Category Archives: Spanish Classical Music, Spanish Classical Art Song, Latin American Art Song, Latin American Vocal Chamber Music

“Songs for Sorolla…”

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“Songs for Sorolla…”

A museum education project inspired in Joaquín Sorolla’s panels “A Vision of Spain” for the Hispanic Society of America in New York City

In Urueña, looking out on the plains of Old Castile

I was asked by the education department of the Hispanic Society of America to program a song and dance, arts education concert based on a series of panels the museum has on permanent display called “A vision of Spain“; painted by late 19th century Spanish painter Joaquín Sorolla (1863-1923), it’s an unequaled collection of panels that showcases the different regions and peoples of Spain; a commission by Archer Huntington, founder of the Hispanic Society, it stands as Sorolla’s most breathtaking (their sheer size are part of the marvel) and lasting masterpiece. In my opinion, “The Sorolla Room” is one of the most unique spaces in all of New York City.

The Sorolla Room at the
Hispanic Society of America in NYC

In my search for meaningful material for this project, during my last trip to Spain I took a side trip to a remote town in Old Castile, to the medieval town Urueña. With only 42 full time inhabitants, this place is not your average town: it has more bookstores than bars (its part of a group of towns from around the world known as “The village of books“), has at least one “farm to table” gourmet restaurant (super delicious!). But I came to Urueña not for tourism, but to visit and research at two separate foundations: Museo de la música, colección Luis Delgado; and to meet whom for many is the most well known “trobadour” as well as the foremost expert in folk music, dance, story telling and costumes from the Hispanic World: Mstro. Joaquin Díaz, and his formidable foundation and museum Fundación Joaquin Díaz.

Outside the Joaquín Díaz Foundation
in Urueña (Spain)

The musician and composer Luis Delgado and his wife, the dancer and scholar Gema Rizo very kindly picked me up and took me to my bed and breakfast The next day I made my way to the foundation, which is housed in an imposing renaissance era palace. This foundation contains Mstro. Díaz enormous collection as well as his own museum of instruments, artifacts, objects and paintings relating to music. The first office I was ushered into to meet the librarian, had a large poster of Sorolla’s “La fiesta del pan” displayed. I knew I was in the right place…

Book stacks and displays at the
Fundación Joaquín Díaz in Urueña (Spain)

I looked at folkloric songs books as well as costume books of the regions of Spain that I didn’t have too much material on (I was looking for folk songs from Navarra, the Basque country, as well as songs from remote parts of Valencia). Mstro. Díaz very kindly welcomed me and gifted me CD’s from his amazing catalog of recordings. I was ensconced in another world, looking at lithographs of costumes from Andalucía, folkloric jewelry from Salamanca, as well as the religious rites and catholic saints related to “romerías”.

A street in the town of Urueña (Spain) at nightfall

In between my research, I roamed around the deserted town, looked out into the endless sea of fields that are the plains of Castile. At night (bundled up, since they have pretty cold winters in those parts) I walked among the beautifully lit renaissance stone facades of the town.

Lithograph from a book from the
Fundación Joaquín Díaz

The next day, Luis Delgado welcomed me to his museum of musical instruments, which hailed from all over the world, lovingly curated and displayed (I got CD’s from him too! of his group “Los músicos de Urueña” all early music of Spain). I also had a chance to visit several of the specialty bookstores, among them: one dedicated to calligraphy, another to film, another to cook books.

One of many display cases at the museo de instrumentos,
colección Luis Delgado in Urueña (Spain)

My search for “Songs for Sorolla” yielded information I was seeking about the origins of songs that I programmed; Mstro. Díaz’s CD of Hispanic songs from the American Southwest, led me to directly make the connection for the concert in NYC between the Cordobés hat and the American cowboy hat; Spanish dance artist Anna de la Paz subsequently wore a Cordobés “cowboy” costume to bring to life Sorolla’s “El Encierro” (the herding), using Federico García Lorca’s song “Anda Jaleo”. At the foundation I learned about Seville’s La virgen de la Macarena, as I had programmed a song by Joaquín Turina regarding the yearly Easter procession in Seville, portrayed by Sorolla in one of the “A Vision of Spain” panels.

Detail of Joaquín Sorolla’s “El encierro” on permanent display at the Hispanic Society of America in New York City

I found more information that I could use for the teaching concert, which I performed as part of Hispanic Culture Arts on December 17, 2019 for High School students of Upper Manhattan. Among the dances and songs that were heard on that day where a “Seguidillas Manchegas: by Fernando Sor and “Con amores la mi madre” by Obradors to portray the panel “La fiesta del pan”; “Jota” by Manuel de Falla to portray the panel “Aragón”; and “Danza V” by Enrique Granados to portray the panel “La fiesta”.

Spanish dance artist Anna de la Paz,
at the Hispanic Society of America,
photo credit Maureen Termecz
Performing “A vision of Spain” arts education concert, with Anna de La Paz & Rupert Boyd at Hispanic Society of America in NYC,
photo credit Maureen Termecz

For María Malibran: “Il sogno di Tartini” by Charles de Bériot

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For María Malibran:  “Il sogno di Tartini” by Charles de Bériot

As part of the recital of “I am Carreño” that I’m currently working on, via German pianist Babette Hierholzer a musical curiosity has been programmed in this concert which I perform this coming August 14th at The Sembrich in upstate New York; its a composition by Belgian composer Charles August de Bériot (1802-1870). De Bériot was a virtuoso violinist who was married to the 19th century operatic super star, soprano María Malibran. The piece in question is a composition for voice, piano and violin called “Il sogno di Tartini”. It is labeled as a “Ballata” and formed part of the musical program in what was to become Malibran’s last concert in Manchester, England on September 15, 1836. Programmed to be performed by Malibran and De Bériot in the second half of the concert, Malibran became too ill that evening to appear in the second half of the recital (she died 8 days later). “Il sogno di Tartini” in effect would of been the very last piece that La Malibran would of sung, had she gone on stage that evening after the intermission. (From “Malibran – the Final Concert”, Peter Sheppard Skaerved blog https://www.peter-sheppard-skaerved.com/2012/06/malibran-the-final-concert/ ).

Such a curious story propelled me to investigate further as to who was Tartini, and what story this off the beaten path, early romantic concert piece was all about.

Il sogno de Tartini

Considered one of the God Fathers of the modern violin and famous for the invention of “The devil’s trill”, the story of Giuseppe Tartini (1692-1731) is very much at the center of the De Bériot “Ballata”. The musical piece “Il sogno di Tartini” describes the tale of how the Devil come to him in a dream; the Devil plays a sonata that Tartini tried to write down when awake; he is quoted as saying:

“One night I dreamed I had made a pact with the devil for my soul. Everything went as I desired: my new servant anticipated my every wish. I had the idea of giving him my violin to see if he might play me some pretty tunes, but imagine my astonishment when I heard a sonata so unusual and so beautiful, performed with such mastery and intelligence, on a level I had never before conceived was possible. I was so overcome that I stopped breathing and woke up gasping. Immediately I seized my violin, hoping to recall some shred of what I had just heard; but in vain. The piece I then composed is without a doubt my best, and I still call it “The Devil’s Sonata,” but it falls so far short of the one that stunned me that I would have smashed my violin and given up music forever if I could but have possessed it.”

From https://aviolinslife.org/tartinilipinski/

Hyper romantic in theme and in its story telling, “Il sogno di Tartini” can be seen as a duel between the violin player (the Devil) and the voice (Tartini himself). The vocal part is in a second soprano range (similar to Dona Elvira’s vocal range in Mozart’s Don Giovanni). It has a recitativo section, followed by three strofas (the first two in minor key, the third in major) with text that relates the tale of Tartini’s Devil dream (the author of the lyrics is unknown to me). The melody is somewhat simple, no doubt to give ample space for La Malibran to interpolate in defiance, the highly ornamented violin gestures, glissandos, trills and dramatic tesitura shifts.

A page of De Beriot’s “Il sogno di Tartini” for voice, violin and piano, composed circa 1836

For this first time that we are performing the piece, we have cut strofa 2; with all the strofas the piece clocks at about 11 minutes total. I researched a couple of cadenzas in the Marchessi book to embelish one of the cadential points near the end of the piece.

Could be fun to record this one day on 19th century era instruments. I wouldn’t say this is musical masterpiece, but it is certainly a composition that can thrill and entertain. Extroverted, exuberant and extreme in expression, its a wild ride for everyone involved. Can’t wait to see the reaction of the audience on August 14th at The Sembrich. My colleagues in this piece are pianist Babette Hierholzer and violinist Yana Goichman. The recital “I am Carreño” is the conception of bass baritone Robert Osborne and August Ventura.

For more information about the concert on August 14 at The Sembrich in Bolton Landing, NY: https://www.thesembrich.org/events/i-am-carreno-the-extraordinary-life-of-teresa-carreno/

Pianist Teresa Carreño

From the Bronx to Formigine, Italy: “Verde, Bianco, Rossini!” in 2019

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From the Bronx to Formigine, Italy: “Verde, Bianco, Rossini!” in 2019

With all the hazards that social networks might have on our lives, I need to report that among some of the more positive things that have happened to me because of social networks (Youtube to be specific) was my connecting from my house in Bronx, NY to my new colleagues and dear friends Duo Savigini in Formigine in Italy.

My brain had feverishly thought up of a new project of early 19th century music by composers of Spain and Italy, focused on the composers that left Spain due the nefarious King Ferdinand VII of Spain. This new brainchild would need a forte pianist and romantic guitar player. On YouTube I found an unforgettable video of the Italian sisters Duo Savigni, playing a transcription of Verdi’s Rigoletto.

I wrote Duo Savigni and received word from them two weeks later. We began to correspond and planned to meet the summer of 2017. Since then, I have made several trips to their town outside of Modena (birthplace of the great tenor Luciano Pavarotti). We played a small version of the Spanish 19th century concert on July 14 of 2017 (how appropriate for a concert about liberalist thought!). With the Rossini anniversary coming up in 2018, we turned our attention to Rossini: Verde, Bianco ROSSINI! was born; we planned transcriptions by Ferdinando Carrulli of overtures from La cenerentola and Il barbiere di Sivigilia; a small section of chamber music songs (including one by the Spanish diva and Rossini’s talented wife Isabella Colbran) and an opera section, which the Duo arranged for mezzo, forte piano and romantic guitar.

This spring and summer we are essaying our new concert in Bologna, Parma and Madrid. Our spring and summer tour began at Circolo Lirico culturale Bolognese on May 12, which continues at beautiful historical Teatro 1763 at Villa Aldrovandi Mazzacoratti on May 17 also in Bologna. We finish up here in Italy on May on Sunday May 19 at the former palace of Empress Maria Luigia di Parma (Napoleon Bonapart’s second wife and muse of Parma), the Museo Glauco Lombardi.

The opera arias included in the program are: “Di tanti palpiti” from Tancredi; “Ah quel giorno” from Semiramide and “Una voce poco fa” from Il barbiere di Sivigilia. Aside from the Rossini overtures, Duo Savigni essay their own arrangement of the song “Amori, scendete”, a small canzone in perfect neoclassical style by Rossini that was dedicated to the Duchess of Alba of Spain.

Next month we continue in Madrid (Spain) at the Museo de Romanticismo de Madrid on June 27 and at the Festival de Navas del Marques on June 30, to be held at the 12th century convent of Sto. Domingo and San Pablo.

While we are in Madrid this summer, we will visit the Museo Nacional del Prado to get some inspiration in Spanish romantic painting, as well as going to the National Archaeological Museum to see the guitar that once belonged to Spanish early 19th century virtuoso Dionisio Aguado.

El Fusilamiento de Torrijos y sus compañeros en las playas de Málaga by Antonio Gisbert Pérez (Museo Nacional del Prado)

A “Carmen” Notebook: Bizet’s Carmen and Lulu from “Pandora’s box”

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A “Carmen” Notebook: Bizet’s Carmen and Lulu from “Pandora’s box”

Carmen…its a name that can only conjure one thing: Bizet’s masterpiece and the story of opera’s most fascinating heroines, the Spanish gypsy Carmen. I have had the opportunity of playing her on three separate occasions, and my own experience in trying to find her essence and personal truth has always raised interesting questions for me.

In my search for Carmen throughout the years, I became a huge fan of the Carlos Saura film “Carmen”, which portrays Spanish dancer and choreographer Antonio Gades’ search for an elusive muse/dancer to incarnate his new ballet. I was also attracted to Agnes Baltsa’s atavistic and precocious teenager version for the MET Opera. Other sources of inspiration have included the Maria Callas recording, as well as the Teresa Berganza’s recording, which I admire for her preciseness and direct approach, as well as Abbados’ beautiful conducting, making almost chamber music of many of the musical details of Bizet’s score.

Tenor Antonio Magno and myself in a production of Carmen in Madrid a few years back.
Both Lulu and Bizet’s Carmen love to dance, one the Charleston and the other the Seguidille, both know how to have a good time…

My main inspiration this time around I can definitely say is Wedekind’s Lulu, as portrayed by Louise Brookes in Pabst’s silent film “Pandora’s Box”. I started pouring over this film several years ago on Youtube. Lulu seems to be on the whole unaware of the power and fascination she exerts over others (but not quite, at points when she makes a decision to turn things her way). She exudes innocence that on a drop of a dime can becomes fierce and animalistic; she’s like a child, playing games, dancing at a drop of a hat; purely operating on an instinctive level and with no premeditation, she puts into motion actions that brings about mayhem and death to everyone around her. She causes destruction on instinct and feels no remorse…never mental, she is stream of consciousness in action. She is charming as hell, but unaware of her deadly narcissism; you almost don’t mind it, as she sits on men’s laps, perching like a cute dog or a praying mantis…

You swap whiskey for “manzanilla” and voila! Carmen in 1920’s Berlin…

My big question this time around, now that I’m comparing Carmen to Lulu, is the following: Are we attracted to these two characters because they both somehow escaped society’s instructions to be “good”? Not mothers nor wives, and not really providing companionship to the men in their lives (the sexual obsession the men exhibit for their respective female characters is painful to observe, it certainly doesn’t feel like a pleasant state for them), both characters live outside of societies mores. They are simultaneously both good AND bad. I was offended once when someone called “Carmen” a bad woman. I felt Carmen had a heart; I’m not so sure anymore.

What I can say at this moment is that maybe….she is “natural” in a way that could be hard for me as person to accept. But…my job is not to judge, but to play and sing her. Lets see what I do with her this time around…

“Loa al fandanguillo”, creation of Conchita Supervia, with composer Modesto Romero

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“Loa al fandanguillo”, creation of Conchita Supervia, with composer Modesto Romero

As a young singer in New York City, I received the opportunity to act in a small concert at the Thalia Theater in the borough of Queens, in New York City. The concert consisted of pieces from Spain’s operetta genre, called “zarzuela“. Not knowing anything about zarzuela, I began researching and more than anything, listening to singers from Spain that sang zarzuela. I found discs by Teresa Berganza (Zarzuela castiza released by Ensayo label being one of my all time favorites), Placido Domingo, Alfredo Krauss and Pilar Lorengar.  But the album that I listened to most was the Victoria de los Angeles EMI release disc of zarzuela arias, containing all the principle pieces for female voice in the zarzuela genre, introduced to me by the pianist Pablo Zinger.

It was around this time that I became fascinated with the great Catalan mezzo soprano, Conchita Supervia.  Thank goodness for the compact disc label “Pearl” with all her Odeon cylinder releases! Conchita had done a prodigious amount of recordings, including versions of Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier in Italian, Samson and Delilah, all the major scenes from Bizet’s Carmen.  She is credited as one of the first interpreters of the 20th century Rossini revival, in that she sang the role of Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia in the original mezzo soprano key.

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Conchita Supervia, an opera diva of the Art Deco era 

Conchita was an active recitalist, and her archive of recordings documents the public’s taste (as well as her own) in programming in the 1920’s and 1930’s.  There were many “pop” pieces that peppered her recordings recitals, detailing for me her love of pleasing her public.  Curiously enough there are “song versions” of Granados’ Danza No. 5 and an Albéniz piano solo, which although dated, I think have a place and can please listeners nowadays.  She also exposed songs in English in her charming accent, “Bring to me your coloured toys” by American composers John Carpenter.

I began  singing zarzuela concerts in NYC with Los amigos de la Zarzuela at NYC Cami Hall in the 90’s, and started acquiring  Conchita’s repertoire; the UME anthologies by voice type of zarzuela “romances” was still years away from editing. I relied on Classical Vocal reprints to acquire “Fué mi mare la gitana” from La chavala by Moreno Torroba, “Lagarteranas” from El Huesped del Sevillano, “Canción de la gitana” from El mal de amores.  All pretty obscure stuff (I don’t know any singers in Spain that program these pieces!), and I really didn’t know any better. Conchita sang it, and that was good enough for me.  I also got help finding these scores from Music Sales Ltd., they printed on demand old scores from the Union Musical Española catalog.

I found a fascinating song that she recorded called “Loa al fandanguillo”. It wasn’t from a zarzuela that I could tell. Very andalusian, Conchita interpreted the song with much “desgarro”, and  it was loads of fun to listen to; I replayed it many times. I started corresponding with María Luz Gonzalez at Archivo la SGAE in Madrid, and she popped a copy for me via regular post.

Supervia volume 2

CD Album where you can listen to “De la serrania: Loa al fandanguillo”

Dated 1933, it said:

De la serranía; Loa al fandanguillo: canción para contralto; versos de Manuel Machado; música de Modesto Romero. It also said:  “Creación de Conchita Supervía”. This leads me to believe that the song was a co creation between Supervia, M. Machado and Modesto Romero.  Too bad we couldn’t be a fly on the wall during those sessions, in which she coaxed out of those two, this fun vocal vehicle for her gifts and vocalism!

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The LP says “Fandanguillo de concierto”, a title that does not appear on the printed score I have. 

The recording has a section with castanets, but it first starts with a “llamada”, a calling to the artist (or flamenco dancer”) to  come to the stage, followed by a syncopated 3/4 section.  There are dramatic but fun chromatic transitions that lead into the “fandanguillo” section. Fandango is the flamenco “palo” of Huelva, a province in the south of Spain.  The text is about “love gone wrong”.  There are sections of stylized flamenco vocalises that use the whole range of the voice. The recording is with orchestra, with Modesto Romero at the podium. There is more information about this piece in this blog:

http://cancionypoema.blogspot.com/2014/10/manuel-machado-y-lamusica.html

The entire piece is a stylized “lyric” version of a “cante jondo” song. There was great interest in Spanish folklore, flamenco and “cante jondo” from the composers, authors and painters at the turn of the 20th century, this piece I feel is a product of this aesthetic and interest.  I was told that this song enjoyed a vogue on Spanish radio by a zarzuela fan by the name of Mrs. Fuertes in NYC, a charming lady that later became my friend, who told me she had heard the song on the radio as a child.  Again, the piece might feel dated to a Spaniard, or at the very least nostalgic. I don’t know of other singers that have taken up this piece in modern days.  I actually see it as good vehicle for collaboration with a classical Spanish dancer.

I have performed “Loa al fandanguillo” three times in all these years; I bring it out once more at the 33rd annual gala of Los Amigos de la Zarzuela at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall this coming Sunday November 11, 2018 at 2 PM, with pianist Maxim Anikushin.

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Private screening of “El amor y la muerte: Historia de Enrique Granados” at The Juilliard School in NYC

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Private screening of “El amor y la muerte:  Historia de Enrique Granados” at The Juilliard School in NYC

I received an invitation from Spanish pianist Rosa Torres-Pardo to attend a private screening of a new film documentary about the composer Enrique “Enric” Granados (1867-1916) at the Juilliard School in New York City. The film is entitled “El amor y la muerte: Historia de Enrique Granados “ and is directed by Arantxa Aguirre. The screening took place on October 18, 2018, following a master class that Torres-Pardo imparted to several Juilliard piano students. The audience included several well known personalities from Spain’s classical music world such as former director of the Auditorio Nacional de España, Antonio Moral, conductor Rafael Lamas and composer Ricardo Llorca.

Poster for the film “El amor y la muerte: Historia de Enrique Granados”.

Being a great admirer of the work of Spanish film director Arantxa Aguirre since viewing her outstanding documentary, “Dancing Beethoven”, I was excited to be present at the preview screening of “El amor y la muerte” (translated as “Love and Death”). The title in Spanish really alludes to “Love” and “Death” as entities rather than abstract ideas (utilizing the male pronoun for “el” amor/love and the female pronoun for “la” muerte/death); the allusion for the title of the documentary is both the solo piano composition by Granados of the same title, as well as what is most certainly the inspiration for this composition, an engraving bearing the same title by the 18th century Spanish painter Francisco Goya y Lucientes, with whom Granados was obsessed with.

I would like to add that the documentary’s theme is close to my own heart in many ways: in 2015 and 2016 I had the privilege to work as a performer on two multi disciplinary concerts about Enrique Granados’ time in New York City in 1916, for the Hispanic Society Museum & Library (NYC) and the Teatro “El Escorial” (Spain) with pianist Borja Mariño.

Rosa Torres-Pardo was joint producer in this special film project, in which she was featured among other artists such as mezzo Nancy Fabiola Herrera, pianist Luis del Valle, violinist Ana Valderrama, pianist Joaquín Soriano in excerpted performances and conversations. On the screen we heard musicologists Walter Aaron Clarke and Miriam Perandones speak of their insights about the life of Granados. An interesting revisioning of Granados’ songs interpreted by notable flamenco artists filmed at the Teatro Real and the Prado Museum where other highlights of the film.

Pianist Evegny Kissin and baritone Carlos Alvárez also make an appearance in the film with short performances.

Pianist Rosa Torres-Pardo converses with pianist Joaquín Soriano in the film “El amor y la muerte”.

I heard Rosa Torres-Pardo in a concert the previous week, which took place at the Bruno Walter Auditorium at Lincoln Center, in a program of Debussy and Albéniz.  Presented jointly by the New York Opera Society and the Queen Sofía Institute, the concert took place on October 10 in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Day.  She essayed sensitive renditions of Albéniz’s Iberia as well as the Suite Bergamasque by Debussy.  Torre Pardo’s commitment to works by Enrique Granados is well documented throughout her career, notably so with her recent recording issued by Deutsche Grammaphon in 2016.

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Working with no film material at hand to illustrate the life of Granados, the documentary utilized historical photographs, and both original paintings created for this film, as well as period paintings (notably by Ramón Casas) which where in some instances animated, bringing to life early 20th century Madrid, Barcelona and New York City respectively.

A movie still of “Amor y la muerte” of a photograph of Enrique Granados.

Actors voices with quotes by musicologist Felipe Pedrell, painter and writer Santiago Rusiñol, cellist Pau Casals, novelist Gabriel Miró and poet Apelles Mestres, as well as text taken from letters by Granados to his wife were used extensively to bring the narration to life.

Movie still of “Amor y la muerte” of an illustration of Enrique Granados and Pau Casals.

The film highlighted the events of Granados’ stay in New York City, with its triumphs of numerous concerts, and the premiere of his opera “Goyescas”. It remains to this day the only opera presented at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City by a Spanish composer.

Pianist Rosa Torres-Pardo and mezzo Nancy Fabiola Herrera performing Granados’ “Maja dolorosa” in the film “El amor y la muerte”.

The film move us inexorably to the “finale” of what we know as the tragic fate of this figure, and to what seems to be a senseless although predestined death intuited by both Granados and his wife. Using the leitmotif of the aforementioned solo piano piece by the composer, I felt as a viewer a profound sense of loss and sadness, as I witnessed on the screen visions of a vast sea, with which the film both begins and ends.

A movie still of Enrique Granados and his wife Amparo in “El Amor y la muerte”.

The film is a moving tribute to one of Spain’s greatest musical geniuses and will be a memorable treasure for lovers of Spanish music and for fans of the music of Enrique Granados.

Pianist Rosa Torres Pardo and flamenco artist Arcángel performing a Granados song at the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid (Spain), with Goya paintings in the background, from the film “El amor y la muerte”.

A recreation of Antonia Mercé’s premiere of “Danza de los ojos verdes” in 1916 was performed in the documentary by Spanish dance artist Patrícia Guerrero in the film “El amor y la muerte”.

The film runs 79 minutes and was officially premiered on October 23, 2018 at the “Seminci of Valladolid” (Spain).  I hope to announce soon the official viewing of this insightful and moving documentary here in the U.S.
(All photos were taken from my iPhone 7)

Spain and the Rossini “Stabat mater”

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Spain and the Rossini “Stabat mater”

With the Rossini celebration of the 150 years since the death of composer Gioachino Rossini being celebrated this year, works by the “Swan of Pesaro” are being programmed world wide.  This year I’m involved in several projects having to do with Rossini, namely “Verdi, Bianco, Rossini!” with pianoforte/romantic guitar ensemble Duo Savigni in Italy as well as a production of his La cambiale di matrimonio for Little Opera Zamora in Spain.  Tomorrow I take part in his Stabat mater in the city of Chicago, as part of the 2018 Chicago Oratorio Award – The American Prize this coming Wednesday May 16th. Always a privilege to sing this great work for chorus orchestra and soloists, I take the occasion today to highlight how the Stabat mater is related to Spain, and the reason it forms part of the commercial disc España alla Rossini, which I recorded and released in 2015 with pianist Emilio González Sanz on Emilio’s circa 1890 Broadwood piano for iTinerant Classics:

From the program notes in the disc España alla Rossini, by Spanish musicologist José Luis Téllez, which I translate into English:

“In his ‘charm offensive’ meant to assert his financial claims, Rossini did not forget the Queen: “Specially for Her Majesty Maria Cristina di Borbone, Catholic Queen of Spain, in Madrid on 20 February, 1831” he composed La passeggiata, which was published on 11 April, 1831 in the Spanish magazine «Cartas Españolas», later also by Ricordi. In Italian poetics the subtitle “Anacreontica” indicates a piece of poetry consisting of heptasyllabic or octosyllabic lines, dedicated to love, wine or joie de vivre. Rossini’s piece is not full of unbridled singing though but rather a contemplative ode to the beauty of nature. “La passeggiata – Anacreontica” must not be mistaken for “La passeggiata – Quartettino” from the “Album italiano” of his “Péchés de vieillesse”.

However, the most important aspect of his trip to Spain is the “by-product” of the Stabat mater; which he had promised Manuel Fernández Varela, prelate and commissar of the Cruzada on the day before his departure (23 February, 1831). First Rossini went back on his word and he did not set himself to work before March 1832 after the clergyman had urged him. To finish this composition destined for Good Friday in time he felt compelled to appeal to his friend Giovanni Tadolini for help. Rossini entrusted him with nearly all the solo pieces and the closing fugue (7 numbers), while he took care of the other 6 numbers himself: all ensemble pieces and just one solo aria, namely the cavatina (No. 10) “Fac ut portem” for contralto, the singing voice he had always considered most important. Due to the quarantine because of cholera this thirteen-piece composition reached Madrid only after Good Friday 1832 and therefore was not premiered until the Good Friday of the following year, on 5 April, 1833 in the church of San Felipe El Real. When the Varela manuscript got to Paris in 1841 Rossini obstructed publication and substituted the seven pieces by Tadolini with four of his own; as a result “Fac ut portem” is number 8 in the version of the Stabat mater as we know it today”.

Tile image:  First edition of the Rossini Stabat mater; engraving of the church where the first version of the work was premiered San Felipe El Real in Madrid; portrait of Manuel Fernández Varela, Spanish cleric who commissioned the Stabat mater; portrait of mezzo Emma Albertozzi, first Italian mezzo interpreter  of the Rossini Stabat mater.

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Following in the foot steps of a zarzuela star: Lucrecia Arana

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Liricas del Mundo at the first concert “Homenaje a Lucrecia Arana” at the International Institute in Madrid, when we first sang the Trova and duo from “El diablo en el molino”

 

I was asked to contribute an article to zarzuela.net, a web page lead by the leading Anglo exponent of the zarzuela genre, Christopher Webber.  Here is my story of how in 2017, via a series of concerts in Madrid and Logroño in La Rioja (Spain) with my duet ensemble Líricas del Mundo,  we explored and sang the repertoire a 19th century zarzuela sensation and muse to both composers and libretist of the golden age of zarzuela, tiple-contralto Lucrecia Arana.

Link to article in http://www.zarzuela.net

Adventures with Arana

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Lucrecia Arana played numerous trouser roles in the zarzuela, many written especially for her.

 

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The zarzuela “La viejecita” by Fernando Caballero was written for and premiered by Lucrecia Arana

Premiere of Madrid music series “El canto de Polifemo” in the Chueca section of Madrid – “Aquel Trovar”

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Premiere of Madrid music series “El canto de Polifemo” in the Chueca section of Madrid – “Aquel Trovar”

My tireless colleague and friend, the concert producer Francisco “Paco” Quirce, formerly of Aeterna Musica, has baptized a new music series in Madrid called “El canto de Polifemo” (The song of Polifemus). The event took place in the magical church of Iglesia de las Mercedarias Gongoras in the Chueca neighborhood. With a Homeric title that breathes of ancient Greek allusions, the series kicked off with the early music ensemble “Aquel Trovar”, in a  concert entitled “Songs of Old Europe”.  The ensemble was composed by Antonio Torralba (flutes); Josè Ignacio Fernández (renaissance guitar and bandurria); Daniel Sáez Conde, bass rabel and “colascione”; and well known soprano and early music specialist Delia Angúndez.

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Ensemble “Aquel Trovar”

The church is part of a cloistered convent that opens to the general public for mass only a few days a week. An intact late baroque structure, with its original tapestries and altar as well as neoclassical style cupola, it is a true insiders visit.  I saw various painted relic keepers that were done in a naive style, which were quite charming.

Paco Quirce in his opening speech did a recitation of a poem by the Spanish Golden Age poet Luis de Gongora, after which the concert began.  Without fanfare the group began with the beautiful and well known Spanish renaissance tune “Pámpano verde” by Francisco de la Torre (1460-1504).  In a program which was Pan European in conception, we heard songs from early to mid renaissance that spanned Spain, France, Germany, Poland and England.  Exhibiting the cultivation of troubador culture and aesthetics, the musical selections of the evening showed both differences and common ground of profane song in Europe of the time. With only two brief instrumental pieces, the evening exhibited songs of all affects, with Delia Agúndez luminous and pure soprano (showed off to great advantage in the acoustic of the Iglesia de las Mercedarias) in a variety of moods and languages, some done with great theatrical flare, such as the song “Es hett ein bidermann ein Weib” by Ludwig Senfl (1468-1542). The program included songs that recalled the Merry England of H.R. H Elizabeth I with the “Robyn, gentle Robnyn” by William Cornysh (1465-1523) and the jocund “Three ravens” by Thomas Ravenscroft (1582-1633).  Her colleagues hailed from Cordoba (Spain), and played with great virtuosity at times; string player Sáez Conde showed the rarely heard and seen instruments such as the bass rabel, a stringed instrument that is native of Spain.

The program, because of its charm, variety and accessibility was attractive and enjoyable. Over 180 persons filled La iglesia de las Mercedarias and the concert was met with full approval, and the beckoning of two separate encores to cap off the success of the evening.

The new disc release of “Aquel Trovar” which showcases the repertoire of the concert has been recently released, and can be heard on all the digital platforms, as well as purchased on iTunes and Amazon.

“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

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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.