Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Joaquín Gutiérrez Heras: RIP

Juan Arturo Brennan
The estimable music critic and commentator Juan Arturo Brennan, writing in La Jornada (Mexico City) this past March 10, noted the passing of the Mexican composer and teacher Joaquín Gutiérrez Heras. "Adios, Joaquin," he wrote. Gutiérrez Heras was 84 years old.

 Joaquín Gutiérrez Heras (1927-2012)
Brennan goes on to note that Gutiérrez Heras’ own composition, Postludio, would likely resonate in concerts and memorials across Mexico as tributes are voiced to the memory of Gutiérrez Heras. But Brennan, as much social observer as music critic, goes on:
“The ritual is well known, and the cycle is repeated once more: the death of an important composer unleashes a series of tributes and memorials, including, yes, performances of his works. It happens, however, that such interpretations often ring hollow, not for lack of quality in the music, but for an obvious lack of conviction on the part of the organizers, promoters and performers of such tributes.”

Brennan further notes a general lack of respect for our living composers and their music. This is a point well taken, and applied to Gutiérrez Heras points to the fact that although his output was modest, there is still only a handful of his music played with any regularity, principally Postludio. Brennan is right to scold. And his scolding might apply well outside the limits of the borders of Mexico. The music of Joaquin Gutiérrez Heras remains largely unknown here in the United States, despite its amiable personality. Gutiérrez Heras was no modernist. He spoke often of the courage it took to be a Romantic in the 20th Century.

I interviewed Maestro Gutiérrez Heras nine years ago (Listen Now), at the Festival Internacional Cervantino in Guanajuato, Mexico. Along the way, I was impressed by the respect shown Maestro Gutiérrez Heras by all those around him. Although no flags are today flying at half mast and, as Senor Brennan contends, the tributes might lack full commitment, there are, nevertheless, many who are mourning the death of Joaquin Gutiérrez Heras as the loss of a great musician and an even greater gentleman.

-James Baker-

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