Chamber music written during the 20th century is noted for its diversity. This album showcases the many styles of music written by composers from the Americas during the last 75 years. It opens with two examples of Mestizo Modernism, a unique style fashioned around indigenous and European sounds developed in Mexico in the 1920s. Vocal and instrumental works by composers from Brazil, Canada and the United States follow. These compositions espouse different degrees of post-modern sensibility and awareness. The rigors and formal logic found in the earlier examples give way to an eclectic mélange of seemingly incongruent and divergent elements.
These compositions deserve to reach a wider public. They represent a wide variety of aesthetic points of view, while exploiting to the fullest the technical and musical possibilities of their chosen medium. North/South Consonance, Inc. is proud to feature the superb performers who frequently appear in its New York City concert series. The listener will be pleasantly surprised by the diversity and originality found in this compilation.
Great care was taken to preserve the integrity of the concert hall ambiance when this album was recorded and mastered. Indeed, the listener will find that the natural resonance of the concert hall and the music's wide dynamic range were captured successfully. Please use a moderate volume setting when playing this disc.
Silvestre Revueltas (1899-1940) began his musical career as a violinist and conductor. He turned to composition during the last ten years of his brief life. A native of Durango, México, Revueltas spent his adolescent years studying at Saint Edward College in Texas and at the Chicago Musical College. He returned to México City in 1921 to concertize with his colleague, pianist Carlos Chávez. He is remembered today for the masterful scores he wrote to accompany the imaginative films produced by his older brother José. Revueltas' style drew freely from the folk music of the México of his time. His spontaneous and good-humored temperament is clearly evident in many of his works. Some of his most famous orchestral scores include Sensemayá, Cuauhnáhuac, 8 X Radio and Janitzio. He also wrote four string quartets and more than a few songs inspired by the poetry of the Spanish writer and Civil War comrade-in-arms Federico García Lorca.
The Tres Piezas (Three Pieces) were written in 1933. They follow the traditional fast-slow-fast pattern. Each movement is cast around an easy to hear A-B-A structure. The music is full of polytonal harmonies and surprising metrical combinations. The first movement's rhythmically driving outer sections act as bookends for its poignant, static interlude. The second movement is a heartfelt lullaby performed in dialogue between the muted violin and the left hand of the piano against an ostinato pattern. A dazzling, hair-rising violin line opens the third movement. Its quirky middle section gives way to the return of the opening line. An electrifying climax brings the piece to an abrupt conclusion.
Carlos Chávez (1899-1978) is one of Latin America's best-known composers. A powerful figure in México's cultural life, he founded the National Symphony Orchestra and also directed México's National Conservatory. In 1947 he became the founding director of the National Institute of Fine Arts. Well known in this country as conductor and lecturer, he appeared at the helm of most major symphony orchestras and delivered the 1959 Norton Lectures at Harvard University. His most popular work is the Sinfonía India, an orchestral work with vigorous, obsessive rhythms and dexterous combinations of timbres reminiscent of Aztec dances. His musical output is extensive and exhibits great variety and diversity. Chávez is closely identified with the Aztec Renaissance an artistic movement that attempted to create a truly non-European Mexican sound based on the musical concepts of Pre-Hispanic times.
Written in 1924, the Sonatina for violin and piano make use of the cyclic Sonata form scheme. It is in four contrasting but interrelated movements performed without pause. The tempo markings for the movements are Largo, Scherzo, Adagio, and Largo. The solemn and stately opening introduces a quasi- ceremonial Aztec-sounding theme. A humorous, fast-paced mestizo scherzo follows. An introspective, religious hymn-like adagio serves as the third movement. A brief piano interlude leads into the final movement where the opening theme is recapitulated. This Sonatina is one of the earliest examples of Chávez's penchant for combining Viennese formal schemes with what he believed to be pre-Hispanic musical concepts. Although the music looks back to an imagined past for its inspiration, it sounds distinctively contemporary.
A native of Rio de Janeiro, Ricardo Tacuchian (b. 1939) is celebrated throughout Brazil as a composer, conductor and scholar. A Professor of Composition at the Federal University in Rio de Janeiro, Tacuchian served as President of the Academia Brasileira de Música from 1995 to 1997. His works have been performed throughout South America, Europe and the United States. During the spring of 1998 Tacuchian served as the Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence at the University at Albany, SUNY. Sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation, he spent the winter months of the year 2000 as guest composer at the Bellagio Institute in Italy. During the winter of 2003 he taught and conducted throughout Portugal.
Tacuchian's early compositional efforts exhibit a decidedly nationalistic style. During the 1970's, he became interested in exploring innovative textural and timbric possibilities. While earning a doctorate at the University of Southern California's School of Music during the late 1980's, Tacuchian became interested in “overcoming extremes” by developing a post-modern stylistic synthesis merging traditional and experimental practices. His two works featured in this album exhibit a clear rhythmic drive, expressive lyricism and a distinct cosmopolitan flavor.
Cono Sur (Southern Cone) for solo xylophone, was written for the Argentinean percussionist Alfredo Frete in 1992. Its name refers to the countries of the so-called southern cone – Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay – that entered into a commercial alliance modeled after the North American Free Trade Agreement. The work is written using the T-System, an original method of ordering and manipulating pitches partially based on serial procedures developed by Tacuchian.
Transparências (“Transparencies”) for vibraphone and piano is in three contrasting movements. The first movement consists of a series of variations on the theme sounded in unison by both instruments at the very opening. The theme, again in unison, resurfaces at the conclusion of the movement. A static, wintry second movement explores textures and densities rather than melody and/or harmony. The sonorities of both instruments complement each other throughout. The music exploits the various effects generated by turning on and off the motor of the vibraphone. By contrast, the third movement is strongly rhythmic and metrical, gathering momentum as it reaches its final climax. The work was written in 1987 at the request of Brazilian percussionist Luis Anunciação.
Max Lifchitz's Ethnic Mosaic was written in 1978 with the assistance of a Meet the Composer grant.
This piece is in three movements performed without pause. The first movement features the bassoon; the second, bassoon and flute; and the third, flute, bassoon and piano. Its language is very eclectic, incorporating musical materials commonly perceived as contradictory and mutually exclusive. Elements culled from these contrasting sources appear and reappear at unexpected moments in the musical discourse. The music is demanding and affords the performers ample opportunity for technical display.
The first movement opens with a mysterious timbre trill in the bassoon's high register. It gradually gives way to a boogie-like middle section before concluding by combining keystrokes with vocal sounds. The second movement opens with the flute imitating the key slaps of the bassoon. Eventually the music moves into dance- like sections one built around the clave rhythm and the other in 7/8 meter built around a Greek scale with two augmented seconds. A few metrical modulations ensue. The liquidation of the dance like motives brings the movement to a close. The third movement opens with consecutive lyrical solo lines in the flute and bassoon. The first piano gesture calls for plucking directly on the strings of the instrument. The three instruments engage in an eclectic conversation that grows in intensity. The climactic moment for the piece is reached when the piano starts playing a blues-derived figure in 4/4 while the winds recapitulate materials previously in 3/4. The timbre trills in the bassoon that opened the piece make a reappearance to signal its conclusion.
Raoul Pleskow (b. 1933, Vienna, Austria) was raised and educated in New York. His mentors included Karol Rathaus, Otto Luening and Stefan Wolpe. Pleskow served as composer-in-residence at C. W. Post College of Long Island University where he taught and chaired the Music Department from 1959 until 1994. Pleskow's many awards and honors include grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Martha Baird Rockefeller Fund, the National Institute of Arts and Letters and a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. His compositions have been performed throughout the United States and Europe by among others, the Kennedy Center Chamber Players, the New York Virtuosi, the Group for Contemporary Music, the Aeolian Chamber Players and the Santa Cruz Symphony Orchestra. Pleskow's compositions are available on recordings issued on the CRI, Capstone, Centaur and Serenus labels and are published by General Music, Bowdoin Press and McGinnis & Marx.
Pleskow's Two Arabesques for large chamber ensemble appear on North/South Recordings No. 1004 while his Quatrains for piano as performed by Max Lifchitz are available on North/South Recordings No. 1007. His Chamber Setting with Voice was recently released to much acclaim on North/South Recordings No. 1028.
The composer kindly provided the following program note for his work:
“The Drei Lieder (“Three Songs”) for soprano and piano were completed in 1997 after a short visit to Vienna – my home town – and after a long absence from setting poetry in my native language. Both vocal line and piano part are rich in tri-tones, as well as fifths and seconds (an their inversions). A highly chromatic pitch palette is employed in which only hints of tonality are allowed for. The piano part plays a co-equal role with the voice and in spite of diversity in texture and motivic content, a generally doleful mood permeates the three brief settings.
"I found inspiration in three poems by the restless writer, painter and fin-de-siécle German world-traveler Maximilian Dauthendey (1867-1918).”
The song cycle received its first concert performance in New York City on February 22, 1998 under the auspices of the National Association of Composers, USA.