MasterWorks III: “Pasion Latina”


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From the Maestro

Is it too early to wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day?? I hope that you and a special someone are with us enjoying the evening with the Symphony in celebration of this holiday.

What a wonderful evening we have in store for you!

Our community is home to a diverse population whose cultures and heritages have impacted symphonic music for generations. This evening we are celebrating cultural influences from ―south of the border‖ and across the seas.

Our featured guest artist, Angelo Favis, was slated to perform this very concerto for you back in April of 2020, but we all know what happened then. Thankfully, we were able to align schedules and make this performance come to life. This concerto has been on my ―bucket list for many years. And I am excited to be able to check it off my list with Angelo as its soloist.

This concerto has become the most performed guitar concerto for a reason and you’re about to experience it. Each movement is special in its own way. Rodrigo takes us on a rhythmically fanciful journey through this concerto. And his unique, almost unassuming, way in which he ends the work will bring an innocent smile to the faces of young and old.

This is an evening of rhythm, passion, colors of sound, and most of all LIVE Symphonic Music! Being here, experiencing it in person is the best way to listen to and share in these performances. Watching the musicians create beautiful music from their instruments; feeling the sound surround you; there truly is no better way for us to share in this together.

Thank you for being here and let your rhythmic passion shine through!


Special Guest Performers—Children’s Choirs of St. Mary and Mathias School


Estampas Nocturnas……………………………………………………………………Ponce

  1. La noche II. En tiempos del Rey Sol III. Arrulladora IV. Scherzo de Puck


Concierto de Aranjuez………………………………………………………………..Rodrigo

  1. Allegro con spirit II. Adagio III. Allegro gentile

Angelo Favis, guitar

―Ritual Fire Dance‖ from El Amor Brujo……………………………..….………….de Falla

Habanera – Chabrier

The French composer Emmanuel Chabrier (1841-1894) was greatly admired by a wide range of composers including Debussy, Stravinsky, and Richard Strauss. He was also close to some of the finest painters of his age, and works he collected by artists like Claude Monet and Édouard Manet now hang in some of the finest museums in the world.

In 1882, Chabrier and his wife visited Spain, a four-month stay which had an appreciable effect on the composer’s life and which is the source of his most well-known orchestral work: España. His letters are full of exuberant wit, cheerfulness and mundane delights. ―In the evening we are forever in the bailos flamencos, both of us surrounded by toreros in town clothes, with black felt hats split down the middle, hip-length jackets, and tight trousers showing off sinewy legs and the shapeliest of buttocks. And the gypsies singing their malagueñas or dancing the tango, and the manzanilla which is passed from hand to hand and which everybody is obliged to drink.‖ (21st October, 1882).

Later he writes again ―I don’t need to tell you that I’ve made notes on lots of things; the tango, a way of dancing where a woman imitates a ship’s pitching with her behind is the only one in duple time; all the rest, everything, is in 3/4 (Seville) or 3/8 (Malaga and Cadiz); in the North, it’s different, there’s a very odd 5/8 one. The tango’s 2/4 is always of the habanera type.‖ He was deeply impressed by the country and its music. When he returned to France, he wrote his best known work, a rhapsody for orchestra known as España, which was a huge and immediate success.

Two years later he wrote a lesser known, but very beautiful, work for piano called Habanera. He reworked the music a bit and orchestrated it in 1888, producing a lovely miniature for orchestra. A lush and flowing work, the Habanera sends the listener to tropical shores, with gentle breezes and flowing palms.

Habanera is the name used outside of Cuba for the contradanza, an elegant dance style that was especially popular in Cuba in the 19th century.

Estampas Nocturnas – Ponce

Ponce’s Estampas Nocturnas (―Nocturnal Engravings‖) for string orchestra were originally composed in 1908 for solo piano, as three Bocetos Nocturnos (―Night Sketches‖), and a version for string orchestra, as Tres Cuadros Nocturnos (―Tree Night Pictures‖). They were premiered in 1912, as the first work in the historic first season of concerts of the Orquesta Beethoven, conducted by its founder, Julián Carrillo. This occasion marked Ponce’s debut as the father of Mexican musical nationalism, and it included the first performance of his Piano Concerto No. 1, the Romántico.

This version for string orchestra originally had only three movements. Ponce later added a final scherzo, and the work was published in 1923. The Estampas Nocturnas display all the virtues of effective writing for strings: balance, contrast, transparency and virtuosity. They take their place in the tradition of string serenades from Mozart to Brahms, Dvořák, Grieg and Tchaikovsky, while also presenting Mexican elements.

The work is constructed as a cycle with considerable thematic unity. La Noche begins by evoking the mysterious atmosphere of night: a melody in gradual, stepped descents leads, within a few bars, to an elegiac and mystic nocturne. A variation on the initial material now arises as if in rejoicing with the contrasting violas in a dark sonority. Gradually the musical line reaches a deep calm in an exquisite first closure, marked dolce. The last bars of this first episode are an exclamation of ecstasy and exultation. A second episode opens with the introductory material, now over a background of pizzicati, and then once again adopts an almost exalted character, although in a variation more concentrated in rhythm and tempo. Gradually the exultation gives way to a profound and intimate meditation upon the mystery of night.

En Tiempos del Rey Sol is a gavotte, the melodic grace of which is initially expressed in elegant triplets that break suddenly into leaps of descending intervals; in spite of a general feeling of joy, a depth of melancholy can be sensed, evoking the French court and the gallantry of the times of Louis XIV. The second part of this first section uses new melodic lines that express even more nostalgia but which finally find their answer in the initial theme of the Gavotte. The second section, which is romantic in nature, takes the form of a trio flanked by two iterations of the gavotte and with much plasticity in the melodies. This trio section leads to an exquisite climax generated by the alternation in dialogue between the different string parts until returning with deep nostalgia to a repetition of the opening of the movement, which now ends as it began, like a mid-eighteenth-century courtly French gavotte.

Arrulladora (―Lullaby‖) unfolds in its entirety over a delicate ostinato that begins in the lower strings. Although the music may suggest a relationship to the berceuse, a type of lullaby, of European tradition, its affinity with Mexican song is closer. At the center of the lullaby, a brief but expressive phrase on the cello timidly draws the silhouette of the piece. This section may have been intended to illustrate the moment at which the child is carefully laid in its cradle.

The last movement, Scherzo de Puck (―Puck’s Scherzo‖) begins with five musical motifs of a fantastic character, melody, and rhythm alternating to suggest the mercurial nature of the infinitely playful, satiric, ironic and slippery Shakespearean character from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. After the introduction Ponce employs a melodic line in the cellos – broad and plastic, almost magical – that is then partially imitated by the violas against pizzicati in the other strings, thematically evoking the opening passages of La Noche, but now used in the representation of Puck. At the center of this section, the violins gradually take up the same line twice more but in ever higher registers. The exposition presents a mysterious texture of long chords alternating forte and piano before a brief intermezzo increases the dynamic and leads via a vigorous accelerando to the brilliant close.

Concierto de Aranjuez – Rodrigo

The first guitar concertos were written for the early romantic guitar at the beginning of the 19th century. Performers like Mauro Giuliani and Ferdinando Carulli used them to show off their skills and the possibilities of their instrument. However, the guitar fad that produced those works quickly faded.

When Spanish guitarist Regino Sainz sat down to a fine Parisian supper with his countryman Joaquín Rodrigo in 1938, more than a century had elapsed since the last significant guitar concerto had been composed. Sainz begged Rodrigo to bring the classical guitar concerto into the twentieth century with a composition for the modern classical guitar accompanied by a modern orchestra. Now Rodrigo seemed an unlikely choice for the task. Blinded by ophthalmic diphtheria at age three, he had overcome his visual handicap to acquire a first-rate musical education. He became a fine pianist. By using a braille notation system, he had also become a promising composer. But Rodrigo was no guitarist, a big problem in writing for that idiosyncratic instrument. Nonetheless, Rodrigo rose to the challenge and completed the requested work in 1939. He named his composition after the Aranjuez region of Spain that he and his wife enjoyed visiting. It was premiered in 1940 by the performer who had inspired it, Regino Sainz, accompanied by the Barcelona Philharmonic Orchestra.

The concerto has the classical three-movement layout. The first is marked Allegro con spirito. It starts with the guitar alone strumming an ever louder D major chord, which is played in higher and higher positions on the fretboard. The low E string of the guitar has been tuned down a step to D to give the chords more resonance and to make it possible to play a D major chord on all six strings. The retuned string also allows low register passagework like the descending D major scale at the end of the guitar’s opening section.

The strumming is in a hemiola rhythm in which the second measure crams three strong beats into the same length of time the first measure has two strong beats. Later on the movement introduces a couple of tunes—a staccato melody for the orchestra and a lyrical one for guitar—but the hemiola rhythm recurs frequently and acts as a unifying element.

The Adagio second movement is the heart of the concerto. It is centered around a melancholy legato theme introduced by the English horn accompanied by strings and strummed guitar. The guitar then claims the melody for itself. Lacking the English horn’s capacity for sustaining notes, the guitar extends notes of the melody with repeated notes and elaborate ornamentation. The orchestra and soloist then take turns expanding and refining the tune. This dialogue is interrupted twice for solo guitar interludes, an extended passage in the instrument’s lowest register and a virtuosic cadenza. The movement ends quietly after an intense restatement of the theme by the orchestra.

The brief, light-hearted third movement is marked Allegro. It seems almost an afterthought to the intense second. Its opening staccato guitar melody sets the mood and becomes the main melody in the rondo-like structure of the movement. Concierto de Aranjuez has been a great success. It is probably the best known twentieth-century Spanish composition of any sort. It has been recorded over one hundred times. It established Rodrigo’s reputation as a composer and led to a number of important commissions, many of them for more guitar music. The pensive second movement is especially popular and turns up regularly in ―greatest hits‖ compilations. Even jazz trumpeter Miles Davis has recorded a version of it.

The Concierto has inspired many other composers to write their own guitar concertos. Rodrigo’s work, which led the way, remains the gold standard, the favorite of both audiences and performers

“Ritual Fire Dance” from El Amor Brujo – de Falla

Manuel De Falla was one of Spain’s most influential and defining composers. He truly fulfilled Ralph Vaughn Williams’ dictum that ―The composer must love the tunes of his country, and they must become an integral part of him.‖ De Falla stuffed his works with the sounds, rhythms, folksongs, and folk-like melodies of Spain, but he cautioned that in this process ―You must go really deep so as not to make any caricature. You must go to the natural living sources, study the sounds, the rhythms, use their essence, not their externals.‖

He was determined that the Spanish musical voice needed a broad forum and that his music could and would provide that. He stated, ―It has been occasionally asserted that we have no traditions. But in our dance and our rhythm we possess the strongest traditions that none can obliterate. We have the ancient modes which, by virtue of their extraordinary inherent freedom, we can use as inspiration dictates.‖ What he said indicated not only national pride but conviction in musical authenticity and potential.

An opportunity to do just that came when the gypsy dancer and singer Pastora Imperio asked him to collaborate with the poet Gregorio Sierra to create a song and dance for her. The composer was engaged. He listened carefully to the songs sung by the dancer’s mother, Rosario de la Mejorana, and Sierra, who provided a story from old gypsy tales. The outcome at first was a rather small ―song and dance‖ which grew into a chamber ballet.

It was in 1914-15 that de Falla composed the ballet El amor brujo, of which ―Ritual Fire Dance‖ is the eighth of thirteen movements. The dance is a short, energetic piece featuring many fast trills, ornaments, and lively rhythms. The piece has been arranged for various settings and chamber groups. ―Ritual Fire Dance‖ is used in the ballet when the heroine dances around a fire hoping the flames will help rid her of memories of her dead husband. Although eventually quite successful, de Falla’s career was filled with missed opportunities, such as when he turned down Diaghilev’s offer to compose Pulcinella, which instead went to Stravinsky. As a whole, El amor brujo was not viewed as a success, but ―Ritual Fire Dance‖ alone is enough to assure de Falla’s continuing fame.

The ballet premiered at the Teatro Lara of Madrid on April 15, 1915.