organizing conc
erts. He then formed a student orchestra, and was the conductor for most of orch
estral concerts of the day.

In 1895 was created the Instituto Paraguayo, and Pellegrini was named the direct
or of its music program. It s said that Barrios abandoned the National High School
in 1903 to study music seriously in this Institute under Pellegrini. He also le
arned a bit of violin and cello.
Thanks to Barrios relationship with Pellegrini, the principal personality in the
musical society of Asuncin, his appearances in concert began to increase. As his
popularity.
Barrios' early repertoire
From this time is known his original composition Abr la Puerta mi China, the manu
script is dated December 25, 1905. This piece reveals that Barrios knew the enti
re range of the instrument and had a correct knowledge of harmony and modulation
.
In addition to this original composition, we know he played some popular Paragua
yan tunes and some music by Aguado, Sor and Garca Tolsa. He didn t know Trrega s music
yet, as it wasn t available in South Amrica. We also know that he played an early
version of the sonatina A mi Madre.
He was constantly chosen by Pellegrini to participate in concerts, but as these
concerts were sporadic, he spent his time playing serenades every night during the
years 1905-1909. He had established a reputation as a professor of guitar .
By this time he was beginning to feel that he needed to travel abroad to further
his career as a concert performer, as he has already conquered the small musica
l scene of Asuncin.
He first tried to tour the small rural towns of Paraguay. But probably by a lack
of market he returned to Asuncin, and realizing he couldn t make a living as a con
cert guitarist in Paraguay, he started teaching.
Preparing to fly
At this point he met another important person for him: Viriato Daz Prez, a Spaniar
d who emigrated to Paraguay. He influenced Barrios in the areas of philosophy an
d metaphysics, introducing him to theosophic doctrines and beliefs.
He also urged and helped him to leave Paraguay and seek new horizons. In January
1910 he wrote a letter of introduction to an Argentine friend, Mario Villar Senz
Valiente, publisher of the Buenos Aires newspaper La Nacin. Barrios at this time
was playing concerts in Argentine towns Corrientes, Posadas and Resistencias. V
aliente reportedly heard Barrios play in the town of Corrientes and invited him
to come to Buenos Aires.
He now was ready to depart to the great city of Buenos Aires, which was the majo
r center of culture in South America, the perfect place to pursue his career. Hi
s desire to depart Paraguay was also fueled by Nicolino Pellegrini who took a mo
nth long trip to Buenos Aires to arrange for the publishing of pieces by him.
Biography of Agustin Barrios Mangore - Part 2
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2009
In the Land of Opportunity
Buenos Aires was a center of commerce, politics and art. This city had extensive
immigration in the previous years, specially from Italy, and it had a cosmopoli
tan atmosphere. Barrios had the opportunity to watch top European artists in the

great Teatro Coln, established in 1908.


In 1910, the year Barrios arrived, was the centenary of the independence of Arge
ntina, so, the city had even a more festive mood. He attended guitar concerts th
at were performed regularly. He was particularly impressed by Miguel Llobet, who
m he probably saw in concert during this year. Years later Barrios declared Llob
et to be the greatest guitarist he had ever heard.
It wasn t easy at first for Barrios, he didn t just arrived to Buenos Aires and star
ted a concert career. He made his living playing in movie theaters providing mus
ic for silent films. He also played incidental music for theaters.
Metal Strings, Popular music and the Paraguayan
Sometime in early 1911 he traveled to Chile and even as far as Peru. Reportedly
he gave a concert in Santiago, which was harshly criticized, because he presente
d an inferior program composed mainly of popular tunes, and he used metal string
s!
At this time, our artist didn t present in concert what was considered the standar
d for classical guitarists. He played mainly popular tunes. I think that this wa
s caused by many factors. First of all, he used metal strings. He was harshly cr
iticized for this in Buenos Aires by the elite of Classical music. After that he
was ashamed to present works of classical guitar by Sor and Aguado that he prob
ably knew.
One of the principal characteristics of Paraguayan people (I know how they are,
I am one and live here) is that one of their greatest fears is to be publicly as
hamed, to be rejected. This was what happened to Barrios, he was an outsider fro
m the guitar community because he did not use gut strings. And for whatever reas
on he didn t want to change his metal strings.
Miguel Herrera Klinger, an Uruguayan friend of Barrios declared that on a certai
n occasion he was in Buenos Aires at a sheet music and guitar store, Agromayor a
nd Co. It was where the guitar world would meet every day. He says that he overh
eard a conversation between Andrs Segovia, Regino Sinz de la Maza and Domingo Prat
regarding Barrios. Sinz de la Maza was the only one who did not reject steel str
ings, as long as it was Barrios who played on them. To what Segovia said: Well, a
s far as I m concerned, I wouldn t know what to do with that wire fence .
He directed himself more towards the popular music public that didn t bother if he
used metal strings, playing tangos, marches, etc.
Barrios great friend: Martn Borda y Pagola
At some point in 1912 Barrios journeyed to Montevideo, Uruguay. Martn Borda y Pag
ola was a successful rancher of livestock who was an amateur guitarist. He was t
he owner of various instruments of great value, for which his house became a cen
ter for talented guitarists. It is probable that friends of Barrios in Buenos Ai
res gave him Borda y Pagola s address and he journeyed to Montevideo to seek a patr
on relationship.
Borda y Pagola was a great supporter of Barrios, giving him at various times eit
her financial or emotional help during the next 15 years. There is a story that
Borda y Pagola became Barrios protector and he constantly urged him to write down
his compositions (something at which he wasn t very interested). At some point, B
orda y Pagola became so frustrated with Barrios that he locked him in a room, de
claring that he would not free him until he had written down many compositions.

The first recordings


In 1914 he returned to Buenos Aires where he began recording for the Argentine l
abels Atlanta and Artigas and produced seventeen 78 rpm phonograph records that
show what kind of repertoire he was playing at this time.
They were all original works or popular tunes, marches and tangos. He developed
this kind of folkloric repertoire playing in cinemas, where he had to fill time .
These are the first recordings ever made by a classical guitarist.
Expansion and growth in Uruguay
During the years 1912 to 1916 he must have spent a lot of time in Borda y Pagola s
ranch, where he made many friends. Some of this friends also offered Barrios a
place to stay, something Barrios was particularly fond of. He reputedly lived on
e entire year with guitarist Luis Pasquet in Salto. These visits to friends would
be a pattern he would repeat throughout his life, and he always would pay them wit
h his art. During these years he also performed in many towns of Uruguay.
During the period of 1914 to 1916 he traveled forth from Uruguay to Brazil. We h
ave a recorded program from a performance in Rio de Janeiro in 1916 that reveals
a more substantial and classical repertoire, which includes transcriptions of Bac
h, Verdi, Chopin, Grieg and Mendelssohn, as well as music by Aguado, Giuliani, C
oste and Arcas. He also played, of course, some original works.
The conquest of Brazil
From 1916 until 1920 Barrios was in Brazil. He based himself in Sao Paulo, proba
bly with a supporting patron. He was constantly expanding his knowledge of music
and the guitar. He now incorpoarated in his concerts more standard pieces for c
lassical guitar, like Capricho rabe by Trrega. He also continued transcribing work
s by Bach, Beethoven, Bufaleti, Chopin, Mendelssohn and Schumann.
He also made a great step upward in his compositional skills. Some of his master
pieces are from this period, like Un sueo en la Floresta, Mazurka Apasionata, All
egro Sinfnico and Romanza en Imitacin al Violoncello.
He played concerts in Sao Paulo and Southern Brazil with great success. He gaine
d the reputation of an outstanding artist. This made him possible to meet the Br
azilian luthier Romeo Di Giorgio, who made a guitar with 20 frets specially for
Barrios. He utilized the high C now possible on his magnificent piece "Un sueo en
la Floresta". He also met Arturo Napoleao, a Brazilian pianist/composer, whose R
omanza barrios had transcribed for guitar.
The first

death

of Barrios

In 1918, due to a confusion with a musician of the same name, newspapers from As
uncin reported that Barrios had died in the town of Melo, Uruguay. Of course he w
as alive and well in Sao Paulo.
The information was corrected the same year. When Barrios was informed of this,
he responded humorously, saying I was able to assist my own funerals, death is su
ch a nice thing .
The most curious of this is that, this happened again later, when his death was
falsely reported in 1934 first in Mexico and later in Venezuela.
Barrios and Gino Marinuzzi

Gino Marinuzzi was the world famous conductor of La Scala Opera of Milan. He was
in Rio de Janeiro around 1919 presenting some performances at the opera house.
He had heard of Barrios and invited him to play at a special private get-togethe
r of about 20 friends (many of whom were knowledgeable professional musicians).
The outcome was very positive. Barrios was applauded and warmly congratulated by
the Maestro and gave him a photo of himself with the following text: To the grea
t Barrios, who has revived the art of Galilei and Simon Molinari, with affection
ate admiration, Gino Marinuzzi. Rio, September 30, 1919.
This was a great achievement for Barrios, to receive approval from one of the le
ading musicians of the day, not only as a performer but also for his talent as a
composer. If he had been able to maintain contact with Marinuzzi, Barrios undou
btedly would have been able to arrange a tour to Europe much earlier, and his li
fe would have turned much more different than it did.
On November of this successful year, he received a special invitation from the P
resitdent of Brasil, Epitasio Pessoa, to perform at the Presidential Palace a co
ncert for diplomats and ministers. After his performance the high ranking diplom
ats raised their champagne glasses for the great artist.
This successful period for Barrios was also of extraordinary progress in composi
tion. Ever since 1919 all of his works are masterpieces of the guitar repertoire
.
Biography of Agustin Barrios Mangore - Part 3
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2009
Barrios and Segovia
In June, 1920, Barrios returned to Montevideo from Brazil. At this time, Segovia
was also in Montevideo giving concerts. The two guitarists never met during the
five weeks they were both in Uruguay. That would have to wait till the followin
g year in Buenos Aires. It is interesting to compare the repertoire of both guit
arists at this time. Both included transcriptions of the classics (Bach, Beethov
en, Chopin). Segovia included numerous pieces by Sor and Trrega, he also played G
ranados and Albniz. This represented the modern concert guitar repertoire of the ti
mes (he hadn t yet met Ponce, Trroba, Villa-Lobos). Barrios, apart from the classic
s played mid 19th century Spanish music by Arcas, Parga, Broca and also Trrega an
d music by Latin Americans (Albano, Garca Tolsa).
The main difference is in the area of original compositions. Segovia only origin
als were his arrangements of music by classical composers. Barrios played many o
f his compositions in his concerts because, as he said, there wasn t many pieces b
y others that inspired him .
In 1921, they met in Buenos Aires, they were introduced by a friend after a conc
ert. Some time later, Barrios went to visit Segovia at his home. He played for t
he Maestro, and he was greatly pleased. According to Klinger, Barrios biographer:
Barrios played a cascade of musical gems for the great Segovia who was surprised
...better yet: he was floored. Nearly 2 hours later he was congratulated by the
Maestro. One particular work he liked very much and indicated he would play in h
is concerts. Barrios gave him an original copy with a dedication. The work that
Segovia said he would like to program in his concerts he never played. And logic
ally so: if he had played it, with the extraordinary abilities he possessed he w
ould have elevated Barrios to inaccessible heights, thus detracting from his own
artistic prestige."
Barrios (right) with his brother Martn in Montevideo
The work that Segovia liked very much was La Catedral. In 1921, Segovia wasn t in

the omnipotent position he would occupy in subsequent decades, so, he didn t accep
t any competition. If he had been sincere he would have programmed La Catedral a
nd other pieces, and helped Barrios to arrange concerts in Europe and the United
States. Many years later, Barrios would realize that Segovia wasn t his friend an
d say about him that he was deaf in the heart . Barrios acknowledged that Segovia w
as an outstanding technician but he didn t see himself as being in any way less of
a technician . Barrios was proud of his identity as a composer, which involved ski
lls and talents quite beyond the mere acquirement of physical virtuosity.
La Catedral: a masterpiece
On April 14, 1921, Barrios said this in a interview with an Uruguayan newspaper:
As much as my precarious state of health has permitted, I have been able to comp
ose five works for these recitals. I consider the most important, after Vals de
Primavera, of a romantic cut, La Catedral, which consists of two movements, an '
andante religioso' and an 'allegro solemne'."
This is the first reference to Barrios most widely played work. He was inspired
by an experience he had entering the Cathedral of San Jos in Montevideo. The Anda
nte with its broad chords represent his impressions of an organist playing Bach
in the cathedral. The Allegro represent the sensation when he leaves the calm at
mosphere of the cathedral. He enters into the street, the real world, where ever
yone is in a hurry and doesn t have time to think. He represents this perfectly wi
th incessant 16th note figures.
The third movement, the Preludio Saudade would be added years later.
The return to Paraguay
During 1922 Barrios journeyed again to Chile and Brazil. After this, he returned
to Paraguay on August 21. He undoubtedly had the desire to finally settle down
in his homeland, but he would soon realize that this was impossible.
The return of Barrios to Paraguay was triumphal, he didn t made a great amount of
money but nevertheless was viewed as one of the greatest guitarists in the world
.
He would play eleven concerts in Asuncion over the next 8 months. This was a tim
e of welcoming for Barrios from all the ones that played a major role in his for
mation and now were proud of what he had become: Gustavo Sosa Escalada, Nicolino
Pellegrini and Viriato Diaz Perez.
He would attempt an open air concert at the Plaza Uruguaya, along with his brother
s who presented poetry. The event turned to be a great success, crowds of people
went to the Plaza to see the Barrios clan. But this turned to be a problem, Bar
rios had to suspend the function because of the noise from the crowd and the lac
k of acoustics.
In April 26, 1923, he would travel to Rosario, Argentina, where he would stay ap
proximately 5 months. He stayed with a friend and classical guitar teacher, Bapt
iste Almirn, whose daughter Lalyta was a prodigy on the instrument and who would
become one of the better known concert guitarists in Argentina.
Barrios taught Lalyta some of his original pieces, and was stunned with the litt
le gifted artist. He declared about her:
Anything that I can say about this young child, is little, compared to her enormo
us talent. My surprise had no limits when, as if it were the most natural thing
in the world, with her lovely smile, she played Study No. 22 of Coste and the Ca
nzoneta of Mendelssohn. Works of challenge, even for masters, burst forth as enc

hanting art in a shower of crystalline notes from her agile fingers, which in gi
ddy movements resemble hummingbirds over the strings.
During the 5 months that they were together, Lalyta learned Romance en Imitacin a
l Violoncello, Vals No.4 and Contemplacin.
Barrios spent his time in Rosario composing new works. It was evidently a produc
tive time, at least 17 works are dated from this period.
He traveled to Buenos Aires and Uruguay, where he played some concerts. In Augus
t 1924 he was back in Paraguay. He had the desire to establish a music school in
Asuncin, for which he made a petition to the government. Although he wasn t active
in politics, his inclination was towards the Partido Colorado, which was in opp
osition to the Partido Liberal then in power. This made for a quick negation of
his request.
In 1925 he was in Uruguay with his friend Luis Pasquet and also with Borda y Pag
ola. He played concerts in Montevideo and towns of the interior. He spent a year
in Uruguay.
Goodbye to the indifferent Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires, the great city that promised him fame and fortune was the one that
most rejected him. Barrios was back there in 1928. On June he programmed three
concerts in the Theatre La Argentina, of which only one was performed, the other
two cancelled due to lack of public. Disgusted with his failure, he vowed never
to return to Argentina again.
The guitar public of Buenos Aires rejected Barrios with his metal strings and 19
th century type repertoire. To accentuate this, Segovia was also at this time in
Buenos Aires, filling theatres presenting a modern repertoire , including music by
Ponce, Trroba, Turina, Tansman, etc.
This rejection proved to be a very critical point for Barrios and I think that i
s one of the mains reasons why he would change his identity to Nitsuga Mangor.
In 1929 he left Buenos Aires and journeyed to Brazil, where he gave concerts in
Pelotas, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The public of Sao Paulo was very welcomin
g to the music of Barrios. On October 25 1929 in the Municipal Theatre a great L
iterary-musical festival was given to celebrate Barrios farewell to Sao Paulo.
During this year he also met Gloria Seban, who would be his companion until the
end of his days. He presented her as his wife although there is no corroboration
that they were married. She was a practical woman who took care of Agustn s everyd
ay needs. She was musically uneducated and was described by some as being unawar
e of Barrios genius. But she obviously loved him as she stayed with him during t
he next 14 years.
Biography of Agustin Barrios Mangore - Part 4
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2009
The birth of Cacique Nitsuga Mangore
Around 1930 Barrios made his mind to leave southern South America and make his w
ay towards northward from Rio de Janeiro, arriving to the United States. He inve
nted the character of Nitsuga Mangore, the messenger of the Guarani race... the P
aganini of the guitar from the jungles of Paraguay , presenting himself in concert
with full Indian costume, with feathers, bow and arrows.
Barrios in 1930 before changing to Nitsuga Mangore

He started this approach mainly to attract a greater public. But I think that he
also was disillusioned about his lack of success as Agustn Barrios. The man who
was rejected in Buenos Aires and couldn t make his way to the United States and Eu
rope. To know more about the story of Mangore and the reasons why Barrios might
have had invented it, click here.
Barrios started to add pieces to his repertoire that reflected his Guarani origin
s , like Diana Guarani and Poema de America. He also changed the name of the piece
Souvenir de un reve to Un sueo en la floresta , that is, a dream in the forest. Apart
from these and others original compositions, he continued playing his now stand
ard repertoire, that included Sor, Trrega, Albniz and transcriptions of the classi
cs.
He projected Europe and the United States as his future destinations and sometim
es as places he had been to attract more public.
On february 20 1931, Barrios gave a concert in Fortaleza where he played pieces
by Bach as the fugue from the first violin sonata, transcriptions of Mozart and
Beethoven and, according to one critic he was less well received by the public o
f Fortaleza due to the excessive classicism of the composer which requires a stri
ct musical education to be duly appreciated .
The guitarist who was rejected in Chile and Argentina for playing popular tunes
now was criticized due to excessive classicism !
Touring America
Barrios gave concerts in Brazilian cities and towns until August 1931. On Septem
ber he journeyed to French Guiana where in the capital city of Cayenne he gave a
concert. Two months later he landed in Martinique where on December he gave a c
oncert in the capital Fort-de-France, including a work by the French composer Ju
les Massenet to please the French-speaking public of Martinique.
From Martinique he traveled to Trinidad, in 1932. At this time the noted British
conductor Sir Henry Joseph Wood was in Trinidad and, after hearing Barrios decl
ared:
Seor Barrios is quite a unique artist, his tonal variety obtained by plucking the
strings at three or four different points, his colorful playing, rhythm, perfect
intonation and splendid interpretive ability, make his playing a real pleasure
and delight to all music lovers.
Great success in Venezuela
In February he departed to Venezuela, which would be the place where he would ha
ve one of the best periods in his career, as the Venezuelan public was one of th
e most appreciative of Barrios music.
Over the next two months he would play 25 concerts in Caracas, proving to be a s
ensation with the public. He was constantly praised by the press and invited to
numerous prominent social functions.
Barrios impact on the Venezuelan guitar community was profound. Antonio Lauro, vi
ewed as one of the most important guitarist/composer from Venezuela, met Barrios
around this time, he declared:
Mangore was a very open person and on certain occasions shared his knowledge with
us. Whatever anyone asked of him, he would give them. With each question, he wo

uld give a long reply, almost a complete class you might say. He gave long expla
nations regarding pulsation and set us to practicing ligados, arpeggios, general
sonority and aesthetics of performance.
Barrios was such a celebrity in Caracas that he even was featured in advertisemen
ts! In a poster showing Barrios playing there is a caption saying:
Barrios is without any doubt, in the world of art, the Indian guitarist who leave
s on our souls the imperishable taste of his music without precedent. In the wor
ld of the Venezuelian industry, it is something authentic, genuine, incomparable
: Caracas Beer
Colombia, Central America and El Salvador
On May 1932, he suddenly became dangerously ill. There is no records of concerts
until September 3 and 4 in Barquisimeto. By October he was by Bogot, Colombia. T
he Colombian composer Guillermo Uribe-Holgun attended one of is concerts and decl
ared: Mangore is the reincarnated soul of the musical geniuses and never again wi
ll it be possible to hear an artist of such magnitude.
Great was the success of Barrios in Colombia, where one critic observed that Bar
rios had awakened an enthusiasm never seen before with the cultured, music loving
public who admire the great geniuses of classical and modern music. During the f
ive weeks that he was in Bogot, he gave a total of 17 concerts.
By March 1933 he was in Panama, where he performed for the President Abdiel Aria
s. He gave other performances in Panama but there isn t records of them. The follo
wing month he arrived in Costa Rica, where he stayed and played numerous concert
s until July, when he traveled to El Salvador. He received great acceptance in a
ll the places he visited, presenting himself as the Guarani indian he was accepted
by the brother races .
In September he was in Guatemala. Here a critic gives a detailed description of
a concert by Barrios:
In front, a corral of bamboo and two house palms. Mangor presents himself with fe
athers. An anachronism. Something for children. His costume goes with the bamboo
, but not with the guitar.
The reception by the public is cold and silent, with ironic comments:
tupendous , shocking , he is on marihuana , etc.

horrendous ,

The indian sits, strokes his instrument in a strangely smooth manner and begins.
The program does not seem to be in agreement with the situation
it indicates th
at the indian feels he is a musician, and that he wants to play Bach, Beethoven,
Mozart, Chopin on the guitar! It seems a sacrilege. We expect a disaster, a fat
al musical calamity.
He plays a Serenata Morisca of his own composition. On the mark. Another of his
compositions, andante and allegreto. Notable. A Chilean dance. The enthusiasm mo
unts. Little by little the audience warms up.
The guitar becomes a piano, violin, flute, mandolin, drum. There is nothing that
this man can t do on the guitar. At times it seems the guitar plays itself...
The applause grows, and increases with each piece until at the end of the perfor
mance the public is shouting encore to which he replies thank you , simply thank you .
Barrios as Cacique Nitsuga Mangore

He arrived to Mexico in late 1933. He was well received and the critics were fav
orable, even though Segovia was also concertizing in Mexico at that time.
Finally to Europe
In 1934 he met Toms Salomoni who was the Paraguayan Ambassador to Mexico. He pers
uaded Barrios to cease his characterization as Nitsuga Mangore, as it was not dig
nified and appropriate. This way chief Nitsuga Mangore was retired, although he l
ater presented him in concert as Barrios Mangore . Salomoni was very interested in
furthering Barrios career. He knew he must go to Europe.
Salomonis became Barrios new patron and manager and in July 1934 they embarked to H
avana, Cuba where they remained for two months. Barrios had great success in the
presentations he made in Havana. In September they finally sailed for Europe.
They arrived in Brussels, Belgium in September of 1934. There resided Toms Salomo
nis elder son and eldest daughter. They remained there for several weeks. And th
ere is some evidence that during this time Barrios made friends with Igor Stravi
nsky.
He played a concert in the Royal Conservatory of Music. Before the learned profe
ssors he presented works by Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, etc. Which did not impress
them. In the second part he started to present his own compositions and upon end
ing the concert the critics shouted Bravo! . This was one of Barrios greatest artist
c triumphs.
Then, the Barrios and Salomonis moved to Berlin, where they lived for approximat
ely fifteen months. Zuni Salomoni, the youngest child, who was 12 at that time r
ecalls that there was an organ and always on the morning Mangore would awaken us
children with music he would improvise on this organ. Sometimes, to entertain us
, he would take his guitar and put it up behind his head and play it that way.
The oldest son Toms Salomonis recalled that Barrios had a great respect for my fat
her, but he dod not permit any interruptions during his practicing, which could
last ten to twelve hours with him shut up in his room, refusing food, until his
practicing was finished.
In all the time they spent in Berlin, Barrios didn t play any concert. For whateve
r reasons, they didn t made connections with professional impresarios. I think the
re was discrimination involved on the part of the German hosts.
In 1936 Barrios separated from the Salomonis and sailed to Spain through Portuga
l. Barrios played a concert in Madrid and met Regino Sinz de la Maza and the poet
Federico Garca Lorca. He also played for Queen Victoria Eugenia, whose husband A
lfonso XIII presented him with a guitar by the Spanish maker Morant. According t
o luthier Federico Sheppard, who made a replica of this guitar and kindly contac
ted me, this guitar was made by Spanish maker Ricardo Sanchis and not Morant.
At that time the Spanish Civil War was about to start, and seeing the lack of pr
ofessional opportunities and feeling concern for his safety, he returned to Amer
ica. History didn t give him the opportunity to succeed.
Biography of Agustin Barrios Mangore - Part 5
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2009
Back in the New World
Barrios arrived to Caracas, Venezuela in February 1936 and he left in March for
Trinidad. There he didn t play many concerts but he gave guitar lessons to one pup
il: Robert Edgeworth Johnstone, who declared about Barrios in 1985, amongst othe

r things:
But Barrios was obviously not a teacher. One had to get the information out of hi
m by seeing what he did and then asking him about it. By watching the way he did
it one learnt a great deal, but one had to drag out of him how he did it, becau
se in some cases he almost didn t know. He was a rather quiet player; he didn t aim
at volume. I don t know whether it was his guitar or his technique, or what it was
. I can say only at the time I found it very satisfactory. If a good manager had
gotten hold of him, he should have been a world figure. A world composer, too.
Certainly he was not a man to push his own affairs or drive forward. But he was
at least contented. He had no complaints about not being recognized. I didn t dete
ct any of that sort of attitude.
Here Johnstone is talking about a typical Paraguayan attitude. Being contented w
ith what one has. Paraguayans very rarely drive forward for an affair, they had
to be motivated by extreme needs, friends or social pressure. That is generaly s
peaking, of course there are exceptions.
Barrios was always pushed by his friends. Pellegrini told him to go abroad to pu
rsue a career, his friends in Buenos Aires pushed him to go to Montevideo, Pagol
a locked him in a room to write his compositions. Those are just a few examples
where Barrios needed the motivation given by a friend to start something. That d
oesn t mean that he didn t have confidence, that s just the idiosyncracy or way of Parag
uayans: to be happy with what they have. That most of the people that pushed him w
eren t Paraguayans makes this clearer.
In August Barrios returned to Venezuela. He played some concerts but didn t have t
he great success he had four years earlier. In 1938 he was in Havana, Cuba, wher
e he wrote the Preludio Saudade which he added to La Catedral.
After leaving Cuba, economic problems began. Barrios ran out of work and money.
They departed to Costa Rica, where a good friend offered them the use of a home
for about a year. He had reduced concert activity during this period, probably d
ue to health problems.
In July of 1939 he departed to El Salvador, where he arranged several concerts.
Later he headed to Guatemala and Mexico. In Mexico City he suffered a heart atta
ck. Barrios was debilitated and didn t have the same strength of youth.
He returned in 1940 to El Salvador. The President of El Salvador, Maximiliano He
rnandez Martinez, a great admirer of Barrios appointed him Professor of Guitar a
t the National Conservatory, presenting him with a check for 5000 colones. This
was almost an order, not an offer, from the President.
Barrios finally settled down, not in his homeland, but at least in a place where
he was loved and admired. He played some concerts in towns of El Salvador, but
he was mostly dedicated to teaching. He later played concerts with his pupils.
Barrios in his later years
The Last Years
In March of 1944 Segovia visited San Salvador to play a concert. The two masters
met and spent several hours chatting in Segovia s hotel room. Not even a note was
played, as Barrios was in bad physical shape and Segovia felt a certain amount
of pity for his foe , as he was forgotten and poor in a relatively isolated country
and Segovia knew the fame and recognition that his talent merited.
Fifteen years later Segovia would declare that Barrios was a man who tried to des
troy himself, but couldn t because he was such a genius .

They had a polite and cordial meeting, where Segovia left Barrios a set of gut s
trings as a gift.
In these later years the love Barrios had for the guitar didn t cease, as he pract
iced four hours a day. In 1944 he was ill and knew the end was near. He called f
or a priest and uttered his last words: I do not fear the past, but I do not know
if I can overcome the mystery of the night .
One of the last pictures of Barrios
Surrounded by his friends and his wife, Barrios dies in August 7, 1944. The prie
st who attended him proclaimed: This is the first time I have witnessed the death
of a Saint .