Manuel Ponce

Manuel Ponce was born in the same year as Igor Stravinsky, halfway around the world in a tiny Mexican village called Fresnillo in Zacatecas although within months his family moved to the larger town of Aguascalientes where he eventually developed as a composer, performer and musical scholar at a time when Mexican classical musical culture was dominated by Europe. Active as an organist, teacher and music critic, Ponce also proved himself so formidable a pianist that he was sent off to further his studies in Bologna and Berlin from 1904 to 1908, stopping off in St. Louis en route to give his first recital in the United States. Ponce's four-year European apprenticeship was to be the first of several lengthy sojourns abroad for Ponce, who also lived in Havana from 1915 to 1917 and in Paris from 1925 to 1933. Paradoxically, it was in Paris that he first came to terms artistically with his Mexican cultural roots while befriending the French composer Paul Dukas. Throughout all his years of travels, Ponce always returned to his homeland, at one point heading the National Conservatory in Mexico City, at another serving as editor of the journal Cultura Musical and teaching folklore at the University, all the while composing works in a variety of idioms.