MANUEL MARTINEZ-SOBRAL (1879 - 1946)
Born in Guatemala 1879, Manuel Martínez-Sobral was an excellent pianist and it is to him that Guatemala owes the first performance of several nineteenth century works. Martínez-Sobral probably devoted himself to composing for piano because there were few other professional musicians capable of performing with him.
He did, however compose several works for orchestra. Apart from his lost pieces Sinfonía en Si bemol and Réquiem, are mostly transcriptions of earlier works for piano. Such is the case with the four symphonic scenes, Acuarelas Chapinas of 1907, derived from a 1903 piano composition, and giving rise to his version for two pianos in 1922. Hojas de Álbum, Cinco Piezas Características y una romanza or Vals Brillante de Concierto were written for piano before being orchestrated by the composer.
His piano music shows a constant, gradual evolution from the classical Sonata papa Piano (1906) to the second of the Evocaciones of 1924. In these works may be seen, in relation to his methods of composition, one of the more surprising aspects of his language - the high level of derivation and accomplishment of which he was capable, starting from extremely simple ideas.
Martínez-Sobral was a composer who lived in total, enforced seclusion from the musical trends of the turn of the century. He never travelled abroad until long after giving up composing, and the contact which he could have had with the music of his time must have been very limited, living as he was in a small city in a lost Latin American country. In this context, his musical culture was eminently classical and his acquaintance with other composers could not have gone beyond those of the 1860s. It is therefore important to bear in mind these peculiar geographical and cultural circumstances when listening to Martínez-Sobral, who, along with Ricardo Castillo, was Central Americas most relevant and complete composer up to the first half of the twentieth century.