SUNDAY, APRIL 29, 2018 4:00PM
Pre-concert conversation 3:00pm
Howard Performing Arts Center, Berrien Springs
Margaret Beckley Upton Memorial Concert
Bailemos – let’s dance! Get those feet a movin’ as you listen to the exotic Latin rhythms of this fiery and festive music. Korean-born Jiji Kim joins the SMSO on Rodrigo’s Concierto di Aranjuez. Jiji is an accomplished artist on both acoustic and electric guitar. Her impeccable musicianship, combined with compelling stage presence and fascinating repertoire, earned her First Prize at the 2016 Concert Artists Guild International Competition.
del Aguila, Conga
Rodrigo, Concierto di Aranjuez
Revueltas or Ginastera, Sensemayá or “Malambo” from Estancia
Turina, Danzas fantásticas
CONGA DEL AGUILA
(Note by the composer)
Conga began as a dream. At first there was the visual image of an endless line of dead people dancing through the fire of hell. I gradually started hearing the music, which was flowing spontaneously out of me in an effort to entertain and alleviate the pain of those poor souls. I woke up and wrote the music as I remembered it. As the name implies the work has a definite Caribbean flavor. The rhythmic pattern of the conga dance beats throughout the piece and is at times distorted into a 13/16 pattern.
It employs unusual percussion and rhythmic structures, and instruments are often playing at their most extreme registers. The piano is used 'obbligato' as a sort of metronome, very much like the harpsichord of the old Baroque times. The music is humorous, sarcastic, grotesque, sensuous and at times also terrifying. I rely mainly on the dramatic and expressive qualities of rhythm to convey the evil forces that govern my imaginary hell. As thematic material I primarily use rhythmic claves (Spanish for clef or key) as they are used in Latin American music: a sort of 'rhythmic tonality' to which harmony and melody must conform. After the sensuous middle section the work rushes frantically toward the end to explode in a dramatic finale.
CONCIERTO DE ARANJUEZ RODRIGO
The genesis of the concerto, in the composer’s own words, was as follows:
“In September of 1938, I was in San Sebastián on my return to France. (...) It was during a dinner organized by the Marqués de Bolarque with Regino Sainz de la Maza and myself. We ate well and the wine was not bad at all; it was the right moment for audacious fantasizing. (...) All of a sudden, Regino, in that tone between unpredictable and determined which was so characteristic of him, said:
-Listen, you have to come back with a 'Concerto for guitar and orchestra'- and to go straight to my heart, he added in a pathetic voice: -it's the dream of my life- and, resorting to a bit of flattery, he continued: -This is your calling, as if you were 'the chosen one
I quickly swallowed two glasses of the best Rioja, and exclaimed in a most convincing tone:
-All right, it's a deal!
The scene has remained engraved in my mind, because that evening constituted a pleasant memory in my life, and a moment of calm in those times that were not at all peaceful for Spain and indeed threatening for Europe.
I also remember -I don't know why but everything related to Concierto de Aranjuez has stayed in my memory-, that one morning several months later, standing in my small studio on Rue Saint Jacques in the heart of the Latin Quarter, vaguely thinking about the concerto, which had become a fond idea given how difficult I judged it to be, when I heard a voice inside me singing the entire theme of the Adagio at one go, without hesitation. And immediately afterwards, without a break, the theme of the third movement. I realized quickly that the work was done. Our intuition does not deceive us in these things...
If the Adagio and the Allegro were born of an irresistible and supernatural inspiration, I arrived at the first movement after some thought, calculation and determination. That was the last movement I composed; I finished the work where I should have started it.”
The Aranjuez of the title is a magnificent estate outside Madrid, the summer home of the Bourbon dynasty. The composer indicated that the music attempted to capture “The fragrance of magnolias, the singing of birds and the gushing of fountains” in the palace gardens. This description would be congruent with the insistent rhythmic ostinato of the first movement and the courtly dance of the third. The second movement however – a series of melodic dialogues between guitar and solo instruments of the orchestra – presents to the listener music more introspective in character than that description would suggest. It has been speculated that this movement may have been composed in response to the bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War, or perhaps in memory of the loss of a first child through miscarriage, as was later intimated by his wife, VIctoria.
“MALAMBO” from ESTANCIA GINASTERA
IN 1941, Alberto Ginastera, was commissioned to write a ballet for the Balanchine/Kirstein troupe American Ballet Caravan. The composer, who was at that time writing in a style loosely derived from the folk music of his native Argentina, produced a work “in one act and five scenes, based on Argentine country life.”
The work was not performed as a complete ballet until 1952, but Ginastera extracted from it a four movement Suite: “Field Hands,” “Wheat Dance,” “Cattle Men,” and the present movement “Malambo.” The latter title refers to a furious dance in relentless 6/8 time, intended in the ballet scenario to depict a city man competing in dance with the local horsemen, all to seek the affections of a beautiful ranch girl.
DANZAS FANTÁSTICAS TURINA
Joaquín Turina’s musical style might be said to represent the confluence of two powerful musical influences: the sound memories he carried from his native Spain (both folk and art music), and the sensuous tonal palette he later absorbed from his studies in turn-of-century Paris. His music blended characteristic rhythms and dance styles from different regions of Spain to produce music both wholly new and also completely organic.
The inspiration for the present set of three dances was a novella La orgía by José Mas. Each dance is prefaced by an epigraph from the text:
“Exaltación” (“It seemed as if the figures in that incomparable picture were moving inside the calyx of a flower.”) The dance is a Jota, evoking the music of Aragon and Castile.
“Ensueño” (“The guitar’s strings sounded the lament of a soul helpless under the weight of bitterness.”) A 5/8 Zortziko dance from the Basque country.
“Orgía” (“The perfume of the flowers merged with the odor of manzanilla, and from the bottom of raised glasses, full of wine incomparable as incense, joy flowed.”) A gypsy Farucca.
The work was originally written for piano, and immediately orchestrated for the première performance in Madrid in 1920.
Ubiquitous familiarity - especially following Bolero’s use as a sexual metaphor (very possibly not what the composer actually originally intended to convey…) in the 1979 Blake Edwards movie 10 - might reasonably blind contemporary audiences to the ballet’s revolutionary status in music history. This music had, in the words of the composer, “no form, properly speaking, and no modulation, or almost none – just rhythm and orchestra.” “A piece lasting 17 minutes and consisting wholly of orchestral effects without music—one long and very gradual crescendo.”
The absence of traditional elements of composition such as development, modulation, and thematic contrast, caused considerable shock at the first performance in 1928. However, the eighteen repetitions of the bolero melody, each with its own characteristic (and highly original) orchestration has since proved irresistible, as has the final unexpected lurch from C to E major.