Jason Vieaux and Sasha Cooke Program Notes

Siete canciones populares españolas (Seven Spanish Folksongs, 1914-15)

by Manuel de Falla (Cádiz, Spain, 1876 – Alta Gracia, Argentina, 1946)

Manuel de Falla arranged seven folk songs from various regions of the country for voice and piano in what became one of his most popular compositions.  The first two songs, ‟The Moorish Cloth” and ‟Seguidilla Murciana,” are from the South of Spain, the next two, ‟Asturiana” and ‟Jota,” from the North, and the rest from the South again, the last (‟Polo”) being a flamenco song.  Throughout the cycle, the native Spanish accents mingle with the French impressionist influences that reached Falla during the seven years he spent in Paris (1907-14).  The songs were dedicated to Ida Godebska, the hostess of a famous Parisian salon that Falla frequented during those years.  (Maurice Ravel was also one of the regulars there.)

 

Rumores de La Caleta (“Murmurs from La Caleta”), Op. 71, No. 6 (1886-87)

by Isaac Albéniz (Camprodon, Spain, 1860 – Cambo-les-Bains, France, 1909)

 

Capricho árabe (“Arab Capriccio,” 1892)

by Francisco Tárrega (Villareal, Spain, 1852 – Barcelona, 1909)

Much Spanish music from the second half of the 19th century derives its special quality from a new synthesis of European classicism and the rich musical traditions of the country.  Isaac Albéniz was one of the first to become internationally known as modern composer making use of vernacular style.  A virtuoso pianist, Albéniz wrote many of his greatest works for the keyboard, but some of them have also been transcribed for the guitar, that most Spanish of instruments.  The present work was originally part of a piano cycle called Recuerdos de viaje (“Travel Memories”).  The Caleta of the title is none other than a popular beach in the historic center of Cádiz.  The subtitle of the piece is “Malagueña,” an Andalusian dance.  Listening to it, you will probably want to pack your bags immediately and get on the first flight to Southern Spain!

Albéniz's friend and colleague, Francisco Tárrega was a guitarist, one of the greatest of his time.  After one of Tárrega's performances, one critic wrote:

The guitar, when Tárrega strums it, is something more than the instrument itself; it is a living being in sync with the feeling of the musician…It is a voice that speaks directly to us from out of Eternity and from Heaven itself.

Tárrega's “Arab Caprice” is no less Spanish than Albéniz's work, but then, Spain was under Moorish occupation for many centuries and the two cultures were long intertwined.  The piece was written in another old Spanish city, Valencia on the east coast, founded more than 2,000 years ago, and expresses memories and nostalgias of many centuries. 

 

Excerpts from Tonadillas en estilo antiguo (“Tonadillas in the Old Style,” 1911-13)

by Enrique Granados (Lleida, Spain, 1867 – British Channel, 1916)

In the years before his tragic death at sea, Granados, another prominent member of the Spanish national school, was profoundly influenced by the art of Francisco Goya (1746-1828).  He wrote both a piano cycle and an opera with the title Goyescas, and in a series of twelve tonadillas or theater songs, he paid further tribute to the great Romantic painter.  Goya had established the image of the majo and maja not only as a frequent topic in art but also as an almost mythical set of characters.  Majos and majas were young lower-class men and women who often dressed extravagantly.  Many of these colorful characters were from Madrid (the “discreet” majo we will hear from is from the Lavapiés neighborhood of the capital).  Majos and majas were passionate lovers who displayed great dignity and self-assurance, giving them a sense of nobility that was denied to them by their social status.  The three selections presented tonight highlight, in turn, their playful, sentimental, and mysterious sides. 

 

Excerpts from Old American Songs (1950-52)

by Aaron Copland (Brooklyn, 1900 – North Tarrytown, 1990)

Between 1950 and 1952, Aaron Copland arranged a total of ten folk songs in two groups of five.  He had found some of the songs in sheet music collections, others he had heard performed live or on record.  Published as Old American Songs, these melodies vary widely in style and content, from religious (the Shaker song ‟Simple Gifts” and ‟At the River,” a Baptist hymn) to lullaby (‟The Little Horses”) to minstrel tune (“Ching-a-Ring Chaw”).  In these arrangements (which were later orchestrated), Copland strove to preserve the simplicity of the originals; yet by adding a minimal amount of harmonic and rhythmic development, he set his stamp on the folk songs, giving them an unmistakable Copland sound.

 

Always and Forever (1992)

by Pat Metheny (b. Lee's Summit, MO, 1954)

Jazz guitar legend Pat Metheny released one of his iconic albums, Secret Story, in 1992.  One of his most memorable solos from this album is “Always and Forever,” which has become one of Metheny's signature pieces and is known in many more recent arrangements, both vocal and instrumental. 

“Who am I?” from Peter Pan (1950)

“Somewhere” from West Side Story (1957)

“Conga” from Wonderful Town (1953)

by Leonard Bernstein (Lawrence, MA, 1918 – New York, 1990)

 

Even though he was one of the most sought-after conductors of the 20th century and a prolific composer of major symphonic works, Leonard Bernstein, who was born 100 years ago this year, devoted endless time, energy and love to the musical theatre.  We shall hear three great songs from his musicals, including one from the relatively little-known Peter Pan for which “Lenny,” as he was universally known, wrote his own lyrics.  The unforgettable “Somewhere” and the rousing “Conga” will be sure to send us all home smiling.

 

Peter Laki

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