A rediscovery of Ernst Widmer's Kosmos Latinoamericano: An analysis of its cross-cultural influences, pedagogical purpose, and performance approaches
Ramirez, Leobardo Guerrero
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The music of Latin America has been often seen as colorful, energetic, and even exotic. This music comprises a meaningful message as it reflects the culture, traditions, and history of each country and region. Many nationalistic composers have explored the cultural heritage of their countries by using popular folk materials in their compositions. The piano literature includes several composers who devoted themselves to the preservation of these musical treasures by embracing folklore and adapting it into their works. This study explores Ernst Widmer’s Kosmos Latinoamericano, a collection that was developed from one of his previous works Ludus Brasiliensis; both works were modeled after Béla Bartók’s Mikrokosmos. Ernst Widmer was a Swiss composer and pedagogue who developed his musical career mainly in Brazil. His four-volume pedagogical collection Kosmos Latinoamericano was written as a progressive piano method with Latin American flair, containing folk songs, dances, and rhythms from North, Central, and South American countries. Through the study of pieces in Kosmos, students are gradually exposed to different musical skills and elements such as reading, technique, improvisation, and artistry. Unfortunately, the collection has had little exposure in Brazil and abroad. Thus, one of the purposes of this research is to familiarize piano pedagogues with this engaging and valuable work. The project centers on forty individual selections spanning the four volumes of Kosmos Latinoamericano, and provides an analysis regarding the cultural influences, performance practices, and suggestions for teaching and learning of each of the pieces selected. Further, since there is no known published recording of Kosmos Latinoamericano, I created video recordings of the 40 pieces being performed and linked them to this document to provide another source of references for those interested in teaching, learning, or furthering researching this collection. I include biographical information about the author, primarily collected during my travels in August 2013 to Aarau, Switzerland, the birthplace of Widmer, to view archives of his manuscripts and published works; and Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, where I had the privilege of interviewing Widmer’s former colleagues, students, and family members. These interviews provided not only invaluable information about the author’s personal life but also remarkable insight about his style, his musical heritage and legacy, and his teaching philosophies.