For many, the term "20th Century Music" is synonymous with all that's wrong with classical music (the Consonant Classical Challenge was launched in part to correct that misperception). But the 20th Century has also been the age of the classical guitar. And most of the music composed for the instrument during the last 50 years has been mostly tonal. And that's why one of the more prominent living composers for the instrument, Leo Brouwer, is the next in our series.
Leo Brouwer is a Cuban composer, conductor and virtuoso guitarist. Just as Chopin wrote almost exclusively for his instrument, so too has Brouwer. In his catalog are works for solo guitar, guitar ensembles, guitar and string quartets, and guitar concertos. Many of his works have become standards of the repertoire, and are regularly performed and recorded.
Guitar Concerto No. 11 de Requiem (In memoriam Toru Takemitsu), written in 2007, is a good example of Brouwer's current style.
Brouwer's early music was deeply influenced by the folk traditions of his native Cuba. Over time, as he worked with some of the leading composers of the 1960's and 1970's, he incorporated elements of chance and other forward-looking aspects in his work. And yet most of his music remains tonal in character.
Some of Brouwer's most important work is that for the solo guitar. As a performer, he's intimately familiar with the instrument, and writes works that both extremely challenging and expertly designed to use the guitar to full advantage.
Leo Brouwer is well-known among a sub-set of the classical audience; those that follow classical guitar. It would be wonderful to have more of his orchestral music presented to larger audiences. While most of his orchestral compositions are guitar concertos (eleven so far), there are other works to choose from. Brouwer's written three works for string orchestra, a symphony, as well as a concerto for flute, and another for violin. Now those are works I'd pay to hear live!
Leo Brouwer: Guitar Concerto No. 5 "Helsinki"; Iberia Suite; From Yesterday to Penny Lane
Leo Brouwer: Guitar Music, Vol. 1
Leo Brouwer: The Black Decameron