At the piano with Phylis Sellick (1911-2007) by Clara Rodriguez

In Caracas, when I was 16 years of age, together with my mother, we saw a newspaper advert for a competition that would take place a week later. The prize was a scholarship to study at the Royal College of Music in London. With my teacher’s support I entered it and went along to the Escuela de Música Superior José Angle Lamas, the oldest of all the music conservatories of Venezuela with a long tradition producing wonderful composers.

The then directors of the Senior and Junior Departments of The Royal College of Music had been flown in specially to judge the competition. I remember playing Bach Prelude and Fugue in A minor from Book 2 of the 48, Chopin Etude Op. 10 No 1 and Reflets dans l’eau by Debussy. After some theory and aural exams, it was decided that six scholarships would be given to junior musicians: two pianists, one guitarist, one violinist, one recorder and one horn player . This must have been in May and by the 12th of September we were landing in Heathrow!

I was told on arrival, that Barbara Boissard and Michael Gough Matthews had thought that I should study under Phyllis Sellick and that that same evening I would be able to see her on TV as she was judging the final of the Leeds Piano Competition.

Phyllis Sellick was stunning! Everybody seemed to know her, even people I talked to in the streets, asking for directions as I got lost a few times in South Kensington-Knightsbridge-High St. Kensington! In a way, to me this was not surprising as I thought: “It’s normal, I am in Europe, here everything has to do with classical music, and piano” I remember people telling me that she was very good on Mozart and that her husband had been a very well-known pianist too but that she was the most musical of the two. (Sorry Cyril!)

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From the very first moment I met her at the RCM I bathed in a warmth and kindness that never changed in the 28 years I knew her.

The first thing that amazed me was her hands that were so soft, padded, very wide and with a wonderfully lifted little finger knuckle. The perfect hand for the piano.

She patiently, with great care, love, tact and a wonderful insight guided me and taught me the Art of playing the piano. I still go by her teachings, every day! I also do my best to pass on all that knowledge to my pupils.

I remember trying to tell myself: “this is it! This will be my profession” as up to then I had thought I would finish my piano degree in Venezuela and I would also go to university to study sociology.

I used to call her Miss Sellick until she told me: “Phyllis, please!”, she used to call me “Little Clara

Phyllis, used to say to me: “This is a world class conservatory, so you must play like a world class pianist” She would also talk about being a “professional pianist” an important concept that Cyril Smith and herself had with great determination fulfilled during their time.

During the first term with her one day she asked me “How long do you practice a day?” to which I must have answered trying to be impressive “two hours”, she said “you must do five” so, with a clock in front of me I started doing this, of course!

I used to have weekly lessons with her on Wednesdays and Junior Department lessons on Saturdays.

Very early on she entered me for a concerto competition where I played Mozart’s KV 595, and before that took place, she kindly organized a concert in her beautiful house of Fife Road, East Sheen, where I met many of my piano classmates that came from all over the world: Marta from Peru, Eva from Germany, Kim from New Zealand, Noriko from Japan, David from the USA, Karen and James from the UK. Norberto and Héctor, from Argentina, would kindly accompany me on the orchestral reductions and they would come to the teaching room at the end of my lessons to translate any important message Phyllis wanted to make sure I understood as my English was non-existent.

Then I made many more friends that studied under her and admired her, Andrew, the Cann sisters, Geofrey, Ann, Liz, Amanda, Adrian, Dominic, Ian…it is impossible to mention them all right now!

Phyllis and co

Amanda Hurton, Phyllis Sellick, Marta Encinas, Clara Rodriguez, Eva Alexander

She had both a practical and a methodical way of living life and being in a “bubble” of love for music; she once told me that she only needed “piano music and coffee to live.”

She was such a kind teacher, always thinking of how she could help her students solve problems. She would give me a phonecall when I least expected it, to tell me something about a particular bar that I should play “pp” or how I should join a yoga class to help relax my shoulders.

Once she arranged for five pupils to come to my lesson to sing Bach Fugue in C sharp minor from Book 1 so I could conduct them and listen to all the voices. It was an exhilarating experience!

My studies with her were full of wonderful pianistic revelations, for instance, the idea that the piano is a percussion instrument and that we pianists, must make it “sing” as well as making long lines, connecting every note so that there is coherence in the phrasing, is a challenge.

This work of filigree was something Phyllis instilled in me even deeper. I have to say that I had had excellent tuition in Venezuela from my first teacher Guiomar Narváez and masterclasses from Regina Smendzianka from Poland, plus my own interest in playing in a way that did not produced unwanted accents, but it was under Phyllis’s light that I went on developing this side of my playing.

Phyllis at 10

Phyllis at the age of ten

Phyllis Sellick was born in Ilford, Essex, started to play the piano by ear at the age of three and had her first music lesson on her fifth birthday, she would say that going up the escalator on the tube was the best thing of going to the lessons plus when the teacher played with her. Four years later she won the Daily Mirrors “Pip, Squeak and Wilfred” contest for young musicians and was awarded two years’ private tuition with Cuthbert Whitemore, subsequently winning an open scholarship to continue her studies with him at the Royal Academy of Music. Thanks to her mentors, she later studied with Isidor Philipp in Paris, a pupil of George Mathias, who in turn had studied with Frederic Chopin, a fact that always fascinated us, her pupils, who are fifth generation Chopin’s students!

During her stay in Paris, Phyllis played for Maurice Ravel and studied many of his works with him, making recordings of some of his pieces on 78 RPM. I am very proud to have studied with her some Ravel works including the Concerto in G which she came to hear when I performed it at ST. John’s Smith Square.

For us, her students, it was so important that Phyllis and Cyril had had a formidably close friendship with Sergei Rachmaninoff. I think that Phyllis had a deep affinity with his music and its interpretation. She felt real musical passion and made me try to convey it in performances, all with a “steely” control! Very difficult to manage as sometimes the music moved me so much that I was not capable to produce any sounds from my hands! When I was about 7, I remember telling my mum how a piece from Ana Magdalena Bach’s book had made me cry. So, all these feelings had to be curbed in order to play the piano!

Clara Rodriguez at the piano with Phylis Sellick  Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UeG8eSeRYME

I now realize how hard it must have been for her that at the height of his solo concert career her husband lost the use of the left hand down to having had two strokes. How much support she must have given him, so they could start a new career playing the four-hand repertoire with three hands. Arranging many pieces and having many works composed for them.

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Cyril and Phyllis on the steps of the Albert Memorial. Kensington Gardens

I immensely enjoyed listening to her stories about their efforts during the war such as their concert tours in Portugal and in India. How uncomfortable many situations were, from insects biting their hands during performances to seeing the most shocking social contrasts in those societies.

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Cyril and Phyllis in a broacasting studio in India

She braved the air raids, playing Beethoven fourth piano concerto near where a bomb fell jerking the piano up and down, ending her story thus: “fortunately I was able to continue playing”.

Or when she learnt to drive ambulances or those amazing stories during The Blitz when Cyril and her had to go to Broadcasting House to play Mozart D major Sonata, live,  having to run through the London streets under “a good deal of shrapnel” to take the tube- where people were getting ready to sleep on the platforms – to play the Mozart divinely!

On another occasion she had to go to sleep in the BBC to be woken up at 2.00 am to play the incredibly difficult Ravel Toccata for the World Service, “it felt like death” she said to me.

Phyllis Sellick, Cyril Smith and Brahms

Cyril, Brahms and Phyllis

Another beautiful story was the one of their trip to Ireland, their son accustomed to hear: “this month we have not got enough money because concerts have been scarce” the little boy was very distressed to see the Irish children wearing no shoes and with anger said: “their parents should play more concerts!

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Graham, Phyllis, Cyril and Claire

Sir Henry Wood insisted that they should play together and they performed together at The Proms in 1941, making many international tours and recordings as a duo. Composers such as Ralph Vaughan Williams (Introduction and Fugue ‘For Phyllis and Cyril’) and Lennox Berkeley wrote music specially for them. Malcolm Arnold (Concerto for Piano 3 Hands and Orchestra, Op. 104, sometimes known as Concerto for Phyllis and Cyril).

Phyllis and Cyril were awarded OBEs in 1971.

Once I wrote a card to her in which I said that she had the highest standards of piano playing I have ever known and she replied that she would, on sad days, remember that thought.

I used to go to play for her until she was well into her eighties before my recitals or recordings. Her opinion was very significant for me. She went to all my major London concerts and would very sweetly give me a call the next day, invariably I would be thinking how many things should have been better played, she would give me lots of encouragement and often said: “I am your number one fan” in which case I would say that we belonged to the mutual admiration society.

She broke first her thumb and then her wrist and I remember seeing her trying to train her hand again by doing basic excercises and even playing Beethoven third piano concerto at the Fairfield Halls in Croydon successfully but not many other concerts were possible as her hand had been badly damaged unfortunately.

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Queen Elizabeth being presented a bouquet by Phyllis at the Royal Festival Hall. 1952

 

In 2002 she appeared on the BBC radio programme Desert Island Discs. One of her choices was Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini to which she added “I would like Cyril to play it”. I remember the presenter asking her also, “How do you teach?” and she said: “I listen to the students and then tell them what I think” We both laughed when I pointed out how simple she made everything sound.

She died in Kingston in 2007.

 

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Entrevista a Clara Rodríguez. Revista Musical de Venezuela No 54

Entrevista a Clara Rodríguez, pianista

Dosier “Ellas resuenan: Homenaje a Teresa Carreño”

Por:
Adriana Quiaro

Clara Rodríguez; “Un dato curioso y hermoso sobre Teresa Carreño que nos muestra que ha sido admirada y valorada entre las estrellas mundialmente, es que la Asociación Astronómica Internacional (UAI, por sus siglas en inglés), en 1991, denominó Teresa Carreño al cráter de latitud -3, longitud 16.1, diámetro 57 del Planeta Venus

 

claris97@hotmail.com

Clara Rodríguez comenzó estudios en el Conservatorio Juan José Landaeta bajo la guía de Guiomar Narváez. A los diecisiete años ganó por concurso una beca en el Royal College of Music de Londres, donde estudió con Phyllis Sellick. Como concertista ganó el premio Latino del Reino Unido-LUKAS como Músico Clásico del Año en 2015. Es una de las intérpretes contemporáneas que más ha promovido la obra de Teresa Carreño. Destacados compositores le han dedicado piezas, entre ellos: Lawrence Casserley, Federico Ruiz, Adrián Suárez, Miguel Astor y Juan Carlos Núñez. Actualmente es profesora del Royal College of Music de Londres.

¿Cómo fue la formación musical que recibió Teresa Carreño?

Como es sabido, la familia Carreño, por generaciones, estuvo vinculada a la música en Venezuela y desde temprana edad tuvieron puestos como músicos profesionales en la Catedral de Caracas. Por ejemplo, el abuelo de Teresa Carreño, Cayetano Carreño, cuyo hermano era Simón Rodríguez, el maestro de Simón Bolívar, fue un importante compositor y organista, y tuvo varios hijos que fueron destacados músicos, entre ellos Manuel Antonio Carreño, el padre de Teresa.

Ella fue la primera mujer que se destacó como músico dentro de esa dinastía Carreño, hay que recordar que en la época de su nacimiento, la educación estaba destinada a los hombres, no tanto para las mujeres. A pesar de esas circunstancias, Manuel Antonio se dedicó a educar a su hija en la técnica pianística escribiendo para ella cientos de estudios que ella tocaba en todas las tonalidades, lo cual le ayudó a tener gran soltura y dominar muchas dificultades. Eso denota la genialidad y disposición de la niña y, por supuesto, el talento, unidos a la visión del padre para la enseñanza del instrumento.

Manuel Antonio Carreño –quien escribió el famoso Manual de urbanidad y buenas maneras– era ministro de Finanzas para ese entonces, pero por los problemas del país y ante las facultades de la niña la familia decide irse a los Estados Unidos (EE UU).

 

¿Podemos decir entonces que su padre fue su primer maestro?

Sí, definitivamente. Ya a los siete u ocho años era una pianista formada que impresionaba por su facilidad mecánica, la espontaneidad y frescura de su personalidad, la pasión y musicalidad con las que tocaba el piano. Se pueden apreciar estas cualidades en las composiciones que realiza desde esta época, entre las que destaca su valse dedicado a Louis Moreau Gottschalk, el cual fue publicado y vendido en los EE UU. A esa edad ya manejaba y dominaba todos los aspectos técnicos, eso es sumamente interesante, la educación que había recibido en Venezuela fue de alta factura. También con ese gesto de homenaje hacia su mentor –Gottschalk- demuestra sensibilidad, admiración y agradecimiento, rasgos importantes que forman parte de su personalidad y que se afianzarán a medida que se desarrolla como artista y como mujer.

 

Según su experiencia como pianista, ¿cuáles serían los aportes de la maestra Carreño a la ejecución del piano desde el punto de vista técnico?

Su técnica e ideas de interpretación se pueden observar en sus composiciones. Cuando era niña compuso muchos valses, polkas, como lo demostró Laura Pita en la investigación que realizó sobre Teresa Carreño, muy rápidamente evolucionó hacia el nivel del citado valse dedicado a Gottschalk. Estas composiciones muestran un gran nivel musical dentro de lo que fue su mundo infantil, lleno de afectos y de gran imaginación.

Para tocar sus primeros opus se entiende que hay que tener una técnica formada porque sus obras presentan dificultades técnicas, con saltos, trinos y arpegios; le encantaban las tonalidades con muchos bemoles, lo que complica la ejecución. En muchas de ellas hay melodías que hay que tocar y frasear en legato mientras con la misma mano hay que tocar un acompañamiento que va en terceras, por ejemplo, las cuales deben ser tocadas staccatto mientras que con la izquierda hay que tocar una serie de acordes que enriquecen la armonía. Por cierto, su formación de la teoría de la música y de armonía es también sólida ya que en sus piezas hay gran encanto unido por una riqueza melódica y armónica que nunca nos aburre, no hay repeticiones innecesarias tampoco. Está firmemente enmarcada en el estilo de salón, típico de su época. Las obras de Teresa Carreño pueden ejecutarse más allá de su grado de dificultad porque están muy bien escritas para la mano del pianista.

De los EE UU se mudó a París, donde compuso la mayor cantidad de sus obras; en ellas se siente la influencia de Franz Liszt, Federico Chopin, Robert Schumann, incluso de Carl Maria von Weber y de la ópera italiana. Están todos los recursos técnicos que se pueden utilizar en el piano. Para un pianista adulto, enfrentarse a la producción de la Teresa Carreño tanto niña como adulta es un reto.

 

De sus composiciones, ¿cuáles diría que, pasado el tiempo, aún se mantienen como las más emblemáticas?

Creo que el pequeño valse Mi Teresita que fue una de las pocas piezas que escribió de adulta y que le dedicó a su hija. En el Royal College of Music, donde doy clases, hay un concurso anual para los alumnos de piano que se llama Teresa Carreño, donde tienen que tocar tres obras y una obligatoriamente tiene que ser de Teresa Carreño. En un principio tocaban sus obras de menos dificultades técnicas, pero ahora los niños (entre trece y dieciocho años) tocan obras como la Cesta de las flores, recientemente ejecutada por uno de mis estudiantes; el año pasado tocaron La primavera, muchos tocan la canción de cuna El sueño del niño, que está dedicada a su padre. Aún no he escuchado a nadie que toque la Balada, pero pienso que alrededor del mundo, mientras más se conoce su obra más la gente quiere interpretar a Teresa Carreño.

 

¿Cuáles fueron las obras que ella más interpretó como concertista?

Cuando era niña le gustaba mucho tocar las piezas de su maestro Gottschalk, aunque a su padre no le gustaba que las ejecutara, seguramente él prefería que interpretara a Ludwig van Beethoven y otros compositores alemanes, pero ella siempre interpretó compositores contemporáneos suyos, sobre todo si eran sus amigos, como Edward MacDowell, un compositor norteamericano que ella dio a conocer en el mundo entero.

Hay una famosa cita que dice: “Anoche Carreño tocó el segundo concierto de su tercer marido en el cuarto concierto de la filarmónica”, refiriéndose a Eugen d’Albert que fue un compositor no muy querido por la crítica, pero eso no fue problema para que la pianista se impusiera y tocara sus obras en los conciertos, aunque fueran poco apreciadas. Ella fue muy cercana a la música de compositores como Chopin, Schumann, Liszt, los grandes románticos en general, aunque también tocaba mucho Beethoven, no tengo conocimiento de que haya tocado mucho a W. A. Mozart, pero sí a Piotr Ilich Tchaikovski. Por ejemplo, Teresa Carreño vivió en la misma época que Claude Debussy, pero no creo que haya tocado sus obras, no interpretó música del impresionismo o de los autores españoles como Granados, por citar un ejemplo. Eso creo que tiene que ver con que no vivió en Francia en su adultez, por el contrario, ella se “germanizó” cuando se mudó a Alemania, aprendió el idioma y luego hizo todo lo posible por integrarse a esa nación.

Otro de los compositores que ella interpretó mucho fue a Edward Grieg, quien fue su amigo cercano. Teresa Carreño tuvo apoyo de los más grandes músicos desde que llegó a París, en su adolescencia, donde conoció a Gioachino Rossini y estudió con su maestro Georges Mathias, alumno de Chopin, ambos la apoyaron bastante. Eso es importante, que las viejas generaciones ayuden a las nuevas, sin ese impulso es difícil consolidar una carrera artística. En París, madame Érard, le prestó apoyo y fue quien le presentó a Rossini, de ahí logró otros contactos importantes que le permitieron hacerse conocer en ese país. No hay una fórmula mágica para hacerse famosa, hay que tener el talento, el trabajo y, luego, el impulso.

 

¿Cuál es su valoración de la carrera como concertista de Teresa Carreño?

Se consideraba una de las más grandes en Europa y en los EE UU, Henry Wood escribió en su biografía que Teresa Carreño dejaba a todo el mundo pasmado; un inglés no va a decir eso gratuitamente, ella fue muy alabada y querida en su tiempo. Los grandes músicos le hicieron homenajes. Claudio Arrau, Johannes Brahms y todos los que he nombrado en esta entrevista, hablaron sobre el gran talento de Teresa Carreño.

Ella se esforzó mucho, desde los ocho años no paró de trabajar, su temple y amor por el piano le permitieron alcanzar y mantener el alto nivel artístico de su carrera. Luchó incansablemente por realizar conciertos y giras.

 

¿Cómo fue su labor como docente?

Pienso que la docencia no era su prioridad, creo que no dictaba clases formalmente, su biógrafa y alumna Marta Milinowsky dice que a veces se apasionaba y podía dar una clase larguísima sobre una sonata de Beethoven, por ejemplo, si se trataba de un estudiante con talento, pero si el alumno no le interesaba, cortaba la clase; como era tan famosa, era muy buscada para dar clases, sobre todo en Alemania, era muy amable y comprensiva con su círculo de estudiantes.

 

¿Cómo fue su relación con el público?

Fue adorada por el público y todo el que tuvo la oportunidad de conocerla o escucharla. Impresionaba porque tenía mucha fuerza y belleza física; su conocida destreza estaba ligada a su capacidad artística, técnica y a su personalidad, creo que tenía un encanto y alegría muy venezolanos.

En ocasiones también la crítica europea fue dura con ella, pero eso es normal para todos los artistas. Las palabras “Diosa”, “Emperatriz”, “Valquiria” y muchos otros superlativos le fueron adjudicados tanto por la crítica como por otros grandes músicos.

En los dos viajes que realizó a Venezuela fue recibida con grandes honores, poemas y agasajos fueron dedicados a su persona. El presidente Antonio Guzmán Blanco le pidió que trajera una compañía de ópera en su segundo viaje, pero sus opositores lanzaron piedras y bombas en botellas durante los ensayos de la compañía. La situación produjo que el director italiano que habían traído renunciara, por lo que Teresa Carreño tuvo que dirigir y cantar durante la temporada. A ella le dolió mucho que la alta sociedad comenzara a rechazarla, porque la pacatería nacional no veía con buenos ojos que una Del Toro viviera en concubinato con su pareja, el tenor Giovanni Tagliapetra y que cantara ópera.

Teresa Carreño estuvo un tiempo aquí, visitó varias ciudades de Venezuela. Luego de esto no regresó más, aunque siempre manifestó tener a Venezuela en su corazón. Posterior a su estadía en Venezuela, realizó un concierto con la Filarmónica de Berlín, el público la ovacionó tanto que ella dijo que le recordó a sus paisanos “en revolución”.

 

Siendo mujer, ¿a qué desafíos se enfrentó para sobresalir en el campo musical y ser artista de renombre mundial?

Fueron muchos los desafíos que tuvo que asumir. La carrera de pianista internacional para una joven de diecinueve años en el siglo XIX no era cualquier cosa, había que ganarse la vida tocando, ser independiente, ¡pero ella estaba preparada! La guerra Franco-Prusiana o de Cien Años impidió que pudiera volver a ver a su padre en Francia, ya que ella desde Inglaterra –donde estaba tocando– viajó a los EE UU para emprender innumerables giras en compañías que reunían a los mejores músicos europeos. Solo volvió a Europa años más tarde ya que ese era el centro de la música clásica, especialmente para el piano. Se impuso porque mucha gente valoró en su justa medida su inmenso talento. Era una mujer de mucho carácter. Ella era una artista y tenía muy claro que el piano debía ser el centro de su atención; a pesar de que tuvo una agitada vida doméstica, su arte nunca sufrió abandono. Fue una buena hija, hermana, esposa, madre, compositora, cantante, amiga y maestra, nunca desmayó en ninguna de sus responsabilidades.

 

¿Cuál podría decir usted que es el legado de Teresa Carreño?

La visión de alcanzar una meta artística y saber que eso solo se logra con una disciplina gigantesca, trabajo arduo y dedicación. Ella decía que no es posible alcanzar esa altura artística si no se trabaja durísimo, nada se alcanza sin trabajo. Creo que ese es su mayor legado para los venezolanos, el que haya logrado estar en los más grandes escenarios como fruto de su talento, autenticidad, honestidad y constancia.

Un dato curioso y hermoso sobre Teresa Carreño que nos muestra que ha sido admirada y valorada entre las estrellas mundialmente, es que la Asociación Astronómica Internacional (UAI, por sus siglas en inglés), en 1991, denominó Teresa Carreño al cráter de latitud -3, longitud 16.1, diámetro 57 del planeta Venus[19]

 

¿Y desde el punto de vista musical?

Están las grabaciones que logró realizar en su época, aunque no son muy nítidas, creo que no recogen las sutilezas que debió tener en sus ejecuciones. También escribió un libro para el uso del pedal en el piano que forma parte importante de su legado. Y, por supuesto, sus composiciones.

Para nosotros los venezolanos es importante mantener contacto con el pasado, siempre creemos que solo existe el hoy, pero nosotros no salimos de la nada y Teresa Carreño no está tan lejos en el tiempo, solo que la vemos en sepia y no en tecnicolor, apenas son cien años de su muerte, eso no es mucho.

La técnica pianística viene del siglo XIX, así que nosotros los pianistas siempre estamos conectados con el pasado y con nuestros antepasados, de cierta manera tenemos relación. Ella estudió en Paris con un alumno de Chopin, ese alumno de Chopin le dio clases al maestro de mi maestra, Phyllis Sellick. Eso me hace a mí, en cuarta generación, alumna de Chopin, y a Teresa Carreño, en segunda generación, pupila del gran pianista polaco. Para nosotros, como pianistas, es importante el culto a la personalidad, por la importancia que tiene la transmisión de conocimientos por parte de los maestros. Entonces, la conexión no es tan lejana.

 

¿Habría que revalorar el legado de Teresa Carreño en Venezuela?

Anteriormente había un concurso que llevaba su nombre, quizá se podría reactivar. Pienso que el trabajo que hicieron Laura Pita y Juan Francisco Sans en la recopilación de sus obras es de gran importancia. Aunque en ese concurso inicialmente no se tocaban piezas de Teresa Carreño, podría ser una oportunidad para poner en contacto a las nuevas generaciones con sus obras y así aprovechar ese material.

 

¿En qué países de Europa existe una conexión cercana con la obra de Teresa Carreño?

 

Mi CD de quince obras deTeresa Carreño es constantemente oído en radios internacionalmente hablando. La BBC Radio Clásica (3) ha puesto piezas de ese CD unas cinco veces este año, por ejemplo.  No sabría decirte con exactitud dónde aún se ejecutan sus obras. Lo interesante es que en Inglaterra se mantienen frescas sus composiciones, entre otras cosas, gracias al Concurso Teresa Carreño para Jóvenes Pianistas del Royal College of Music. El concurso tiene como primer premio realizar un recital en el Bolívar Hall de Londres. Se realiza desde la década de los 70 del siglo XX, gracias a la iniciativa de quien fuera en ese entonces embajador de Venezuela en Inglaterra, el doctor Salcedo Bastardo y el periodista Carlos Díaz Sosa.

 

Hard to Beat! Clara Rodriguez plays Moisés Moleiro (CD)

New review on Moisés Moleiro CD by Clara Rodríguez

by HOWARD SMITH

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‘Rodriguez’ generous programme touches on a diversity of moods: wistful, playful, tender, gentle, reflective, yearning, nostalgic, skittish, jocular, joyful, festive and exuberant spring to mind. For 1¼ hours of dazzling, undemanding musical enjoyment, this CD concert is surely hard to beat.’

Venezuelan-born pianist Clara Rodriguez has been resident in London since she was seventeen. She began serious studies at the Conservatorio Juan Jose Landaeta (Caracas) and subsequently trained at the Royal College of Music (London). Clara has toured in the Americas, Europe, Australia, China and the Far East.

Her tutors/mentors have been Paul Badura-Skoda and Phyllis Sellick. She was also influenced by Polska Nagrania recording artist, Regina Smendzianka (born 1924) while attending the Polish artist’s Chopin ‘masterclass’ in Caracas. Today, when not performing, Rodriguez is piano professor at the RCM (Junior Department). Her newly released CD — it first appeared on ASV CD DCA890 in 1994 — is devoted entirely to Moisés Moleiro’s enchanting, superbly crafted short works for piano. When he was six, pianist and composer Moleiro had just three months tuition with Manuel Sansón. In 1924, he began four years of music studies in Caracas with piano pedagogue Llamozas. He graduated in 1927 and presented his first recital in 1931. Moleiro founded Orfeón Lamas, where he made a valuable contribution as composer. In addition, he was professor of piano at the Caracas Musical Declamation Academy (today ‘José Angel Lamas’). His works have been performed in the United States, Europe and many Latin American countries.

Rodriguez begins her recital with five sonatinas (16’34”) followed by three toccatas (7’14”). ‘The Pequeña Suite’ has five items: ‘Dance Air’, ‘Waltz Time’, ‘Lullaby’, ‘The Gentleman with the Wig’ and ‘The Harpsichord’.

Tracks 14 and 15 are alloted (respectively) to ‘Preludio’ (1’29”) and ‘Fuga’ (1’42”). ‘Suite Infantil’ consists of tracks 16-18: ‘The knife grinder’, ‘The cradle’ and ‘The birds’. ‘Dos Miniaturas’ (tracks 19 and 20) are ‘The Girl from the Blacksmith’s’ and ‘The Blacksmith’.

To end Rodriguez adds six titled items including Estampas del Llano (‘Pictures of the plains’) — track 25, the longest separate item (9’05”) in the entire programme. Moisés Moleiro was a contemporary of Venezuelan musicologist, educator and composer Vicente Emilio Sojo (1887-1974) who became conductor of Orfeón Lamas. In addition Sojo was founder-conductor and tenacious advocate of the Venezuelan Symphony Orchestra. In 1940 together with other composers he prepared the first song book for Venezuelan children. Sojo’s legacy is preserved in the Vicente Emilio Sojo Latin American Institute of Research and Music Studies (established 1978) to honour his role as founder (in the early twentieth century) of the Nationalistic School of Composition (also known as Escuela de Santa Capilla).

The five Sonatinos are largely bouyant, bustling, helter-skelter and consistently melodic. They’re not invested with any significant depth but scored instead for their pleasurable, playful exuberance. At times Moreiro’s inventions appear to be poised between eighteenth century classicism and something hovering on the brink of nineteenth century romanticism as in the G minor Sonatina, No 4 (track 3).

During his bewitching Pequena Suite (tracks 9-13), the dichotomy is perfectly illustrated by comparing ‘Waltz Time’ and ‘The Gentleman with the Wig’.

The third and final item of Suite Infantil titled Los pájaros (The Birds) has echoes of Balet nevylupivshikhsya ptentsov (‘Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks’) from Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Serenata al estilo español (‘Serenade in the Spanish style’, track 23) with its easy ‘romantic’ mode, includes a short segment (2’04”-2’28”) in pure latin guitar style. Rodriguez is most decidedly an ideal Moleiro advocate; her performances are so alive with outstanding crystalline serenity and naturalistic pellucid phrasing.

In the second of two miniatures (1st: ‘The Girl from the blacksmith’s’ and 2nd: ‘The Blacksmith’), the busy workman briefly envisions ‘The Girl’ (0’39”-0’44”) as he toils. Estampas del Llano, a piece of contrasted folk-like moods, deserves to be a staple item far more in recitalists’ repertories than is presently the case. Here Moreiro’s open, unaffected hallmark character is leavened with the more sombre aspect of Venezuelan lore. (1’00”-4’14” and 7’47”-8’58”)

Though this programme has the bulk of its roots in aspects of European musical traditions Moleiro was a tireless proponent of (Venezuelan ‘joropo’), musica llanera from plains south and east of Caracas. In 1882 joropo became Venezuela’s national dance though hitherto the word joropo (Spanish) meant ‘a party’. Similarities may be found in (selected) works of Chabrier, Ravel, de Falla.

How appropriate then to conclude with Moleiro’s Joropo, an unflagging, propulsive, carnival piece to set toes tapping, heels clicking and skirts flying.

Rodriguez’ generous programme touches on a diversity of moods: wistful, playful, tender, gentle, reflective, yearning, nostalgic, skittish, jocular, joyful, festive and exuberant spring to mind. For 1¼ hours of dazzling, undemanding musical enjoyment, this CD concert is surely hard to beat.

Copyright © 9 June 2017 Estate of the late Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand

 

Teresa Carreño, la gran pianista venezolana por Clara Rodriguez

Este año Clara Rodríguez tocará varios conciertos dedicados a la memoria de la pianista venezolana Teresa Carreño (Caracas, 22 de diciembre de 1853 – Nueva York, 12 de junio de 1917), quien también fue cantante y compositora y  quien fuera descrita a lo largo de su vida como “Liszt en faldas”, “La emperatriz del piano”, “La valquiria del piano”

Teresa Carreño fue una de las más exitosas y admiradas pianistas de los siglos XIX y principios del XX, tocando conciertos alrededor del mundo y componiendo desde los 6 años de edad un total de 70 obras para piano; Muchas de ellas se publicaron en Europa y en los Estados Unidos.

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Teresa Carreño representó a la tercera generación de niños prodigios que habían ejercido la posición de “músicos meritorios”, carreras comenzadas desde por lo menos los 6 años de edad en la Catedral de Caracas como cantantes solistas, organistas y ejecutantes de instrumentos de cuerda y fue la primer músico de su familia en ganar reconocimiento fuera de Venezuela gracias a su primera presentación pública a los 8 años de edad, en el “Irving Hall” de Nueva York, el 25 de noviembre de 1862.

Era la tercera de los cinco hijos de Manuel Antonio Carreño (nacido el 17 de junio de 1813 ), conocido principalmente como abogado y ministro de finanzas y quien escribió el famoso Manual de urbanidad y buenos modales en 1853. Manuel Antonio era también músico y escribió unos 500 ejercicios para su hija los cuales ella tocaba regularmente en todas las tonalidades, logrando grandes beneficios y facilidad técnica desde temprana edad . También le enseñó armonía y composición.
La madre de Teresa Carreño, nacida de dos familias revolucionarias de Venezuela, era Clorinda García de Sena y Toro, pariente de la esposa de Simón Bolívar y del Marqués del Toro. El tío-abuelo de Teresa Carreño fue Simón Rodríguez, el maestro de Simón Bolívar y quien ejerciera gran influencia sobre El Libertador.

6.Teresa Carreño-niña. Boston 1863Teresa Carreño. Boston. USA. 1863

Al ver las habilidades musicales de Teresa Carreño y de tener la sensación de que su futuro debía trascender círculos más grandes, Gertrudis, su emprendedora abuela , vendió sus propiedades en Venezuela y en 1862 la familia se trasladó a Nueva York.
En ese entonces, Teresa Carreño fue escuchada por Louis Moreau Gottschalk, quien quedó muy impresionado por su estilo y se ofreció a darle lecciones, Teresita mostró a lo largo de su vida un gran respeto, cariño y admiración por el pianista.

5.Teresa Carreño. La Habana 1864Teresa Carreño. La Habana 1864

Al año siguiente, en 1863, en el mes de enero, se presentó en Boston y luego viajó a Cuba con su familia. Más tarde en el mismo año recibió una invitación de la Casa Blanca para tocar para el presidente Abraham Lincoln y su familia – ella encontró que el piano estaba “muy desafinado” pero que había sido una tarde “divertida”. También se sintió realmente orgullosa de ver su primera composición titulada “Gottschalk Waltz”, publicada. Dicha publicación se agotó tres veces en un año.

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Teresa Carreño y su familia se marcharon a Europa en marzo de 1866, el viaje fue una verdadera odisea, terriblemente difícil por mares muy agitados, en un barco defectuoso y en una ocasión tuvieron que inclusive cambiar de buque. Cuando finalmente llegaron a Inglaterra, permanecieron allí por un breve tiempo para luego seguir a París, en donde se instalaron. En la capital francesa fue muy bien acogida por los artistas más famosos, por la aristocracia de todos los salones y por las salas de conciertos más prestigiosas. Madame Erard y Rossini se aseguraron de que tuviera las mejores oportunidades para conocer a los músicos más admirados de la época, como Franz Liszt, quien llegó al salón de Madame Erard acompañado por el joven Camille Saint-Saëns y después de oír a la niña y poner sus manos sobre su cabeza le dijo: “Tienes un regalo enviado por Dios: Genio. Trabaja duro, desarrolla tu talento, sé fiel a ti misma y con el tiempo serás uno de nosotros.” Ofreció darle clases en Roma, pero su padre no pudo organizar ese viaje. Durante su tiempo en París, también tocó para Berlioz, ganó la admiración de Gounod y tuvo una amistad duradera con Blandine Ollivier, una de las hijas de Liszt.
En 1866, Teresa Carreño perdió a su madre quien murió víctima del cólera. En ese momento escribió seis elegías y tocó conciertos vestida de negro. Los críticos dijeron que cada nota que tocaba era como una lágrima de tristeza por su pérdida. Luego viajó a España con su padre y tocó conciertos en Madrid y Zaragoza. Toda España fue a escucharla excepto la familia Toro que consideraba que su madre, Clorinda, se había casado con un hombre de inferior rango social.

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Una gran parte de su obra fue publicada en París durante las décadas de 1860 y 1870 por Heugel.

Al mismo tiempo, en la ciudad Luz, el gran maestro Georges Mathias, discípulo de Chopin, se ofreció para enseñarle a la adolescente los secretos del arte de tocar el piano.

Teresa Carreño viajó a Inglaterra donde Charles Hallé la presentó a la Princesa de Gales y tocó también en las salas de conciertos Queen Rooms de Hanover Square, donde Anton Rubinstein fue a escucharla; Desde entonces se convirtió en su maestro. Él la llamaba “Mi Sol” y “Bebé”.

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En Londres así mismo tocó largas temporadas en el Covent Garden Theatre dirigido por Arthur Sullivan.
A la edad de veinte años Teresa Carreño se casó con el violinista francés Émile Sauret (1852 -1920). En 1874 tuvieron una hija, Emilita, que con mucha tristeza y pesar fue dada en adopción en Inglaterra; Su esposo la había abandonado y no podía ofrecer seguridad ni sustento al bebé. Su padre, Manuel Antonio, murió en París en agosto del mismo año; el periódico Le Ménestrel publicó una nota en donde decía que había sido uno de los maestros de piano más solicitados de Francia.

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Ella se trasladó a los Estados Unidos y continuó viajando y tocando incansablemente durante los años 70 y 80, pero deseaba un cambio en su vida artística y comenzó una carrera como cantante de ópera, debutando en Nueva York, en 1876, en el papel de Zerlina del Don Giovanni de Mozart. Ya en París el mismo Rossini había presentido que el talento de  Teresa Carreño para el belcanto sería algún día desarrollado. Su cambio hacia la ópera fue breve, intenso y muy exitoso.

Durante este tiempo se casó con su segundo marido, Giovanni Tagliapietra, un barítono nacido en Italia que bebía demasiado, sentía envidia del talento de su esposa haciéndo de la vida conyugal un tormento para Teresa. Tuvieron dos hijos: Teresita y Giovanni. En su edad adulta, Teresita se convirtió en una famosa pianista y Giovanni en cantante. Durante estos años, Teresa Carreño entabló amistad con Edward MacDowell, y promovió su música en los EE.UU. y en Europa y siempre contó con la amistad de la madre del compositor. Edward MacDowell le dedicó su segundo concierto para piano el cual ella insistía en tocar aún y cuando no fuera el favorito de los directores de orquesta.
En 1885, Teresa Carreño regresó por primera vez a su lugar de nacimiento, Venezuela. Allí actuó en conciertos y también compuso un himno en homenaje a Simón Bolívar. Al año siguiente, en su segundo viaje a Caracas, llevó una compañía de ópera, dirigió la orquesta y en ocasiones cantó también. Les Huguenots, Rigoletto, Norma y Carmen eran parte del afiche de la temporada la cual llegó a un final no muy feliz ya que la oposición de aquel momento tomó como blanco para hacer sus protestas el teatro en donde se efectúaba dicha temporada de ópera, ésto unido al rechazo de la alta sociedad caraqueña hacia ella porque decían que era pariente de Antonio Guzmán Blanco, político caído en desgracia en ese entonces le debe haber causado gran tristeza. Teresa Carreño nunca más se refirió al ese infortunado capítulo.

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Teresa Carreño regresó a Europa y empezó a tocar el piano otra vez en 1889, dando un nuevo impulso a su carrera musical. Pasó un verano en París y luego se mudó a Berlín donde se instaló. Hizo su primera actuación con la Filarmónica de Berlín, interpretando el Concierto para piano de Grieg recibiendo muchos elogios del propio compositor. En otra ocasión, en Varsovia, fue el mismo Edward Grieg quien la dirigió, él sentía profunda admiración por la pianista venezolana.
Entre 1892 y 1895 se casó con el pianista Eugen d’Albert, y juntos tuvieron dos hijas, Eugenia y Hertha. Teresa Carreño le dió gran apoyo a su marido, tocando sus composiciones y acompañádolo a sus conciertos; ella no recibió de él ese respaldo moral.

Eran dos grandes pianistas y compositores viviendo intensamente sus vidas y carreras artísticas bajo un mismo techo. El temperamento explosivo de ella no caló con el cinismo y -creo que hay que decirlo- machismo del pianista alemán.

Con un poco de humor la prensa reseñó en un momento:

“Ayer Frau Carreño dió la primera audición del segundo concierto de su tercer marido en el cuarto concierto de la Filarmónica.”

Después de un divorcio acrimonioso durante el cual el pianista quiso inclusive internarla en un manicomio con tal de no pagar la educación de sus hijas,  Teresa Carreño se dedicó a la composición escribiendo un cuarteto de cuerdas y una serenata.

“Uno nunca puede casarse demasiado tarde ni divorciarse demasiado pronto” se le oyó decir en un momento de amargura.
Comenzó a enseñar el piano y fue muy querida por sus estudiantes de Berlín, escribiendo un libro sobre la técnica de pedal.

Continuó actuando como solista con muchas de las principales orquestas europeas así como en recitales; su repertorio era muy impresionante e incluyía las Sonatas y conciertos de Beethoven, obras de Schumann como la Fantasía y los Etudes Symphoniques, las Baladas y Scherzi de Chopin, los grandes conciertos románticos; también sus propias transcripciones de ópera y sus valses.

En 1902, tomó la decisión de casarse con Arturo Tagliapietra, hermano de su segundo marido; Durante este período viajó a Sudáfrica, Australia y Nueva Zelanda.
Una vida llena de arduo trabajo y grandes emociones la agotaron físicamente.  En un viaje a Cuba comenzó a sufrir de diplopía, aún así ella tocó un concierto con sus ojos cerrados pero debió regresar a su casa de Nueva York en donde murió el 12 de junio de 1917. Gracias a grandes esfuerzos de su discípula y biógrafa Marta Milinowsky, sus cenizas fueron luego repatriadas a Venezuela y guardadas en el Panteón Nacional de Caracas.

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Teresa Carreño realizó varias presentaciones en los conciertos de Promenade de Henry Wood (Proms). Este escribió  en sus memorias: “Es difícil expresar adecuadamente lo que todos los músicos sentían por esta gran mujer que parecía una reina entre los pianistas y tocaba como una diosa. En el instante en que caminaba sobre el escenario, su firme dignidad mantenía a su audiencia en vilo que la observaba con gran atención mientras ella arreglaba la larga cola de los elegantes vestidos que usaba habitualmente. Su vigor masculino en el sonido, su touché y su maravillosa precisión al ejecutar pasajes de octavas dejaban a todos pasmados”.

El pianista Claudio Arrau recordó con alegría que él la había escuchado muchísimas veces en conciertos en Europa exclamando: “¡Oh! ¡Era una diosa!

Clara Rodríguez ha grabado un CD que contiene quince de las obras de Teresa Carreño para Nimbus Records (NI 6103) que ha sido internacionalmente elogiado por los críticos y el cual es a menudo reproducido en la radios incluyendo las estaciones de la BBC. El crítico Jeremy Nicholas de Gramophone Magazine escribió:

“Esta música necesita un espíritu de lleno de empatía para mostrarlo a su mejor luz y Clara Rodríguez ofrece interpretaciones de fascinante vivacidad aliadas al requisito más esencial de CHARM”.
Altamente recomendable”

https://www.gramophone.co.uk/review/clara-rodriguez-plays-teresa-carre%C3%B1o

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A Citizen of the World, The Venezuelan Pianist, Teresa Carreño by Clara Rodriguez

518tBu2ogTL._SS135_SL160_Clara Rodriguez has recorded a CD containing fifteen of works by Teresa Carreño for Nimbus Records NI 6103 which has been internationally praised by reviewers and is often played on radio networks including the BBC stations. The critic Jeremy Nicholas from Gramophone Magazine wrote:

“This music needs an empathetic spirit to show it to its best advantage and Clara Rodriguez provides performances of alluring vivacity allied to that most essential of requisites-CHARM.”
Highly recommended” https://www.gramophone.co.uk/review/clara-rodriguez-plays-teresa-carre%C3%B1o
Clara Rodriguez is also working on an edition of Fifteen Piano Works by Teresa Carreño that will shortly be available from Spartan Press.

This year Clara Rodriguez will be playing a number of concerts in memory of the Venezuelan pianist Teresa Carreño (Caracas December 22, 1853 – New York June 12, 1917) who was also a Singer and a Composer and who was variously described throughout her life as “Liszt in petticoats”, “The Empress of the piano”, “The Valkyrie of the piano”

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Teresa Carreño was one of the most accomplished pianists of the nineteenth and twentieth century, giving performances and concerts all over the world. She composed, since the age of 6 a total of 70 works for the piano; many of them were published in Europe and in the USA during her lifetime.
She represented the third generation of child prodigies that had held the position of “meritorious musicians” from at least 6 years of age in the Cathedral of Caracas as singer-soloists, organists and string players and was the first musician of her family to gain recognition outside Venezuela from her  highly acclaimed debut at 8 years of age, at the “Irving Hall”, New York, on November 25, 1862. She was the third of five children of Manuel Antonio Carreño (born June 17, 1813), mainly known as lawyer and minister of finance in Venezuela, who wrote an influential and widespread Manual of urbanity and good manners in 1853, Manuel Antonio was a trained musician too and wrote 500 exercises for his daughter that she played regularly in all keys, achieving great technical ease from an early age. He also taught her harmony and composition.

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Teresa Carreño’s mother was Clorinda García de Sena y Toro a relative of Simon Bolívar’s wife and her great-grand uncle was Simón Rodríguez who exerted great influence on Simón Bolívar and his quest to liberate South America.
Seeing Teresa Carreño’s musical abilities and feeling that her future should transcend in bigger circles, Gertrudis, her enterprising grandmother, sold her properties in Venezuela and in 1862 the family moved to New York.
It was during this time that she was heard by Louis Moreau Gottschalk, who was very impressed by her playing style and volunteered to give her lessons, Teresita showed throughout her life great respect and admiration for the pianist.

5.Teresa Carreño. La Habana 1864Teresa Carreño. La Habana 1864

The following year, in 1863, she performed in Boston, and then travelled to Cuba with her family. Later in the same year an invitation came from the White House to play for President Abraham Lincoln and his family – she found that the piano was “out-of-tune” but that it had been a “fun” afternoon. She also felt really proud to have her first composition titled “Gottschalk Waltz” published which sold many copies in a short time.

6.Teresa Carreño-niña. Boston 1863Teresa Carreño. Boston. USA. 1863

Teresita

Teresa and her family left for Europe in March, 1866 in a terribly difficult voyage over rough seas and on an occasion having to change vessels. When they finally reached England they remained there for a brief time to then travel to Paris where they settled. In the French capital she was made to feel welcome by the greatest artists playing in all the most prestigious salons and concert halls. Madame Erard and Rossini made sure she had the best opportunities to meet the most admired musicians of the time such as Franz Liszt who came to the salon accompanied by the young Camille Saint-Saëns, and after hearing the child and putting his hands on her head, said: “You have a God’s sent gift: Genius. Work hard, develop your talent, be true to yourself and in time you will be one of us” He offered to teach her in Rome but this was not possible to organize by her father. During her time in Paris, she also played for Berlioz, won the admiration of Gounod and had a lasting friendship with Blandine Ollivier, one of Liszt’s daughters.

In 1866, Teresa lost her mother who became a victim of cholera. At this time she wrote six elegies and played concerts wearing black. The critics said that every note she played was like a tear of sadness for her loss. She then travelled to Spain with her father and played concerts in Madrid and Zaragoza.
A large body of her work was published in Paris during the 1860s and 1870s by Heugel who was another admirer of her talent. The great teacher Georges Mathias, pupil of Chopin’s, volunteered to teach the girl giving her very important secrets of the art of piano playing.

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Teresa Carreño went to England where Charles Hallé introduced her to the Princess of Wales playing also in the Queen’s Concert Rooms of Hanover Square where Anton Rubinstein came to hear her; from then on he became her mentor and teacher. He used to call her “My Sunshine” and “Bebé”.
In London she also played long seasons in the Covent Garden Theatre conducted by Arthur Sullivan.

At the age of twenty Teresa Carreño married the French violinist Émile Sauret (1852 –1920). In 1874 they had a daughter, Emilita, who with much sadness and regret was given in adoption in England; her husband had abandoned her and she could not offer any security to the baby. Her father, Manuel Antonio, died in Paris in August of the same year. The newspaper Le Ménestrel said that he had been one of the most sought after piano teachers of France.

She moved to the USA and went on indefatigably touring during the 70s and 80s but she wished for a change and started to pursue a career as an opera singer, debuting in New York, in 1876, as Zerlina, in Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Her switch over to opera was brief and successful. During this time she married her second husband, Giovanni Tagliapietra, an Italian-born baritone who drank too much and was jealous of his wife’s talent. They had two children—Teresita and Giovanni; Teresita became a famous pianist later in her life. During these years she became acquainted with Edward MacDowell. She championed his music in the USA and in Europe. MacDowell dedicated his Second Piano Concerto to her. She made a point of playing this concerto even if it was not favoured by many of the conductors or critics of the time!

In 1885 and in 1886, Teresa visited her birthplace, Venezuela. There she performed in concerts and also composed a hymn in tribute to Simón Bolívar.
She also managed an opera company and conducted the orchestra, in occasions singing as well. Les Huguenots, Carmen, Rigoletto and Norma were favourites.

Teresa returned to Europe and started to perform the piano again in 1889, giving a new boost to her music career. She spent a summer in Paris and with money lent by her USA friends she could moved to Berlin where she settled, she had been dreaming of finding a public and a country that understood and loved classical music. Teresa gave her first performance with the Berlin Philharmonic, playing Grieg’s Piano Concerto receiving much praise from the composer himself, “Madam I never knew that my music was so beautiful” He also conducted her in different occasions.
Between 1892 and 1895 she was married to pianist Eugen d’Albert, and together they had two daughters, Eugenia and Hertha.

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In Germany, women were not treated as equals and although Carreño gave ample support to her husband by playing his compositions wherever she went and being present in his most important concerts he did not return her kindness; two great pianists together under one roof did not make for a happy home.

There was room in the press for some humour though:
“Yesterday Frau Carreño played for the first time the second concerto by her third husband during the fourth Philharmonic concert”

Teresa’s explosive temperament next to d’Albert’s sarcasm resulted  in a third divorce for Carreño; He tried every trick possible to avoid his responsabilities towards the maintenance to their daughters, even trying to have her locked-up in a mental institution.

In a bitter moment she would tell a friend: “One can never marry too late or divorce too soon!”

She turned to composition for solace and during her summer holidays, wrote a string quartet and a serenade.

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Teresa Carreño started teaching the piano and was much loved by her Berlin students, her Berlin sons and daughters, writing also a book on pedalling technique.

She also continued to perform with many major European orchestras. Her repertoire was very impressive and included the Beethoven Concertos and Sonatas, Schumann Fantasy and Etudes Symphoniques, Chopin Concertos, Ballades and Scherzi, and also her own opera transcriptions and waltzes.

In 1902, she took the decision to marry Arturo Tagliapietra, her second husband’s brother; and travelled to South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
She ignored her optitian’s warnings that she should stop playing and take a rest. In a trip to Cuba she suffered an eye haemorrhage and died on the 12th of June 1917 in her New York home. Her ashes were later repatriated to Venezuela and are kept at the Panteón Nacional in Caracas.

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She performed several times at the Henry Wood’s promenade concerts. He wrote in his memoires: “It is difficult to express adequately what all musicians felt about this great woman who looked like a queen among pianists – and played like a goddess. The instant she walked onto the platform her steady dignity held her audience who watched with riveted attention while she arranged the long train she habitually wore. Her masculine vigour of tone and touch and her marvellous precision on executing octave passages carried everyone completely away.”

Pianist Claudio Arrau recalled the joy of once hearing her performance by exclaiming, “Oh! She was a goddess!”

Brahms on Carreño: “You are not a lady pianist you are a MAN pianist”

@Clara Rodriguez

VENEZUELA AND ITS MUSICIANS / An eternal quest for expression

VENEZUELA AND ITS MUSICIANS
An eternal quest for expression

Some recent articles, public comments and even a book about the musical life in Venezuela that I have been reading have prompted me to write down a few facts in order to illustrate something about a subject that is seldom talked about.
In a way I’m grateful that English and North American critics are taking an interest on Venezuela and its musicians, The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Daily Mail, The LA Times, Classical Music Magazine have dedicated articles where people have commented, sometimes with address and sometimes showing total ignorance and disrespect for the subject, its history and its protagonists.
I will try to be brief and will only give some historical dates, common knowledge for Venezuelans, but not for the rest of the world as it seems.

Venezuela –its origins /history

Christopher Columbus sailed along the eastern coast of Venezuela on his third voyage in 1498, the only one of his four voyages to reach the South American mainland. The second Spanish expedition, led by Alonso de Ojeda, in 1499, gave the name Venezuela (“little Venice” in Spanish) to the Gulf of Venezuela—because of its imagined similarity to the Italian city.
During the colonial period, the most horrible holocaust of indigenous people took place from the hands of Europeans (many millions of aborigines were killed), as the former were considered to be inhuman or lazy, to compensate, Africans were brought as slaves.

Historian Acosta Saignes says that “During the colony, everything depended on the slaves. On their shoulders fell the weight of the maintenance of that society, they were pearl divers , discoverers of mines , fishermen , farmers, ranchers , workers specialized in mining , blacksmiths, domestics, musicians , barbers , butchers , soldiers, etc.”
This situation contributed to the enrichment of the main European countries and formed a small well-off class in Venezuela.

Spain imposes its thought in Latin America ensuring the monopoly of language and religion by two decisions of state. The first establishes a single legitimate language, Castilian through the grammar of Nebrija, which is offered to the Catholic kings as a tool for better management of the conquered lands as “Language has always been the companion of the empire”. In Spain more than half a dozen languages are spoken: in the Iberian America, only Castilian. The second decision is to impose the Catholic religion. The Treaty of Tordesillas assigned to Spain a generous portion of the New World, provided they ensured the conversion of its inhabitants. The Spain of the time has just expelled Arabs and Jews and considers religious uniformity as a precondition of political domination; tolerance would be unthinkable.
The cultural apparatus that will take the decisive task in the process of acculturation of America is the Church. The conqueror destroys and reduces insubordination from the indigenous and the Africans slaves, and makes these productive by installing obedience through the understanding of the instructions, beliefs and values of the dominator. At the same time the Crown subordinates the Church with a regime of Trustees. Then, there is the monopoly of Education; Crown and Church strictly regulate who can learn to read. There can only exist no-banned books. Reading and writing fiction is prohibited. The first printing press was installed in Mexico City in 1539. Only white people are allowed to read. Most universities are religious schools (Caracas’s one was founded in 1721).   Lectures were in Latin and reserved for the “well white” male. Other monopolies that ensured three hundred years of oppression were those of politics, blood and ideology, settlement, trade, forced labor and of the flora and fauna . The colonial economy was not directed towards autonomy and internal development, but towards exports to the metropolis. Trade between American regions was limited or nonexistent. Everything was exported to a few Spanish ports. A minority of just 1.3% of peninsular whites born in Spain, could hardly assert exclusive privileges against the rest of the population. This task will also make it difficult for the 20.3% of white Creoles, born in Venezuela, who tried to limit the independence to a simple cut of political subordination to Spain, appropriating the privileges of the peninsular. The movement would inevitably open the way for political and military involvement, 79.7% of the population, comprising the “vile castes”of browns, blacks and Indians who were seeking to conquer long neglected social, economic and political rights militated first in the ranks of the Crown and then with the patriots.
In my humble opinion, Latin America is still suffering from the inequalities and trauma that this piece of human history talks about.

MUSICALLY SPEAKING

To situate ourselves in the music world, composers such as Carlo Gesualdo, Giovanni Palestrina and Claudio Monteverdi, were still alive when the city of Caracas was founded in 1567. Melchor Quintela was the first organist of the city from 1571 and his playing at the church was attractive for the population of the time.

The first piece of information about academic music in Caracas dates from 1591 when organ concerts were played in the main church. We also know that in 1640 the town hall opened a music school (free to any citizen) where people could learn plainchant. The music society grew in stature and in 1671 the position of Church Master was created. Padre Gonzalo Cordero was the first Maestro de Capilla.

Far from Caracas, in the Eastern corner of Venezuela, in the mission of Píritu in the province of Concepción de Castilla la Vieja, Fray Diego de los Ríos was given permission to use Caribbean natives or Indians to build a church which he filled with his own paintings as he was a good artist, he was a musician and a composer.
Shortly after the town was founded, the Indians of San Miguel were the best singers of the area, singing mass in Latin with great finesse and expression arousing the admiration of all the locals.
Fray Diego also composed motets and carols with ethnic lyrics –in Caribe language-, that delighted the residents and visitors.
Thus San Miguel de los Araguaneyes became the birthplace and centre of the new music.
These works of Fray Diego de los Ríos, none of which is preserved, were perhaps the first musical pieces composed in Venezuela.
Fray Diego died in the main monastery of the Order, in Caracas, in 1670.
It is quite picturesque to see that at the time when The Enlightenment (1650s to the 1780) was the main philosophical current in Europe and composers such as Rameau were being inspired by the idea of the exotic beauty coming from faraway lands, the powerful European countries were fighting each other through pirates on the coasts of Venezuela, on the Caribbean Sea.

At this time too, European musical instruments existed in the homes of the rich in Caracas, mainly in the form of harpsichords and guitars.

An important influence on the music making of the country is found in the person of Francisco Pérez Carnacho, born in 1659, who taught music during 43 years at the Cathedral and at the Real y Pontificia Universidad of Caracas. Ambrosio and Alexander Carreño were also important music teachers of the time.

The first Venezuelan orchestra was created, in the 18th Century, “La Filarmónica” of which there are testimonials of their special performances during the year of 1766 for the celebrations of the ‘Príncipe de Asturias” wedding.

In 1771, Pedro Ramón Palacios y Sojo** (known as Padre Sojo) organizes and funds a music school in the outskirts of Caracas; in 1781 he names Juan Manuel Olivares as Director of the Escuela de Chacao from where stemmed some 30 composers and about 200 performers, it is important to note that the population was of 40.000 inhabitants in 1799.

In this school of music the style taught and performed was that of Europe’s 18th century, two genres were cultivated: a religious one, with Latin texts, and a profane one in Spanish. Juan Manuel Olivares, José Francisco Velásquez, José Antonio Caro de Boesi, Bartolomé Bello, Francisco Javier Istúriz, José María Izaza, Manuel Peña Alba, Lino Gallardo, José María Montero, José María Cordero are some of the composers that were taught in this school.
Two of the most notorious:
José Angel Lamas (1775- 1814) wrote two now popular pieces, the Popule Meus and Mass in D.
Juan José Landaeta, from Caracas (1780-1814) was a composer and an orchestral conductor who founded the first opera company of the country in 1808.
After this date opera and zarzuela were always an important part of the entertainment on offer in the city.

INDEPENDENCE

In April of 1811, to commemorate the first year of the Independence movement, there were, in Caracas, concerts in five churches with orchestras and ensembles of at least twenty members each.
In general the colonial music presents solid construction in terms of counterpoint, harmony and expression. Works were mainly of religious inspiration; Mozart, Haydn, and Pergolesi were the main influence. Although we do not find direct folk elements in it, the language and style are distinctly Venezuelan. At the time these same composers wrote a considerable number of patriotic songs too, the future National Anthem of Venezuela was also composed. There was also chamber music being composed and performed, some examples are the works by Juan Manuel Olivares and Juan Meserón from whom there are several symphonies and overtures.
The war of Independence scattered the group, many of them died in battle and the few survivors got divided ideologically by the revolution.
Some of them, such as José de Asturia and Nicolás Quevedo Rachadell, crossed the Andes next to Simón Bolívar in this independent quest and took to Bogotá (Colombia) chamber music, opera and founded the first “Sinfonía Bogotana” as well as the first Music Conservatoire of Colombia.

The main influence Simón Bolívar had in his education came from his tutor Don Simón Carreño, better known as Simón Rodríguez. Interestingly, his brother Cayetano Carreño (1766- 1836) was a prolific composer and Maestro de Capilla of the Caracas Cathedral nearly all his adult life. The latter had three sons, composers like him, one of them was Manuel Antonio Carreño who became a most sought after piano teacher in Paris after having taught his child-prodigy daughter Teresa Carreño (1853-1916). Teresa Carreño next to Clara Schumann was the most important female pianist of the 19th century. She was showered with praised around the world for her immense talent by Gounod, Liszt, Grieg, premièred MacDowell’s music in North America and Europe and her compositions were published when she was still a teenager, in Paris.
Another Venezuelan, Reynaldo Hahn 1874-1947, was a most celebrated musician in the French scene, composing operas, songs and being the Director of the Paris Opera.

By 1854 slaves were freed by decree, there were about 40,000 of them, mostly in the provinces of Caracas and Carabobo; their masters were handsomely remunerated by the nation.

The Ministry of Education has its origins in 1870, when then President Guzmán Blanco, established by public decree, free and compulsory Education for all. Since then Venezuelans can do all their studies free of charge, that includes all music training plus many grants, scholarships and credit at very low rates have been awarded to those that wish to study abroad.

Up to now all the main orchestras, choirs, ensembles are financed by the state, as are the main theatres and concert halls. I must say that for soloists the financial support is less satisfactory.

After the Independence war (1810-1823) The Santa Capilla Music School, also known as Escuela de Música y Declamación, in the centre of Caracas was founded in 1849, known since 1916 by the name of Escuela de Música José Angel Lamas where a most distinguished musician, Vicente Emilio Sojo (1887-1974)  taught composers such as:
Antonio Estévez (Calabozo, Edo. Guárico, 1916 – Caracas, 1988)
Ángel Sauce (Caracas, 1911 – 1995).
Evencio Castellanos (Cúa, Edo. Miranda, 1915 – Caracas, 1984)
Antonio José Ramos (Carúpano, Edo. Sucre, 1901)
Víctor Guillermo Ramos (Cúa, Edo. Miranda, 1911)
Inocente Carreño (Porlamar, Edo. Nueva Esparta, 1919)
Gonzalo Castellanos (Canoabo, Edo. Carabobo, 1926)
Antonio Lauro (Ciudad Bolívar, Edo. Bolívar, 1917 – Caracas, 1986)
Carlos Enrique Figueredo (Tocuyito, Edo. Carabobo, 1910 – 1986)
Moisés Moleiro (Zaraza, Edo. Guárico, 1904 – Caracas, 1979)
Luis Felipe Ramón y Rivera (San Cristóbal, 1913 – Caracas, 1993)
José Clemente Laya (Caracas, 1913 – Maracay, Edo. Aragua, 1981)
Blanca Estrella Veroes de Méscoli (San Felipe, Edo. Yaracuy, 1913 – Caracas, 1987)

Modesta Bor (Juan Griego, Isla de Margarita, 1926 – Merida, 1998)

José Antonio Abreu (1939), Alba Quintanilla (1944), Francisco Rodrigo (1938), Luis Morales Bance (1945) and Federico Ruiz (1948).

Other composers from the turn of the 19th century are:
Heraclio Fernández (1851-1886), Ramón Delgado Palacios (1863-1902), Pedro Elías Gutiérrez (1870-1954), Federico Vollmer (1834-1901) , Augusto Brandt (1892-1941), Simón Wohnsiedler, Laudelino Mejías, Prudencio Esaa.

More independent composers:
Juan Vicente Lecuna (1899-1954), Eduardo Plaza (1911-1980), Rházes Hernández López (1918-1991), Luis Felipe Ramón y Rivera (1913-1993), Isabel Aretz (1909). Alfredo Del Mónaco (1938) , Juan Carlos Núñez (1947), Maria Luisa Escobar ( 1898 – 1985),  Aldemaro Romero (1928-2007).

Vicente Emilio Sojo also founded the Orquesta Sinfónica Venezuela that played its first Concert on 24th of June 1930 dedicated, as reads the programme: ” to senior officials, artists, writers and the very cultured Caracas society”.

In their weekly concerts at the Teatro Municipal, the Aula Magna and Sala Ríos Reyna of the Teresa Carreño Cultural Centre, at very low ticket prices and in the last 12 years free entrance, the orchestra has played under national and international conductors such as Igor Stravinsky, Heitor Villa- Lobos, Sergiu Celibidache , Wilhelm Furtwängler, Charles Dutoit, Rodolfo Saglimbeni, Eduardo Marturet, Theodore Kuchar. Similarly, countless works , both domestic and international, have been world- premiered by this orchestra. Soloists have included Claudio Arrau, Marta Argerich, Henryk Scheryng, Yo Yo Ma, Judith Jaimes and the new generation of artists. Since its inception the Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela has dabbled in all possible areas of orchestral events: opera, ballet,  chamber music and concert series , recordings, soundtracks , many symphonic performances, which include concerts for children , Christmas, folk, jazz and popular music , symphonic rock and tangos , among others.It has toured internationally and in In 2007 they travelled to the Russian Federation, the first Venezuelan orchestra to do so.

In 1965, an initiative of Inocente Palacios, the Estudio de Fonología Musical del INCIBA was created. There, Alfredo Del Mónaco (1938) produced his first electroacoustic works.

From 1968 Yannis Ioannidis (1938), taught composers such as Federico Ruiz (1948), Emilio Mendoza (1953), Servio Tulio Marín (1947), Alfredo Marcano Adrianza (1953), Ricardo Teruel (1956), Carlos Duarte (1957-2003) , Alfredo Rugeles (1949).

Antonio Mastrogiovanni (1936) taught Juan Francisco Sans (1961), Miguel Astor (1958), Juan de Dios López (1962)

Since the 80’s there has been a few generations of graduates from the Composition faculty of the Juan José Landaeta Conservatory ; the Iudem (Instituto Universitario de Estudios Musicales), where we find composition teachers such as Blas Emilio Atehortúa, Beatriz Bilbao, Federico Ruiz, Ricardo Teruel.

Also from the faculty of composition Antonio Estévez where Juan Carlos Núñez has taught composers such as Adrián Suárez who has made an impact with his compositions mixing Amazonian Indian native performers with the symphony orchestra. Other concertos written with Venezuelan ethnicity in mind are the Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra by Antonio Lauro, the Cuatro and Orchestra concerto by Vinicio Ludovic and the Second Piano Concerto for Piano and Orchestra by Federico Ruiz.

There is too a Composition MBA course taught at the Universidad Simón Bolívar by Diana Arismendi, Adina Izarra and Emilio Mendoza.
The contribuition of the Musicology Faculty of the Universidad Central de Venezuela directed by Maria Antonia Palacios and Juan Francisco Sans has also provided the country with interesting academic and research work from its students.

Some other of today’s working composers are:
Jesús Alvarez , Mirtru Escalona Mijares, Giovanni Mendoza, Gustavo Matamoros , Álvaro Cordero, Julio D’Escriván , Beatriz Bilbao , Ricardo Lorenz-Abreu , Mercedes Otero , Jacky Schreiber, Manuel Sosa, Efraín Amaya, Arcángel Castillo, Sylvia Constantinidis, Luisa Elena Paesano , Marianela Arocha, Pedro Mauricio González.

There is a long list of younger composers that are now writing furiously for the piano, the guitar, ensembles and infinite combinations of orchestral instruments.Among the emerging talents of today’s are names such as Luis Alejandro Álvarez, Leonidas De Santiago, Wilmer Flores, Tito Nava, Albert Hernández, Ryan Revoredo, Harold Vargas, Icli Zitella.

Beginnings of “El Sistema”

On 12th February 1975** the public was present at the Teatro Municipal for the first concert given by the Orquesta Nacional Juvenil founded and conducted by Dr. José Antonio Abreu -who has dedicated his life to developing his idea which has grown both in numbers of children and youth orchestras and choirs, as well as in outstanding artistic and musical quality, reaching hundreds of thousands of children and young people all over Venezuela (to the last corners of it) and exporting the programme to many countries in the world.
In 1995, Dr. Abreu was designated by UNESCO as Special Ambassador for the development of a Global Network of Youth and Children’s Orchestras and Choirs, as well as special representative for the network of the development of orchestras under the ” World orchestras and Choirs Movement for Youth and Children “, “Príncipe de Asturias” amongst many other prizes internationally.
Some of the most prestigious conductors in the world, such as Claudio Abbado , Eduardo Mata, Zubin Mehta, Sir Simon Rattle , Gustavo Dudamel, who was trained at the “Sistema” and is the current conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic (USA ) and many soloists of the stature of Placido Domingo, Mstislav Rostropovich , Alicia de Larrocha , Montserrat Caballé or Vladimir Spivakov have performed with orchestras belonging to this orchestral movement.

The organization also includes workshops for children and young people in learning to build and repair instruments and special programmes for children with disabilities or learning difficulties, as the White Hands Choir, composed of deaf children. The FESNOJIV provides technical and organizational assistance to all public schools seeking integration into the musical system and is supported by neighbourhood associations, parents, municipalities and institutional representations to facilitate the rehearsal or musical instruments needed.

This educational / musical and social programme goes hand in hand with the demographic explosion that has transformed the country as in the last four decades Venezuela’s population has quadruplicated and there has been an important new immigration from other Latin American (especially from Colombia) as well as Caribbean countries such as Haiti.

The highly regarded Simón Bolívar Orchestra is a product of El Sistema but it is now a professional orchestra rather than a youth one, and there are two of them: the OSSB “A” and the OSSB “B”, a division that I think has to do with age groups. The Teresa Carreño Orchestra is also world famous but still within the range of teenage musicians.

Other orchestras and ensembles

Then there are other professional orchestras that perform weekly in Caracas such as the Filarmónica Nacional and the Orquesta Municipal de Caracas, there is also the Orquesta Sinfónica de Maracaibo in Maracaibo city.

We must mention too the vast choral movement where the most famous are the Schola Cantorum and the Orfeón Universitario, the Baroque and Renaissance orchestras and ensembles of which the Camerata de Caracas is widely known, the estudiantinas, Orquestas Típicas, ODILA (Orchestra of Latin American Instruments), Bandas Marciales, fusion ensembles and of course salsa musicians, folk and jazz groups, pop bands.

Venezuela produced in the 20th century a great number of distinguished performers. Alirio Díaz was one of the most famous guitarists in the world but towards the end of the century and nowadays the number of soloists and conductors is much larger and admired worldwide. The same can be said about the number of orchestral players that today belong to important orchestras around the globe such as the Berlin Philharmonic, the Royal Concertgebouw, Basel Symphony Orchestra and many others.
I apologize for not going further in this most modest piece of writing but right now I must go to practice Chopin Concerto No 1 that I’m playing in a few days in London.
Thank you for reading this.
Best wishes
Clara Rodríguez

*Brother of Bolívar’s maternal grandfather
** Youth Day in Venezuela. José Félix Ribas fought in numerous battles of the “Campaña Admirable”; however the most crucial episode was the battle of La Victoria (12 February 1814) in which he and his fellow comrades succeeded in foiling the advance of José Tomás Boves’s formidable royalist forces (commanded in this battle by proxy Francisco Tomás Morales, while Boves recovered from wounds). Ribas won this victory with inexperienced troops, composed mainly of youths, students, and seminary candidates that Ribas had succeeded in recruiting. Ribas told his young soldiers,  before a crucial battle that “We have no choice between victory or death, we must achieve victory” (“No podemos optar entre vencer o morir, es necesario vencer”). After many hours of fierce resistance, Republican reinforcements arrived under the command of Vicente Campo Elías. It is in honor of this episode of Venezuelan history that modern Venezuelan citizens now celebrate the “Día de la Juventud” (“Day of Youth”). Each 12 February, therefore the concert hall that bears the name of José Félix Ribas is where the Youth Orchestral Movement of Venezuela plays its annual anniversary concert.

Some sources: Musician José Antonio Calcaño Calcaño (Caracas 1900 – Caracas,1978), Articles by historians Acosta Saignes, José Luis Salcedo Bastardo, Luis Britto García.

I have also recorded  CDs of Venezuelan Piano Music that are available on the Nimbus label in which I have added booklets with the relevant information on many of the composers here mentioned, their influence and impact.

http://www.wyastone.co.uk/catalogsearch/result/?q=clara+rodriguez+cds

http://pianoclararodriguez.blogspot.co.uk/2010/04/about-myself.html?view=flipcard

http://pianoclararodriguez.blogspot.co.uk/2010/04/piano-clara-rodriguez.html?view=classic