César Canseco, a guest artist based in Mexico City, illustrated today’s Doodle, which commemorates Manuel Ponce Cuéllar’s 139th birthday. Ponce was a guitar master and the first Mexican classical music composer to achieve international recognition. His work was heavily influenced by European music, but his compositions also included Mexican elements.
On this date in 1882, Ponce was born in Fresnillo. He started playing the piano when he was just six years old, recognizing his talent at an early age. He was ill when he wrote his first composition, “La Marcha del Sarampion,” when he was nine years old.
Ponce signed up for the Conservatorio Nacional de Msica in Mexico City when he was 21 years old, but he left after realizing that his skills were too advanced. A year later, he went to Europe to study piano and composition. His fellow students in Germany encouraged him to incorporate Mexican folk elements into his music, which led to the development of his distinctive style.
He returned to Mexico City in 1912 to teach at the Conservatorio Nacional, where he also wrote his most well-known composition, “Estrellita.” In 1925, he went to the École Normale de Musique in Paris to study music. While there, he wrote several guitar compositions, which inspired other Mexican composers to do the same. He became known as one of Mexico’s most revered classical guitar players and composers as a result of these two accomplishments.
He was more than just a musician and composer—he also wrote over 300 compositions. Ponce also worked as a conductor, lecturer, music critic, and teacher. In addition, as the founder and editor of three music journals, he penned more than 200 essays: Gaceta Musical, Cultura Musical, and the Mexican Musical Review With a distinct Mexican folk touch, his styles ranged from baroque to impressionist, classical to romantic.
In 1947, Ponce received the National Prize for Arts and Sciences, or Premio Nacional de Artes y Ciencias. The following year, he passed away, and he was buried in the Panteón de Dolores’ Rotonda de las Personas Ilustres (Roundhouse of the Illustrious Men), a place that honors individuals who have made significant contributions to Mexican society.
Happy Birthday, Manuel Ponce Cuéllar !
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