Until a few years ago one could observe a man standing in the fields at dawn listening to the birds singing, in the highlands of Carora. A lonely person, perhaps, who saw the blowing of a leaf, followed the flight of the condor and created a wall of silence around himself.
From afar he looked like a simple farmer, satisfied with himself, contemplating God’s beautiful nature and looking to a quiet old age in the company of his grandchildren.
Strangers hardly ever strayed to this place, and the locals knew who it was. One of their own, from the same blood that had set out to conquer the world out there. And who nevertheless returned again and again to this place which was his home.
Alirio Diaz was considered by many to be the Horowitz of the guitar. A dazzling virtuoso, one of the great interpreters of the 20th century, whose playing was completely different from that of his contemporaries.
Whoever once saw him on the way to the stage, with the swaying step of a primeval peasant, was surprised by his playing, in which the primeval power of his homeland united with a noblesse that is rare on our instrument.
But who was he, the man who said of himself that he came from the silence? And who fled again and again into silence, to the places of his childhood?
Who was this man, and where did he come from?
It takes perseverance and courage to get as far as La Candelaria. Above all, you need a road map, a car with good shock absorbers and a few bottles of cold water.
For it is still an adventure today to follow this road, at the end of which there is only a small group of houses, which seems to defiantly resist the course of the world.
It is a quiet place, a place of which the locals say that even the goats go crazy here because their ancestors ate the last leaves from the trees.
And yet it is a place that gives people a home. A place where they give birth to their children, where they grow old and eventually die.
Just as Alirio Diaz, who saw the light of day here on 12 November 1923 as the son of poor agricultural workers, seemed destined.
It was a dark world he was thrown into.
For Venezuela was a poor country, and the poorest of the poor were the ordinary people of the countryside, who often lived by the hand in the mouth.
Even the children had to work in the fields from early morning until late at night to plant maize and potatoes or to help supply the few pigs and goats. And yet they usually went to bed with their stomachs growling.
But as poor as the people were, they loved to laugh and sing. In every house there was an instrument, be it a cuatro, a violin or a maracas. Even guitars and bandolines were to be found.
And so the few days off, the Sundays above all, were full of dance and music that brightened the hard life.
Such an early immersion, such a natural growing up with the music of his homeland was a blessing for a musician who would later become one of the most important interpreters of South American music.
Already at the age of eight Alirio made his first attempts on the Cuatro and from his uncle, who also taught him reading and writing, he learned to play the guitar. He showed such zeal that he was soon able to perform with other musicians and thus contribute a little to the support of the family.
But how much an even stronger spark must have glowed in the little boy in those years, for everywhere he searched for books, for reading, to feed his still immature spirit.
In one of his grandfather’s boxes he finally found the stuff to dream about. Dante’s “Divine Comedy” fell into his hands, which he memorized. And, early omen for his further way, the guitar school of F. Carulli.
But despite these small points of light, his life consisted primarily of hard work and a poverty that prevented him from breaking with the narrow boundaries of the old.
But one day he decided to follow in the footsteps of some friends and leave his homeland.
But as they moved to the oil fields of Zulia to get rich, he wanted to go to Carora, the only city he knew that could satisfy his hunger for knowledge.
And so, only sixteen years old, he quietly packed his things and sneaked out of his parents’ house, not to return for many years.
The first step towards freedom had been taken, but the foreign city waited for him only with a new disappointment. For them, he was just one of the many country boys, one of the nameless, who hoped for a better life within their borders.
In order to survive, one of his brothers, who earned his miserable living as a typographer here, got him a job as a ticket-tapper in a cinema. But the education and culture he longed for was still denied to him.
He happened to read in a newspaper that the state awarded scholarships to talented young people. On the same day he made preparations for a trip on which he wanted to speak to the President personally.
Through his persistence, he made it to the office of his personal secretary, but it was on that day that the President set off on a journey through his country and was therefore unable to speak.
So he turned back for now, determined to try again soon.
But then one of those coincidences happened that could give even the greatest mocker an inkling of the predestination of all life.
The famous journalist Chío Zubillaga heard the young Alirio fantasize on the guitar and said to him: “Don’t go to Barquisimeto. You must become a great artist. Go to Trujillo to study music.”
A. Diaz took that advice. Equipped with a letter of recommendation, he set off on his journey and was welcomed by Laudelino Mejias, the director of the institution.
Over the next few years he not only received a comprehensive musical education here, but finally had access to the education he had longed for so long.
But this time was far harder than it is in retrospect. Because the permission to go to school was not linked to a scholarship, he had to spend eight hours a day in a printing house during all these years in order to provide for his daily bread.
During all these years, his desire to become a musician and to make the guitar the center of his life grew stronger.
But Laudelino warned him to take his time: “Wait. I know when you have to go so you can go on studying and become what I would like to become.”
That moment seemed to have come in 1945.
Alirio was now 22 years old, a young man equipped with a new self-confidence and the certainty that he was destined for the guitar. He also knew how hard he could work and was willing to put his life into learning the basics of the classical guitar and mastering this instrument.
For a young man with this ambition, Raúl Borges was the right teacher. A friend of Agustín Barrios Mangoré and Antonio Lauro, he was himself a composer and a well-known virtuoso whose hands were passed by the best virtuosos of Venezuela.
The most gifted of them was certainly Alirio Diaz, and under his leadership he managed to master the instrument perfectly.
Now at last, after long years of learning and struggle, all the work should finally bear fruit. A. made his debut on February 12, 1950. Diaz in Caracas with works by Heitor Villa-Lobos, Johann Sebastian Bach and Manuel María Ponce and was acclaimed by critics as a new star in the guitar heaven.
In order to develop artistically, he completed his studies and planned to travel to Europe. This time the state granted him a scholarship and in the same year he travelled to Spain to study with Sáinz de la Maza.
But even here he didn’t last long. When he heared that Andrés Segovia, whom he had already admired in Venezuela, had gathered a small circle of students around him, he set off again.
Segovia was immediately enthusiastic about him. It was not only his impeccable technique and his extensive repertoire, but also the fact that he had completly adopted the master´s style on the basis of several records.
Segovia would later call him one of the best students he had ever taught and one of the greatest promises to the guitar world.
In the following decades A. Diaz keep that promise. He gave concerts on all important stages of the world and conquered the hearts of countless people with his playing.
Not without reason does his name seem engraved in the pantheon of the greatest interpreters of the classical guitar.
But even better than this picture is the thought of the lonely person. To the man who stands in the fields of his homeland early in the morning, listening to the quiet voice within him.
To make his music out of it.
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