Sunday, March 1, 2009

Leo Brouwer, Afro-Cuban Composer & Classical Guitarist Born March 1, 1939

Leo Brouwer is an Afro-Cuban composer, conductor and classical guitarist who was born March 1, 1939 in Havana, Cuba. Young Leo's father, Juan Brouwer, was a doctor and an amateur guitarist. Leo first learned music from his father and his aunt, Caridad Mezquida. His great-uncle was the well-known composer and pianist Ernesto Lecuona. Leo began playing the guitar himself at age 13. His first significant teacher was Isaac Nicola, a virtuoso guitarist who also composed for his instrument and arranged the music of others for guitar. Leo was only 17 when he made his own professional debut. Early compositions include Prelude (1956) and Fugue (1959), both influenced by Bela Bartok and Igor Stravinsky. His academic training took place in the U.S., at the Julliard School of Music and the Hartt College of Music, where his major subject of study was composition.

After completing his music education, Brouwer returned to Cuba. There he immediately became a major figure in his country's music establishment. From 1960 to 1961 he was the Music Advisor to the National Radio and Television Company in Havana. In 1960, Brouwer became Director of the Instituto Cubano de Arte e Industria Cinematograficos [Cuban Institute of Film Arts and Industry]. That position is one of the reasons that the composer has written more than 30 film scores, some of which were box-office hits around the world. An example is the award-winning 1993 film of Alfonso Arau, Like Water for Chocolate.

Brouwer was also a Professor of Composition at the Conservatorio Nacional [National Conservatory] from 1961-67. He is the Founder and Director of Spain's Orquesta Cordoba. Brouwer is profiled at, where six audio samples of his recordings can be heard. His enormous influence on guitar music in particular and classical music in general is demonstrated by more than a hundred recordings on which he has played, composed or conducted. Brouwer's compositions reflect classical, Afro-Cuban, jazz and avant-garde influences. Brouwer enjoys arranging the classical and popular music of other composers for classical guitar. He has arranged Scott Joplin's The Entertainer and Elite Syncopations for solo guitar. His recorded Beatles arrangements include an album entitled From Yesterday to Penny Lane: Seven Songs After The Beatles, Arc Music 1247 (1994).

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