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Music in the Times of Joaquin Sorolla: Towards a New Spain (1856-1936)


Music in the Times of Joaquin Sorolla:  Towards a New Spain (1856-1936)

Music in the Time of Joaquín Sorolla: Towards a new Spain (1856-1936)

interpreted by
Anna Tonna, mezzo soprano
Eva León, violinist
Emilio González Sanz, pianist
Francisco Fuertes, reciter

This concert of chamber music and songs by late 19th – and early 20th-century Spanish composers evokes the musical and intellectual world of the Spanish impressionist painter Joaquín Sorolla (1863-1923).

Thursday, May 29, 2014, 7:00PM
The Hispanic Society of America
Broadway between 155th and 156th Streets
Admission Free. RSVP: 212- 926 22 34 Ext. 250

NEW YORK, NY, May 2, 2014 – The Hispanic Society of America presents a chamber music concert for piano, violin, mezzo-soprano and actor that showcases the little known musical culture of the so-called Spanish Silver Age, which is a musical equivalent to the world of the Spanish impressionist painter Joaquín Sorolla (1863-1923). The concert is part of the HSA music series which this season, celebrates five centuries of music from Spain. Music in the Time of Joaquín Sorolla: Towards a new Spain (1856-1923) is the third and last concert of this season, and highlights music by Spanish composers from the late 19th century up to the beginning of the Spanish Civil War.

The painter Sorolla was an integral figure of a group of Spanish progressive thinkers and educators, the so called Institucionistas, which founded a series of schools in Spain with the goal of bringing the country to the forefront of European culture towards the end of the 19th century. The role that music played in education was key to Institucionista thought; weekly afternoon musical soirees were celebrated at the Instituto Libre de Enseñanza, and were attended by Joaquín Sorolla on a regular basis.

The first half of Music in the Time of Joaquín Sorolla: Towards a new Spain (1856-1936) seeks to recreate the musical-literary character of theses gatherings, with pieces for piano and violin by Sarasate, Monasterio and songs by Gabriel Rodríguez and Rogelio Villar, all composers and persons active in the Institucionista movement in Spain. A testament to Sorolla’s involvement with this progressive movement are the paintings that are to be found in the library of the Hispanic Society of prominent figures in the Institucionista movement, such as Manuel Bartolomé Cossío, Benito Pérez Galdós and the Nobel laureate poet Juan Ramón Jiménez. The intimate ties between the founder of the Hispanic Society Archer Huntington and the Institucionistas is evidenced by letters and avid correspondence between them. The second part of the program highlights the composers that were recipients of the scholarships of the Junta de Ampliación de Estudios that the Institucionistas awarded to young Spanish scholars and artists to study abroad: María Rodrigo, Julián Bautista, Gustavo Pittaluga and Eduardo Toldrá.

The program includes several U.S. premieres, and highlights the talents of Spanish pianist Emilio González Sanz, professor of chamber music at the Royal Conservatory of Madrid, and Spanish violinist Eva León. Both are recording artists well-versed in the fields of 19th – and 20th – century Spanish music. They are joined by American mezzo-soprano Anna Tonna, a former Fulbright Scholar to Spain and a specialist in vocal music by Spanish composers as well as by award-winning actor Francisco Fuertes.

Repertoire (subject to change) includes:

Adiós a la Alhambra for violin and piano Jesús de Monasterio (1836-1903)
*Excerpts from Colección de Melodías Gabriel Rodríguez (1829-1901)
*Madrigal and Elegía de Otoño for voice and piano Rogelio Villar (1875-1937)
Aires gitanos for violin and piano Pablo de Sarasate (1844-1908)
La Habanera for solo piano Ernesto Halffter (1905-1989)
*Villancico de las madres for voice and piano Julián Bautista (1901-1961)
Romance de Solita for voice and piano Gustavo Pittaluga (1876-1956)
*Ayes…Tres canciones for voice and piano María Rodrigo (1888-1967)
Sonetos for violin and piano Eduardo Toldrá (1895-1962)

*US premieres

The Hispanic Society of America

The Museum and Library of The Hispanic Society of America reflect the vision of Archer Milton Huntington to establish an institution dedicated to the celebration of Hispanic culture. Beginning in 1904, he began to construct a series of buildings on Audubon Terrace and to assemble a collection of books and works of art which are today unparalleled in scope and quality outside the Iberian Peninsula. The collection includes more than 800 paintings and 6,000 works on paper, offering a comprehensive survey of Spanish art through masterpieces by El Greco, Goya, Morales, Murillo, Ribera, Velázquez, Zuloaga, Zurbarán, Fortuny and Sorolla. The Museum’s 1,000 works of sculpture contain significant examples from the first millennium B.C. to the 20th century. There are also magnificent examples of ceramic, glass, furniture, textiles, ironwork, jewelry and photographs. The Library offers resources to scholars interested in the culture of the Iberian Peninsula and Latin America through its collection of more than 250,000 books and periodicals, which include more than 15,000 volumes printed before 1701 and approximately 200,000 manuscripts from the 12th century to the present.

The Hispanic Society Concert Series was inaugurated in 2010 as a free program to promote the music of Spanish and Hispanic composers. The Concert Series has delighted listeners with the finest recitals, chamber groups, and groundbreaking modern music ensembles. Many of the century’s greatest artists have performed in our programs. The program augments the viewing experience by providing an auditory context within which the collection can be appreciated.

This year’s Concert series is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and Spain Culture New York—Consulate General of Spain.

Gratitude Practice


Gratitude Practice

I was going thru old magazines, looking to discard and toss, and I came upon this lovely article in an old issue of The Classical Singer magazine (December 2007), an article about gratitute by Lisa Houston, in which she cites the aria “Ombra mai fu” from Serse by Handel:

“I include this piece as perhaps my favorite example of pure gratitude in all of opera. In terms of plot, this opening largo has little connection to the lover’s farce that succeeds it, and I must admit that the gratitude is inferred rather than explicitly stated. The simple text, appreciating the beauty of a tree, along with the nobility and beauty of the music, all in the character of the world’s most famous warrior (Serse), makes this an unforgettable and deservedly famous work.

The juxtaposition of the pain of war and the beauty of nature is a vivid reminder of why the practice of gratitude is important. Whatever suffering or struggles we experience in life, we have the human capacity to engage with a deep respect for beauty, nature and for life itself. And just like beautiful singing, that capicity can be cultivated. Just as Serse perhaps, fresh from battle and grateful for his life, wishes the beautiful tree safety from lightening, wind, and storms, when we are in touch with the grace that allows us to breath and eat, and love and sing, we wish each other safety and well being, too. This aria is remembered, and sung almost 300 years after Handel wrote it. That, I cannot help but believe, even on a cranky day, says something about our human need to pause and appreciate life’s gifts, whatever has come before, and whatever may follow”.

Poster for “Latin American Song: A Panoramic View”


I asked the Spanish artist and graphic designer friend Sergio del Toro to help me with a design of a promotional image for my upcoming concert of Latin American Song:  A Panoramic View with pianist/composer Max Lifchitz in Manhattan with North/South Consonance, Inc. this coming October 27th. The recital is comprised of composers from all over Latin America. The idea of the map was mine, but Sergio developed the idea of the interconnecting lines symbolizing how Latin America is united through culture, language and of course music.

Sergio wrote me a few lines about the concept of the poster he created:

“Anna tenía muy claro lo que quería reflejar en la imagen. La idea inicial del cartel era mostrar un mapa al estilo de las antiguas películas de aventuras, una especie de ruta de viaje a través de los países de Latinoamérica, en busca de un tesoro musical, con un toque “vintage”. Tras haber realizado un primer cartel y tener el visto bueno, no pude dejar de darle vueltas, de imaginar un mapa diferente. Finalmente, intentando respetar la idea inicial, pensé en las canciones cómo hilos de unión para dibujarlo, tejido por las canciones, la colorida y cálida multiculturalidad siendo guiados, además, por la rosa de los, vientos. Así entre varias comunicaciones en la diferencia horaria, se creó la imagen del concierto”.


Anna had a clear idea of what she wanted the image to reflect.  The initial idea was a poster that showed a map in the style of the old adventure movies, a sort of trip route thru the different countries of Latin America, in search of musical treasures, with a vintage touch.  After making the first prototype and seen it as a good effort, I could not stop thinking of a new idea and imagining a different kind of map.  Finally, trying to respect the original idea, I thought of the songs as threads of union to draw (the map), knitted by the songs, colored with the quality of multiculturalism that are guided, besides, by the compass rose.  So it was, with our various communication efforts and difference of time between NYC and Spain, the image of the concert came into being.

The concert is presented by North/South Consonance, Inc. in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, and takes place on October 27th at 3 PM at Christ and St. Stephen’s in Manhattan. Free Admission:
For more information please go to:

Pianist Ivor Newton remembers Catalan mezzo soprano Conchita Supervia


Pianist Ivor Newton remembers Catalan mezzo soprano Conchita Supervia

Pianist Ivor Newton recalled this quote by the great mezzo soprano Conchita Supervia:

“Before the beginning of every program I ever did with Conchita, when we were trying to summon up the courage to face the music, Conchita would turn to me and say ‘Is every nerve in you body awake?’ and when I’d hopefully say ‘Yes’ we’d go onto the platform”.

From Conchita Supervia, Volume 1, Gemm CD 9975, program notes by Allan Evans, 1993.

Dancer, choreographer, artist and muse of the Spanish Vanguard Antonia Mercé, “La Argentina” (1888-1936)


“Pienso que adoro la danza porque siempre he detestado la mentira. En la danza todo es verdadero.”

I think I adore dance because I have always detested lies. In dance, everything is truthful.