First residence of Manuel Gregorio Tavárez

First residence of Manuel Gregorio Tavárez

Notable Puerto Rican musician and composer. He is known as the “Father of the Puerto Rican Danza,” as he was a forerunner of this form of music that was born in the middle of the 19th century.

He was born on November 28, 1843 in San Juan, the son of a French father, Manuel Alejandro Tavárez, and a Puerto Rican mother, Dominga Ropero. He completed his primary studies in his hometown. He studied piano as a child under the tutelage of José Cabrizas and Domingo Delgado.

Because of the great musical talent he showed, the Sociedad Económica de Amigos del País, an organization whose purpose was to promote economic development of the island, granted him a scholarship to go to study at the Paris Conservatory of Music in December of 1858. Among his teachers were the French composer Daniel Auber and Eugen d’Albert of Germany. There he composed a piece titled Gran fantasía de concierto.

After only ten months in Paris, he contracted a cerebral disease that damaged his hearing and left his left hand atrophied, which forced him to return to San Juan without completing his studies. Upon returning to the island, he worked as a piano professor in San Juan, Caguas and Ponce, where he settled permanently in 1870. Among his most outstanding students were future composers Juan Morel Campos and Francisco Cortés.

He exercised his left hand until he rehabilitated it enough to be able to play the piano again. Being in Ponce, he composed the first Puerto Rican danzas, which emerged as a combination of the Havana danza, with Central European harmonic and melodic elements, with traditional rhythms of African origin and other Caribbean and Venezuelan influences. Tavárez stylized and purified this new musical style, integrating the piano as the main instrument.

Among his compositions are the symphony A Campeche, which received an award from the Sociedad Económica Amigos del País, the danzas Margarita, Ausencia and Pobre corazón, the waltzes El 24 de junio and Vals de Concierto (written for the left hand), as well as the four compositions Cuadros musicales: Recuerdos de antaño, Virgen de Borinquen, Dicha fugaz and La hamaca, among others. He also composed a symphony titled Souvenir de Puerto Rico or Aires del país, in which he incorporated elements of traditional folk music into classical music.

In 1882 he composed the well known march for the piano, Redención, which won the music competition at the Ponce Fair. He performed his compositions in concerts, recitals and festivals, mostly in his home city of Ponce. He also wrote music for the poem “Súplica a mis amigos” by José Gautier Benítez.

H was an active member of the Sociedad Económica de Amigos del País and an honorary member of the Casino de Ponce, the Ponce Choral Society, the Recreational Center and the Sociedad de Amigos del País in the Dominican Republic.

He died July 1, 1883, in his adopted town of Ponce. His daughter, Elisa Tavárez Colón, was also an outstanding pianist and music teacher.

By the PROE Editorial Group

Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: November 17, 2009.

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