Recordings Solo Orchestra
Paraguay According to Agustín Barrios
[ DVD ]

The average guitar DVD is pretty static. The player sits in front of the camera. Neither of them moving very much. The occasional close-up interests those who want to study hand and finger movements, but the general public is likely to turn away from it in total boredom.

This DVD is not like that. For a start, the star is the Paraguayan guitarist Berta Rojas, who adorns a landscape of scenic beauty, with Paraguayan forest, mountains and waterfalls, without seeming out of place. It is visually captivating, and the camera moves a lot. There is a fair amount of imagination at work too. One shot has sheets of printed music flying through the air over the landscape. Other sequences include people, not guitarist, holding a guitar in various poses: one clasps it in front of a stack of oil drums in different colours. I don't know if there is any allegorical meaning behind this. Another has the guitar against a backdrop of old motor tyres.

In Ultimo Canción. An old woman - no doubt representing the one who knocked on Barrios' door and asked for "una limosna por el amor de Dios" walks dejectedly through the town while the guitarist plays in front an imposing pillared and portico's building. Not the sort of door you would easily knock on.

Throughout all this, Berta Rojas plays barrios with insight, sensitivity and profound understanding of the essentially improvisatory nature of this music: not for nothing has he been called the Chopin of South America. Approach Barrios with a rigid determination to play the notes as printed, and you are doomed to failure. Evidence suggests that Barrios never played a piece the same way twice, and the printed music is therefore little more than a basis for discussion. It's one of the fascinating things about him and his music.

Berta Rojas gets this exactly right. I think. Don't let it bother you that she plays Un Sueño en la Foresta wearing a long white gown and silting at the foot of a waterfall. She plays it excellently, despite the water droplets. She speaks well too in both Spanish English, and it adds up to a performance and production of distinction.

Colin Cooper
Classical Guitar Magazine
[ England ]