In the male-dominated world of prominent classical guitarists, Paraguay’s Berta Rojas, a two-time Latin Grammy nominee, doesn’t stand out just because she’s a woman. Critics have praised her flawless technique, heart-touching musical artistry and dynamic sensibility. “One runs out of superlatives when writing about Berta Rojas, it has all been said before, countless times,” wrote Classical Guitar Magazine. The Washington Post called her simply “guitarist extraordinaire.”
Her latest release “History of Tango” shows what one superbly talented artist can do to stretch the emotional reach and texture of the guitar. This marks the first time a classical guitarist with orchestra has recorded the iconic works of tango masters such as Astor Piazzolla, Anibal Troilo, Carlos Gardel and others. The 12 pieces, arranged especially for Rojas by multiple Grammy winner Carlos Franzetti, were even recorded at the studio where Piazzolla recorded himself. In collaboration with the highly regarded Argentinian chamber orchestra Camerata Bariloche, she brings a bold, fresh dimension to the works of tango’s greatest composers. The album will be available on itunes and cdbaby.
“I wanted to use the beauty and richness of the classical guitar’s tone as the solo voice of an orchestra to express the sensuality and passion of tango music,” says Rojas. “This CD is the departure point for a series of albums I’m planning that will travel the incredibly varied musical landscapes of Latin America. Each country has music that is as different as our accents.”
Blazing trails is nothing new for the Paraguayan artist who, along with such other luminaries as US Chief Justice Sonia Sotomayor, author Isabel Allende and former President of Costa Rica Laura Chinchilla, was named by news service EFE among the most influential women in Latin America, Spain and Portugal. Rojas has been tireless in discovering and promoting the music of Latin America and in her support for the careers of young musicians.
“In the hands of Berta Rojas, the classical guitar truly becomes the world’s instrument—a means of bridging wide cultural divides,” Latina Magazine wrote. To that end, she created and sponsored the first online classical guitar competition, the Barrios World Wide Web Competition in 2009. The event generated global interest with finalists coming to Paraguay from as far away as Russia and China.
Revered in her native Paraguay, Rojas was named its Ambassador of Tourism and on the day of the award ceremony of the last edition of the Latin Grammy, every restaurant throughout the country served red salsa in honor of her CD “Salsa Roja” that was nominated as best classical album. “I’m sure the Grammy people had no idea of the sensation they created in my country,” says Rojas.
She also received a Latin Grammy nomination for her album “Día y Medio,” a collaboration with Paquito D’Rivera with whom she has toured extensively. In May 2015, she was recognized with the “Embajadora Ilustre del Arte Musical” distinction by the Paraguayan Senate and the award “Orden Nacional del Mérito Comuneros” from Paraguay’s Chamber of Deputies.
A performer of uncommon warmth and sincerity, Rojas has charmed audiences on such major stages as the Weill Recital Hall of Carnegie Hall and the Frederick P. Rose Hall of Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York; the South Bank Centre in London; the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., where she was honored as a Fellow of the Americas by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; the National Concert Hall in Dublin as a soloist with the Irish Radio and Television Orchestra; and the Flagley Studio 4 in Brussels, performing with the Brussels Philharmonic Orchestra.
Her international concerts take listeners on a colorful sonic journey that moves beyond the standard classical repertoire to embrace new works by composers of diverse genres. “When you have your roots and identity connected to the music there’s an authenticity to your performance,” she says. “The music of Latin America has an intensity of rhythm coupled with a beauty in the melodic line. My hope is that audiences leave with a rhythm in their bodies that will make their souls dance.”
Additionally, Rojas has served as the Artistic Director of the Ibero-American Guitar Festival at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C., and co-founded the Beatty Music Scholarship Competition for Classical Guitar for youth, garnering the winners an opportunity to perform at the Kennedy Center.