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Timeline: Antonio Lauro (1917-1986)

Antonio Lauro
Antonio Lauro always thought of himself as a composer first, not a performer. However, late in life he and his guitar embarked on a successful solo concert tour around the world.

In this episode we will explore the life, music and legacy of Venezuelan composer and guitarist Antonio Lauro.

Antonio Lauro was born in Ciudad Bolivar, Venezuela in 1917. His father, an Italian immigrant, was a barber and also an amateur guitarist and singer. He was Antonio’s first music teacher. Sadly, the elder Lauro passed away when Antonio was only five and his mother moved the family to the city of Caracas.

Lauro enrolled at the Academy of Music and Declamation at the age of six studying piano and composition. However, in 1932, he attended a performance of the famed guitarist Agustin Barrios that changed his life forever. Lauro was so impressed by the possibilities and sound of the instrument that he made the decision then and there to abandon his piano studies and make the guitar his passion. He devoted himself to studying and composing for the instrument. As a young man, he worked for Caracas Broadcasting, playing the guitar professionally on the radio. Lauro’s guitar compositions helped to cement the instrument in the cultural life of Venezuela.

Antonio Lauro toured South America with the ensemble Trio Canotires del Tropico. During his time with this ensemble, Lauro became fascinated with Venezuelan waltzes and their wonderful variation on the standard ¾ waltz rhythm. Lauro’s musical style has been called Cultural Nationalism. He was focused on celebrating, preserving and even rescuing Venezuelan folk music and musical heritage. His guitar works became instant hits in the country and around the world. Lauro also wrote for other ensembles and instruments, but these works are not as popular. There are a great deal of pieces by Antonio Lauro that remain unpublished, even today.

Lauro was also an outspoken advocate for democracy and his political views often got him into trouble. In 1948, he was imprisoned by the military Junta of General Jimenez. Lauro continued to write music, even behind bars. Later in life, Lauro called prison a rite of passage for a Venezuelan of his generation.

After his release from prison, Antonio Lauro continued touring. His guitar music gained an audience around the world. Lauro took a teaching position at the Juan Jose Landaeta Conservatory and was later appointed president of the Venezuela Symphony Orchestra.

Antonio Lauro always thought of himself as a composer first, not a performer. However, late in life he and his guitar embarked on a successful solo concert tour around the world. Just before his death in 1986, Lauro was given the Premio Nacional de Musica, the highest artistic award in Venezuela.

Find out more about Antonio Lauro follow the Timeline.

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James Stewart is VPR Classical's afternoon host. As a composer, he is interested in many different genres of music; writing for rock bands, symphony orchestras and everything in between.