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Master Guitarist Berta Rojas Honors the Music of Two Unheralded, Trailblazing Women on Legado

May 12, 2022 | By Diane Blackman
Founder, BRPR

Three-time Latin Grammy Nominee Berta Rojas

Joyously Evokes the Spirit of Guitar Virtuosos Ida Presti and Maria Luisa Anido


Though the names Ida Presti and Maria Luisa Anido may be unfamiliar, their talent is undeniable, their music unforgettable. Three-time Grammy nominee Berta Rojas, among the world’s most acclaimed classical guitarists, illuminates the significant contributions of these 20th century masters of her instrument. With her exquisite interpretations of original compositions by Anido and Presti as well as works written in their homage, Legado—available May 24 on Amazon, iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, Deezer, Tidal and YouTube Music—restores these remarkable women to their rightful place as two of guitar history’s most illustrious and influential players.

Rapturous reviews follow Rojas, one of the few women in the top echelon of classical guitar, wherever she performs for her electrifying technique and extraordinary virtuosity. “A musician of fascinating intellect and a great depth that reaches down to her very soul,” wrote the World Music Report. But more than talent and artistry, the inspirational guitarist possesses a generosity of spirit, a deep-seated desire to help others find their voices and their true means of expression. She has become an emissary for under-appreciated music, for the culture of Latin America and especially her home country of Paraguay, and a role model for young women hoping to follow in her footsteps.

Bringing greater appreciation to Presti and Anido is certainly in keeping with that sensibility. “I wanted to pay tribute to women pioneers of the classical guitar,” Rojas says. “They did have recognition while they were alive, but that essentially evaporated after their deaths. They deserve to be part of the conversation when you mention the main figures of classical guitar like Andrés Segovia and Julian Bream. These women also contributed to the growth of the instrument. They were trailblazers in a time when the guitar was a male dominated field.”

Legado translates as legacy, and by honoring and remembering the women who came before, Berta Rojas is securing her own enduring legacy. This singular recording makes a bold statement that goes beyond recognition for the enormous accomplishments of Presti and Anido. “By sharing the wealth of unsung compositions for our beautiful instrument, we can change culture and contribute to the normalcy of seeing both women and men as heroes,” Rojas says.

Extraordinary guitarists who developed unique voices and paths as premiere concert artists, the women not only performed extensively, they also expanded the guitar repertoire by composing, arranging, and inspiring new pieces. Even so, Rojas admits she was not that familiar with these innovative musicians. In fact, it was Candice Mowbray, a respected scholar, lecturer and performer, who brought Presti to her attention years ago when she was starting her research on the legendary figure. But that changed when she heard their music and delved deeper into their lives. “It was so beautiful, and I wondered why it wasn’t played,” she says. “There are pieces you listen to, and they stay in your heart, they stay in your mind, and you can't stop thinking about them. I fell in love with their music and felt I could honor it.”

Born outside of Paris, Ida Presti (1924-1967) was a child prodigy, giving her first full concert at the age of 10. “When I listened to her, I was aware that heaven had bestowed to her the gift of musical communication,” Segovia commented. Pushed by her father, success came early but his death in 1938 and the advent of World War II, limited widespread travel and exposure. In 1952, she married fellow guitarist Alexandre Lagoya and the pair became one of the most celebrated duos in classical guitar, perhaps overshadowing her solo accomplishments.

Presti’s compositions show an energetic musical personality and an impressive technical prowess. They abound with her signature left-hand stretches, agile shifts, pizzicato interludes, and spritely tempi.

Argentinian-born Maria Luisa Anido (1907-1996) drew inspiration for much of her music from the folk tunes and idioms of South America. “Maria Luisa Anido was for me a revelation. The impression it produced to me I’ll never be able to erase from my mind.…it is something that surpasses all that is imaginable,” renowned guitar virtuoso Miguel Llobet said. Like Presti, her talents were recognized early, and her early career guided by her guitarist father. But it was only after the death of her parents that Anido was able to travel more extensively and perform in prominent venues worldwide.

“There is a concise expressiveness to her compositions,” Rojas says. “She goes directly to the core of an idea and her music is so powerful--without indulging in unnecessary flourishes--that I can feel her soul.”

For Legado, Rojas has chosen to play six compositions by the two women and three works inspired by their artistry, including a musical portrait of Anido commissioned by Rojas, written by Sergío Assad, among the most recognizable and respected figures in the guitar world. The album begins with Segovia, Presti’s technically challenging and passionate homage to the great guitarist. In Danse rythmique, an exuberant tribute to her husband, Presti relies on contrasting timbres, lyrical melodies, and playful dissonances.

John Duarte’s Idylle pour Ida is a loving remembrance of a valued friend, and Gilbert Biberian’s Prelude No. 1 “Tombeau” in memoriam to Ida Presti, expresses the composer’s grief on learning of Presti’s death.

Anido’s Lejanía, written for one of her students, a tapestry of arpeggios gives the piece a sweet, wistful quality. In Aire de Vidalita, Anido infuses the characteristic melody and rhythm of this South American song style with evocative, resonant harmonies. “Triste No. 1” is part of her Impresiones Argentinas, works drawing from Argentine musical folklore. “El Misachico,” the last piece in that collection is dedicated to the memory of her mother.

For Anido’s Portrait, Assado created a musical cryptogram using pitch changes to represent letters and embed references about Anido within the work’s four movements. The piece serves as a melodic travelogue, reflecting the places important in her career and her life.

At the essence of Legado is a quote attributed to Maria Luisa that resonates with Rojas; “Art is spirit, and especially so in the guitar, which, to me, is the most solitary instrument. It is the extension of the soul in the form of sound.”

Currently on the faculty of Berklee College of Music, Rojas received her first Latin Grammy nomination for the groundbreaking a y Medio recorded with Paquito D’Rivera. She has been ranked amongst the most influential women in the Hispanic world (EFE and EsGlobal 2014; 2017); named a Fellow of the Americas by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; served as the Artistic Director of the Ibero-American Guitar Festival at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C.; was the first woman to ever receive the “Silver Guitar” award at the International Guitar Festival; and was honored by her country with the title Illustrious Ambassador of Musical Art.







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