Leo Brouwer was born in Havana, Cuba. His father, a physician, was an aficionado of classical guitar composers such as Heitor Villa-Lobos, Francisco Tárrega and Enrique Granados. This interest was passed on from father to son and from a young age Brouwer was encouraged to learn the works of such composers, largely by ear.
His later formal classical guitar instruction from the noted Cuban guitarist and pedagogue Isaac Nicola, who was himself a former student of Emilio Pujol thus benefiting from a teaching method which can be traced back to the Francisco Tárrega. Studies in the United States of America at the Hartt College of Music, part of the University of the Hartford followed. A further stint at the Julliard School of Music in New York City featuring guitar studies under Vincent Persichetti, and composition classes with Stefan Wolpe added to his musical education.
Cuban folk music was a major influence in Leo Brouwers early compositions , but later during the 1960's and 70's he became more interested in modernist music composition, such as that of Luigi Nono and Iannis Xenakis. Works from this period of his composition include : Canticum (1968), La espiral eterna (1971), Parábola (1973) and Tarantos (1974). In more recent times tonality and modality has been prominent , solo guitar works El Decamerón Negro (1981) the Sonata (1990; for Julian Bream) and Paisaje cubano con campanas, (1986) illustrate this more recent trend.
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Leo Brouwer's Danza Caracaterística performed by the Esther Steenbergen Trio
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A significant body of work
Leo Brouwer has held a number of official posts in Cuba's governmental administration, including the Directorship of the Cinema Institute in Cuba's music department. Amongst his works are a large number of solo guitar pieces, several guitar concertos and over forty film scores. He is involved in the biennial Concurso y Festival Internacional de Guitarra de la Habana (International Guitar Festival of the Havana). He travels often to attend guitar festivals throughout the world, particularly those held in Latin American countries.
Leo Brouwer's Cuban landscape with rain performed by Quartetto Chitarre Bari