Manuel Ponce: Piano Works, Vol. 1 / Álvaro Cendoya, piano

I’m completely bewildered by the fact that these charming romantic miniatures for piano by Manuel Ponce are so under represented in the catalog, especially given how attractive and immediately appealing they are. With the exception of a couple of the more popular tunes, and another few in renditions for solo guitar, most of this music is not to be found on disc. Until now that is, with this splendid release from Spanish pianist Alvaro Cendoya. The recording comes from the young Grand Piano label who, after only a year of producing recordings and with some thirty releases under their belt has, in my experience, yet to miss their mark.

Ponce’s (1882-1948) musical talents were discovered early and he was enrolled in piano and theory classes at a very young age. He was later admitted to Mexico’s National Conservatory of Music in 1901 and upon graduation, traveled to Italy for further studies at the School of Bologna followed by several years of studies in Berlin. The ensuing twenty-five years would take him back to Mexico, then Cuba and Paris before he returned to his home country in 1933.

While his catalog includes music in practically all forms and genres, Ponce is most affectionately thought of by music lovers for his extensive and appealing guitar music. But more significant was his work in initiating a musical independence for his country. Through the settings of folk songs and the use of native melodies in his other compositions, Ponce was instrumental in establishing a Mexican musical nationalism.

The music here encompasses the period from 1909 to 1941, and shows Ponce’s development from a post-romanticist whose muse was of an earlier generation to a mature composer who embraced modern currents and folded them into his own personal expression. Listen to the three brief sample movements that are provided with this review. It’s quite likely that you too, will be smitten.

Album Overview

Manuel Ponce was the founder of Mexican musical nationalism, often incorporating the melodies of harmonised folk-songs into his music. Widely travelled—he studied in Europe, at first in Bologna and then, between 1925 and 1933, as a pupil of Dukas in Paris—Ponce assimilated a wide range of styles and influences, including European-influenced Romanticism, indigenous idioms and a more advanced harmonic language. This is the first of eight volumes devoted to Ponce’s complete piano music.


Composer: Manuel Ponce

Manuel María Ponce Cuéllar (1882 – 1948) was a Mexican composer active in the 20th century. His work as a composer, music educator and scholar of Mexican music connected the concert scene with a usually forgotten tradition of popular song and Mexican folklore. Many of his compositions are strongly influenced by the harmonies and form of traditional songs.

Piano: Álvaro Cendoya 

The son of a Basque father and an Iranian mother, Álvaro Cendoya was born in San Sebastián in 1960. He first studied at the local Conservatories and then in Madrid. Subsequently he moved to Buenos Aires, where he studied the piano for three years with Bruno Leonardo Gelber and later continued his piano studies in London with Noretta Conci and Peter Feuchtwanger.


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