Manuel M. Ponce (1882 - 1948)
Manuel María Ponce Cuéllar was born in 1882 in Fresnillo, Mexico and two months later was relocated to nearby Aguascalientes. Early piano lessons from his sister and Cipriano Ávila led to his being appointed assistant organist of Templo de San Diego Aguascalientes at the age of thirteen, and chief organist at fifteen. During his late teenage years he taught in Aguascalientes and gained a reputation in Mexican circles as a promising composer and pianist.
In 1904 he left Mexico to study in Europe, giving recitals in the USA on the way. Studies at the School of Bologna in composition with Luigi Torchi and in piano at the Stern Conservatory in Berlin with the noted Liszt pupil Martin Krause led to a Berlin debut in 1906. Ponce returned to Mexico in 1909 as teacher of piano at the Mexico City Conservatory. During the turbulent revolutionary years of 1915 through 1917 he lived in Cuba, where he worked as a music critic and taught and concertized.
After his return to Mexico he married the singer Clema Maurel and resumed his teaching and performing career, which included a stint as conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra. From 1925 to 1933 he lived in Paris, occasionally studying composition with Paul Dukas. These studies led to a new direction in his composing, which now embraced the modernistic influences of French Impressionism and neo-classicism in addition to 19th Century romanticism and the folk music of Mexico and the Caribbean. Upon his return to Mexico in 1933 he again taught piano at the Conservatory as well as folklore at the University and continued his research and writing on Mexican folk music. He died in Mexico City on April 24th 1948.
--Chase Coleman (more on the author)