Juventino Rosas (1868-1894) – Helmut Brenner (1957-)

Austrian born non fiction author and ethnomusicologist Helmut Brenner lived several years in Mexico. While studying Spanish in the colonial town of San Miguel de Allende in the state of Guanajuato, Brenner became acquainted with one legendary Mexican composer whose music caught his admiration and attention. After ten years of “patient and meticulous research,” he published in 2000, Juventino Rosas’ biography and catalog of works, titled “Juventino Rosas, His Life, His Work, His Time.”

Who was this little known Mexican composer that would capture such devotion from Mr. Brenner, you may ask? And to answer this question consider this quote from the author himself as written in the introduction of his book:

“When you are in love, it’s the loveliest night of the year,” sang Ann Blyth in the movie The Great Caruso (1951). Later the song “The Loveliest Night of the Year” was recorded by her starring partner, Mario Lanza. Almost everyone has heard the melody, and just a few know that the song is an English version of a Mexican waltz, but who would ever have imagined that it was written by a Mexican-Indian composer, Juventino Rosas (1868-1894). It is his very best-known piece, originally titled “Sobre las Olas” (“Over the Waves”).

Mr. Brenner’s intention to bring Juventino Rosas’ music and biography to a wider audience” is not only greatly appreciated by those of us who are Rosas’ fans, but it is an admirable work that gives justice to the short life and music of a composer who only devoted a decade to composing due to his untimely death at the age of twenty-six years old.  Yet, Juventino Rosas was the first Mexican composer whose music gained recognition internationally; and his music was very popular in the late nineteenth century, especially in the United States .

“Rosas was one of the best known Mexican composers of salon music, and the composer with the highest number of editions abroad and of sound recordings, the first of them released in 1898, ” Mr. Brenner writes.

The book divided in three parts, includes Rosas’ chronological sequence of different periods in his life, the posthumous evaluation of Rosas’ life: publications; sound recordings, films, statues, and homages, and the thematic catalog, which is the main part of  Brenner’s research. The catalog includes all known works, and gives information on autographs, existing editions, and the location of the first editions.

“Sobre Las Olas” (Over the Waves”) has been performed the world over during a span of more than one hundred years by symphonies, small ensembles, and Mariachi bands.  But perhaps to give this popular and internationally known waltz its proper due, I have chosen two performances, one by the Berlin Symphony, and the other by a Russian Military orchestra, which exemplify this wonderful orchestral work.

watch?v=g7POa3nXagE&feature=related (Original Instrumental German Version)

Sobre Las Olas (Russian Instrumental Version)

– Mario Lanza from the Loveliest Night of The Year Video.

For more information on Mr. Helmut Brenner: http://helmutbrenner.tripod.com/

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