Manuel M. Ponce (1882 - 1948) was a Mexican composer. He was a child prodigy, fascinated by the folk and popular music of his country, but also an accomplished composer of classical music who studied in Italy, Germany and France. Though he wrote extensively for all combinations of instruments, he is particularly noted for having made a huge contribution to the guitar repertoire. The great Spanish guitarist Andrés Segovia worked closely with him to try and fill in some of the gaps in the guitar repertoire. Ponce achieved popular success with his song "Estrellita" (Little Star) that he composed in 1912 while traveling on a train. Here it is:
There is also a famous arrangement by Jascha Heifetz for violin and piano:
But probably the most-performed of his music today is his music for guitar. One of the best is his Sonatina meridional in three movements capturing some of the flavor of Mexican popular music. Here are the three movements played by Segovia:
He sometimes wrote in the style of other composers. In his Sonata Romantica, he tries to fill in a big gap in the guitar repertoire by imagining what a sonata for guitar by Franz Schubert might have sounded like. Here is Ana Vidovic, playing the slow movement:
He also wrote a set of lovely, short preludes. Here are four, played by Jennifer Kim:
The two largest pieces for guitar by Ponce are his mammoth 20 Variations and Fugue on "Folias de España" and a very substantial guitar concerto. Here is a truncated version of the former recorded in 1932 by Segovia:
And finally, Ponce wrote a Concierto del Sur for Guitar and Orchestra in 1941 that does not get nearly enough performances. Here is the first movement, in two parts, performed by Narciso Yepes:
Ponce was a fine composer, capable of writing in larger as well as smaller forms. His music is never too far from its roots in popular and folk music. Perhaps the composer one could compare him with most closely would be the Brazilian Heitor Villa-Lobos, though I think Ponce's music is more fine-grained.
UPDATE: I just realized that I have played every one of the pieces I mentioned above--even Estrellita! And, with the exception of the concerto, I have also performed all of them in public. I could never talk a conductor into doing the Concierto del Sur -- they always wanted to hear the Aranjuez.