MANUEL GREGORIO ROPERO Y TAVÁREZ was a notable Puerto Rican musician and composer. Also, he is known as the “Father of the Puerto Rican Danza” and the “Chopin of America.”
He was born on November 28, 1843, in San Juan, the son of a French father, Manuel Alejandro Tavárez, and a Puerto Rican mother, Dominga Ropero. He completed his primary studies in his hometown. Also, he studied the piano as a child under the tutelage of José Cabrizas and Domingo Delgado.
Because of his exceptional talent, the Sociedad Económica de Amigos del País, whose purpose was to promote the economic development of the island, awarded him a scholarship to study at the Paris Conservatory of Music (1858). Among his teachers was the French composer Daniel Auber and Eugen d’Albert of Germany. There he composed the piece, Gran Fantasía de Concierto.
After ten months in Paris, Tavárez suffered a stroke, which damaged his hearing and severely weakened his left hand. He returned to San Juan without completing his studies.
In Puerto Rico, he worked as a piano professor in San Juan, Caguas, and Ponce, where he settled permanently (1870). Among his most outstanding students were the future composers Juan Morel Campos and Francisco Cortés.
Over time he rehabilitated his hand and resumed playing the piano. Also, he composed the first Puerto Rican Danzas, influenced by the Cuban Danza, African rhythms, and Latin American (Venezuelan) rhythms.
Among his compositions are the symphony A Campeche, which received an award from the Sociedad Económica Amigos del País; the Danzas Margarita, Ausencia and Pobre Corazón; the waltzes El 24 de Junio and Vals de Concierto (written for the left hand) and Cuadros Musicales: Recuerdos de antaño, Virgen de Borinquen, Dicha Fugaz and La Hamaca and Un Recuerdito (for the pianist, Ana Otero, his successor), the symphony Souvenir de Puerto Rico and Aires del País, in which he incorporated elements of traditional folkloric music with classical music.
In 1882 Tavárez composed the march for the piano titled, Redención, which won the music competition at the Ponce Fair. Also, he performed in concerts, recitals, and festivals, mostly in and around Ponce and composed the music for the poem Súplica a Mis Amigos by José Gautier Benítez.
Tavárez was an active member of the Sociedad Económica de Amigos del País and an honorary member of the Casino de Ponce, the Ponce Choral Society, the Recreational Center and the Sociedad de Amigos del País in the Dominican Republic.
He holds the distinction of being the first “romantic” who aspired to different sources of Romanticism. Also, the melodic structure of his compositions is typical of the German romantic school with cadences of French Romanticism, which he absorbed as a student in Paris, France. Also, he distills the form by disarticulating it from the classical realm and creating a Criollo music that incorporates elements of the Cuban Habanera, indigenous Puerto Rican music – guiro, drum and guitar – and African rhythms.
Tavárez died in Ponce on July 1, 1883, at 39. He is buried in the Panteón Nacional Román de Castro cemetery in the municipality of Ponce.
His daughter, Elisa Tavárez Colón, was an outstanding pianist and music teacher.
- http://• https://enciclopediapr.org/en/encyclopedia/tavarez-manuel-gregorio/
- Veray, Amaury – Manuel G. Tavarez (Revista: Instituto de Cultural Puertorriquena, 1957).