Link to home page

Revista Musical

(San José, 1940-1944)

Prepared by Esperanza Berrocal
Online only (2010)

The Revista Musical [RMC] began publication in San José, Costa Rica in 1940. It was originally intended to be a bimonthly music journal, but its eight issues were published irregularly within a span of four years: May 1940 (No. 1), July 1940 (No. 2), October 1940 (No. 3), July 1941 (No. 4), December 1942 (Nos. 5 and 6), and October 1944 (Nos. 7 and 8). The length of each issue ranges from sixteen pages (Issues No. 1 and No. 2) to forty two (issue No. 7 and 8). Up to the mid-twentieth century this journal was the only successful attempt to publish a specialized music journal in Costa Rica.

The journal’s first director was Enrique Macaya Lahman, a “music aficionado.” The main administrator was Luis Zumbado, who, in 1942 replaced Macaya Lahman as the journal’s director. The Revista Musical was published as the official journal of the Asociación de Cultura Musical de Costa Rica (A.C.M.), an institution responsible for two of the most important achievements in the country’s music history: the creation of the Orquesta Nacional in 1940 and the founding of the National Conservatory in 1942. Not surprisingly, the journal’s main content is dedicated to the activities of the A.C.M., including concerts featuring active professors from the Conservatory, such as the local pianists Guillermo Aguilar Machado and Miguel Angel Quesada, the tenor Melico Salazar and the composer Julio Fonseca.

Issues typically consist of four or more essays, reflecting on the contemporary cultural struggle in Costa Rica. Many articles are devoted to updating readers on the main composers and musicians from all times (including Beethoven, Chopin, Debussy, Musorgsky and the Strauss family). A few articles are dedicated to more contemporary topics, such as George Gershwin and the state of music in the United States; and only occasionally are more specialized subjects treated, as, for example, a detailed discussion on the compositional elements of the fugue. The cover illustrations include portraits of Wagner, Beethoven, Schubert, Mozart, Paderewski, and Musorgsky.

Interspersed between the articles are detailed accounts of the Asociación de Cultura Musical, including the list of members, subscription fees, budget and expenses, and, more interestingly, reports on performances sponsored by the institution. Especially relevant for uncovering aspects of Costa Rican music history are the articles of Julio Fonseca (1885-1950), who was among the most prolific contributors to the journal. A student of the composer Alvise Castegnaro, Fonseca furthered his musical studies at the Brussels Conservatory (1904-1906). Returning to Costa Rica he was active as conductor, performer and teacher. Beginning in 1929, he took a series of trips to the Guanacaste area to collect folk-music which resulted in his pioneer publication of traditional music from Costa Rica. Fonseca’s articles reflect his efforts to recover the musical history of his country (“Apuntes sobre música costarricense,” “Recuerdos e impresiones de mi vida artística”). Other notable contributions to Costa Rican history include the chronicle of the first performance of Puccini’s Tosca in San José, and the column “Galería de artistas nacionales” [Gallery of National Artists] which contains biographies of Costa Rican musicians of renown.

In addition to articles of local interest, the journal includes writings on topics of international scope treating biographical sketches of Debussy and Beethoven or bibliographical notes on selected publications, such as Tovey’s Essays on Musical Analysis. The only but meritorious attempt to cover topics related to Latin America is Juan Piedra’s article on the music of Argentina.

Numerous photographs published in the journal illustrate the contemporary musical scene in Costa Rica: notable, among them, are those of the aforementioned composer Julio Fonseca, pianist Guillermo Aguilar, soprano Ofelia Quirón, the tenor Melico Salazar and the members of the Banda Militar de San José.

Besides the articles of Enrique Macaya Lahman, Luis Zumbado and Julio Fonseca, the journal counts among its contributors Jeanette Lund de Bolaños, Juan Piedra, Luis Durán, Luis Dobles Sagreda, María F. de Tinoco, José B. Acuña, Odile Cantillano, Valverde Alvarado, Anita de Gómez, David F. España, Gonzalo Brenes, Lola Castegnaro, and Juan Propseridad. The journal reproduces writings by Stravinsky, Vincent D’Indy, Kurt Phalen and Bernard Shaw.