Episodes in Virtuosity: Leo Brouwer

The word virtuoso is defined as,

"a musician who is a consummate master of technique and artistry." 


"… an individual who possesses outstanding technical ability at singing or playing a musical instrument."

When I decided to that I was going to be a serious (classical) musician, I regarded this word with esteem and respect. I saw the aspiration for virtuosity as a means of achieving self-actualization, and decided to dedicate my life towards this realization.

However, like so many things, after six years of conservatory training the shine wore off this word and I fear that I have lost my reverence for the beautiful. After all, art is the habit of the artist. Nevertheless, it is my intent to use this platform to (re)discover, admire, and share music/musicians of the highest caliber, in any and all genres, strictly for the purpose of listening to Music worth listening to.

Today's installment is a performance of La Espiral Eterna and it is both performed by and composed by Leo Brouwer.

Leo Brouwer – La Espiral Eterna

Leo Brouwer (b. 1939) is a Cuban guitarist, composer, and conductor. He has been one of the primary forces in the classical guitar's evolution over the last 100 years. He has personally contributed to the canon of guitar literature by way of his own compositions (which vary stylistically throughout his career). My favorite phase of his compositional development was in the 1970s when Brouwer championed avant-garde literature. The featured piece today, La Espiral Eterna, was written within this interval in 1971.

I first heard this piece when I was sixteen. After my guitar lessons my teacher and I would sit in the studio and listen to records from his collection and drink coffee; usually this would last longer than our own lessons. His record collection and his command knowledge of it was staggering. He taught me not only to play my instrument, but how to Listen as well.

Our lessons were on Saturdays and on one particularly nice spring morning he dropped the needle on this gem. I remember reading a copy of the score while we listened and not understanding notation for the first time since I was seven. Time was not neatly metered, ink did not contain itself within measures, and pitch indications were almost not evident. For a sample of the first page click HERE

The music was weird and new. I did not understand what I was hearing, how to read it, or how to even begin to play it. I was in love. This piece and this performance was a gift to me, it not only expanded my aural pallet, but it showed me that there is an innumerable and unfathomable amount of music out there that is just waiting for me to come and find it. 

Now I am a working professional in the music world teaching and free lancing my way into my mid twenties. I like to think of myself as an advocate for new repertoire and a specialist in the performance techniques required to breath life into this style. I owe probably more than I know to that small moment in my life when I heard this piece for the first time and do not ever want to lose my sense of wonder for the potential of sound.

I am proud to say that I carry this piece as part of my active repertoire and cannot see myself without it in my bag of tricks. I would like to offer my own performance of this piece as well today as a means of contrast. It is an inherent quality of the score that our own personalities will shape and change both the pitch and rhythm content of this piece. My performance is from my graduate recital at the Peabody Conservatory in the spring of 2010.


David DeDionisio – La Esprial Eterna