Manuel María Ponce Cuéllar (8 December 1882, Fresnillo, Zacatecas, Mexico – 24 April 1948, Mexico City) was a Mexican composer active in the 20th century.
Manuel Maria Ponce moved with his family to the city of Aguascalientes only a few weeks after his birth and lived there until he was 15 years old.
He was famous for being a musical prodigy; according to his biographers, he was barely four years of age when, after having listened to the piano classes received by his sister, Josefina, he sat in front of the instrument and interpreted one of the pieces that he had heard. Immediately, his parents had him receive classes in piano and musical notation.
In 1901 Ponce entered the National Conservatory of Music, already with a certain prestige as a pianist and composer. There he remained until 1903, the year in which he returned to the city of Aguascalientes. In 1904 he traveled to Italy for advanced musical studies at the School of Bologna. He also studied in Germany as a pupil of Martin Krause at the Stern conservatory in Berlin between 1906 and 1908.
After his years abroad, Ponce returned to Mexico to teach piano and music history at the National Conservatory of Music from 1909 to 1915 and from 1917 to 1922. He spent the intervening years of 1915 to 1917 in Havana, Cuba.
In 1912 he composed his most famous work, Estrellita ("little star"), which is not a normal love song, as is usually thought, but "nostalgia viva" (live nostalgia). That same year, Ponce gave in the Arbeau Theater a memorable concert of Mexican popular music which, though it scandalized ardent defenders of European classical music, became a landmark in the history of the national song.
His work as a composer, music educator and scholar of Mexican music connected the concert scene with a usually forgotten tradition of popular song and Mexican folklore. Many of his compositions are strongly influenced by the harmonies and form of traditional songs. With valuable activity promoting music of the country and writing melodías like Estrellita, A la orilla de un palmar, Alevántate, La Pajarera, Marchita el Alma and Una Multitud Más, Ponce gained the honorific title Creator of the Modern Mexican Song. He was also the first Mexican composer to project popular music onto the world stage: Estrellita, for example, has been part of the repertoire of the main orchestras of the world and countless singers.
Ponce's guitar music is a core part of the instrument's repertory, the best-known works being Variations and Fugue on 'La Folia' (1929) and Sonatina meridional (1939).
In 1947 he received the National Science and Arts Prize.
Works for Winds
- Estrellita (arr. Lake) (1912/1929)
- Estrellita (arr. Walters) (1912/1953)
- Himno–Canto del Soldado a la Bandera
- Heritage Encyclopedia of Band Music. "Manual Ponce." Accessed 1 July 2017
- Manual Ponce, Wikipedia Accessed 1 July 2017