Book Review: Six Silver Moonbeams
Peter Kun Frary, Professor of Music • University of Hawaii, Leeward

Richard D. Stover. Six Sliver Moonbeams: The Life and Times of Agustín Barrios Mangoré. San Francisco: Guitar Solo Publications, 1992. 271 pages. Paperback. ISBN 0-9632233-1-3

I first heard the music of Agustín Barrios (1885-1944) in the mid-1970s. The curious fusion of Classical, folk and popular styles in pieces such as Vals, Op. 8, No. 4, Un sueño en la floresta and Maxixe immediately drew me to his compositions. Back in the day, the drone of Sor, Carcassi, Villa-Lobos and Tarrega in practice rooms and master classes was enough to drive you mad. The discovery of Barrios offered fresh and exciting sounds and guitarists flocked to the ground-breaking editions of Richard Stover. Today Barrios is a staple of the repertoire, but most guitarists know little about Barrios as a man and musician. Stover's monograph, Six Silver Moonbeams, reveals Barrios for all to read and ponder.

Six Silver Moonbeams is a well written and researched biography of Agustín Barrios, one of the finest guitarist-composers of the last century. Many interesting aspects of Barrios' life--travels, loves, concerts, recordings, poetry, drawings, compositions, etc.--are revealed, expounded upon and documented by Stover for the first time.

Barrios: Danza Paraguaya, played by the Frary Guitar Duo

Stover surveys the life of Barrios in eight chapters: "Youth in Paraguay," "The Artist Matures," "The Journey to Greatness," "Cacique Nisuga Mangoré," "The Last Years," "Barrios the Artist," "Barrios the Man" and "Barrios the Composer." He includes appendices of recordings, guitars and compositions, and documents sources with extensive endnotes and a bibliography. The text is nicely enhanced with frequent photographs, concert posters and programs, letters, manuscripts and other original source materials.

Although the intent and organization of this book are scholarly, the writing style is fairly simple and direct, making it an easy read for most classical guitar aficionados. The musical analysis in "Barrios the Composer" may be over the head of someone lacking freshman music theory. However, most of the contents are standard historical and biographical fare. Here's a sample from page 113:

Starting in mid 1930 in northwestern Brazil, this full blown concert suddenly emerges: Nitsuga Mangoré--complete with costumes (he wore feathers and even posed with bow and arrow) and poetry--emphasizing the fact that here was a true representative of the Guaraní culture mystically empowered to share with them the "songs of our birds and the fragrance of our forests through the music of my guitar."

That was a long sentence! Interesting tidbit though. Modern classical guitarists interested in authentic interpretation should consider stripping naked to the waist and donning feathers on stage!

Barrios: Estudio en si menor, played by the Frary Guitar Duo

The only negative aspect of this book is its cheap materials: thin paper covers and page stock. For 20 bucks GSP could have done better. Yeah, I know, it's a small print run for a limited market, but Joe Public is used to better quality.

Six Silver Moonbeams is a milestone in the meager guitar history literature and will be an interesting read for any Barrios lover. It has earned a place on my night stand along with the Holy Bible and the National Geographic Guide to Photography.

9/29/2002 • Revised 10/16/2015

©Copyright 2002-2015 by Peter Kun Frary • All Rights Reserved

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