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Serenata--Vocal Music from the Americas
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Serenata--Vocal Music from the Americas

Americas Vocal Ensemble

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This album celebrates the vitality and diversity of choral music from the Americas. The listener will encounter a wide range of musical styles, from captivating arrangements of folk songs, to recent works written especially for the Americas Vocal Ensemble.

Argentinean Carlos Guastavino (1912-2000) is undoubtedly one of the best loved Latin American composers of the 20th century. Never joining in the avant-garde movements of his time, Guastavino remained loyal to the music he inwardly heard. Based on folk rhythms and harmonies, Guastavino's style captures the lyrical essence of traditional Argentine music.

Se equivoco la paloma is a tender song about unrequited love inspired by the poetry of the great Spanish writer Rafael Alberti. A la huella also known as Pampamapa makes use of quick-witted repetitions of the syllables that make up the song's title. The music, inspired by the folk dance of similar name, alternates between a fast, rhythmic refrain and slower, lyrical episodes.

A native of Buenos Aires, Carlos Rausch began his career as a student of the legendary Juan Carlos Paz and eventually joined the Argentinean Agrupacion Nueva Musica (New Music Association). As a conductor, Rausch participated in Pierre Monteux's master classes and earned a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Columbia University in the City of New York. For six years, he toured throughout the world while serving as Music Director of Canada's Royal Winnipeg Ballet.

La Milonga and El Tango were written in 1988 at the request of the Americas Vocal Ensemble. Both works are based on Lunfardo poetry by Julio Ravazzano Sanmartino. Strongly influenced by the Italian language, Lunfardo is a jargon closely identified with the prisons of Buenos Aires. Perhaps Rausch's works constitute the first example ofLunfardo poetry being set to music by a serious composer.

The text for El Tango is an abstract poem consisting of unrelated nonsense words extremely difficult to translate. Rausch's setting of the text is rhythmically vital. Choral interludes are arranged around a refrain introduced by the solo piano generating an A-B-A-C-A scheme suggestive of a free Renaissance madrigal. The text of La Milonga --"Visitation Day" depicts a Sunday afternoon family visit to the Villa Devoto prison near Buenos Aires. The lyrics describe how relatives and friends bring packages of food and gifts to the incarcerated petty thieves. Kisses and embraces mix with tears and smiles. The ringing of the prison bells signal the end of the party. The inmates are led back to their cells at the same time the visitors depart.

Ruben Urbiztondo received his musical training in Argentina, where he is known primarily as a choral arranger. El Sombrerito is a popular gaucho melody, traditionally sung while dancing around a sombrero. The orginal melody was compiled by the guitarist and composer Andres Chazarreta (1876-1960). Urbiztondo's setting emphasizes the mixture of meters 6/8 and 3/4 which is so common in Latin American folk music. La Doble (also compiled by Chazarreta) is a fine example of the "chacarera," a playful and mischievous genre popular during the first part of the 20th century. Domingo'i chaya is a cute folk song from the northern province of La Rioja in Argentina. Its text depicts the naughty deeds of a colorful character.

Maria Elena Walsh (b. 1930 in Rosario, Argentina) is a highly respected Argentinean poet. Serenata para la tierra de uno is a poignant lament about the love for oneÍs birthplace when living far from it. Peruvian composer Chabuca Granda is famous for her many "Peruvian waltzes," a typical musical genre of her country. Fina Estampa depicts a turn-of-the-century gentleman walking through the streets of his native town with grace and elegance. Argentinean Eduardo Grau is best known for his many a cappella compositions.

Max Lifchitz (b. 1948 in Mexico City) is active as composer, performer and educator. Unlike the traditional Spanish Villancicos which during colonial times were popular songs often associated with the Christmas season, Lifchitz's Villancicos Rebeldes ("Rebellious Villancicos") attempt to capture and communicate the feelings of frustration and exasperation so apparent throughout Latin America today. Inspired by poetry from three different Latin American countries—Uruguay, Panama and Mexico—Lifchitz sets the chosen texts in a simple and direct manner. In the preamble to the work, the composer stated that "until recently, Latin American poets were in effect the only witnesses to the atrocities committed on their compatriots. In societies where the press and the media are easily manipulated, the words of these poets were the only existing testimony that clearly depicted the violence systematically inflicted upon innocent men, women and children." Villancicos Rebeldes were first performed on January 9, 1989 at the Merkin Concert Hall of New York City by the Americas Vocal Ensemble under the direction of Nelly Vuksic.

American composer Frank Wigglesworth (1918-1996) served for many years as Chair of the Music Department at the New School for Social Research in New York City. A tireless champion of the music of his contemporaries, Wigglesworth was active in various administrative capacities with such distinguished organizations as the American Composers Alliance and the Composers Forum, Inc. His style has been described as "using sharply defined motifs that expand into phrases and melodic lines, mostly lyric in character but sometimes abstract and even harsh in their effect."

A Short Mass is a setting of the traditional Ordinary written in 1970 for a church service honoring the memory of Frank Overton, a dear friend of the composer. It has no sung Credo, as this section of the liturgy was supposed to be recited by the congregation. Originally conceived for boys choir, the composer sanctioned performances using the SATB setting, as is the case in this recording.

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