Venezuelan guitarist and composer Antonio Lauro (August 3, 1917 – April 18, 1986) has an outstanding reputation as one of the most important South American guitar composers in the 20th century.
Lauro’s music brought Venezuelan music into the mainstream classical repertoire. His compositions frequently incorporate syncopation and hemiola rhythms–elements that are iconic in Venezuelan music!
Lauro studied music at the Academia de Música y Declamación in Caracas. He learned music and composition from several prominent teachers and composers, including Vicente Emilio Sojo (1887–1974) and Raúl Borges (1888–1967).
Like many South American composers at the time, Lauro’s music had a nationalistic fervor. As you’ll see from the examples below, his most popular works are Venezuelan waltzes (valses venezolanos).
Popular Solo Guitar Works by Antonio Lauro
Below are some of Lauro’s most popular pieces:
- Seis por Derecho: Joropo
- El Marabino
- Maria Luisa
- 4 Valses Venezolano
- Suite Venezolana
- El Totumo de Guarenas
Fortunately, also we have some recordings of Antonio Lauro playing his own music live! Check out the Youtube link below to listen:
Seis por Derecho: Joropo
Lauro’s intense and energetic work Seis por derecho: Joropo translates to “six is right”. This refers to the Joropo (a type of dance) being in 6/8 time. The Joropo is a festive musical form. The Joropo originated in Venezuela, and even became the national dance there in 1882.
There’s also a subtitle on the work al estilo del arpa venezolana (“styled after the Venezuelan harp”). In fact, you can also find some harp performances of this piece on YouTube.
As you can hear in this virtuosic performance by Alirio Díaz, Seis por Derecho is full of difficult techniques and complex rhythmic structures at breakneck speed. Ultimately, Seis por Derecho is an iconic Venezuelan masterpiece.
Lauro’s Angostura is a popular, upbeat Venezuelan waltz in 3/4 time.
Angostura is in AB form. The A section is in the key of E minor and the B section is in the relative major key (G major).
Just like the majority of Lauro’s works, the melody of Angostura is beautiful, lively, and memorable!
Antonio Lauro’s “El Marabino” is one of his most popular works for guitar.
El Marabino is an upbeat vals venezolano (3/4 time) in ternary form (ABA). The A section is in the key of A major and the B section is in the key of D major.
The piece has a beautiful melody, and features more of the zesty rhythmic components Lauro is known for.
Maria Luisa is another beautiful waltz by Lauro in the Venezuelan style (vals venezolano). Lauro’s note at the top says “A mi esposa, Maria Luisa”, which translates to “for my wife, Maria Luisa”.
Maria Luisa has an A section and B section, both of which are in major keys. The A section is upbeat in the key of A major and the B section is in the key of D major.
In Maria Luisa, Lauro includes frequent dynamic shifts and slight tempo changes (poco rall and a tempo) throughout the piece. These markings and shifts gives the piece a “push and pull” sort of feeling, but in a beautiful and graceful way.
4 Valses Venezolano
Although Lauro composed many Venezuelan waltzes (“valses venezolano”), there’s also an explicit collection of 4 Valses Venezolano: Tatíana, Andreína, Natalia, and Yacambú.
Most guitarists play the arrangements of these beautiful works by Venezuelan guitar virtuoso Alirio Díaz.
Díaz was a dear friend and colleague of Lauro. Therefore, his interpretations of the 4 Valses Venezolano are a reputable source! You can access the guitar scores for these pieces here.
Tatíana is the first piece in the 4 Valses Venzolano collection. Lauro’s note at the top says “A mi sobrina, Tatíana”, which translates to “for my niece, Tatíana”. Given the playful and lighthearted nature of the piece, this dedication makes total sense.
Like many of Lauro’s waltzes, Tatíana is an upbeat piece that covers a wide range of the guitar neck. However, guitarists will need to play the melody in the upper range of the guitar neck for the majority of the piece compared to his other works.
Tatíana has an A section and a B section. Both of these sections are in the key of D major, with some brief modulations and chromatic phrases sprinkled in of course!
Andreína is the second piece of the 4 Valses Venezolanos. Lauro dedicates this piece “A mi sobrina, Andreína”, which translates to “for my niece, Andreína”. However, this piece in the key of E minor has a more melancholy vibe compared to Tatíana.
Lauro’s strong melodic line and rich harmonies throughout the piece make Andreína another beautiful classic for guitar.
No 3. Natalia
Lauro’s valse venezelo piece Natalia cuts right to the chase with a fast melodic run and phrases that explore a wide range on the guitar neck.
The original dedication is written “A mi maestro, Raúl Borges” (for my teacher, Raúl Borges), however later ones have the dedication “Para mi hija, Natalia” (for my daughter, Natalia).
Considering how often people perform this piece, it’s fair to say that Natalia is the most popular of the 4 valses venezolanos.
The A section of Natalia is in the key of E minor, the B section is in the key of E major (parallel major). The B section has longer melody notes that sustain over lighter harmonies, and can be played with lovely rubato as heard in the performance above.
No 4. Yacambú
The fourth and final piece in the 4 Valses Venezolano collection is Yacambú. Yacambú is the most dissonant of the pieces in this collection, and also performed less frequently than the others.
One could argue that Lauro’s Yacambú has more moments of tension than resolution. As a result, the piece is complex from a phrasing standpoint.
The complexity of Yacambú therefore requires the guitarist to play with lots of intention, highlighting the sweet moments of resolution wherever possible.
Lauro’s Suite Venezolana has four diverse movements: Registro (Preludio), Danza Negra, Canción, and Vals.
Lauro composed the suite in 1951-1952 while he was imprisoned for speaking out against the Venezuelan government.
El Totumo de Guarenas
The lively “El Totumo de Guarenas” is another valse venezolano that people often credit to Lauro. However, Lauro is only the arranger of this piece along with Alirio Díaz– Benito Canónico is the composer.
Still, Lauro’s arrangement has made El Totumo de Guarenas one of the most popular Venezuelan pieces to play on guitar!