Video Pick of the Week: Romania’s ARTissimo Guitar Duo Play Ponce’s ‘Intermezzo No. 1’

On December 8, 2019, we celebrate what would be the 137th birthday of the amazing Mexican composer Manuel Maria Ponce (1882–1948)! Of course Ponce is loved in the classical guitar world for the many pieces he wrote for the instrument and his long and fruitful association with Andrés Segovia. Among his best-known guitar works are the Sonata mexicana, Variations and Fugue on ‘La Folia’, Canciones populares mexicanas, Sonata clásica, Sonata Romántica, Cuatro Piezas, and Sonatina meridional. Additionally, he wrote guitar transcriptions used by Segovia for works by Bach and Scarlatti.

The prolific Ponce also penned chamber music, songs, piano works, and orchestral pieces, and our Video Pick, Intermezzo No. 1, was written for piano in 1909, but has migrated over into the guitar world as a duet. This lovely and emotional version comes from the young, Romania-based ARTissimo GuitarDuo—Ana-Maria Bibescu and Raisa Mihai—who are both students at the National University of Music in Bucharest. ARTissimo recently placed third in the Chamber Music competition at the Pleven Guitar festival in Bulgaria.

According to the notes on the bottom of the YouTube video, which was shot at the Sinaia Guitar Festival at Peles Castle in Sinaia, Romania, in October 2019, the duo dedicated this performance to the memory their guitarist friend, Oana lordache, who took her own life in 2018. In the video, that’s Raisa on the left and Ana-Maria on the right. —Blair Jackson

Manuel Ponce was just 27 when he composed ‘Intermezzo No. 1’ on piano.