Video Pick of the Week: Iliana Matos Plays Manuel Ponce’s ‘Sonata Clásica’

With a career spanning more than three decades now, Spain-based Cuban guitarist Iliana Matos has played and taught all over the world, earning tremendous respect and admiration throughout the classical-guitar community. She’s on my mind at the moment because I’ll be seeing her perform for the first time at the Guitar Foundation of America (GFA) convention in Miami Beach on June 21, and I’m greatly looking forward to it.

In searching for a representative video of Matos playing, I came across these beautifully shot and well-recorded  performances of her playing Mexican composer Manuel Maria Ponce’s complete Sonata Clásica, which he wrote in 1928 as an homage to Fernando Sor, partly at the urging of his friend Andrés Segovia. As whoever is behind the always helpful and informative Maestros of the Guitar website wrote:

“During Manuel Ponce’s period of study in France under the guidance of Paul Dukas, Segovia began asking the composer for pastiches—a musical work that imitates the style of another composer, period, or composition. Segovia was attempting to establish a repertoire for the guitar comparable to that of other solo instruments, [and] he wanted pieces that could fill-in the periods where the guitar repertoire was sparse. An example of these pastiches is the Sonata Clásica (Homage to Fernando Sor): Here, Ponce was required to compose a work that could rival the Viennese piano sonatas of Joseph Hadyn. In Segovia’s own words: “…since I have the good fortune of having a real Sor of greater talent than his predecessor writing a sonata for guitar, I do not want this sonata to be inferior to one of Haydn’s for piano.”

Evidently, Segovia had considerable influence over the piece’s final form. The guitarist recorded the fourth movement on a 78 rpm record in 1949, and subsequently other parts, culminating in his recording of the complete work on the 1967 Decca album Mexicana. More recently, Jason Vieaux recorded the Sonata Clásica on his 2001 album, Ponce: The Guitar Sonatas.

It’s such a nice piece, we thought you might enjoy watching Ms Matos playing all four movements, recorded in Canada in November 2018 and just posted on YouTube in early June! — Blair Jackson