"In Spain, said Cervantes, the newborn babe comes dancing forth from its motherís womb."
In this concert "with a Spanish accent," the words of Miguel de Cervantes, Spainís great writer, summarize what any music lover knows - when you hear Spanish music, your feet start to tap, whether youíre a baby, a Generation X member, or a senior citizen. There is no denying how captivating and passionate Spanish music can be, especially when one hears the seductive clicking of castanets. Composers throughout the world have been influenced by Spanish rhythms and the rich folk music of Spain. Even Mikhail Glinka, the father of Russian nationalistic music, fell in love with this music during a three-year stay in Spain in the 1840s. When he returned to Russia, he composed two "Spanish overtures," the first, Jota Aragonaise, emphasizing one of the many dance forms of Spain. At the same time, Spanish rhythms and melodies drifted sensuously over the Pyranees into France inspiring George Bizet (Carmen,), Claude Debussy ("Iberia," part of his Images), and Maurice Ravel (Rhapsodie Espagnole and Bolero). Even Aaron Copland turned to the Spanish influence in writing El Salon Mexico, the first of his orchestral works to gain ongoing audience approval. Without a doubt, the music of Spain has universal appeal.
|Serenade in D Major, Op. 11|
(original version reconstructed
by Alan Boustead)
|Scherzo e Trio|
|Adagio non troppo|
|Menuetto I: Menuetto II|
|Tres cantos bereberes|
(Three Berber Songs, 1952)
|El Corregidor y la molinera|
(Dances from The Three-Cornered Hat, 1917)
|Manuel De Falla|
|The Neighborís Dance (Seguidillas)|
(1887) arr. Easley Blackwood
|Scena e canto gitano|
|Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)||Serenade in D Major (original version)|
Though this concert emphasizes music with a "Spanish accent," it begins with music of Brahms, the German romantic. Itís not inappropriate because Brahms felt deeply the need to express a countryís roots in music. His Hungarian Dances, based on folk tunes he had collected, are prime examples; many are permeated with the gypsy flavor often found in the music of Spain. Brahms also championed a young Czech composer, Antonin Dvorak, whose Slavonic Dances remain at the peak of nationalism in music.
Brahmsís Serenade (the first of two) is hardly nationalistic music, but it is full of the youthful passion of the 24-year-old composer who completed it in 1857. He originally meant the Serenade for nine instruments, but then expanded it to full orchestra, the first of his significant orchestral works. He completed the work at the time of a defining event in his life - the death of his dear friend and champion Robert Schumann. In addition to his admiration for Schumann, Brahms had a deep emotional involvement with Clara Schumann, now the composerís widow. She was not uninterested in Brahms, but they did decide to never marry, but simply to remain friends for life.
Though use of the word "Serenade" as a title might suggest an evening of music for his beloved Clara, the word relates to a musical structure, a divertimento, as used by Mozart and others in bringing together a variety of short pieces for a social occasion. Critics identify in the Serenade homage to Mozart and Beethoven and a youthful demeanor of humor, as well as a "cerebral sensuousness." Philip Hale, the respected Boston critic, noted that the music of Brahms was likened "to a gypsy woman dancing in a tight-fitting corset. [There was] latent heat beneath the formal exterior.í" What we hear today is a 1987 reconstruction of Brahmsís chamber version by the English conductor and composer, Alan Boustead. The original composition for nine instruments has been lost.
|Carlos Surinach (1915-1997)||Tres Cantos Bereberes|
Carlos Surinach, born in Barcelona, spent the first half of his life in Spain. His musical studies began there, but he went to Germany in 1940 because, in his own words, he "wanted to make popular Spanish forms suitable for the concert hall, and for that, Germany was very useful; they write music very seriously." When he moved to the United States in 1951, the Australian-born composer Peggy Glanville-Hicks commissioned Surinach to write Tres Cantos Bereberes for her 1952 New York concert, "The Hispanic Influence in Modern Music"; it introduced Surinach to the American music public. This and other compositions, with their strong rhythmic sense, brought him to the attention of modern dance companies for which he composed many ballet scores. Among these is Martha Grahamís Acrobats of God, the balletís name being the term she used to describe her dancers. Surinach became a United States citizen in 1959 and later taught at New Yorkís Queens College. "I very rarely quote folk tunes," Surinach told WQXRís Robert Sherman. "They may inspire me, but the mood comes into my imagination; once I hear a theme, I digest it and dissolve it into powder, so that when it comes back from my mind, itís something else." In the three Berber songs, Surinach achieves a mood of the North African people for whom agriculture has been a paramount way of life. Certainly in the second of the Cantos, "Andante," the listener can sense the quiet solitude of a Berber shepherd on an African plain. Rhythmic patterns abound in the first and third songs, and the pronounced use of oboe and flute emphasizes a musical quality that speaks of the Moors and Berbers who had once overrun Spain.
|Manuel de Falla (1876-1946)||Three-Cornered Hat (original version)|
If the Capriccio Espagnol is Spain viewed musically through Russian eyes, the Three-Cornered Hat is the real thing - Spain distilled through the mind of a great Spanish composer, Manuel de Falla. As a young man he first embroiled himself in Spanish traditions by composing zarzuelas, Spainís musical operetta form that blends music with spoken words. Later he spent time in Paris, acquainted with composers such as Ravel and Debussy, and developed a style incorporating Spanish melodies into a rich orchestral palette. He returned to Spain during World War I and by 1917 had become well known for two works, Noches en los jardines de EspaŮa (Nights in the Gardens of Spain) and the ballet El amor brujo (Love the Sorcerer).
In 1917 he composed music for a pantomime presentation of El Corregidor y la Molinera (The Corregidor and the Millerís Wife). This stage work was an adaptation of El sombrero de tres picos (The Three-Cornered Hat), a novelette by Pedro de Alarcon. The story is simple: the corregidor, the town magistrate whose three-cornered hat is the symbol of his authority, has eyes on the millerís wife. The resulting action provides the traditional comedy plot of peasants outwitting authority. De Fallaís music for The Corregidor and the Millerís Wife was performed by a chamber group of seventeen instrumentalists and came to the attention of Sergey Dyagilev. The great ballet impresario was then touring Spain with his Russian Ballet. He asked de Falla to expand the pantomime music into a ballet; the resulting Three-Cornered Hat premiered in London in 1919 and would become de Fallaís most famous orchestral work. De Falla used Spanish folk music incidentally in the ballet music, but the main dances, such as that of the miller and the millerís wife, are artistic creations of the composer. The music, spirited with cross-rhythms, gives emerging Spanish babies more engaging music to dance to the rest of their lives.
Though De Fallaís own dance suite from the ballet has become a staple in the orchestral repertoire, the suite on this program is taken from the original pantomime presentation, an adaptation by Stephen Rogers Radcliffe, the founder and previous music director of the New York Chamber Ensemble. The melodies include those of "Afternoon," "The Dance of the Millerís Wife," "The Grapes," and "Fandango."
|Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)||Capriccio Espagnol (adapted)|
If this writer should ever be called upon to teach a course in music appreciation, the first music he would play for students would be Capriccio Espagnol, in the glory of its masterful full orchestration. How could anyone not be immediately caught up in the energy and enthusiasm of the music? Rimsky-Korsakov begins with an "Alborada," literally a "song at dawn," but itís a mighty tempestuous dawn. The variations that follow give some reflective time before the "Alborada" returns. The final two sections, a gypsy song and fandango, meld together as the Spanish dance rhythm propels the music to a crashing conclusion.
But there is so much more to the composition. On closer inspection, one finds it the perfect guide to the effective use of almost every instrument of the orchestra. Rimsky-Korsakov, in his Autobiography, emphasized this: "Melodic designs and figuration patterns, exactly suiting each instrument, brief virtuoso cadenzas for instrument solo, the rhythm of the percussion instruments, etc., constitute here the very essence of the composition and not its garb or orchestration." Perhaps that is why the composer/pianist Easley Blackwood, who has taught for over forty years at the University of Chicago, chose to arrange this "Caprice on Spanish Themes" for a chamber ensemble. It is this version that we heard at todayís concert, clarifying even further the individual instrumentís importance.
Founded in 1987 by Stephen Rogers Radcliffe and now directed by Alan R. Kay, the New York Chamber Ensemble has been acclaimed by audiences and critics alike for its innovative programming and virtuousi performances. Through its appearances at Lincoln Centerís Alice Tully Hall, broadcasts on National Public Radio, concerts on national tours and performances at summer festivals, the group is recognized as one of the premiere interpreters of the large chamber ensemble repertoire.
The group was catapulted into the spotlight with its 1987 Lincoln Center series ďMusic of the Verein Revisited,Ē a four-concert program which featured the music of Mahler, Bruckner and Strauss. The series was hailed as ďprovocative, expertly played, and one of the best ideas of the season.Ē
The roster of internationally-acclaimed artists who have appeared with the New York Chamber Ensemble in past seasons includes violinists Pamela Frank, Relko Watanbe and Corey Cerovsek; pianists Leon Bates, John OíConnor and Ursula Oppens, and cellists Fred Sherry and Carter Brey. The ensemble has collaborated closely with such distinguished American composers as Ned Rorem, John Harbisoin, Joan Tower, Joseph Schwantner and George Rochberg. The group also has made recordings and toured widely.