VIdeo Pick of the Week: Berta Rojas Plays Barrios’ ‘Un Sueño en la floresta’ (and More!)

The gifted Paraguayan guitarist Berta Rojas is arguably the finest interpreter of pieces by her illustrious countryman AgustÍn Barrios (1885–1944). Throughout her illustrious career, Rojas has made a point of spreading Barrios’ compositional genius around the world. Her Intimate Barrios album remains my favorite all-Barrios release. Here, in a recent video, she plays an exquisite version of one of Barrios’ best known works, Un Sueño en la floresta. It is a beautiful, up-close video that shows her technique and expressiveness to the fullest!

As a bonus, I’m linking to another, much more extended pandemic “home” video, in which Rojas performs a luminous 45-minute set from her residence in Boston (where she was teaching at the Berklee College of Music when the quarantines hit) of contemporary pieces by some her composer friends: It opens with a lovely lyrical piece called Mother, by South Korean guitarist/composer Beyeong Woo Lee, arranged by Argentinian producer Popi Spatocco (who was involved with Berta’s wondrous Felicidade album) for guitar and a string quartet (which plays with her remotely from  Buenos Aires). The rest are solo guitar pieces—all excellent and in a variety of moods—by Mexican composer Julio Cesar Oliva, English composer Vincent Lindsey-Clark (two pieces), Costa Rican composer Edin Solis, and more from Beyeong Woo Lee.  An extra treat is the appearance  of each of the composers from his own home talking about the works, about Rojas, and about the Covid-19 crisis. Indeed Ms Rojas speaks eloquently and poetically between pieces about the pandemic, acknowledging the pain of loss and the isolation we’ve all been forced to live with, but also expressing her optimism that humanity will come through this crisis stronger and more united. This recent performance was sponsored by the Americas Society in collaboration with the New York Guitar Seminar at Mannes. I can’t recommend it highly enough! It is SO inspirational! —Blair Jackson

Berta Rojas: Finding ‘Felicidade’ in the Music of Brazil

Federico Sheppard, Les Productions D’Oz, GSI Commemorate Agustin Barrios Mangoré