Tavarez, Manuel Gregorio

One of the better known of the danza composers was Puerto Rican born Manuel Tavares, a composer whose orchestral techniques matured within the musical traditions of 19th-century Spain and whose success encouraged other generations of Puerto Rican classicist and danza composers to follow in his footsteps.

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He was born on November 28, 1843 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. His father was French and his mother Puerto Rican. He began his musical studies in San Juan and at age 15 he moved to Paris where he studied in the Music Conservatory under Auber and D’Albert. His studies were interrupted by a stroke which caused him a partial paralysis of his left hand and a hearing defficiency. Back in Puerto Rico he could overcome those problems and after offering several concerts in San Juan moved to the city of Ponce, where he gave piano lessons.

He taught many of his students in the French piano style. He stimulated the creative talent of his most famous student, Juan Morel Campos.

Tavarez is considered the father of the Puerto Rican danza. He was responsible for giving it the delicate and romantic touch which made it suitable for the concert salon. His most famous composition and a good example of this is his beautiful danza Margarita, composed in 1870.

By 1850, another group of island composers, many only informally trained, had adapted a Puerto Rican interpretation of the most popular dance of that era -the minuet- into a musical genre known as the danza. Based on a refined, somewhat rigid classical score, with an underlying lilt that is unmistakably Caribbean, its most popular early advocate was composer Juan Morel Campos. Later, this dance style evolved into the dance rhythms still popular today.

Tavarez passed away on the 1st of July of 1883 at age 39.