Category Archives: Spanish Classical Music

“Songs for Sorolla…”

“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

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

“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.


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!

loa al fandanguillo lp

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:

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.










“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.

Concert Review of Zarzuela Gala in Carnegie Hall on Nov. 13, 2016, reviewed by Ricardo Llorca

Concert Review of Zarzuela Gala in Carnegie Hall on Nov. 13, 2016, reviewed by Ricardo Llorca

The announcement of a Zarzuela Gala on Sunday, November 13th at Weill Recital Hall at New York’s Carnegie Hall came as a pleasant and unexpected surprise because one does not find often a zarzuela concert in New York City.

For those of you who don’t know (and there’s a big number in the United States, even among a cultured audiences) and although Zarzuela is almost impossible to describe with one word, or to give it a uniform description, Zarzuela is the blending between traditional Spanish music and the European operatic forms. In a way it is the Spanish national answer to musical comedy, a mix of traditional and popular music, even folk sometimes, with opera and operetta forms. Zarzuela comes from a very complicated musical tradition that is wide and very rich. Having survived for such a long time as a genre, one can find zarzuelas composed in the 18th century musical style which could be seen as scarlattiesque; as a 19th century operatic form; dramatic; historical; regional (using traditional dances and popular tunes); operetta-type; as opera buffa, etc.

What matters here is that Zarzuela has always been immensely popular in Spain. They are still performed in every city in Spain (and also in South America) and its most popular tunes are known and sung by almost every Spaniard. My grandmother is a good example of this: in the 1920’s she had a full-subscription at Teatro Apolo (the main theater for zarzuelas in Madrid) and she would attend sometimes to the daily fourth performance of the day, known as “La Cuarta de Apolo” (“Apolo’s Fourth Performance” ) this last one being always the most popular of the four. She knew by heart every song, every prelude, every duo and every trio,from all the zarzuelas in the entire repertoire; and she was no exception since in Spain they were many people who like her,  knew zarzuelas by heart.


Final ensemble “Mazurka de las sombrillas” at 31st Annual Gala of Los Amigos de la Zarzuela at New York’s Carnegie Hall on November 13, 2016. Photo credit:  Keenan Higgins

 In any case, last Sunday November 13th, the New York-based non-profit organization “Amigos de la Zarzuela” organized a memorable all-zarzuela concert in Carnegie Hall, to our delight.  The program included solo pieces “romanzas”, arias, and ensemble works from many different periods and the many different styles that one can find in the Zarzuela repertoire. We even listened to chamber music from composers such as Manuel De Falla, Enrique Granados or Luigi Bocherinni, composers that one necessarily does not relate to Zarzuela.

Maxim Anikushin, the piano virtuoso played these chamber pieces, sometimes solo, and at other times accompanied by Elisabet Torras Aguilera, who in this concert performed “Danza Clásica Española”  and “Escuela Bolera” dance styles;  her dance performances included difficult castanet playing, especially in her performance of “Danza V” by Enrique Granados; in this instance she was accompanied by the polished mezzo Anna Tonna (in a rare version of this solo piano piece with sung text), who is well known for her research and commitment to the music of Spain and Latin America; she had a  clear vocal style that was perfectly suited for Zarzuela and for Spanish repertoire.


Spanish dancer Elisabet Torras Aguilera and pianist Maxim Anikushin during Isaac Albeniz’s “Asturias”, photo credit:  Keenan Higgins

We also heard Spanish tenor Miguel Borrallo, who had an amazing high register, able to easily deal with the difficulties of the Zarzuela repertoire, well known for its vocal challenges.

Maxim Anikushin also accompanied soprano Rosa D’Imperio and baritone Ricardo Rosa, and the other two singers demonstrated their deep knowledge and understanding of the zarzuelas, specially at the end when all four performed the famous “Mazurca de las sombrillas” from Federico Moreno-Torroba‘s “Luisa Fernanda“, or at the end of the first half of the concert in the inspired duet “Dejame tocar tu mano generosa” from Jose Serrano’s “La Dolorosa” (my favorite) in which Anna Tonna and Miguel Borrallo did an excellent job and bringing the audience to tears and to a well deserved final ovation.


Final bows with Maxim Anikusin, Elisabet Torras Aguilera, Anna Tonna, Ricardo Rosa, Rosa D’Imperio and Miguel Borrallo, photo credit:  H. Stephen Brown

Award winning Spanish composer Ricardo Llorca is a professor at the Juilliard School; he  resides in New York City, website:

“A Granados Celebration”: Uniting artists from Spain and New York City for the Granados Centennial

“A Granados Celebration”: Uniting artists from Spain and New York City for the Granados Centennial

In 2010 I had the pleasure of meeting thru a mutual friend the American pianist and Naxos recording artist Douglas Riva. Like myself, Douglas had cultivated a career based on the musical culture of late 19th and early 20th century Spain, and specifically so, regarding the Catalan composer Enrique (Enric) Granados (1868-1916).  I met him on the heels of the Isaac Albéniz centennial year, for which I had participated in two events: in NYC a small series of concerts entitled Albéniz the Ultimate Romantic with pianist Alexander Wu and guitarist Francisco Roldan; I had also been invited to participate in Albéniz’s The Magic Opal by my friend the pianist and musicologist Borja Mariño, I helped to  obtain a document about the libretto of this opera at New York University,  was on hand to prepare the chorus and soloist with English diction, as well as sing the small role of Olympia in the revival of this opera at the Auditorio Nacional de España in Madrid. At the time I had hopes of doing an Albéniz concert at the Hispanic Society of America, but the fates were not with me.  Knowing of the special relationship that the composer enjoyed with the founder of Hispanic Society of America, Archer Huntington, Douglas and I had our hopes to produce events for the Enrique Granados centennial year in 2016.


Composer Enrique (Enric) Granados

In 2012 we initiated the conversation with Hispanic Society and it was met with approval.  Shortly after, the Official International Committee Commemorating the Centenary of Enrique Granados in 2016 and the 150th Anniversary of his birth in 2017 was formed with a group of scholars, professors, heads of foundations and musicians both in Spain and the United States.  The committee is in part hosted and assisted by the Foundation for Iberian Music at the City University of New York Graduate Center.  Part of the committee’s goal is to have an updated calendar of events taking place throughout the world in 2016-2017 of the music of Enrique Granados, symposiums, commemorations and publications.

Two years of planning then took place to organize the events at Hispanic Society; we agreed on a series of three concerts entitled From Barcelona with Passion, with one dedicated to song repertoire and dance, one to the historical recreation of chamber music concert that took place in 1916 with Granados himself and cellist Pau Casals at the Ritz Hotel in NYC, and a final concert showcasing the solo piano music of the composer with Douglas Riva.  The New York based Sylvan Winds also forms part of the Granados music season at Hispanic Society,  with a concert that includes a transcription of a piece by Granados, accompanied by other music related to the time period.  A symposium event and concert has also been planned for March 10 of 2016 in collaboration with the Foundation of Iberian Music, at the CUNY Graduate Center in NYC.

I was in charge of putting together the dance and vocal concert that just transpired this past December 10 of 2015. The first order of business was finding a pianist that could help me program and advise on repertoire, as well as being able to edit (he is also a composer)  “Danza de los ojos verdes” a piece for classical Spanish dance dedicated by Granados to  Antonia Mercé, La Argentina in 1916. The music transcript in Granados’ hand writing is almost unreadable…I needed a virtuoso pianist accompanist, experienced  and sensitive to singers; in him I had all those things.  Borja, like many pianist accompanists in Spain, had been listening and playing the Tonadillas and the lesser known Canciones Amatorias practically all his life.


Pianist Borja Marino

Our title “From Barcelona with Passion” in my mind necessitated for us to have at least one interpreter from Granados’ native Catalonia.  We invited the lyric soprano Anna Belén Gómez to be part of the concert.  We agreed to divide both cycles between the two female singers.  It was agreed that we would perform 12 tonadillas al estilo antiguo, not excerpted as it is mostly done, but with all its elements, which for the most part is unknown to the general concert going public. The full cycle includes a song with a long recitation that relates a picaresque fable of Goya and an amorous escapade (“La maja de Goya”), a song for baritone called “El majo olvidado”, a duet for mezzo and soprano called “Las currutacas modestas” and the inclusion of an English Horn (for which we invited Dianne Lesser) to play the instrumental obbligato part that Granados composed in “Maja Dolorosa I”.  The program included the entire cycle of the often neglected Canciones Amatorias (difficult for both pianist and singer!) and two of the Songs for male voice by Enrique Granados, recently edited by Douglas with Editorial Boileau in Barcelona (La boira and Noche y dia Diego ronda).  I was able to enlist the help and participation of Argentinian baritone Gustavo Ahualli, fresh from bowing at the Teatro Colon of Buenos Aires, to learn these two elaborate and  difficult songs (La boira is in Catalan), which ranged somewhere between the aesthetics of Mahler, Brahms and Wagner.


Artists of “From Barcelona with Passion: Dance and Vocal Music of Enrique Granados” in the Library of the Hispanic Society of America Museum & Library in NYC, in a pre-concert photograph on the night of the concert.

One of my favorite figures in this time period is the great Spanish dancer Antonia Mercé, La Argentina (1890-1936).  La Argentina played an important role in our story:  Archer Huntington helped make possible for the Metropolitan Opera of New York to premiere the opera “Goyescas”. The ballet of this opera, the “Intermezzo”, was intended to be interpreted by La Argentina, but there were contractual problems.  Granados as a consolation for the dancer who was already in NYC, wrote “Danza de los ojos verdes”, which was premiered with the composer in the audience in NYC in 1916.  The concert of dance and vocal works included a new reinterpretation of this piece with choreography by Gala Vivancos and interpreted by New York based Spanish dance artist Anna de la Paz.  Anna commissioned a copy of the same dress worn by La Argentina on that occasion in 1916, which was designed by the painter Ignacio Zuloaga. Both the new choreography and dress were essayed on the vocal and dance concert of December 10th at Hispanic Society.

La Argentina

Antonia Merce, “La Argentina”

One of the reasons this period in Spanish culture is interesting to me is because it is generally called “The Silver Age” of Spanish culture, and a big characteristic of the period is the collaboration and friendships of artists of all genres coming together to create new and at the time Avant garde modern pieces of art.  Granados wrote dance pieces for the dancer Tortola Valencia among others; his contributions to the genre of dance is not generally known. Many painters and visual artists of the period participated in theatrical projects that included the designing of costumes and sets, as Picasso did with Les ballets russe and Sombrero de tres picos by Falla (the backdrop of this ballet currently hangs at the New York Historical Society in Manhattan).  “Danza de los ojos verdes” was also a creation of friends, with composer, interpreter and painter/costume design…


Collage with an Ignacio Zuloaga painting, and a photograph of Anna de la Paz and Borja Marino interpreting “Danza de los ojos verdes” at Hispanic Society of America Museum & Library in New York City

If any readers of Spanish Song Slinger are performers or musicologists, and have events that can be listed in the Granados Centennial Year of 2016-2017 calendar, please send a press release with the event to the Iberian Music Center, with email heading Granados Centennial Calendar Announcement, to:


For more information on the Enrique Granados Centennial, please see:


Granados’ Maja fetish

Granados’ Maja fetish

“I fell in love with Goya’s psychology, his palette, with himself and the Duchess of Alba, with his pretty wife, his models, his quarrels, loves and courtships. That pinkish white on the cheeks in contrast to me with the black lace and embroidered velour, those bodies of swaying waists, mother-of-pearl and jasmine hands resting on jet ornaments have dazzled me…”.

Thus wrote the composer Enrique (Enric) Granados (1867-1916); the two major achievements by this composer in vocal music are inspired by this world that Goya depicted of the “lower neighborhoods” of 18th century Madrid; its what I would call from my NYC point of view the “‘hood”, with his heroines, the brash and audacious young girls that during the day were perhaps fruit and hat sellers or bar maids at the botillerias of Madrid, and at night, were hanging out with their dangerous but dashing boyfriends, the Majos.   The 12 Tonadillas al estilo antiguo and his opera Goyescas, which premiered at the Metropolitan Opera 1916 (and remains to this day, the only opera by a composer of Spain to have graced the stage of the MET). In the Goya painting detail of La maja y los embozados, you can see how the young maja, confident and smiling knows how to handle herself in the middle of the tough and dangerous guys of the neighborhood; they are charmed by her no doubt, as she dances impervious to whatever danger there is (thriving in it even) and with “gracia”.

On December 10th at 7 PM at the Hispanic Society of America, the first kick off concert for the Enrique Granados Centennial Celebration of his visit to the great city of New York , the first of a concert series of three events

From Barcelona with Passion: Vocal and Dance music by Enrique Granados

as well as of his untimely death that very same year in the English Channel.  The program will include a complete rendition of the the Tonadillas al Estilo Antiguo, with text by Fernando Periquet, complete with the baritone solo “El majo olvidado”, the duet for two female voices “La currutacas modestas” (the modest fashionable ladies), the English horn with the song “Maja dolorosa I”, and the often neglected recitation by Periquet, that precedes the song “La maja de Goya”, over the instrumental portion of that song, often played in silence, but when divinely played by pianist Alicia de Larrocha, as in her Decca London recording with Pilar Lorengar or the live LP with Victoria de los Angeles at Hunter College, NY, one could hardly miss it.  Since I was assigned to sing La maja de Goya by my intrepid friend and colleague, the pianist Borja Mariño, who accompanies the soprano Anna Belen Gomez and baritone Gustavo Ahualli as well as myself in this concert, I have the task of doing this recitation.  The recitation tells a fantasy tale of how, while with a lady in his studio, they are surprised by the her husband; the lady only has time to cover her face, as he bursts in. As the husband comes in to reclaim his wife, Goya challenges to recognize his wife by examining her naked body. The jealous husband, unable to identify the lady as his wife by her body alone, leaves with his apologies.  All done in the Spanish “caballero” way…

After the recitation, a short “ditty” song begins, and in my imagination its the lady in question, who was saved by Goya’s cunning, perhaps remembering after many years later with nostalgia, the adventures of the memorable afternoon, next to the Manzanares river.

Never in my life will I

forget the gallant and

cherished image of Goya.

There is not a woman, maid

or lady who does not think

well of Goya now.

If I might find someone

to love me

Like he loved me,

I would not envy nor yearn

for better luck or happiness.

It was related to me by the pianist and Granados specialist Douglas Riva that there seems to be evidence that the composer disagreed with the tone set by the recitation, in terms of the genre and the “cafe cantante” format that it gave to the cycle. The recitation to my knowledge has not been recorded and I have never witnessed a performance that includes it.

Goya’s image of “a mixture of a artist, majo, bullfighter, soldier” to quote Periquet’s recitation in La maja de Goya, seems to have captured the imagination of many in the 19th century. I’m half way thru a very colorful novel about his possible escapade with the Duchess of Alba called “This is the Hour”. It has excellent depictions of dress, court manners, decorative arts, of dance and music scenes…as well as rendezvous scenes with the famous and fabled Duchess.  Its proving to be excellent “light and fun” reading, for someone immersing herself in the world of Goya and the Las 12 tonadillas al estilo antiguo of Granados!

Vocal and Dance Music of Enrique Granados in December of 2015 in NYC

Tuesday December 8 at 7 PM a the Instituto Cervantes of NY

An Enrique Granados Celebration:

Wednesday December 9 at 6:30 PM at the Coffee House Club of NY:

Thursday December 10 at 7:00 PM at the Hispanic Society of America Museum & Library

From Barcelona with Passion:  Vocal and Dance Music of Enrique Granados





“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

“Spanish Passion”: Chamber music and song by composers of the Spanish Silver Age

“Spanish Passion”: Chamber music and song by composers of the Spanish Silver Age


An evening of chamber music and song

Music by Manuel de Falla, Joaquín Rodrigo, Joaquín Turina, Isaac Albéniz and

María Rodrigo

August 21, 2014 at 6 PM

“Classical at The Cornelia Cafe”

29 Cornelia Street in the West Village (NYC)

$10 cover charge, $10 drink minimum

For more information:


Anna Tonna, Olga Vinokur, Eva León and Anna de la Paz at Brooklyn Pier (NY)

What started out as a casual meeting over coffee in the Upper West Side (NY) this past June to talk of  a possible chamber music and song project had an unexpected first showing this past August 8th at Bargemusic at the  Brooklyn Pier.  Russian pianist Olga Vinokur, a regular at Bargemusic proposed the idea of “Spanish Passion” at the Barge, and we premiered our musical experiment comprised of music for piano and violin, songs for voice and piano and a special guest,  Spanish dancer/castanet artist Anna de la Paz.  Spanish born violinist Eva León joined us in this adventure with a beautiful and virtuosic sonata by Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999); she is currently under contract with Naxos to record the complete opus for piano and violin for both Joaquín Rodrigo and Catalan composer Xavier Montsalvatge.


Spanish born violinist Eva León is a Brooklyn resident

The program at Bargemusic on August 4, 2014 gathered a group of composers who are emblematic to late 19th century and early to mid 20th century Spanish repertoire. These composers, with the exception of Joaquín Rodrigo are part of the period known as the “Silver Age” of Spanish culture, which had its first flowering in the 1850’s Madrid, bringing forth in the course of time several Noble Prize poets; philosophers and painters of world acclaim, and culminating in the brilliant works of the younger generation with Federico García Lorca, Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel, to just name the more well known figures. Tonight’s program pre-dates this first modern wave, and mostly showcases the figures of the earlier generations of this so called Spanish Silver Age.

 If you didn’t get a chance to hear us at the Barge, we repeat the concert at the Cornelia Café in the West Village on August 21, 6 PM.  Spanish dance artist Anna de la Paz will not be with us on that evening, but we will perform the rest of the program as follows:


Ayes…three songs for voice and piano by Maria Rodrígo

Dos canciones de Maria Lejarrága by Manuel De Falla

Saeta by Joaquín Turina

Sonata for piano and violin by Joaquín Rodrigo

The songs Caterpillar and Il en n’est de l’amour by Isaac Albéniz

Asturias and Tango by Isaac Albéniz

Suite populaire espagnole by Manuel de Falla


Playwright Maria Lejárraga (1874-1974)

The program begins with a set of songs inspired in southern Spain by the female composer María Rodrigo, followed by a relatively unknown song cycle born out of the friendship between Falla and the playwright Maria Lejárraga (Martínez-Sierra). Lejárraga and Falla collaborated in what are considered the pillars of Spanish 20th century ballet works: El amor brujo and The Three Cornered Hat. Lejarrága, author as well of the texts used by María Rodrigo, was a close collaborator to the well known composers of the Silver Age. 


Composer María Rodrigo (1888-1967)


Me at the Bargemusic, singing the “Ayes…” with pianist Olga Vinokur by María Rodrigo

Saeta by Joaquín Turina uses a text by the Quintero Brothers, and is inspired in the spontaneous prayers that are sung in cante jondo style from balconies during Seville’s Holy Week procession.

Joaquín Rodrigo of Concierto de Aranjuez fame is author of works of all genres, and his Sonata is his most important opus for violin and piano. Full of contrast, delightful melodies and energy, it is was dedicated to the memory of his friend, the composer Joaquín Turina.

Olga Vinokur

Olga Vinokur at Bargemusic

In addition to Isaac Albeniz’s well known piano pieces from his suite España, of which two are included tonight arranged for violin and piano, we add two salón songs by Albéniz: one upon the text of his protector and patron F. B. Money Coutts, and the second a song that clearly drinks from the fountains of late French romantic music, Il est ne de l’amour, dedicated to Madame Ernest Chausson.

Isaac Albeniz

Spanish composer Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909)

In the concert at Bargemusic on August 4, we included a piece by Tomás Bretón is a late 19th century Spanish composer known for his contributions to Spanish theatrical music known as zarzuela. We showcased a movement from his piano suite and orchestral work Escenas andaluzas with the sounds of castanets. The super imposition of the castanets on instrumental music by such Spanish dance artists as Antonia Mercé “La Argentina” (1890-1936) were common collaborations during this time period, were dance artists, composers, painters and playwrights created works for the Spanish theater in early 20th century Spain.

Anna de la Paz

Spanish dance artist Anna de la Paz with Olga Vinokur at Bargemusic, August 2014

The program ends with an excerpt of Falla’s emblematic Siete Canciones Populares Españolas, or as they are known when they are played by violin or cello Suite Populaire Espagnole composed by Falla under the influence of the ideas of the musicologist Louis Lucas and his ideas regarding harmonies, modality and folk song. The songs are part of Falla’s Paris period, in which he enjoyed the friendship among many others of Claude Debussy and Igor Stravinsky. We did our own arrangement for voice, piano and violin.  The castanets of Anna de la Paz joined me in the first song of the set “Paño Moruno”.


Olga Vinokur, Anna de la Paz and Anna Tonna performing El pano moruno by Falla

 Premiered in 1914 and soon after part of the repertoire of well known opera divas of the day, this cycle continues to be considered a masterpiece of early 20th century song and chamber music repertoire.


The artists of “Spanish Passion” after the concert at Bargemusic, at Brooklyn Pier with the NYC Skyline

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