Category Archives: Latin American Vocal Chamber Music

“Tu Eternidad” a song for voice and guitar by Ecuadorian composer, Diego Luzuriaga

“Tu Eternidad” a song for voice and guitar by Ecuadorian composer, Diego Luzuriaga
      While putting our program together for “Belleza de las Américas” for voice and guitar, I looked over a piece of music I had received as a comp copy from Oxford University Press many years ago. They were simple but beautiful songs by the Ecuadorian composer
Diego Luzuriaga. I  messaged the maestro via email  this past fall to ask about his complete cycle for voice and guitar from where the songs came from,  Eleven Songs, composed to his own text. He answered right away and we talked about the work. The cycle is out of print and not obtainable, although it can be checked out from the NY Public Library. I would say the texts are unified by a sort of celebration of life:  a lullaby for the birth of his son, hope in the future as well songs that are set to a kind of romantic poetry, with imagery that is heartfelt and with the smell of  earth. All the songs were recorded by soprano Dana Hanchard (I purchased this CD via Amazon), in which Ms. Hanchard performs these ballads in a  frank and personal manner.

Diego Luzuriaga

I showed the songs to guitarist Francisco Roldán, and he suggested we work on “Tu eternidad”;  we started to develop the piece for our next performance in Long Island this past fall. The composer writes on the score the word “pasillo”, to give us a clue as to the affect of the song. The “pasillo” is a prevalent 3/4 meter and dance step that can be found in many South American countries. The words are simple, forthright but sensual; here is my hasty English translation of this song:

Your Eternity
Inside the wind I will find your voice,
following the path of my days in the sun
and in high nights, with my singing voice.
 I will find your warm clarity
and your fresh cool hands…
Climbing near the rivers, the fog and forests,
I will find your breast, your pulse and your shadow,
I will find your breath and the eternal you
      We worked the song to find its natural arches and climaxes, and for me to find a way to say these words in the most natural way possible.  We performed the song at least once in the original guitar and voice. I afterwards was thinking of ways to include another South American dance in the off shoot of “Bellezas de las Américas”, the project “Alegría Hispana“, which is comprised of the  Latin American songs that Francisco and myself perform, but with the inclusion of the art of Spanish dancer Elisabet Torras Aguilera.  The program as it stood had several dances from Spain and only one from the Americas ( a habanera “La paloma” by Sebastian Yradier).  In order to add more of South American dance, I suggested that Elisabet try to interpret “Tu Eternidad” by Mstro. Luzuriaga with us.
      Elisabet’s specialty includes all the important dance genres of her native Spain (regional folkore, Andalusian flamenco as well as the sophisticated and suave 18th century Escuela bolera).  She willingly took the project up, listening to various different “pasillos” on Youtbe, as well as observing various dance shows, including interpretations by the National Ballet of Ecuador and street videos of this dance…she dabbled in Wikipedia as well as  online documentaries to learn about the birth of the “pasillo”, and the influence of the European waltz upon it.  She related that were two types of “pasillo”, a ballroom version and a popular street version. The costume she chose to  represent this piece included a blouse with high collar (very 19th century), with a full colonial style skirt.  Elisabet’s “pasillo” was a historical, sober and elegant depiction of “pasillo”.  We premiered this new creation this past summer for the Latin American Cultural Center in Queens.

Spanish dancer Elisabet Torras Aguilera, guitarist Francisco Roldan and mezzo soprano Anna Tonna at the Tropicalia Hall, performing “Alegria Hispana” for the Latin American Cultural Center of Queens. Phot credit:  H. Stephen Brown

      This coming Sunday December 11th 2016, we will do “Alegria Hispana” once more, and we interpret this beautiful version for voice, guitar and dancer of Diego Luzuriaga’s 
“Tu Eternidad“, in Huntington (Long Island) at 2:30 pm; free admission. Presented by the South Huntington Public Library (located at 145 Pidgeon Hill Road).  For more information, please call 631-549-4411, or check out our Facebook Page Bellezas de las Americas.

Ninth Annual Latin American Piano & Song of Festival of New York: Review by Sandra Mercado

Ninth Annual Latin American Piano & Song of Festival of New York: Review by Sandra Mercado

The 9th Annual Latin American Piano & Song Festival of New York:

Centennial celebration of the birth of Carlos Jiménez Mabarak, Consuelo Velázquez, Alberto Ginastera, and Henrietta Yurchenco on November 14, 2016 at the Renee Weiler Concert Hall in Greenwich House Music School, New York City.

I had no previous knowledge of the Latin American Piano & Song Festival in New York City. If I had, I would have been there since the first year. This is César Reyes’ 9th year as producer, performer, and music director of this project. I’m familiar with Latin American Art Song but I’m not familiar with Latin American Piano Music. Reyes’ talents as a musicologist were in ample display on November 14th.

Before each piece Reyes addressed the audience and gave a short introduction of how he encountered the piece and how he got his hands on the score, since working editions of this music is difficult to obtain. He dedicated the program to one of his mentors, the American Ethnomusicologist Henrietta Yurchenco. He began the program with Mexican composer Carlos Jiménez Mabarak “Sonata para piano” and “Ay luna ven”. I didn’t know Jimenéz’s music, so it was a pleasure listening to this wonderful pianist bestow life to the notes on the page. This was a great beginning to what ended up being a delightful evening.

Next, he played “Fiesta de pájaros” by Guatemalan composer Jesús Castillo. As a listener, it was fun to picture each bird. Reyes technique allows him to produce a lot of sound and a clear trill for the bird calls. He followed with the Puerto Rican danza “Mis Amores” by Simón Madera. With this piece Reyes failed to transport me to a late 19th early 20th century ballroom in Old San Juan. I was a little disappointed since he had previously taken me to the Amazonas with the bird calls in the previous piece. This didn’t last long since he made up for it by playing “Marinera de concierto” by Peruvian composer Rosa Mercedes Ayarza. This piece was a great discovery, and a wonderful example of Peruvian Nationalist music.

For this festival Reyes invited singer Diana Sofía to sing Consuelo Velázquez’ classics “Amar y vivir” and “Besame mucho”. He then closed the concert with Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera’s “Milonga” and “Danzas Argentinas”. To an enthusiastic clapping audience, he performed the Mexican National Anthem transcription by Ricardo Castro displaying great skill playing a masterwork of Mexican Nationalism. I greatly enjoyed this concert and discovered new music from composers had not known previously. Thank you, César Reyes, for a delightful evening. Looking forward to the 10th Annual Latin American Piano & Song Festival.

Guest writer of the  Spanish Song Slinger blog, Puerto Rican soprano Sandra Mercado is based in New York City and is dedicated to the classical vocal repertoire of the composers of Latin American.


The mysteries of the human heart…”Me acerco, y me retiro”: a musical setting of a poem by Sor Juana de la Cruz by composer Max Lifchitz


I was asked by the pianist and composer Max Lifchitz to participate once more in a concert dedicated to the classical composers of Mexico for the annual “Cinco de Mayo Celebration” vocal concert presented by North South Consonance.  The concert will take place on Sunday May 3, 2015  at 3 PM at the Christ and St. Stephen’s church in NYC.  I had the idea of asking my colleague, contralto Celeste Mann to join me in the vocal recital in order to make the occasion more celebratory.  I also suggested that Max compose a new piece for piano and two female voices for us to debut at this concert.

Celeste and I left the choice of text up to the composer, and were intrigued to find that he had chosen a poem by the Mexican nun, writer and poet Sor Juana de la Cruz (1651-1695) from what is considered her “Lesbian Love Poetry” canon, “Me acerco, y  me retiro”.

Me acerco y me retiro:
¿quién sino yo hallar puedo
a la ausencia en los ojos
la presencia en lo lejos?

Del desprecio de Filis,
infelice, me ausento.
¡Ay de aquel en quien es
aun pérdida el desprecio!

Tan atento la adoro
que, en el mal que padezco,
no siento sus rigores
tanto como el perderlos.

No pierdo, al partir, sólo
los bienes que poseo,
si en Filis, que no es mía,
pierdo lo que no pierdo.

¡Ay de quien un desdén
lograba tan atento,
que por no ser dolor
no se atrevió a ser premio!

Pues viendo, en mi destino,
preciso mi destierro,
me desdeñaba más
porque perdiera menos.

¡Ay! ¿Quién te enseño, Filis,
tan primoroso medio:
vedar a los desdenes
el traje del afecto?

A vivir ignorado
de tus luces, me ausento
donde ni aun mi mal sirva
a tu desdén de obsequio.


Sor Juana de la Cruz

I had not read Sor Juana since my days in college, and was happy to look her up again…considered one of the finest exponents of Spain’s Golden Age of literature, as well as being considered the beginning of Mexican literature, Sor Juana’s independence, intellect, her cloistered life in which she was able to arrange for her cell to become a highly sought after salon attended by the intellectual elite of what was then Viceroyalty of Spain in Mexico, makes her a towering figure of Spanish letters as well as modern women’s gender studies and model for many women writers of Latin America.  The poem that Lifchitz chose is generally acknowledged as fruit of a “romantic” friendship (perhaps not a lesbian relationship as we would understand it in modern times, scholars suggest) that Sor Juana had with a Mexican countess.  Nevertheless, the text speaks of an intimate window for us to peak thru of Sor Juana’s experience of love, the push and pull of an emotional upheaval caused by the uncertainty of her friend’s feelings towards her.  The setting for two female voices creates the sensation that is familiar to me, of brain or heart speaking to itself, sometimes obsessively, questioning and in the end berating…

The setting includes passages of trumpet like exclamations in the higher voice with searing emotion; the contralto is set in a much lower range, sounding like a private mussing, a mumbled prayer almost. The choice to compose a setting for two female voices serves to accentuate a tone of an intense internal debate…Sor Juana uses the pastoral poetry pseudonym of “Fillis”, as not to disclose the real identity of the lady in question.  Preceded by a dramatic piano introduction, the composer sets the stage for the dramatic soliloquy for two female voices to unfold.

I asked Max Lifchitz to write a few words about the piece, I include here below:

“My musical setting attempts to both capture and portray the melancholic feelings of exasperation and resignation evident in Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz’s poetic lines. Her poem  “Me acerco y me retiro” (I approach and withdraw) clearly deals with unrequited love and expresses deep feelings of despondency and sadness over a lover’s disdain. A celebrity during her lifetime, Sor Juana (1651-1695)  came to new prominence in the late 20th century with the rise of feminism and women’s writing, officially being credited as the first published feminist of the New World.
I approached the writing of the duet with unusual trepidation and anxiety. Dealing with a poem by one of Mexico’s most revered intellectuals inspired me to juxtapose old-fashioned sounding harmonies with more present-day constructs. It also stirred me to compose lengthy piano interludes hoping to provide an adequate musical commentary to the multiple emotions and shadings implied in the poetry. I also exercised extreme caution and respect denoting the poetry’s sapphic meter with its many starts and stops. Overall, I sought to enhance the forcefulness and urgency of Sor Juana’s poetry.”

Composer Max Lifchitz

The word premiere of “Me acerco, y me retiro” by Max Lifchitz will take place on Sunday May 3, 2015 at 3 PM, as part of the Cinco de Mayo Celebration concert of vocal music by classical composers of Mexico at the Christ and St. Stephen’s Church in Manhattan, located at 120 W. 69th Street.  Included in this vocal concert are songs by Manuel Ponce, Rodolfo Halffter, Salvador Moreno and Maria Grever.
May 3 Revised 4 (2)

“Belleza de las Américas” for NYC: a concert for voice and guitar on Friday, February 20 at El Taller Latino in Manhattan


I’ve been working on a guitar and voice concert by composers from the Americas for the past several years.  The project began when I was approached by an American guitarist living in Madrid — Keith Rodriguez.  We put together a presentation for a benefit concert for a non-profit group  (CESAL) that raised funds for Haiti.  I found songs by the Haitian composer Frantz Casseus which became part of the program.  The program also included negro spirituals arranged by Rodney Stucky, American colonial-era songs arranged by Carlos Barbosa-Lima, as well as songs that I had developed many years before by Puerto Rican composer Ernesto Cordero, Brazilian composer Heitor Villa Lobos and others.  This concert eventually became known as “Belleza de las Américas”, a Pan-American program of composers from both the North and Latin Americas.


Francisco and I at Centro Cultural Civico Dominicano in Manhattan a couple of years ago, doing Dominican songs.

Yet this project really had its origin in the early 2000s, when I began to present concerts with Colombian guitarist Francisco Roldán here in NYC.  Our first venture together was a concert in the former CAMI Hall, in which we mixed European and Latin American songs for voice and guitar.  We continued to concertize together for more than five years doing projects, including a concert dedicated to Isaac Albéniz for the Puffin Foundation in NJ, as well as a wonderful project that highlighted the compositions of Dominican composer Rafael “Bullumba” Landestoy with our pianist friend Alexander Wu.

After several years, we are reuniting to do a concert at NYC’s El Taller Latino Americano on February 20th, 2015 and our reunion comes about in a curious way:  this past year I have been devoted to a recording project that friends and family know about, “España alla Rossini”.  The disc relates the dance and musical culture of mid 19th century Spain with the chamber music of songs of Gioacchino Rossini. I recorded the disc in Segovia (Spain) this past year, and it’s set to come out in April of 2015.  I ran a crowd funding campaign on Hatchfund to help pay for the expenses.  One of my benefactors is John Kordel Juliano, a lover of Spanish culture; his generous contribution came with a gift of thanks from me:  a live concert for voice and guitar on the date and place of his choice.


Me singing España alla Rossini at the Museo del Romanticismo in Madrid (Spain) last summer.

The prize/concert is a NYC version of Belleza de las Américas.  Calling upon my old friendship with Francisco, we have devised a repertoire that includes most things in the version of this concert that I do in Spain with my friend Keith Rodriguez:


Anna Tonna, mezzo soprano and Francisco Roldán, guitar

Friday February 20, 2015 at 7 PM at

El Taller Latino Americano

The first four songs of Seis poemas arcaicos by Manuel Ponce, arranged for voice and guitar by Gregg Nestor that uses the Cancionero de Palacio:  Mas quiero morir; Zagaleja del Casar; De las sierra; Sol, sol, gi, gi.

Four songs by Ernesto Cordero: Madrugada, Hija del viejo Pancho, Zenobia and Viaje Definivo

Dos canciones by Cuban composer  Leo Brouwer on Lorca texts

Where is fancy bred by Elliot Carter

Modinha by Heitor Villa Lobos

Excerpts from Five Negro Spirituals, arranged for voice and guitar by Rodney Stucky: Little David Play On Your Harp; Give me Jesus; Deep River

A ti… , song by Colombia’s Jaime León, arranged for voice and guitar by Francisco Roldán

Verano porteño as a guitar solo, by Astor Piazzolla

Come join us for “Belleza de las Américas”

at El Taller Latino Americano, located at 225 W. 99th Street Manhattan

Friday, February 20, 7 PM

Free admission

Recuerdo soñado XX…memories of “Belleza de las Americas” concert for voice and guitar with Aeterna Musica

Recuerdo soñado XX…memories of “Belleza de las Americas” concert for voice and guitar  with Aeterna Musica
 Recuerdo soñado XXDomingo 19 de mayo de 2013
Concierto extraordinario • La Belleza de las Américas
Anna Tonna (mezzosoprano) • Keith Rodríguez (guitarra)
Obras de Manuel Ponce, Heitor Villalobos, Agustín Barrios Mangoré, Ernesto Cordero, Frantz Casseus y canciones tradicionales de Estados Unidos.
Espacio Ronda
Recently my friend Francisco “Paco” Quirce who is one of the persons that leads Aeterna Musica posted this beautiful souvenir from a concert I did with them, with American guitarist (living in Marid) Keith Rodriguez.
Keith, who trained as a classical guitarist  with the Romeros in California, lives in Madrid with his family and is a high school music teacher and chorale director. He first reached out to me to start a collaboration to do a recital for a fundraising event to help the earthquake victims in Haiti in Madrid in 2010 for an organization called CESAL.  This link has a photo and sound clip of us performing a traditional colonial era song from the Americas,  “Wayfaring strange”:


Belleza de las americas poster
Keith and I performed this gorgeous program a couple of times now.  Although I Iive in the States, when I go to Spain we continue to collaborate.  Since that first concert with CESAL, we were presented by Aeterna Musica, Museo de las Americas and as part of another fundraising event for the non profit charitable organization Centro Solidaridad.
Aeterna Music is a non profit organization, and they do a  wonderful  and tireless labor; led by a group of musicians, aesthetes and university professors, they provide a space for musicians, poets and multi-disciplinary performers to perform.  They have a loyal concert going public, provide a beautiful program, and they both record and tape all the performances, which take in Espacio Ronda in Madrid.  They can be followed on their Aeterna Musica Facebook Page.
I have beautiful memories of this afternoon, performing songs for voice and guitar by composers of Puerto Rico, Mexico, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, and the United States.  This concert was the European premiere of the guitar/voice version of the Seis canciones arcaicas by the Mexican composer Manuel Ponce, arranged by American guitarist Gregg Nestor.  This wonderful cycle are masterpieces in my opinion, and I have performed them in the piano/voice version. The guitar/voice version has been recorded the soprano Anna Bartos and Mr. Nestor, and is available on Amazon and iTunes.
I am especially fond of the Haitian composer Frantz Casseus, he has beautiful solo guitar music that can be heard on youtube.  The song I sang “Girl from the woods” is beautifully interpreted by the soprano Rachel Flynn and is on youtube as well. Its a haunting melody, and a well known folk tune in Haiti, which has been artfully arranged by Casseus.

Keith and myself at Espacio Ronda


(In Spanish)

Notas de programa

Abarcando los campos de la música popular, folclórica y clásica, Manuel Ponce compuso Seis poemas arcaicos en 1939 originalmente para voz y piano, utilizando el codex madrileño de los Reyes Católicos, el celebrado “Cancionero de Palacio”. Esta tarde este cíclo debuta en Europa en transcripción para voz y guitarra, elaborada por el guitarrista estadounidense Gregg Nestor. Continuando con la representacion en Norte America el programa incluye canciones tradicionales de la época colonial de los Estados Unidos y de la tradición afro-americana esclavo del celebrado género denominado spiritual.

Escucharemos la pieza modinha, termino para una canción sentimental, usualmente contando una historia de amor en los siglos XIX procedente de Brazil y Portugal; el Mstro. Villa- Lobos arregló esta simple melodia en el 1926, durante sus años parisinos.

El compositor Puertoriqueno Ernesto Cordero, titulado en el Real Conservatorio Superior de Madrid, exhibe en sus canciones un nationalismo nostálgico e intrañable; ambos Madrugada y La hija del viejo Pancho llevan letra del poeta folclórico Llorens Torrens, ambas canciones que exaltan la vida de pueblo. Cadencia se acerca a la canción “canta autor”, sumamente personal, pero con aires en el preludio de romanza medieval española. La breve composición titulado Zenobia, elaborado sobre un poema de Juan Ramón Jimenez, lleva el titulo de la esposa del poeta, aunque el poema originalmente lleva el titulo de “Para quererte, al destino” procedente del libro de poemas “Estío” (1915), y lleva una dedicación a la soprano Victoria de los Angeles.

Para solo guitarra el concierto incluye piezas por el consagrado Maestro Barrios Mangoré de Paraguay, autor de piezas consideradas obras maestras por los grandes guitaristas del mundo. La catedral, inspirado en momentos en J.S. Bach es considerado el magnum opus del autor.

Incluimos el poco conocido compositor haitiano Franz Casséus, un autor que aspiraba a las metas estéticas de Villa- Lobos, emplea material folclórico para elevar la música de su pais. Las dos canciones incluidas en este programa fueron progamados en un concierto benéfico que se llevo a cabo en el 2012 a cargo de CESAL para Haití despues del terremoto por nuestros dos artistas.

Belleza de las Americas Anna Tonna, mezzo soprano Keith Rodriguez, guitarra
Seis poemas arcaicos por Manuel Ponce México
transcipción para voz y guitarra por Gregg Nestor (1883-1948)Más quiero morir (Juan de Encina)
Zagaleja del Casar (Autor anónimo)
De las sierras (Pedro Juan Aldomar)
Sol, sol, gi, gi (Alonso de Plaja)
Desciende el valle (Autor anónimo)
Tres morillas (Diego Fernandez y autor anónimo)
Three American Folksongs Tradicional Estados Unidos
transcripción para canto y guitarra por Carlos Barbosa-Lima
Wayfaring Stranger
Red Rosey Bush Modinha por  Heitor Villa-Lobos Brazil


La Catedral por Agustín por Barrios Mangoré Paraguay (1885-1944)
Andante Religioso
Keith Rodriguez

 Madrugada  de Ernesto Cordero Puerto Rico (n. 1946)
La Hija del viejo Pancho
Haitianesques por Frantz Casséus Haití
No. 1 Cé grand matin (1915-1993)
No. 2 Fi’ nan bois

 Una limosna por el amor de Dios Agustín Barrios Mangoré
Keith Rodriguez

De Five Spirituals Tradicional Estados Unidos
transcripción para voz y guitarra por Rodney Stucky
Give me Jesus
Deep River
Little David Play On Your Harp

June and July travels in Spain with “España alla Rossini”

June and July travels in Spain with “España alla Rossini”

Dear friends, enclosed is a link to a blog article by HiSTéRiCaS Grabaciones of the concert España alla Rossini. The  discographic project produced by The Recording Consort and distributed by iTinerant Classics had its debut as a live concert this summer at Gamma Heart Festival, The Museo de Romanticismo de Madrid, and in its complete form at the Festival de Segovia in Spain on July 21, 2014 at the Patio de Armas in the Alcazar of Segovia.  


The concert is for pianist, mezzo soprano, Spanish dance artist with a historic piano, Broadwood & Sons (circa 1831).  The costumed concert repertoire is comprised of songs and duets by Gioacchino Rossini that relatex his love for the musical culture of Spain as well as his relationships with royalty and personalities of the day such as Queens Maria Cristina and Isabel ii, as well as the Duchess of Alba and Berwick and his patron Francisco Aguado.

Anna Tonna, mezzo soprano

Emilio González Sanz, piano

Cristina Gómez Tornamira, dancer

Miguel Borrallo, tenor

Article and photos of España alla Rossini at the Festival de Segovia:

España alla Rossini at the Festival de Segovia on july 21, 2014. article and photos