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La Revista Musical

(Guatemala City, 1927-1929)

Prepared by Esperanza Berrocal
Online only (2012)

La Revista Musical [RGU] was published monthly in Guatemala from September 1927 to September 1930 (publication was interrupted in October 1927, as well as in October and November 1928). In all, twenty-two issues were published, each ranging from twenty-six to forty-eight pages in length. RGU is the most important specialized music journal published in Guatemala up to 1950, with Arturo Narvaez serving as director. The journal’s layout consists of an opening editorial article followed by a dozen or more articles dealing with music topics. Interspersed between these articles are anecdotes, news about Guatemalan society, and literary items, such as poems, short stories and a novel. In issue no. 6 (March 1928) the journal announced editorial changes with the inclusion of articles related to the visual arts (treating Guatemalan artists Enrique Solares and Carlos Valenti).The journal’s dependence on publicity is noticeable in that each issue contains up to six pages of advertisements.

The editor states in issue No. 4, that the publication aims to be informative about musical life in Central America, foreseeing "a brilliant future," and noting a promising development in the region. However, the topics treated in the journal also focus on various aspects of the history of Western music, offering, for the first time to readers in Guatemala biographical sketches of major European composers in the columns headed "La vida de veinticinco músicos" [The life of twenty-five musicians], "Autores antiguos" [Composers from old times] and "Autores modernos" [Modern composers]. The life and works of Beethoven, Bizet, Brahms, Czerny, Handel, Liszt, Louis Lacombe, Mascagni, Schubert, and Paganini, among others, are the subjects of extensive discussion. In addition, more specialized articles abound, treating the history of instruments (for example, the violin) or genres (such as the lied), and performance practice.

Opera is treated extensively; articles on this subject include a historical overview of the genre and in depth articles on performances of Leoncavallo’s I Pagliaci; the genesis of Wagner’ Ring des Nibelungen; the motives in Strauss’ Electra; the argument of Bizet’s Carmen illustrated with photographs of the opera’s scenes; various aspects of Verdi’s Rigoletto, Otello and Falstaff; and the music of Puccini’s La Bohème. Contemporary Spanish opera is treated in two essays featuring Enrique Granados’ Goyescas and Felipe Pedrell’s La Celestina. On singers, subjects range from the correspondence of Adelina Patti recently discovered in Puerto Rico to an artistic profile of Enrico Caruso.

The core of the journal’s content reflects on the development of contemporary musical life in Guatemala. There are numerous articles analyzing the current state of music in the country; denouncing the Government’s past cultural policies and the lack of professionalism among musicians. The activities at the Conservatorio Nacional de Música de Guatemala (CNMG) are closely followed, featuring disapproval of professors’ attitudes toward missed lessons, support of the new director, Alberto Mendoza and his newly implemented educational reforms. RGU journal encourages the incipient nationalism in Guatemala, and appeals to the preservation of the popular songs (canciones populares), with essays on popular song in Catalonia and France, and for the development of a repertory for the national Guatemalan instrument, the marimba. Other topics include music education, sacred music practices, and piano pedagogy. The biographical notes on Guatemalan musicians are a remarkable contribution of this journal: Herculano Alvarado (pianist and Director of the CNMG); Salvador Ley (Lewy), Raul Paniagua and Alfredo Wyld Viteri (pianists); Rafael Álvarez (composer of the Guatemalan National Anthem), Lorenzo Morales, Luis Felipe Arias and Ricardo Castillo (composers); Julián Paniagua Martínez and Jesús Silva (violinists); Agusto Monterroso (tenor); Aida Doninelli (soprano); Tránsito Molina (cellist); and Felipe Echigoyen (flutist and composer); and Perla Violeta Amado and her brother Augusto (dancers). In addition RGU publishes the complete list of the personnel of the Orquesta Sinfónica de Guatemala.

Reviews of significant concerts in Guatemala City and performances by notable Guatemalan artists abroad are covered to some extent. Notable examples are the performances by graduates of the CNMG; operetta performances featuring the singer Lea Candini; the opera season at the Teatro Variedades; symphonic concerts including the visiting Symphonic Orchestra of Milan and the Symphonic Orchestra of Guatemala; and the successful performances of virtuoso pianist Raul Paniagua in New York. A valuable contribution of the journal is the considerable iconography including portraits or photographs of famous musicians, and many photographs of Guatemalan musicians.