Ensemble San Francisco, Fall - 2014

October 24, 2014
The Ensemble San Francisco has assembled a unique program of musical treasures destined to join into a singular tantalizing experience with a prominent theme: the passionate romance of Latin music emphasizing Spain and the guitar. The Latin spirit arises out of Italy (Paganini) and Spain (da Falla, Turina, and Granero), giving and taking inspiration with the French (Bizet), and migrates to the new world forming hybrids in the Caribbean and the Americas (Piazzolla, Corea, Wineglass and Granero). The color, rhythm and passion of Latin music have traveled the world inspiring musicians and composers everywhere including Eastern Europe and Hungry (Kovács). One cultural element that underlies, connects and literally embodies this migratory influence is the music of the Romani people, otherwise known as Gypsies, "Bohemians", and the masters of Flamenco, extending from Pakistan to Portugal and beyond. Here is a timeless icon of the wild, romantic spirit dancing throughout these pieces, whether Spanish jota, Italian tarantella, Cuban habanera, Afro-Cuban rumba, or Argentine tango. At its very core run the exotic scales, rhythms and characteristic figurations of the similarly iconic Spanish guitar, whether literally or through imitation by the voice, the piano, the bowed stringed instruments or even the clarinet. This is the lifeblood that infuses the diversity of this program, joining it together into a single and singular deeply related song.

Quartet for Guitar and String Trio No. 15 in A Minor, MS. 42, 1820 Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840)

Paganini will forever represent the great 19th century virtuoso violinist, wild, iconoclastic, and gifted with a power that only a pact with the devil could seem to explain. But Paganini also played the viola and, even more interesting, sustained an abiding fascination with the guitar. As a remarkably prodigious composer going well beyond his famous caprices and concerti for violin, Paganini composed scores of duets for violin and guitar as well as fifteen quartets for guitar and string trio among numerous other ensemble combinations. While the quartets unsurprisingly tend to feature a dominant violin in a concertante fashion, his final quartet uniquely favors the viola in a rare staring role.

With two outer movements in a minor key and the melodic interest placed in the lower range and more husky timbre of the viola, this quartet is uniquely dark and thrilling. Paganini tended to use a rather standard four-movement design: a sonata first movement, a minuet or scherzo, a slow movement and a rondo finale. In this case, however, the slow movement is preceded by a blustery introductory recitative (naturally featuring the viola) for the deceptive impression of a five-movement design. A delicate second movement minuet places viola and violin in a close follow-the-leader canon while the trio highlights the guitar with its companions deferring in sympathetic pizzicato. As a rare tour-de-force for viola, a marvelous example of Paganini the composer and a wonderful piece of music imbued with Italian passion and nearly operatic lyricism, this quartet is a one of many great "finds" on this program.

Café 1930 and Nightclub 1960 from the History of Tango Suite, 1986 Spring, from The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, 1970 Astor Piazzolla, (1921–1992)

Astor Piazzolla was an Argentine musician and composer who single-handedly created a fascinating hybrid musical genre called Tango Nuevo. Tango music, dance and song originated among European immigrants in Argentina and Uruguay most famously in the port town of Buenos Aires. A folk and popular genre dating back to the late 19th century, it drew upon Spanish, African, Cuban and Argentine influences and created a multi-dimensional culture that migrated to Europe and the United States reaching a golden age contemporaneous with the Jazz swing area. Piazzolla got his start as a virtuoso of the bandoneón, a button accordion that became a standard instrument and characteristic sound in tango orquestas típicas. Piazzolla refined his chops by touring with various tango organizations becoming a successful arranger and composer. Eventually, Piazzolla studied classical music with Ginastera and Boulanger who encouraged Piazzolla to cultivate his art within his native Tango tradition. Combining classical, jazz and tango in sophisticated compositions, Piazzolla transformed the essence of tango into a high art, abstracted from song and dance and projected onto the concert stage and film soundtrack.

A number of Piazzolla's tango compositions have become contemporary "standards" in the repertoire, particularly selections from his multi-movement History of Tango Suite that aims to describe the historical evolution of Tango from the atmospheric cafés of the 1930's to the hip Nightclubs of the 1960's. Originally scored for flute and guitar in 1986, these pieces, like so many of Piazzolla's have found successful arrangements for a diversity of ensembles and instrumental combinations. Yet another highlight in his oeuvre is the collection of tango pieces known as Estaciones Porteñas or The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires including the piece titled Primavera Porteña (Buenos Aires Spring) dating from 1970.

String Quartet No. 1, "Noche del Amor Insomne" (Night of Sleepless Love), 2014 José Gonzélez Granero, (1985-)

José Granero composed his first string quartet in 2014 in response to a commission from Music in May, an annual chamber music festival in Santa Cruz, Ca. In September 2014, Granero's quartet was awarded first prize in the Villiers Quartet New Works Composition Competition. The quartet is steeped in passionate, modern impressionism reflecting Granero's own Spanish nationality as well as the quartet's literary inspiration: a provocative poem by Spanish compatriot Garcia Lorca titled Night of Sleepless Love. Granero relates that once, on a school trip, he had the great opportunity to visit Lorca's house in Granada where, surrounded by art and a magical aura, he boldly dared to sit and play Lorca's piano. A teacher whispered to Granero that he was too young to appreciate the historical weight of the moment, the tragedy of Lorca's death, etc. The experience impressed Granero inspiring him to compose a piece to Lorca's poetry. The resulting single movement work for string quartet is an evocative character piece based on a primary motif that is dark and yearning, full of suspense, color and smoky ardor. Granero describes the form as poetic with rhyming motifs creating the effect of stanzas. A middle section features a cadenza for solo violin evoking the Spanish guitar and the final section culminates in a virtuosic dance of previous motifs driven by obstinate figures in the cello and violin. This modern quartet has a classic bearing, placing it neatly in a lineage with Turina, da Falla, Ravel and Debussy.

Hommage à Manuel de Falla Bela Kovács (1937-)

Born in Tatabánya, Hungry, Bela Kovács is a world-renowned classical clarinet virtuoso who is particularly regarded for his interpretation of the Hungarian repertoire for the instrument. A master of the literature in general, Kovács is also a jazz player and a composer. Of particular note is a series of extraordinary pieces he has composed for solo clarinet, each a tribute to a composer essentially in the unique style and "sound" of that composer. To date, Kovács has written an homage for Bach, Weber, Rossini, Paganini, Debussy, Strauss, Bartók, Kodály, Katchaturian, Gershwin, and, on the program here, Manuel de Falla. The piece is a thrilling virtuoso showcase for solo clarinet that unmistakably captures the dark passion of da Falla's most Spanish sounding music with remarkable richness and a fullness of sound that defies the resources of a single performer. From Mozart to Klezmer, Gypsy to Jazz, the clarinet has long been prized for its evocative character, range, color, dynamics and its uncanny ability to "sing." Most interestingly, in the homage to Manuel da Falla, the clarinet is put to the task of emulating the idiomatic figurations and rhythmic flourishes of the Spanish guitar that it does with stunning success. In this sense, Kovács reflects not only da Falla but Kovács himself, a composer with the imagination and skill to effect such a daring transformation.

Siete canciones populaires españolas (Seven Spanish Folksongs), 1914 Manuel de Falla, (1876-1946)

Manuel da Falla may well be regarded as the greatest Spanish composer of the early 20th Century. In terms of the rise of Spanish Nationalism in Music, da Falla appears in the "second wave" along with his contemporary Turina, after the "founding fathers" Albeniz and Granados a decade earlier. He lived throughout Spain (Cadiz, Madrid, Granados), spent several years in Paris with the early 20th century luminaries (Debussy, Ravel, Dukes, Stravinsky) and eventually moved to Argentina where he spent the remainder of his life. A meticulous, perfectionist composer of extraordinary technique, da Falla produced several masterful orchestral works combining a modern sensibility with an idiomatic Spanish personality: Nights in the Gardens of Spain, El Amor Brujo and The Three-Cornered Hat. But he was equally brilliant with smaller character pieces for piano, or guitar or accompanied art song.

Composed in 1945-1915, his Siete canciones populares Españolas (Seven Spanish Folksongs) for voice and piano capture a literal microcosm of diverse Spanish influences, each song representing a region, a style, a dance, and a mood. The range is astonishing and the brilliant, idiomatic writing for both piano and voice make these miniatures precious works of high art. While most of the songs are based on authentic Spanish folk songs including the influence of Andalusian Flamenco and its haunting cante jondo (deep song), da Falla re-casts each piece in his idealized art with sophisticated harmonies and somewhat elaborate instrumental settings. The seven songs long been treasured both as art songs and in transcriptions for a variety of intimate, instrumental ensembles.

Habanera from Carmen, 1875 Georges Bizet (1838-1875)

Some of the most famous classical music evocations of Spain come from French composers who turned to Iberian influences in a quest for exotic contrasts to an otherwise German dominated tradition in the 19th and early 20th century. This includes works by Massenet, Bizet, Debussy and Ravel. Carmen, by Georges Bizet is quite possibly the most popular opera of all time, with a thoroughly Spanish character featuring two well-known "hits", the Habanera and the Toreador Song. The colorful gypsy heroine Carmen makes her vivid entrance with the bewitching Habanera, a provocative song characterizing love as a wild, untamed bird, a fickle Gypsy (e.g. Bohemian) full of danger.

The habanera is actually a musical species from the new world, a dance with a distinctive rhythmic pattern (closely related to the tango) that originated in Cuba as a blend of Spanish and African elements, an early "classical" representative of what would become known as a great surge of Afro-Cuban music. Bizet thought he had based his sinuous, chromatic habanera on a folk song but it turned out to be a tune titled El Arreglito by an obscure Spanish composer Sebastián Yradier who took to writing habaneras after an impressionable trip to Cuba. With a fair credit to Yradier, Bizet's habanera is nonetheless an improvement, more refined and elegant than its original inspiration.

Círculo, Op. 91 (for Piano Trio), 1942 Joaquín Turina, 1882-1949

Joaquín Turina, like his friend and compatriot Manuel da Falla, spent time away from his native Spain absorbing the thrilling early 20th Century musical avant-garde in Paris where one of the chief innovations was "Impressionism." It is curious that the slightly earlier rise of French modern, national music was strongly infused with Iberian elements as if to presage the flood of music that would soon come from Spain's own native sons. Turina might well be regarded as the most impressionist of the Spanish composers representing a kind of blend of French and Spanish elements that simultaneously show a great kindred spirit with certain later trends in American Jazz and film music (the latter naturally drawing its influence from the former). In other words, nearly all of Turina's music has a distinctively modern, appealing quality that can only be described as atmosphere, ambience, color and light.

Turina is probably the most prolific chamber music composer among well-known Spanish composers. The last of the several piano trios, Círculo is a perfect sample of his distinctive musical style, classically impressionistic as an abstract "mood" representation of the three phases of the day: morning, afternoon and evening. The piece begins in the darkness before dawn, waxes into the full motion and brilliant illumination of the day, turns romantic with the swaying dance and sparkle of an intoxicating evening then fades into dream and the dark night, coming full circle back to beginning. Among his last works, composed around 1942, Turina's three-movement work rises and falls in an arc with the opening theme recurring at the end, a cyclic motion captured in its title, Círculo.

Octa-Rhumba (2014) after Chick Corea's Armando's Rhumba (1976) John Wineglass (1973-)

Last year, composer John Wineglass was approached by Ensemble San Francisco to create a signature encore for the 2014 season. Based on discussions and friend Rebecca Jackson's love of tango music, Wineglass settled on a "rumba" drawing from his earlier musical influences featuring Chick Corea. Wineglass writes:

Octa-Rhumba is a composition/arrangement based on the theme of Chick Corea's Armando's Rhumba [1976]. It is in a simple A-B-A form stating the melody and going through several improvisations of the chord structure (like a standard jazz tune). The B section is a developmental section taking on new original melodic ideas inspired by 'if Corea was to approach this as Beethoven did' along with my own musical quotes of Lloyd-Weber thrown in for an eclectic mix of rumba, mystery, masquerade, macabre - a cadre of inspirations.

One of the challenges at the request of the group was writing a work where some parts could be interchanged if a player was missing (ESF is a dynamic group of performers not always together at the same time). So doubling was something done on purpose, strategically. In constructing the work and thinking about sonority and composite color, I had to keep in mind that perhaps a flute might double or replace a violin, and likewise with a shifting ensemble with (or without) clarinet, oboe, horn, etc.. This gives the audience a different experience every time (due to the shifting ensemble) while still keeping the consistency of the work. At the premiere performance, I added a cajon (a la myself as the performer) to keep everything together rhythmically.

Siete canciones populaires españolas (Seven Spanish Folksongs)

I. El Paño Moruno Al paño fino, en la tienda, una mancha le cayó; Por menos precio se vende, Porque perdió su valor. ¡Ay!

I. The moorish cloth On the fine cloth in the store a stain has fallen; It sells at a lesser price, because it has lost its value. Alas

II. Seguidilla Murciana Cualquiera que el tejado Tenga de vidrio, No debe tirar piedras Al del vecino. Arrieros semos; ¡Puede que en el camino Nos encontremos!

Por tu mucha inconstancia Yo te comparo Con peseta que corre De mano en mano; Que al fin se borra, Y créyendola falsa ¡Nadie la toma!

II. Seguidilla Murciana Who has a roof of glass should not throw stones to their neighbor's (roof). Let us be muleteers; It could be that on the road we will meet!

For your great inconstancy I compare you to a [coin] that runs from hand to hand; which finally blurs, and, believing it false, no one accepts!

III. Asturiana Por ver si me consolaba, Arrime a un pino verde, Por ver si me consolaba.

Por verme llorar, lloraba. Y el pino como era verde, Por verme llorar, lloraba.

III. Asturian To see whether it would console me, I drew near a green pine, To see whether it would console me.

Seeing me weep, it wept; And the pine, being green, seeing me weep, wept.

IV. Jota Dicen que no nos queremos Porque no nos ven hablar; A tu corazón y al mio Se lo pueden preguntar.

Ya me despido de tí, De tu casa y tu ventana, Y aunque no quiera tu madre, Adiós, niña, hasta mañana. Aunque no quiera tu madre...

IV. Jota They say we don't love each other because they never see us talking But they only have to ask both your heart and mine.

Now I bid you farewell your house and your window too and even ... your mother Farewell, my sweetheart until tomorrow.

V. Nana Duérmete, niño, duerme, Duerme, mi alma, Duérmete, lucerito De la mañana. Naninta, nana, Naninta, nana. Duérmete, lucerito De la mañana.

V. Nana Go to sleep, Child, sleep, Sleep, my soul, Go to sleep, little star Of the morning. Lulla-lullaby, Lulla-lullaby, Sleep, little star of the morning.

VI. Canción Por traidores, tus ojos, voy a enterrarlos; No sabes lo que cuesta, "Del aire" Niña, el mirarlos. "Madre a la orilla Madre"

Dicen que no me quieres, Y a me has querido... Váyase lo ganado, "Del aire" Por lo perdido, "Madre a la orilla Madre"

VI. Song Because your eyes are traitors I will hide from them You don't know how painful it is to look at them in the air. "Mother I feel worthless, Mother"

They say they don't love me and yet once they did love me "Love has been lost in the air Mother all is lost It is lost Mother"

VII. Polo ¡Guardo una pena en mi pecho, Que a nadie se la diré! Malhaya el amor, malhaya, ¡Y quien me lo dió a entender! ¡Ay!

VII. Polo I keep a sorrow in my breast that to no one will I tell. Wretched be love, wretched, And he who gave me to understand it! Ay!

Habanera, from Carmen Quand je vous aimerai? Ma foi, je ne sais pas, Peut-être jamais, peut-être demain. Mais pas aujourd'hui, c'est certain!

L'amour est un oiseau rebelle Que nul ne peut apprivoiser, Et c'est bien en vain qu'on l'appelle, S'il lui convient de refuser. Rien n'y fait, menace ou prière; L'un parle bien, l'autre se tait, Et c'est l'autre que je préfère; Il n'a rien dit mais il me plaît.

L'amour est l'enfant de Bohême, Il n'a jamais, jamais connu de loi; Si tu ne m'aimes pas, je t'aime; Si je t'aime, prends garde à toi! (Prends garde à toi!) Si tu ne m'aimes pas, Si tu ne m'aimes pas, je t'aime; (Prends garde à toi!) Mais si je t'aime, si je t'aime; Prends garde à toi!

Si tu ne m'aimes pas, Si tu ne m'aimes pas, je t'aime; (Prends garde à toi!) Mais si je t'aime, si je t'aime; Prends garde à toi! (Prends garde à toi!)

L'oiseau que tu croyais surprendre Battit de l'aile et s'envola. L'amour est loin, tu peux l'attendre; Tu ne l'attends plus, il est là. Tout autour de toi, vite, vite, Il vient, s'en va, puis il revient. Tu crois le tenir, il t'évite, Tu crois l'éviter, il te tient!

L'amour est l'enfant de Bohême, Il n'a jamais, jamais connu de loi; Si tu ne m'aimes pas, je t'aime; Si je t'aime, prends garde à toi! (Prends garde à toi!) Si tu ne m'aimes pas, Si tu ne m'aimes pas, je t'aime (Prends garde à toi!) Mais si je t'aime, si je t'aime Prends garde à toi!

Si tu ne m'aimes pas, Si tu ne m'aimes pas, je t'aime (Prends garde à toi!) Mais si je t'aime, si je t'aime Prends garde à toi! (Prends garde à toi!)

Habanera, from Carmen When will I love you? Good Lord, I don't know, Maybe never, maybe tomorrow. But not today, that's for sure.

Love is a rebellious bird That none can tame, And it is well in vain that one calls it If it suits him to refuse Nothing to be done, threat or prayer. The one talks well, the other is silent; And it's the other that I prefer He says nothing but he pleases me.

Love is a gypsy's child, It has never, never known the law; If you do not love me, I love you; If I love you, take guard yourself (Take guard yourself!) If you do not love me, If you do not love me, I love you (Take guard yourself!) But if I love you, if I love you Take guard yourself!

The bird you hoped to catch Beat its wings and flew away ... Love is far, you can wait for it You no longer await it, there it is All around you, swift, swift, It comes, goes, then it returns ... You think to hold it fast, it flees you You think to flee it, it holds you

(All around you, swift,) Love... (It comes, goes, then it returns) Love... (You think to hold it fast, it flees you) Love... (You think to flee it, it holds you) Love...

Noche del Amor Insomne Noche arriba los dos con luna llena, yo me puse a llorar y tú reías. Tu desdén era un dios, las quejas mías momentos y palomas en cadena.

Noche abajo los dos. Cristal de pena, llorabas tú por hondas lejanías. Mi dolor era un grupo de agonías sobre tu débil corazón de arena.

La aurora nos unió sobre la cama, las bocas puestas sobre el chorro helado de una sangre sin fin que se derrama.

Y el sol entró por el balcón cerrado y el coral de la vida abrió su rama sobre mi corazón amortajado.

Night of sleepless love A full moon, the night above the two of us, I began to cry and you were laughing. Your disdain was a god; my complaints were instants of time and doves in a chain. The night beneath us. A crystal of pain, you cried deep into the distance. My sorrow gathered its suffering above your fragile heart of sand. Dawn united us on the bed, mouths pressed to the freezing cold spurt of endless blood spilling out. And the sun entered through closed shutters and the coral of light opened its branches overmy shrouded heart.