The tireless Eva de la O, soprano, producer, arts promoter and artistic director of Musica de Camara of NYC has been a supporter of my activities for many years now. She first programmed me in a solo recital at the Museum of the History of New York in 2006, and has followed my activities both here in town and in Spain. She miraculously appeared at my dressing room at a concert I did in San Juan, Puerto Rico and was at hand to zip me up in a somewhat tight orange satin number that I wore…
Eva has helped many musicians and interpreters like myself thru the years that are either of Latin American descent and or committed to music by Spanish and Latin American composers, by presenting these artists in concerts at important NYC venues.
I was thrilled when she asked me to be part of her series of “Charla Conciertos” (lecture concerts) which take place at New York’s Museo del Barrio, and be part of her season this year which celebrates the accomplishments of the composer Roberto Sierra. I had the opportunity of interpreting his piece for mezzo and wind quintet called “Dona Rosita la Soltera” with text by Federico Garcia Lorca (see an earlier blog article I wrote regarding this piece). This time I was asked to perform his newly composed cycle “Julia”, for voice and piano on text of my favorite poet, Julia de Burgos (1915-1953)
Together with the cycle for mezzo and piano by Sierra, a piece for solo guitar by this same composer was programmed, “Tres piezas breves” to be interpreted by my new friend the guitarist Oren Fader, along with two short songs by the Brazilian composer Heitor Villa- Lobos and a cycle for voice and guitar by the Cuban/Spanish composer Eduardo Morales-Caso called “Homenajes”. Both “Julia” and “Homenajes” are NYC premieres.
Its not my first incursion in interpreting musical works with text by Julia de Burgos; I did a special concert project called Canciones para Julia in Madrid (Spain) in the occasion of the centennial of her birth, with my friends at Aeterna Musica and the group from the editorial La Discreta in 2015 but that’s the subject of a future blog article!
I enclose the program notes I wrote for this concert, which will take place on Friday March 4 at 8 PM at El Museo del Barrio of NYC; I will be writing a detailed article on my experience and impressions of the song cycle “Julia”, which I perform with my good friend, the pianist/opera conductor and composer Samuel Kardos.
The song cycle Julia (2014) by Roberto Sierra is a commission by the Chancellor of the University of Turabo in Puerto Rico in occasion of the centennial of the birth of Puerto Rican poet Julia de Burgos (1914-1953), who is acknowledged as one of the great poets of Latin America. Ranging from the folk like and elegiac beginning of “Amante”, the cycle continues its journey taking its cues from Burgo’s projection of the self onto nature with “O pájaro de amor” with its euphoric triad piano figures, to the portrayal of intense self-scrutiny of different states of being using quasi recitativo passages over a syncopated walking bass (“Momentos”). Sierra’s usage of Neo-romantic color is reminiscent at times of Robert Schumann and the great German romantic lied composers; he is able to approach the subtle and at times dramatic cadence of the text, with usage of vocal melodies that transition into intense and at times frenetic heights; this in turn is coupled with an accompaniment that brings the listener to emotionally “complex” moments. The setting of the Spanish text is satisfying and organic, giving full rein for both the interpreters and audience to experience a work that is honest, thoughtful and in synch with the emotional landscape of the poet. Tonight’s performance constitutes the New York premiere of this song cycle for mezzo soprano and piano.
The guitar works and concertos by Roberto Sierra are being commissioned by solo guitar artists and orchestras both here and in Europe; his works for solo guitar are currently being lionized and recorded by the likes of Manuel Barruecos for Naxos with pieces such as his Concierto Barroco and Folías, which incorporate themes and aesthetics drawn from Latin American narrative, folk and baroque music; witty and highly colorful, Piezas Breves was premiered in 1997.
Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos hardly needs introduction, as he is considered one of the giants of 20th century Latin American classical; he is represented tonight not in his avant garde, Amero-Indian or Debussy like aesthetics, but in a almost sentimental vein that harks to an imagined 19th century romanticism of his native Brazil: Canção Do Poeta Do Seculo XVIII (1948) is a melancholic melody that like many pieces by the composer, gently balances between art song and popular ballad. Nhapôpé is taken from the first collection of Modinhas e cançðes, composed in 1936 and tells of the legend of a forest goddess that comes during the night seeking a lover.
“Homenajes” for mezzo and guitar (2014) by Cuban-Spanish composer Eduardo Morales-Caso is described by the composer as his “most meaningful lyrical-music, which offers historical continuity of the transcendental legacy of Spanish composition.” Each piece offers a separate homage to three of the most important composers of 20th century Spain: Joaquín Rodrigo, Frederic Mompou and Manuel de Falla.