This Week in Piano History: The Birth of “Mr. Harmony”

Mario Ruiz Armengol

THIS WEEK IN PIANO HISTORY, we celebrate the birth of composer Mario Ruiz Armengol, who was born on March 17, 1914. A Mexican composer, Ruiz Armengol wrote a number of important piano works including a sonata, the 31 Piezas para niños, and 12 Estudios.

Ruiz Armengol was born into a large family in Veracruz, Mexico. His father was a famous pianist and conductor Don Ismael Ruiz Suárez. He began playing piano at the age of eight and also learned to play numerous wind instruments. His early studies occurred  at the Conservatorio Nacional de Música. Throughout his life, he continued his studies and took lessons with famous Mexican composers José Rolón and Rodolfo Halffter.

Ruiz Armengol’s music blossomed from an eclectic set of influences including classical, folk, and jazz music. He frequently performed folk music before becoming involved with XEW, a famous Mexican radio station, in 1931.1 During this time, he became acquainted with a number of important classical singers and was well known as an expert accompanist.

The “Presto” finale from Ruiz Armengol’s Piano Sonata (1971) performed by Claudia Corona.

As a composer, Ruiz Armengol wrote music for young pianists and for virtuosos. His 31 Piezas para niños, features 31 short, pedagogical pieces that explore a diverse range of concepts for developing pianists. His Piano Sonata from 1971 is a virtuosic work in three movements that lasts about ten minutes. The finale, marked “Presto,” contains sprightly and vigorous passagework for the pianist. In addition to these large collections, he also wrote miniatures such as Las frías montañas (The Cold Mountains), which contains beautiful, long melodic lines. Because of his use of interesting harmonic progressions, Duke Ellington among others called Ruiz Armengol ‘Mr. Harmony!’2

Curious to learn more about Mario Ruiz Armengol? Check out our course: Exploring Latin American Piano Music: A Cultural Journey with Elementary through Early-Advanced Pieces!

Ruiz Armengol’s Las frías montañas performed by Jorge Eduardo.
  1. Ricardo Miranda Pérez, “Ruiz Armengol, Mario,” Grove Music Online, 2001; Accessed 17 Feb. 2023,
  2. Mario Ruiz Armengol, “Mario Ruiz Armengol, Excelso Músico Mexicano, Orgullosamente Veracruzano.” 2004, Accessed July 10, 2022,

Pérez, Ricardo Miranda. “Ruiz Armengol, Mario.” Grove Music Online. 2001; Accessed 17 Feb. 2023. 

Ruiz Armengol, Mario. “Mario Ruiz Armengol, Excelso Músico Mexicano, Orgullosamente Veracruzano.” 2004. Accessed July 10, 2022.

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