Manuel Ponce Biography (BBC)
Manuel Ponce was the leading Mexican musician of his age, and a major figure in helping to develop a recognisable national style. He was born into a musical family in 1882, studying first with his sister Josefína and later in Mexico City and Bologna (where he was for a short time a student of Puccini’s teacher, Cesare Dall’Olio). In 1907 he moved back to Mexico, earning a living primarily through teaching the piano, latterly at the National Conservatory in Mexico City.
His own music was beginning to gain recognition, and the premiere of his Piano Concerto (at which he was the soloist) in 1912 marked him out as the key musical figure in contemporary Mexico. The following year he gave a lecture called ‘La musica y la canción mexicana’. This was published soon after, and was a catalyst for the Mexican ‘nationalist’ school. Political life became difficult during the years of the Mexican Revolution (1910–20), and Ponce moved to Havana – a refuge for many artists and intellectuals – from 1915 to 1917.
After returning to Mexico, he continued to teach the piano and conducted the National Symphony Orchestra, which was responsible for a large number of premieres. He also launched the first of his publishing ventures, a magazine named Revista musical de México. He returned to Europe, settling in Paris in 1925. Here, despite his acclaim at home, he took lessons with Dukas until 1933, also founding a Spanish-language magazine, Gaceta musical. While in Paris he met Segovia, for whom he wrote many works which have since become a staple of the guitar repertory.
Returning to Mexico in 1933, he became Director of the National Conservatory and wrote prolifically on many musical subjects. Major works from this period include Chapultepec (1934), Merlín (1938) and the Violin Concerto (1943).
He died in 1948, a year after being honoured with the Premio Nacional de Artes. Ponce left behind a prodigious body of music, wide-ranging in style as well as genre. In addition to songs and many works for solo piano, his abiding interest in Mexican folk music (he was an avid collector of native songs, helping to preserve his folk culture in the same way as Bartók and Grieg did in their respective countries) emergesin such works as the symphonic poem Ferial. His interest in Impressionism can be seen in works such as Chapultepec, while the near-atonality of his Sonata for violin and viola shows the breadth of his personal style.
Profile © Sharona Volcano
Manuel Ponce Tracks