60 years after his death Paraguayan composer and guitarist Agustin Barrios was honoured at the Royal College of Music, London, in a Guitar Faculty Class dedicated to his music and artistry. Berta Rojas, today's leading Paraguayan guitarist, led the tribute on 15th October 2004, during her brief visit to London, two days after her brilliant concert at the South Bank, in which she played music by Barrios.
Berta Rojas traced the personal development of the composer and described the social and political history of Paraguay. Some significant photos and slides, showing Barrios at various stages in his life, from boyhood until middle age, as well as photos of the capital Asunción and of village life, accompanied the lecture. Recorded musical examples included Barrios playing his own compositions, and Berta Rojas herself on the Classical guitar accompanied by a folk musician.
Barrios, born in 1885, was the most brilliant South American player of his generation and a prolific composer. Although he was one of the first guitarists to record 78s, Berta Rojas pointed out that he never achieved fame and fortune in Europe or North America, and that he enjoyed only variable success in South America where he died in relative obscurity in1944.
Berta Rojas and the students
After Berta Rojas' lecture various students performed works by Barrios including "Una limosna por el amor de Dios", the last work he composed. In the 15 years after Barrios' death the Royal College of Music received as students guitarists Julian Bream and John Williams, who studied cello, piano and composition, before the guitar was taught there. In the 60's, John Williams inaugurated the guitar department, and Andres Segovia gave various solo recitals in the excellent concert hall.
During the 60th anniversary year of Barrios' death it seemed very appropriate for the Royal College of Music to honour the memory of this great artist in a tribute led by another excellent Paraguayan guitarist, Berta Rojas