Alberto Ginastera

ALBERTO GINASTERA

Buenos Aires 11-April  1916-Geneva 25- June 1983

Just like Chopin, Ginastera wrote his first concerto at the age of 19, the Concierto Argentino which he later withdrew as he did with many of his early works preferring start his Op. 1 with the Ballet Panambí following that with the now famous Three Argentinean Dances for piano.
Ginastera was born in the year of the 100th anniversary of the Argentinean Independence from the Spanish Empire which was probably a time of affirmation of the national identity.
Ginastera is in love with his land but also expresses, especially in his late works, the anguish and disappointment of most of the 20th century Latin American artists with the outcome of the local politics, with the debacle of what has become by now the eternal failure of the handling of an already suffered society.
How many dictatorships did Ginastera endure in his life? The performance of his Bomarzo opera, for instance, was forbidden by one of the Argentinean dictators in 1967. Luckily his works, although not always well received by the critics, were being championed by musicians in the USA, Europe and other Latin American countries. Little by little his music has become mainstream.
He founded La Plata Conservatoire but in 1949 left the country to live in Tanglewood where he was helped by Aaron Copland; he went back to Argentina in 1958 when he was invited to teach composition at the Instituto di Tella where he taught, amongst many students, Astor Piazzolla and could invite the most important international composers of the time such as Nono, Ligeti, Xenakis to share their expertise.
Villa-Lobos who was an established composer by then, admired the talent of the young Ginastera.
In much of his music, Ginastera shows the influence of the Argentinean folk music and dances which derive naturally from the Spanish, the native Indian and the African cultures just like in the rest of Latin America. He seems to enjoy the obsessional character of the malambo dance and seems to be inspired by the gaucho traditions.
In fact what is great about Ginastera is that he transcends the nationalistic notion even when his music is telluric and a good amount of his works are close to the Argentinean Pampas and South American music such as the genres from the Andean plateau. He embraces in his own personal way pantonality, serialism, bi and micro tonality using all these techniques to create his idiom.
His writing is very clear, according to pianist Alberto Portugheis who met him and has recorded his piano and chamber music; he was very meticulous with the way his scores looked having in the end the appearance of near architectural designs.
Composer Juan Carlos Núñez also met Ginastera in Venezuela in 1983 and tells me that it was a pleasure to talk to him as he was a highly educated person and they had the chance to discuss many subjects including the books and scripts that gave rise to his operas Bomarzo (Manuel Mujica Láinez) and Beatrix Cenci (Antonin Artaud, the Theatre of cruelty).
I have been in love with his music since I was a teenager in Caracas and have enjoyed playing it enormously. It has to be thanks to the rhythmic drive and technical challenges in the fast sections but also to the great lyricism and sense of loneliness and space in his slow movements.
Incidentally I shall play his Three Argentinean dances next to the Children Songs by Antonio Estévez who was also born 100 years ago and who was a close friend of Ginastera’s in my Alma llanera concert on April 16th at 7.30 pm at St. James’s Piccadilly.

Piano works by Alberto Ginastera:
Danzas argentinas, Op. 2 (1937)
Tres piezas, Op. 6 (1940)
Malambo, Op. 7 ( 1940)
Pequena Danza (from the ballet Estancia, Op. 8) (1941)
12 Preludios americanos, Op. 12 (1944)
Suite de danzas criollas, Op. 15 (1946, revised 1956)
Rondó sobre temas infantiles argentinos, Op. 19 (1947)
Piano Sonata No. 1, Op. 22 (1952)
Arrangement of an Organ Toccata by Domenico Zipoli (1970)
Piano Sonata No. 2, Op. 53 (1981)
Piano Sonata No. 3, Op. 54 (1982)
Danzas argentinas Para los niños (Unfinished)
Moderato: para Alex
Paisaje: para Georgina

El Cuarteto y yo 09 332

 

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Antonio Estévez is played by thousands

Antonio Estévez is one of the greatest musical figures of Venezuela, he belongs to the important generation of composers taught by Vicente Emilio Sojo; He founded the University Chorus (Orfeón Universitario), was an orchestral conductor and instrumentalist, and was a member of the Banda Marcial and of the Orquesta Sinfónica Venezuela.

He was very demanding with his work. I think that is the reason why he did not leave  a very large amount of pieces; he had a special sound universe where the quest for tone colours and timbre were reminiscent of the style of Manuel de Falla and Claude Debussy but with the inclusion in the European language of the symphony orchestra, of indigenous and Afro-Venezuelan elements. I think every one of his works has its own personality.

In contrast to his well-known tough and undiplomatic freedom of expression!, his music has profound poetry, moments of absolute tenderness and delicate filigree. His approach is that of very refined late nationalism, for me it is like talking about Chopin and his Mazurkas in the Venezuelan context although he did not write music based on traditional forms or dances. There is a deep love for his land represented in  works such as the “Suite Llanera” and of course the iconic “Cantata Criolla” which is for us is the equivalent of what Handel’s”Messiah”is for the English, we get goose bumps from the first note. It was a great idea to have used the poem by Alberto Arvelo Torrealba, which values are valid even today in our society, it sets the cunning man, the man of faith in a discussion with the Devil. In this legend, Florentino is the epitome of the great llanero: handsome, a great rider and cattleman, a singer and a poet. The Devil challenged him to a night of singing. If The Devil wins before dawn, Florentino will go back with him to Hell. Florentino’s prize is simply to have defeated the Devil.

When I studied his “17 Canciones Infantiles ” (17 Children’s Songs) I did it with all the care of which I was capable, by applying my knowledge of both language and musical culture as well as that of the pianist formed for academic piano music. I was familiar with versions by Duphil Monique – who is the dedicatee- and the interpretations of some of them made by the great Alirio Diaz from whom I have learned so much through his recordings.

One afternoon I went with my mom, who  sang in the choir of the première of “Cantata Criolla”, to his home in Los Naranjos. The trip from our end of the city where we live up there was something! We were greeted very kindly, he told me stories that inspired him to write some of the pieces, we delved into some details and he said that he had appreciated that I had gone to play the pieces to him; saying our goodbyes, as we climbed into the cab, he told us in “fortissimo” with his lightly nasal voice, how he wanted to make “a bonfire” with recordings of his music he did not like!

He later said after a concert I played at the Museum of  keyboards in Caracas: “Clara Rodriguez is a poet of the piano. If I was a pianist I would like to play them as she does.” That to me is a treasure and when things are not going well, is a phrase that helps me recover my faith in piano playing! I have just recorded them this year and will play them on 16 April in St. James’s Piaccadilly in London.

About four years ago, I was called by the ABRSM to advice them on Venezuelan repertoire for the piano, and after many presentations and meetings, they have already selected three of our composers. It is an honor and a privilege for those publications as are made available in 90 countries and the tests presented by a number of over 650,000 piano candidates.

For the grade four piano exams of the years 2013-2014 they chose”La Peruanita” by Federico Ruiz and for the period 2015-2016 the “Canción para dormir una muñeca” by Antonio Estévez. At the end of the  period it will have been played by anumber nearing the 40,000 pianists around the world.

Antonio Estevez was interested by contemporary art, and together with artist Jesus Soto created instalations. He also worked in Paris in electronic music, activity that inspired him to found the Institute of Phonology of Caracas where composers such as Federico Ruiz, who was supervised the publication of the “Cantata Criolla” and who dedicated his piece “Meeting of Antonio and Florentino” as well as  Juan Carlos Nunez and Alfredo Del Monaco, among others, could experience composing electronic pieces.

Antonio Estévez was born in January 1 1916 in Calabozo, Guárico State and died on November 26 1988 in  Caracas, Venezuela

 

Tio_de_Ricardo_el_maestro_Antonio_Estévez

Antonio Estévez with his teacher Vicente Emilio Sojo

Rhapsody in Blue at St. Martin in-the-Fields, Recital by Clara Rodriguez 14-04-2015

Clara Rodríguez, piano recital
St. Martin in-the-Fields
Trafalgar Square
London

Tuesday 14 April 2015 at 7.30 pm

Programme notes by Clara Rodríguez

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770- 1827) Tempest Sonata Op. 31, No. 2

Largo-Allegro Adagio Allegretto

The Piano Sonata No. 17 in D minor, Op. 31, No. 2, was composed in 1801/02. It is usually referred to as “The Tempest” (or Der Sturm in his native German). The nickname comes from a claim that the tormented inspiration of the first movement, refers to Shakespeare’s play. Beethoven recommended its reading in his reply to his associate Anton Schindler who asked him about the meaning of the sonata. According to my teacher Paul Badura-Skoda it is a sonata that is addressed to the soul and one of Beethoven’s great masterpieces, an original and powerful piece representing a decisive influence on the Romantic composers.

The first movement Largo-Allegro, is the boldest and most innovative of the three, it presents a free structure and sudden changes of tempo. Sombre recitativo cells next to quick quaver passages and an agitated subject share space in this most menacing movement. The Adagio contrasts with the chaotic feeling of the first movement with serenity and calmness, a sort of balm, with a beautiful hymn like melody.

The Allegretto despite having the appearance of a rondo is actually in sonata form. As an anecdote Czerny, his pupil, explains that it is possible that its initial rhythmic figure was inspired by a horse gallop. Its start echoes Fur Elise and some say that its gentle rocking-like rhythm is reminiscent of the infinite motion of the sea. It contrasts with the other movements in that it does not present human passion, the ending is restraint giving a sensation of simplicity.

Wilhelm Kempff says about this sonata that “the human voice of the first movement was carried off by the tempest and alone dominates the eternal sea”

Johannes Brahms (1833 -1897) Six Pieces Op 118

The Six Pieces for Piano Op. 118, are, according to Paul Badura-Skoda, “Late Autumn-harvest fruit.” Completed in 1893 and dedicated to Clara Schumann, the collection was the second to last composition to be published during Brahms’ lifetime. The six pieces are:

No. 1. Intermezzo in A minor. Allegro non assai, ma molto appassionato

No. 2. Intermezzo in A major. Andante teneramente

No. 3. Ballade in G minor. Allegro energico

No. 4. Intermezzo in F minor. Allegretto un poco agitato

No. 5. Romance in F major. Andante

No. 6. Intermezzo in E flat minor. Andante, largo e mesto

The first is a passionate prelude, the second intermezzo an intimate love song which enters and fades with an un-answered question “Warum?” “How so?” and contrasts against the defiant Ballade that follows it. The fourth intermezzo is based on canonic imitation which has the effect of your own shadow being chased by an unescapable ghostly follower. The Romance hints at a love song, the beloved one however is Death, how gentle is its lullaby. The concluding piece of the cycle is one of the most powerful works in piano literature; “Vanity, everything is vanity” seems to be the message of the main motive. The middle section evokes an apocalyptic vision, night riders approaching, bringing war, woe and destruction taking the music to an exclamation outcry of pain that gradually dies away. Despite its gloom, the music leaves an effect of catharsis.

Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849) Two Études:
Op. 25 No 1
Op. 10 No5

All twenty-seven études were published during Chopin’s lifetime; they were composed between 1829 and 1836 and represent some of the most challenging pieces of the pianistic repertoire dealing with nearly every difficulty possible in an amazingly musical and poetic way. They are studied by pianists to develop virtuoso technique but they are also performed in concerts.

The Étude Op. 10, No. 5, in G-flat major, was composed in 1830 and was first published in 1833 in France, Germany, and England as the fifth piece of his Études Op. 10. This work is characterized by rapid triplet figuration played by the right hand exclusively on black keys. This melodic figuration is accompanied by the left hand in staccato chords and octaves.

The Étude Op. 25, No. 1 in A-flat major was composed in 1836, and published in 1837. The work consists entirely of rapid arpeggios and harmonic modulations based on A-flat major. Robert Schumann praised this work in a dissertation on the Études; calling it “a poem rather than a study”, and nicknamed it “Aeolian Harp”

INTERVAL

Miguel Astor (1958- ) Two Venezuelan waltzes:
Adriana
Creciente –World Première

These two Venezuelan waltzes by Venezuelan composer Miguel Astor, Adriana (1987) and Creciente (2005) belong to his ample catalogue of piano music. The first one is dedicated to his wife and the second one, to me. Astor’s style of composing varies according to the medium he happens to be writing for. Miguel Astor was a pupil of Yanis Ioannidis, Modesta Bor and Antonio Mastrogiovanni in Caracas, which results in a mixture of very diverse influences, notwithstanding, his is a very recognizable Venezuelan idiom.

Miguel Astor was born in Caracas in 1958, studied Arts at the Universidad Central de Venezuela and has PhDs in Latin American Musicology and in History. He has taught in many of the conservatories and universities and conducts several choirs in Caracas. He has written for choir, chamber music and orchestra.

Federico Ruiz (1948- ) Carmen Rosa
Zumba que zumba

Federico Ruiz was born in Caracas in 1948, where he trained as an accordionist and as a composer at the Escuela Superior de Música. He is a much loved composer with a vast compositional output, containing an interesting eclecticism of techniques, forms and different media. Its scope ranges from electro acoustic music to large orchestral works, taking in, along the way, numerous piano pieces, chamber pieces, and the music for many films and plays. He has also written a trumpet concerto, two piano concertos, and two operas (Los Martirios de Colón and La mujer de espalda)
Carmen Rosa is originally the incidental music of a play that I saw in Caracas and begged Federico to write for the piano.
Zumba que zumba was written between 2002 and 2003. It is based on folk themes, using as a reference the pattern of the zumba que zumba type of joropo, which has a particular harmonic sequence, on which variations are created. He kindly dedicated it to me.

George Gershwin (1898- 1937) Rhapsody in blue

“It was on the train, with its steely rhythms, its rattle-ty bang, that is so often so stimulating to a composer – I frequently hear music in the very heart of the noise…. And there I suddenly heard, and even saw on paper – the complete construction of the Rhapsody, from beginning to end. No new themes came to me, but I worked on the thematic material already in my mind and tried to conceive the composition as a whole. I heard it as a sort of musical kaleidoscope of America, of our vast melting pot, of our unduplicated national pep, of our metropolitan madness. By the time I reached Boston I had a definite plot of the piece”. This was what Georges Gershwin told his biographer Isaac Goldberg in 1931 about the composition which he started on January 7 for two pianos; it came into existence thanks to the band leader Paul Whiteman who asked George Gershwin to write a piece that combined classical and jazz elements in the search of creating a North American idiom .

The working title was “American Rhapsody”. The title Rhapsody in Blue was suggested by Ira Gershwin after his visit to a gallery exhibition of James McNeill Whistler paintings, which bear titles such as Nocturne in Black and Gold and Arrangement in Grey and Black. After a few weeks, Gershwin finished his composition and passed the score to Paul Whiteman’s arranger Ferde Grofé, who orchestrated the piece, finishing it on February 4, only eight days before the première which took place at the in Aeolian Hall in New York City with Paul Whiteman and his band Palais Royal Orchestra and George Gershwin at the piano in a concert entitled An Experiment in Modern Music where many important and influential composers of the time such as Sergei Rachmaninoff, were present.

The piece was an instant success with the public and has become North America’s best known and representative musical work. The influences of jazz and other contemporary styles are certainly present: ragtime rhythms are abundant, as is the Cuban “clave” rhythm, which doubles as a dance rhythm in the Charleston jazz dance.

Clara Rodriguez, pianist
Clara Rodriguez is one of the most distinguished of the present generation of international artists. Her fascinating way of programming has consistently contrasted traditional classical music with the output of South American composers. Since coming to London at seventeen to study at the Royal College of Music with Phyllis Sellick, she has performed to great acclaim as a soloist at Southbank Centre, Wigmore Hall, Barbican Centre and at St John’s Smith Square. Clara Rodriguez has also studied with Guiomar Narváez, Niel Immelman and Paul Badura-Skoda. In Caracas, aged sixteen she made her debut playing Mozart Piano Concerto No 27 with the Simón Bolívar Orchestra under the baton of José Antonio Abreu; from then on Clara Rodriguez’s career as a concert pianist has taken her to tour in Europe, India, Egypt, Tunisia and the Americas. Her playing is described as highly expressive, sensitive with considerable digital clarity and stylistic acumen. Glowing reviews are regularly written about her concerts and discography on the Nimbus label which includes CDs of the piano music of composers such as Ernesto Lecuona, Moises Moleiro, Federico Ruiz and Teresa Carreño “Clara Rodriguez provides performances of alluring vivacity allied to thatmost essential of requisites-CHARM.” Gramophone

She has also published a collection of dances by 18 different composers in her CD “VENEZUELA” of which critic Jeremy Nicholas wrote “Clara Rodriguez makes the most of her innate feel for the exuberant and languorous, dispatching the toe-tapping cross-rhythms with panache and a light touch. A treasure chest from which to cherry pick” Other CDs by Clara Rodriguez are Chopin Late Works and Clara Rodriguez & El Cuarteto Live in concert in Caracas.

She has commissioned and premièred many works including Federico Ruiz’s Second Piano Concerto which she recorded with the Orquesta Municipal de Caracas and played last year in the celebrations of the 39th El Sistema Anniversary.

Clara Rodriguez is a repertoire adviser to the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music and has edited piano albums for Spartan Press Publishers.

Clara Rodriguez teaches the piano at the JD of the Royal College of Music.

Her 2014 Saint Martin-in-the Fields recital “Appassionata Sonata by candlelight” was received with a standing ovation from the large audience. The following comment gives a good insight into the programme played:

“World music indeed! The concept could not have become more clear in our minds after listening to Clara Rodriguez interpretations of works by Bach, Beethoven, Prokofiev, Albéniz, Villa-Lobos, the Venezuelans Teresa Carreño, Luisa Elena Paesano and the Argentinean Ariel Ramírez. Clara’s expressive and powerful performances conveyed great lyricism to a magnetized audience entwining the works of these composers in a unity of spirituality in time and space at Saint Martin-in-the-Fields. Clara Rodriguez has again demonstrated that musical poetry is a universal means of communication. A true tour de force, an unforgettable evening.”

“Clara Rodriguez’s vibrant temperament and her rhythmic èlan mark her out as a leading exponent of Latin American music. She is a very special artist.”
RCM Professor Niel Immelman

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