Latin American & Spanish Masterpieces for Flute & Piano

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Latin American & Spanish Masterpieces for Flute & Piano

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Featuring:
Stephanie Jutt, flute
Elena Abend, piano
Pablo Zinger, piano

Music:
Astor Piazzolla
La muerte del ángel; Milonga del angel; Milonga en Re; Fuga y misterio; and Libertando
Carlos Guastavino
Se equivocó la paloma; Desde que te conocí; Elegiá para un gorrión; Introducción y Allegro; and Tonada y Cueca
Jesús Guridi
Mañanitas de San Juan; Llámale con el pañuelo; and No quiero tus avellanas
Ángel Masala
Poema del pastor coya
Heitor Villa-Lobos
Evocação; Lundú da Marqueza de Santos; and Melodia Sentimental

“Jutt and her two collaborator/accompanists have worked magic here…she has the soul of a poet.”
-Ronald E. Grames, Fanfare Magazine

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Latin-American and Spanish Music for Flute and Piano

Liner notes by David Grayson

“Music is language,” said the legendary French flutist and inspirational teacher, Marcel Moyse, “the flute is one of its mediums of expression, and when I play I try to convey the impression of laughing, of singing, of talking through the medium of my instrument in a manner almost as direct as that expressed by the human voice.” This attitude is especially pertinent to this recital of Latin-American and Spanish music for flute and piano, which intermingles transcriptions of vocal music with original compositions and transcriptions of instrumental works. Regardless of the music’s origins, whether in vocal or instrumental compositions, the flute speaks and sings—and at times even dances.

In a musical culture such as ours, that often seems obsessed with “original” versions, “authentic” instruments, and “historically informed” performance practices, there is an almost reflexive suspicion of arrangements and transcriptions. Nevertheless, they have served an important, even necessary, function throughout music history, and examples have been contributed by many of the greatest composers. Consider, for example, Bach’s solo keyboard arrangements of concertos by Vivaldi and others, Mozart’s string quartet arrangements of Bach’s keyboard fugues and his re-orchestration of Handel’s choral works (including Messiah), or Beethoven’s arrangements of his Second Symphony and Septet for piano trio, and his Ninth Piano Sonata for string quartet. Arrangements are undertaken for a variety of reasons, though hopefully, the results are always artistic. Sometimes the motivation is largely practical and commercial, for example, to expand the repertory of a “neglected” instrument, to tailor a piece to a particular performer, to update it to suit contemporary taste, or to transfer music conceived for large forces to a smaller ensemble or even a soloist due to limited space or financial resources. Music might be simplified to make it accessible to amateur players, or made more difficult to furnish virtuosic solo showpieces (think of Liszt’s operatic paraphrases). Perhaps the original instrument for which a piece was designed is scarcely available. We would hardly ever hear Schubert’s wonderful “Arpeggione” Sonata were it not taken up by cellists, violists, and other tempted instrumentalists. The rise of orchestral concerts, the growth of the orchestra, and the concomitant interest in instrumental timbres have inspired the orchestration of songs (Wolf, Strauss, and Mahler), solo music (Schubert’s “Wanderer” Fantasy by Liszt, Mussorgsky’s Pictures by Ravel), or even chamber music (Brahms’s First Piano Quartet by Schoenberg, Bartók’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion by the composer himself).

In most of the cases just mentioned, instruments replace instruments. But what happens when instruments replace voices, as with these Spanish-language songs, and we consequently lose the texts that contribute so fundamentally to their meaning? Historically, there are countless precedents. In fact, keyboard and lute intabulations of early vocal polyphony, which date as far back as the early fourteenth century, are among the earliest surviving arrangements. But the question arises: To what extent do such arrangements depend on knowledge of the vocal originals? We may argue that Liszt’s piano transcriptions of vocal works, whether Schubert songs or Wagner’s Liebestod from Tristan, achieve some of their effect through our recollections of the original vocal models, along with their texts, but can we make the same claim when the originals are unknown to us? Schoenberg offered a provocative perspective on this crucial question in his 1912 article, “The Relationship to the Text.” He tells the following story: “A few years ago I was deeply ashamed when I discovered in several Schubert songs, well-known to me, that I had absolutely no idea what was going on in the poems on which they were based. But when I had read the poems it became clear to me that I had gained absolutely nothing for the understanding of the songs thereby, since the poems did not make it necessary for me to change my conception of the musical interpretation in the slightest degree. On the contrary, it appeared that, without knowing the poem, I had grasped the content, the real content, perhaps even more profoundly than if I had clung to the surface of the mere thoughts expressed in words. . . . Thence it became clear to me that the work of art is like every other complete organism. It is so homogeneous in its composition that in every little detail it reveals its truest, inmost essence. . . . When one hears a verse of a poem, a measure of a composition, one is in a position to comprehend the whole.” Schoenberg’s concept of musical DNA was clearly ahead of its time. A different perspective, equally valuable, was advanced by Busoni in a program note of 1910, reprinted in his collected writings under the title, “Value of the Transcription”: “My final opinion about it is this: that notation is itself the transcription of an abstract idea…. The performance of a work is also a transcription, and this, too — however free the performance may be — can never do away with the original. For the musical work of art exists whole and intact before it has sounded and after the sound is finished. It is, at the same time, in and outside Time.”

These issues aside, Latin American and Spanish songs lend themselves particularly well to instrumental transcription due to their frequent foundation in folk and popular styles of song and dance. In his 1891 manifesto Por nuestra música (“For our Music”), the composer, critic, and musicologist Felipe Pedrell called for a Spanish national music that was “a direct consequence of our popular music.” Similar nationalist impulses were prevalent in twentieth-century Latin America, which could draw upon an especially rich repertory of folk and popular sources. In Argentina, for example, the country of origin of three of the composers represented in this recording, these included indigenous as well as creole and mestizo music, reflecting European and mixed origins respectively. Indeed, Carlos Vega, in his Danzas y canciones argentinas (1936), enumerated some 130 different types of song and dance while conceding that his inventory was likely incomplete. Folk and popular instruments, too, were a frequent source of inspiration, and the piano is often called upon to evoke a guitar or percussion.

Carlos Guastavino (1912-2000) has been called “The Argentine Schubert” or “The Schubert of the Pampas” in recognition of the quality and quantity of his songs—between 500 and 600 by most estimates, of which 162 were published. “I love melody,” he is reported to have said. “I love to sing. I refuse to compose music only intended to be discovered and understood by future generations.” “Se equivocó la paloma” is one of his best-known songs: popularized by, among others, the pop singer Joan Manuel Serrat, widely performed in choral arrangements, and included in the ballet Suite Argentina. The “Introducción y Allegro” is an original composition for flute and piano, but the “Tonada y Cueca” was composed for clarinet and piano and adapted to the flute with minimal adjustment. The two movements represent musical styles of rural Chile, the tonada a slow melancholy tune over an ostinato rhythm, and the cueca a popular folk dance accompanied by guitar and handclapping spectators, both of which may be heard in the piano part. The cueca became the Chilean national dance in 1979.

 Folk styles also dominate in “Poema del Pastor Coya” by another Argentine composer, Ángel E. Lasala (1914-2000). The title alludes to poetry but it is an instrumental composition for flute (or violin) and piano (or harp). “Pastor coya” is a shepherd from among the indigenous people living in the region of northwest Argentina, western Bolivia, and Chile. This shepherd must have been a flute player, as “Quena,” the title of the second movement, refers to the traditional Andean wooden flute, while the marking “como cuja” in the piano part instructs the pianist to imitate a drum at times.

 Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992), yet another Argentine composer, is inescapably identified with nuevo tango (new tango), a style of his invention that synthesized traditional Argentine tango with features of classical music and jazz and moved it from the dance hall to the concert hall. Piazzolla defined nuevo tango rather less technically as “tango + tragedy + comedy + whorehouse.” He credited the eminent French teacher Nadia Boulanger with convincing him to base his compositions on Argentine musical styles. He told an interviewer: “When I met her, I showed her my kilos of symphonies and sonatas. She started to read them and suddenly came out with a horrible sentence: ‘It’s very well written.’ … After a long while, she said: ‘Here you are like Stravinsky, like Bartók, like Ravel, but you know what? I can't find Piazzolla in this.’ And she began to investigate my private life: what I did, what I did and did not play, if I was single, married, or living with someone, she was like an FBI agent! And I was very ashamed to tell her that I was a tango musician…. Finally, I confessed and she asked me to play some bars of a tango of my own. She suddenly opened her eyes, took my hand and told me: ‘You idiot, that’s Piazzolla!’ And I took all the music I composed, ten years of my life, and sent it to hell in two seconds…. She taught me to believe in Astor Piazzolla.” “Libertango,” a portmanteau that combines “libertad,” the Spanish word for liberty, with tango, celebrates nuevo tango’s break from traditional tango. It was the title track of a seminal album that Piazzolla recorded in Milan in 1974, directing the ensemble and playing the bandoneón. Historically, the milonga, syncopated and in duple meter, is the quicker and happier forerunner of the tango, but as he did with the tango, Piazzolla made it his own. The “Fuga y misterio” finds the composer in a Baroque mood, but a very personal one. As he told an interviewer, “If I do a fugue in the manner of Bach, it will always be ‘tanguificated’.”

 The music of Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959), from neighboring Brazil, is also notable for blending folk and popular styles with the European tradition. Villa-Lobos is represented here by three song transcriptions that express his nationalism in different ways. In the published score, Villa-Lobos described “Evocação” as a “sketch for a popular song.” “Lundú da Marqueza de Santos” is an “evocation of the time of 1822,” the year that Brazil declared its independence from Portugal.  The Marquesa de Santos was the mistress of Dom Pedro I, Brazil’s first emperor, and the lundú is a traditional Afro-Brazilian song and dance that developed into a popular urban style characterized by strummed chords, duple meter, and syncopation. “Melodia sentimental” originated in music for the 1959 film Green Mansions, starring Audrey Hepburn and Anthony Perkins, an exotic romantic drama about a Venezuelan on the run who encounters a mysterious bird girl in an Amazon forest and falls in love with her. Villa-Lobos recast his film score into Forest of the Amazon, an extended concert work for soprano, male chorus, and orchestra, and he recorded it with the renowned Brazilian soprano Bidú Sayão. It proved to be Villa-Lobos’s last major composition.

 The Basque composer Jesús Guridi (1886-1961) is the sole Spaniard included in this album, and he too was inspired by folk and popular musical styles and materials. He published collections of Basque folksongs, set Basque texts, including opera and zarzuela, and wrote music based on Basque subjects, but the three transcriptions included here are Spanish-language songs from his Seis canciones castellanas (Six Castilian Songs).

 As you listen to this album you will likely be so enchanted by the music that you will not be thinking about whether you are listening to original instrumental music or a song transcription. But in retrospect, you may ask yourself if or how the knowledge of a song’s text contributes to an understanding and enjoyment of the music. Do you agree or disagree with Schoenberg’s claim that a song’s essence is entirely contained in the musical setting? Find the song texts and translations elsewhere in this booklet and judge for yourself.

 

© 2015 David Grayson