Review from:

Serenata Mexicana – Alejandro Basulto, Arturo Marquez; Morgan Szymanski, Jamie MacDougall, Gabriella Dall’Olio, Shakespeare Sinfonia, David Curtis; Toccata Next 
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 3 December 2019 Star rating: 3.5 (★★★½) 
An engaging selection of contemporary Mexican works, celebrating recent commissions by the Anglo Mexican Foundation

This disc, first on the Toccata Next label, was released earlier this year to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Anglo-Mexican Foundation. The disc features three recent commissions by Mexican composers, Alejandro Basulto and Arturo Marquez, performed by the Shakespeare Sinfonia, conductor David CurtisMorgan Szymanski (guitar), Jamie MacDougall (tenor), and Gabriella Dall’Olio (harp).
The programme on the disc is closely linked to Anglo Arts, the cultural programme of The Anglo Mexican Foundation, which commissioned Dibujos sobre un Puerto from Arturo Marquez for tenor Jamie MacDougall, and in 2015 commissioned the young composer Alejandro Basulto, and the resulting piece, Jig variation, was performed in Mexico by David Curtis and the Orchestra of the Swan as part of the official activities to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, and resulted in a second commission for Basulto specifically for this recording, Pequena Serenata ranchera.

Alejandro Basulto started out as a classical guitarist before discovering his love of composing. Pequena Serenata ranchera for string orchestra, links the various meanings of serenata, both modern and historical, to create a narrative which has a distinctly Mexican feel. The result is an attractive 14-minute work where the writing for strings has a somewhat neo-classical feel, with suggestions of European works for string orchestra from the 1950s, but mixing in more popular elements too.

Basulto’s Jig Variations for guitar and chamber orchestra was inspired by the story of Will Kemp (a comic actor in the Lord Chamberlain’s Men) morris-dancing his way from London to Norwich in 1600. Basulto’s piece is a set of nine variations on Kemp’s Jig which was first published by John Playford in 1651. A delightful work which showcases the brilliance guitar playing of Morgan Szymanski, Basulto’s style varies from consciously period treatments of the tune to more modern, often with an interesting tang to the harmony. Basulto’s Mexican background adds an interesting extra layer to the music, which is often remarkably catchy.

Arturo Marquez began his training in California, and later studied at the Conservatoire of Music of Mexico, and the Taller de Composicion of the Institute of Fine arts of Mexico, and at the California Institute of the Arts. Dibujos sobre un Puerto is for tenor and harp, and commemorated the centenary of the birth of Mexican poet Jose Gorostiza (1901-1973) by setting six of Gorostiza’s poems, Dibujos sobre un Puerto (Sketches above a harbour). The five movements, ‘El Alba (Dawn)’, ‘Elegia (Elegy)’, ‘Cantarcillo (Little Tune)’, ‘La Tarde (Evening)’, ‘Nocturno-Oracion (Nocturne-Prayer)’ moves from dawn to night, with the poet above the harbour musing on what he sees. They form an attractive sequence with a mix of voice and instrument, neither one being the dominant partner. The musical forms are traditional, but there is plenty of interest in Marquez’ harmonic language.

The final work on the disc is Mascaras (Masks), Marquez’ concerto for harp and chamber orchestra written in 1998. Its movements deal with masks in Mexican culture, with two referring to the uprising of the Chiapas Indians in the 1990s, fighting for the rights of indigenous peoples, where the mask was a symbol of the movement. The work was premiered by the harpist, Lidia Tamayo to whom it is dedicated.

The first movement, ‘Mascara Flor (Mask Flower) is quietly lyrical, with the harp prominent, ‘Mascara Son’ is rather more up-tempo, ‘La Pasion segun San Juan de Letran’ is lyrical with interesting underlying rhythms and bursts of liveliness, whilst the last movement ‘La Pasion segun Margus’ is a lively dance’.

This disc is an attractive view of contemporary Mexican music, with two composers many will not have heard of and engaging performance of a selection of striking works. Definitely a disc to explore.

Alejandro Basulto (born 1984) – Pequena Serenate Ranchera (2018)
Alejandro Basulto (born 1950) – Jig Variations (2016)
Arturo Marquez – Dibujos sobre un Puerte (2001)
Arturo Marquez – Mascaras
Morgan Szymanski (guitar)
Jamie MacDougall (tenor)
Gabriella Dall’Olio (harp)
Shakespeare Sinfonia
David Curtis (conductor)
Recorded 10-12 June 2018, St Jude on the Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb

Some very exciting projects are happening in 2015 as part of the MX/UK 2015 Celebrations. A new collaboration between Szymanski and  Mexican flute virstuoso Alejandro Escuer will lead to concerts both in Mexico and the UK. Venues include the MUAC museum and Bellas Artes Palace in Mexico City as well as the South Bank Centre, English Speaking Union, The Forge and the St. James´s Theatre in London. The programme will include UK premieres of works by Mexican composers Armando Luna and Gabriela Ortíz as well as works by Eddie McGuire and John Dowland. Szymanski will also be giving the premiere of Alec Roth´s ´Concerto for Guitar and Strings´with the Mexico City Philharmonic conducted by José Areán. Morgan Szymanski is greatful for the support of Anglo Arts.

Morgan will also be performing with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in the UK, Constella Festival in Cincinatti, the Kirker/Chopin Festival in Mallorca, West Dean Guitar Festival, Deal Festival, Beaminster Festival, Colima Guitar Festival, Sala Carlos Chávez,  Zihuatanejo Guitar Festival as well as concerts in the USA, Mexico, France, UK, Spain, Zimbabwe and South Africa.  Collaborations include projects with the Kosmos Ensemble, guitarists Fausto Palma and James Grace, violinists Tatiana Berman and Harriet Mackenzie,  Simon Rowland Jones (viola), Amaia Azcona (soprano) and the Carducci, Amici and Odeion String Quartets.

Morgan Szymanski´s brand new solo recording will be released in the summer 2015. ´Nuevo Mundo´ is Szymanski´s new project, involving works written especially for him by composers Simone Iannarelli, Paul Coles, Stephen McNeff, Alec Roth and Julio César Oliva.

Oliva´s ´Cuatro Imágenes de México´are four beautiful portraits of his native Mexico, including the passing of a day Mexico City – sunrise, midday, sunset and night- the magical mountains of Tepoztlán, and the beaches of Ensenada and Los Cabos. A promotional video will also be released using the astonishing aereal photography of Mexico by photographer Michael Calderwood, alongside video footage filmed in the 1980´s by Morgan´s father, Jorge Szymanski.

On his last visit to Mexico, composer Stephen McNeff was introduced by a mutual friend, John Finney, to the custom of drinking tequila, sangrita and beer as a chaser. The lethal combination is also known as the ´Tres Angelitos Mexicanos´. The effects of tequila served as inspiration and Stephen´s new work in three movements is a wonderful new addition to the guitar repertoire. Paul Coles´s ´Fantasía Tropical´ is a fun and rhythmical work that just makes one want to get up and dance.  The music of the much in demand Roman composer Simone Iannarelli has always been part of Szymanski´s recordings and this is no exception. His ´Café Jarocho´ inspired by a famous coffee stall in the Coyoacan area of Mexico City makes a wonderful addition to his ´Italian Coffee´ pieces. In 2004, Alec Roth gave Szymanski a wonderful birthday present:  ´El Frijolito Brincador´ (The Mexican Jumping Bean) it is a fun and slightly whacky dance that just had to appear in the new recording. The recording will be available on Sarabande Records through Szymanski´s website and available as CD and download from June 2015.

Thanks to all for making the Sketches of Mexico Project such a huge success. After concerts in the UK, Ireland, Zimbabwe, Spain, China and Mexico, the project proved to be a huge success with audiences and critics. Particularly memorable were the Sketches of Mexico workshops where children could make their own ´Sketches of Mexico´inspired by live music, leading to a wonderful array of new art works! Many thanks to all artists who took part as well as VJ´s Joe Fairweather-Hole in the UK and Mario Márquez in Mexico.

As well as concerts from Ronnie Scotts to the Alhambra in Granada, highlights of 2012 included Machaca´s sold out Wigmore Hall Debut in London as well as concerto performances with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields and Coro Cervantes. In Mexico, 2012 saw the launch of a new project, ´Sonets and Serenades´ with Mexican actress Sophie Alexander-Katz and an array of performances including work with the wonderful dance company Danzalud.

2013 promises to be an equal roller-coaster ride starting off with concerts in Mexico before embarking on a spring/summer tour of over twenty UK venues. Highlights include recitals at Wigmore Hall with Adam Walker (flute), Rodrigo´s ´Concierto de Aranjuez´ with the RTÉ Orchestra at the National Concert Hall in Dublin, recitals at Kings Place for Live Music Now 35th anniversary, Ronnie Scotts and a tour of Scotland. Collaborations include recitals with Adam Walker (flute) Lizzie Ball (violin), Harriet MacKenzie (violin), Oliver Cox (percussion), the Doric Quartet plus VJ´s Mario Márquez and Joe Fairweather-Hole. April 2013 sees  release of ´Sometime I Sing´, a new recording on the Signum Label of the works for tenor and guitar by Alec Roth with Mark Padmore (tenor).

Please come and join us for some of the Sketches of Mexico 2013 performances in London or elsewhere or come to some of the UK´s major festivals such as Spitalfields Festival, North Norfolk Festival, Beaminster Festival or up north for the Vamos Festival in Newcastle.

July and August will see the launch of Sketches of Mexico at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City before the Singing Dragon 2013 tour in China during september. And how best to celebrate Mexican culture than with a performance of Sketches of Mexico to celebrate Day of the Dead at Cardiffs´ brand new concert hall on 31st October.

For all details please visit the concert diary. I hope to see you there.

Morgan Szymanski

After the huge success of Machaca’s sold out Wigmore Hall Debut, 2012 promises to be full of exciting projects and performances.

The Sketches of Mexico Project will take off during La Linea 2012 and the official London launch will be at London’s Bolivar Hall on the 26th of April. All projections will be presented by Joe Fairweather Hole. The Mexican launch will be on the 25th of August at Cenart in Mexico City where Mario Marquez will be the VJ.

Concerts with Adam Walker (City of London Festival), the LSE Mexican Week and the Dorset County Museum promise an exiting spring UK tour before the Sketches of Mexico performances in Ensenada and Los Cabos in Baja California, Mexico.

A special programme with Mexican actress Sophie Alexander entitled Sonetos y Serenatas (Sonnets and Serenades) will see it’s premiere at Mexico City’s Foro Shakespeare in April before solo performances at La Linea (26th April) and Ronnie Scotts with Machaca (29th April).

Concerts with ODuo, the Carducci Cuartet and Harriet MacKenzie precede the Bulawayo Music Festival in Zimbabwe before embarking on a tour which includes performances with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, Sean Sibe and Coro Cervantes in London, Oxford Leamington and the Gower, Lake District Summer Music and Beaminster Festivals to name a few.  The Sketches of Mexico tour of Mexico will begin in August and end in December at Mexico City’s Centro Cultural Helenico. For more details please visit the concert diary.

After a very busy summer tour of the UK, China and Mexico the autumn season promises to be equally rewarding! During the Shenyang Guitar Festival in China, Morgan Szymanski and China`s master luthier, Mr. Yulong Guo developed an important relationship. Mr. Yulong Guo`s instruments are unique and this promises to be the beginning of a very fruitful relationship between musician and luthier. For more information on Yulong Guo guitars please visit

Morgan Szymanski will also be embarking on the `Sketches of Mexico Project`. The project will involve the wonderful music of Mexican composer Julio Cesar Oliva. The focus of the project will be his 20 Mexican Sketches (Veinte Estampas de Mexico) a musical journey across the many states and famous sites of Mexico. Morgan visited Mr Oliva in Mexico City and played the pieces to him. Mr Oliva is delighted with the project and will dedicate a new piece for Morgan.

The project will also involve visual artists from Mexico, the UK, Ireland, Portugal and China. Each artist will create a visual work inspired on the music and locations. The project will be launched in early 2012 and will involve interactive concerts as well as exhibitions of the works. There will be a strong educational side to the project which will involve working with art and music students in Mexico and the UK.

Concerts this season include two performances at the Ripon International Festival as well as the ILAMS/Bolivar Hall Guitar Festival in London sharing the stage with violinist Harriet Mackenzie and playing duets with Brazilian guitar legend Celso Machado. For information please visit the concert diary.

Other engagements include Szymanski`s debut with Northern Sinfonia, playing Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez” at the Sage Gateshead as well as concerts with ODuo, Trinity Orchestra, and the Adderbury Ensemble.

The Sketches of Mexico Project is an exciting new collaboration curated by the award winning Mexican guitarist Morgan Szymanski and Sarabande Records involving music, visual arts and educational workshops in venues including concert halls, art galleries and schools.

1. The Music: A magical journey through Mexicos sounds, colours, dances and styles.

20 Mexican Sketches: Julio César Oliva (Mexico, b.1947)

Oliva’s 20 Mexican Sketches were never intended as concert works, but rather as a stylistic and didactic collection for young guitarists to become acquainted with traditional Mexican rhythms and musical forms. However, this simplicity still manages to conjure wonderful images, ambiences, sounds and colours. Mexico’s distinct and varied geography is portrayed in a mixture of pre-hispanic, popular and modern sound worlds, taking the listener on a musical journey through famous and wonderful locations such as Acapulco, Oaxaca, Yucatán, Chiapas, Veracruz. Imagery is present in the music in homage to the Virgin of Guadalupe, the two famous volcanoes – Popocatépetl and Ixtaccíhuatl – the pyramids of Teotihuacan and the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan, now embraced by the sprawling capital, Mexico City.

Oliva’s works are complemented by six songs by Manuel María Ponce (1882-1949), Mexico’s foremost composer and father of Mexican nationalism. Throughout his life he collected melodies and themes which are present in his compositions. The selection of popular pieces and songs reflect Ponce’s unending devotion to the guitar and his close relationship with Andres Segovia.

2. Visual Arts: Sketches, design and multimedia.

Artists and designers from Mexico and the United Kingdom have been invited to take part in this unique collaboration. Each artist will provide their own interpretation inspired by the music in the form of sketches, paintings and designs. These images will be used in the following ways, depending on location and venue.

  • a) As part of an exhibition
  • b) In a unique video installation to be projected throughout the performance.
  • c) In post-cards to be sold at concerts.
  • d) On the Sarabande Records website and/or Facebook page.

3. Education:

The education and outreach part of the project is an essential part in order to promote Mexican culture, music and art in schools. Workshops will include a didactic performance of the music, as part of a presentation of the art works. Students will then be invited to create their own sketches.

The project will be presented to promoters and venues in Mexico and the UK for inclusion in programmes during 2012. The launch of the project in Mexico will be in Mexico City’s CENART on the 25th of August 2012.


Morgan will be traveling to China to visit the workshop of the wonderful guitar maker Yulong Guo. Singing Dragon Guitars have invited Morgan to perform on their guitars at the Shenyang Guitar Festival on 27 July 2011 in a unique collaboration in order to promote their wonderful instruments. This is the beginning of a special relationship between player and maker.

After many unforgettable years under the umbrella of YCAT (Young Concert Artist Trust), Morgan Szymanski will now be represented by Laura Tear:

“When Morgan asked me to work for him I was absolutely delighted. Morgan is not just an outstanding young musician but also a fantastic communicator and a joy to work with.

My own career in music began more than a few years ago in Italy, working for ORIA, one of the oldest and most established music agencies in Italy.
If you would like to talk to me about Morgan please do get in contact and I look very much forward to meeting you at some of Morgan’s future concerts?.

Laura Tear Artist Management,
62, Annandale Road
London SE10 0DB

tel+44 (0)20 8293 9911
skype: lauratear

Buy Machaca: ‘Los Ambulantes’ now from iTunes:
Morgan Szymanski & Machaca - Los Ambulantes

STOP PRESS! On the 27t April Machaca will release their much awaited album ‘Los Ambulantes’ at London’s South Bank Centre, (Purcell Room) during La Linea 2010! The album features works by Piazzolla, Lauro, Villa-Lobos, Machado, Cardoso, Iannarelli and the world premiere recording of Stephen McNeff’s ‘Los Ambulantes’. Machaca is delighted to collaborate with Mr. Galo Cerón on guitar and cuatro and the fabulous Adam Walker on flute. For tickets please go to