People do not live on guitar alone
The release by a Dutch publisher of the works of a musician born in southern Bolívar state has put Venezuela on the music world map.
Antonio Lauro came into the world in Ciudad Bolívar, on 3 August 1917. His parents, Antonio and Armida, were Italian immigrants who, like many foreigners, found in Venezuela a shelter to seed their present and harvest their future. Both of them met and got married in Caracas.
Little Antonio started to study music when he was nine years old at José Ángel Lamas School.
There, he took lessons from Vicente Emilio Sojo, Juan Bautista Plaza and Salvador Narciso Llamozas. His guitar teacher was Raúl Borges, the founder of the chair of Classic Music in Venezuela in 1930.
Lauro's life, like that of many other artists contemporary with him, was not easy. There were neither scholarships nor systems aimed at sustaining students' music education. Lauro was certain that music was his vocation, no matter his family's opposition. In this way, he strived to make headway with the art of sounds.
He not only pursued a career as a performer of classic guitar, but also formed part of popular ensembles. He was an accompanist of singers at Broadcasting Caracas, nowadays RCR.
Thereafter, he established the group Cantores del Trópico (Singers of the Tropic), in 1935, together with composer Eduardo Serrano; Manuel Enrique Pérez Díaz, also a guitarist, and singer Marco Tulio Maristany. The trio broke up in the early 1940's, after leaving several popular works and even 78-rpm records.
He also founded the Raúl Borges Trio, along with Flaminia de Sola and Antonio Ochoa. The repertoire for guitar trios has survived thanks to Lauro's endeavors including compositions and transcriptions.
Going on his music education, in 1947 Lauro graduated as Master Composer. That year, he joined the Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela (OSV) as a percussionist. He presided over the institution in 1959-1960.
Not everything in Antonio Lauro's life was music and sounds. A supporter of Acción Democrática party, he was a political prisoner under the dictatorship of General Marcos Pérez Jiménez in the late 1940's. He went into exile precisely out of his activity against the regime.
Back to Venezuela, he engaged again in his trade. Not only he composed for his guitar, but also for other instruments and orchestra; he kept on working as a percussionist at the OSV, and was also a lyric singer. Thus, on 25 July 1945, together with the OSV and tenor Teo Capriles, he introduced the Cantata Criolla by Antonio Estévez, conducted by his author, at Caracas Municipal Theater.
All of this renders an account of someone of a Renaissance spirit; he moved at leisure through all styles and repertoires and easily combined the language of popular music with academic severity. He always practiced as a teacher. This, added to his charm and congeniality, makes every Venezuelan guitarist feel like his pupil.
Married to María Luisa Contreras, he was the father of Natalia, Leonardo and Luis Augusto. It is said that once Lauro came home; his wife, María Luisa, was cooking. He approached her from behind in an attempt at surprising her. Unluckily, the knife used by his wife to cut vegetables injured one of his hands. It was a tragic accident for an instrumentalist. He eventually sorted it out.
On another occasion, in company with a group of friends, Lauro was invited to play the guitar. Seemingly, the master was not in the mood. Nevertheless, he indulged the audience. Witnesses tell that Lauro would make a mistake now and then. He blamed it on the guitar. The guitar was changed. Mistakes would continue and he put the blame on a case of sodas that he was using to place his left leg. All of a sudden, a guitar student emerged: "Don't you worry,sir, I will lend you my foot peg." Lauro replied: "Oh, dear! Now, for sure, I cannot blame anyone else!"
Antonio Lauro passed away in Caracas, on 18 April 1986; he was 69 year old. He bequeathed an astounding legacy not only for guitar, but also for singing, orchestra, piano and other instruments. His work is known worldwide thanks to the dissemination of guitarist Alirio Díaz. Perhaps his most important performer, Díaz managed to spread Lauro's works through Dutch publisher Broekmans & van Poppel.
Translated by Conchita Delgado
Cristian Fonseca, a businessman in La Candelaria district downtown Caracas, was doing the accounts in his small shop office on Sunday December 21, 2008. The Christmas shopping season kept him working late hours into the night. It was around 11 p.m. and his phone rang. A friend broke the bad news to him over the telephone.