This is a review of the Agustin Barrios Mangore book: El Inalcanzable; the title of which stems from Villa Lobo’s description of Barrios and his music.
Authors: Margarita Morselli; Carlos Salcedo
Publisher: Asociacion Cultural Comuneros
Published: Asuncion November 2007
This thick full size soft cover book explores most aspects of Barrios’ life, both professional and personal. It has a wealth of over 400 photographs and manuscript reproductions within it, that partnered with Rico Stover‘s biography –Six Silver Moonbeams, will more than cover any base for researching aspects of Barrios. It’s bilingual descriptions in Spanish and English, although sometimes sparse, cover areas that have until now lay undiscovered, such as Barrios’ teaching and his relationship with his students. The primary sources for this publication are the Cabildo Document collection, the Borda y Pagola Manuscript collection and parts of the Sila Godoy archive. This books main function is to “guide the audience along a fascinating cultural journey”. (Morselli & Salcedo, 2007, p. 29)
This book has a luxurious coffee table feel to its production, the reproduction manuscripts and photographs are gloriously high definition which alone justifies its price.
It has a chronology of events that detail the main points of Barrios life, each year split into months, as well as personal insights from his students, such as Sila Goday. It has been sequestered into three sections: opening with a set of commentaries, then the chronology, and finally reproductions of the catalog.
The catalog section contains scores, letters and student practice diaries; along with notes and cover shots of books and CDs written about Barrios, along with pictures of his guitars and hand written manuscripts. It has some reproduction programs as well as contemporary recordings (with cover shots) of Barrios’ music from luminaries such as John Williams, Berta Rojas and Manuel Obregon. You will not get closer to the originals, the next step would be to travel to Paraguay and take the Mangore Trail or even a guitar class in Paraguay.
This books best feature is the wealth of photographs it contains, from clear manuscripts to hand written letters, postcards and drawings. It is about as close to an archive as you can come. There are of course photographs of the great man and his journeys however these come second to the primary source reproductions. If you are looking for a full biography prepared to be disappointed as most of the copy within this book takes the form of marginal notes explaining each image. If however you want a closer peek into Barrios, his life and more importantly his creativity then this book is for you. Be warned it is now very hard to find so keep your eye out when visiting second hand book stores.
Too round off this review here is a video of Barrios’ grand nephew, Lito Barrios playing Julia Florida on piano. As well as a link to guitarist Benjamin Verdery’s reflections on hearing Barrios for the first time and on finding out more about Julia Florida and Barrios from Rico Stover. Along with a link to Carlos Bonell’s insightful obsession on the note A within Julia Florida.
All food for thought.