Monthly Archives: October 2017

While in Spain: world premiere of a cantata by Polish composer Alina Blonska

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While in Spain: world premiere of a cantata by Polish composer Alina Blonska

An interesting concert to celebrate the 500th year of the protestant reformation took place on the 28th of October of 2017, at the Iglesia Alemana (also known as Friedenskirche) in Madrid (Paseo de la Castellana, 6).  Of Neo-byzantine design, this church once formed part of the German embassy, and is a “hidden gem” in the very heart of Madrid:

Inside of "Friedenskirche", a protestant church dated 1909 in Madrid (Spain)

The interior of “La iglesia alemana” also known as Friedenskirche in the heart of Madrid

The musical program of the concert included solo organ pieces by Buxtehude, J.S. Bach, Heinrich Scheidemann and Juan Batista Cabanilles, played upon a beautiful pipe organ (make and year unknown to me).  I especially enjoyed Spanish organist Luis Mazorra, who played with aplomb the virtuosic Passcaglia, BWV 582 by Bach as well as the Pasacalles II by Spanish baroque composer Juan Bautista Cabanilles (1644-1712).

A cantata sung by  bass Malte Frovel, accompanied by a baroque instrument ensemble of the cantata “Aus der Tiefe rufe ich, Herr, zu dir” by a contemporary of J.C. Bach, Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel (1690-1749) was a great discovery.

The concert ended with an exceptional composition newly created by Polish composer and resident of Madrid, Alina Blonska, b. 1974. This composer was commissioned to compose and world premiere a new cantata for the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the protestant reformation, being celebrated world wide by the Evanglische Kirche in Deutschland.

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The program notes of Kantate “Christ ist erstanden” (Christ has risen) state that the commission was by invitation of pastor Simon Döbrich of said church. “The principal idea gyrates around Martin Luther, and searches to bring us close to Luther’s spiritual thought, which is the ethos of the German speaking congregation at Friedenskirche. For this reason, the cantata includes fragments chosen directly from Luther’s writings.  The title makes reference to the German Easter song “Christ has risen”, and which forms an important element of the aesthetic of the cantata as a whole.  The piece pretends to re issue a new look towards this anachronistic genre, which was brought to its apogee  in the first half of the 18th century by Johann Sebastian Bach.”

Rigorous but always elegant, the composition employed  baroque instrumentation, organ (in this instance performed by Polish organist Marta Misztal), soprano and baritone. The piece began with spartan bareness, with a rising melody sung by the  soprano voice in chant;  the cantata continued with a layering of elements, given off a sensation of a union of anachronistic musical language (older than baroque, with allusions to medieval church chant) together with a contemporary music aesthetic that was in perfect balance and accord for a celebration in modern day of Martin Luther’s vision.  Under the direction of Alejandro Trapero, the ensemble sounded balanced and in sync. The wonderful acoustic at Friedenshkirche was an attractive frame for the piece. My colleague Urzsula Bardlowska’s lyric soprano exhibited a rounded and attractive tone which reminded me very much of the young Lucia Popp.  The Venezuelan baritone John Heath sang his lines with emotion (which by contrast to the soprano’s melodies, contained a more contemporary line), exhibited to my ear the more earthy aspects of the philosophy or message of the cantata.

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Polish soprano Urszula Bardlowska

Ms. Blonska’s resume includes premieres in numerous festivals in both Poland and Spain, as well as in France, England, Belarus, Germany, Sweden and Mexico. She participates in the project Laboratorio de Informática y Electrónica Musical Centro de Tecnología del Espectáculo (a branch of Spain’s INAEM), which is supported by the Polish Cultural Institute in Madrid. She is currently working on a sound disc recording of her works.

Pictured to the left in the red jacket is composer Alina Blonska

Pictured to the left and in red is composer Alina Blonska after the premiere of her cantata, “Christ ist erstanden”

The concert concluded with the serving of German beer underneath the trees of the patio of the Friedenskirche, the meeting of old and new friends at my new-to-me Madrid site.

 

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“Enrique Granados y su época” congress in Murcia (Spain) and “La fiesta de la tonadilla” recital at the Real Casino de Murcia

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“Enrique Granados y su época” congress in Murcia (Spain) and “La fiesta de la tonadilla” recital at the Real Casino de Murcia

As a surprise activity for my current trip to Spain, via my friend the Spanish stage director Curro Carreres, I participated this past week in an interesting conference hosted by the Universidad de Murcia, organized by Enrique Encabo and Electra de la Osa that dealt with the times and epoch that surrounded composer Enrique (Enric) Granados (1867-1916). Having a hand in the music programming at Hispanic Society Library & Museum in New York City on the occasion of the Granados Centennial as well as in the conference led by the Iberian Music Center in New York City in 2016, I was asked to be part of the talks at the conference in Murcia, as well as sing a recital with pianist Borja Mariño

Congreso Internacional

18, 19 y 20 de octubre, 2017

En ocasión de María del Carmen

Enrique Granados y su época

Maria del Congress Congreso Imagen

I got a second shot to revise my paper about the song “La maja de Goya” which forms part of the song cycle for voice and piano by Granados, Tonadillas al estilo antiguo (1913).  I shared my findings from both old and new editions that help to understand why the performance practice of including the recited “melodrama” was lost, and  presently point the way to give performers the option (or not) to include the recitation in modern day performances.  My paper is aptly titled “¿Vestida or desnuda?”, since the original title of the song was “La maja desnuda”, a play on the title of the Picasso painting as well as presenting the option to include or not include the Periquet recited text.

The set of 12 songs are almost never done in their entirety, as they include one song for baritone (usually sung by a female voice, “El majo olvidado”); a duet for two female voices which on rare occasions is sung as a solo song (“Las currutacas modestas”); “La Maja dolorosa I” which includes an obbligato for English horn; and the focus of my paper, the song “La maja de Goya” which has a recited section of text authored by the writer of the Tonadillas text Fernando Periquet (1873-1940); this particular song has the indication for the text to be declaimed over an instrumental piano and is traditionally omitted; now with new editions that are currently in print that include the entire text, there is now the option to restore the performance practice of inserting the declamation originally intended by both Periquet and Granados.  Borja and myself had the opportunity at Hispanic Society in New York City in December of 2015 to do the entire Tonadillas al estilo antiguo with all its elements, with the participation of a soprano, baritone and English horn player in addition to myself.

The complete songs of Enrique Granados revised by Manuel Garcia Morante and edited by Tritó is one of the first modern editions to include the recited portion written by Fernando Periquet in “La maja de Goya”:

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A recently published interpretative guide called Guía interpretativa Tonadillas en estilo antiguo by American pianist Mac McClure and Cuban Spanish mezzo soprano Marisa Martins, edited by Boileau in Barcelona is a great addition to the library of Spanish vocal music interpreters and enthusiasts. This edition includes the score as well as texts and CD of the cycle containing a recording of all texts, both spoken and sung (a thoughtful bonus is the inclusion of the IPA of all  sung texts of the Tonadillas cycle); the CD includes the “La maja de Goya” recitation with the piano accompaniment.

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My paper dealt with restoring the context to bring about once more, the practice of doing the recited section of “La maja de Goya”. At the end of my talk, I projected the video of Borja and myself performing this piece at Hispanic Society, a concert that was part of the Granados Centennial Celebration year.

As there was no obvious context to present a recital of songs by Granados that had a close relationship with the Granados’ opera María del Carmen (1898), I opted to make something old new again:   due to my research that looked into the circumstances that gave way to the creation of the Tonadillas al estilo antiguo, I decided to program all the Tonadillas (minus “El majo olvidado”) in a concert that aimed to recreate the premiere of the cycle, make known those first interpreters that formed part of the premiere, as well as readings selected from excerpts from newspaper impressions about the event.  Here is one of the newspaper clippings of the day, which called the event “La fiesta de la tonadilla”, which I adopted as the title of the concert in Murcia.

La fiesta de la tonadilla clipping 1913

The University of Murcia arranged the concert on October 19, 2017 at the Belle Époque setting of El Real Casino de Murcia, in a beautiful room with grand piano.  To end the concert, we programmed a happy folk tune, “La canción de la zagalica”, taken from the opera María del Carmen, a gesture much appreciated not only by the conference organizers, but by the public due to its familiar tune and rhythms from the region.

Program “La Fiesta de la Tonadilla” October 19, 2017, Real Casino de Murcia

There was an impressive line up of world class scholars that deal with Enrique Granados in a multiple of aspects, from piano rolls, to dance, film, iconography as well as literary criticism.

 

Collage of photos of presentations at the congress by Enrique Encabo, Jordi Roque and Inmaculada Matía Polo

I unfortunately had to leave early and missed the exposition and debates moderated by the much admired Dr. Miriam Perendones, author of the epistolary of Enrique Granados, recently published by Boileau.  I had posed several questions to Dr. Perendones such as: What were the circumstances of the creation of the Tonadillas? what was the nature of the collaboration between Periquet and Granados? Why did they embark on the project? what was the premiere like, how was it received? absolutely all my questions were answered in her doctoral thesis and papers that she very kindly provided me for my own study.

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We had a great showing at the Real Casino de Murcia, which is an elegant 19th century building that emulates the Alhambra from Granada. We had a full house for “La fiesta de la tonadilla” and the concert was received by an appreciative audience, always a gratifying experience for the performers!

I whole heartedly congratulate the music department at the University of Murcia for helping to further knowledge on the life and works of Enrique Granados.

 

Photo taken during the performance of “La fiesta de la Tonadilla” at the Real Casino de Murcia as well as a photo after the performance with pianist Borja Mariño, and the cover art for the concert.