MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

New Violin Concerto from Arturo Márquez: Fandango

This week’s concerts — which were originally scheduled to introduce Francisco Coll’s violin concerto for Patricia Kopatchinskaja — are instead presenting the PNW premiere of Fandango by the Mexican composer Arturo Márquez, written for Anne Akiko Meyers (shown in the video above performing the premiere of Adam Schoenberg’s Orchard in Fog with the San Diego Symphony and Sameer Patel).

Meyers premiered Fandango to acclaim in August at the Hollywood Bowl, with Gustavo Dudamel leading the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The Seattle Symphony, led by guest conductor Giancarlo Guerrero, is performing the concerto again on Saturday at 8.00pm PST, along with Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances and Rossini’s Overture to Semiramide.

SSO is also making the stream of Thursday’s performance available to watch until 14 October here (Fandango starts at 18:15).

Here is the composer’s commentary on Fandango:

“The Fandango is known worldwide as a popular Spanish dance and specifically, as one of the fundamental parts (Palos) of flamenco. Since its appearance around the 18th century, various composers such as S. de Murcia, D. Scarlatti, L. Bocherini, Padre Soler, W. A. Mozart, among others, have included Fandango in concert music. What little is known in the world is that immediately upon its appearance in Spain, the Fandango moves to the Americas where it acquires a personality according to the land that adopts and cultivates it. Today, we can still find it in countries such as Ecuador, Colombia and Mexico, in the latter and specifically in the state of Veracruz and in the Huasteca area, part of 7 states in eastern Mexico, the Fandango acquires a tinge different from the Spanish genre; for centuries, it has been a special festival for musicians, singers, poets and dancers. Everyone gathers around a wooden platform to stamp their feet, sing and improvise tenth-line stanza of the occasion. It should be noted that Fandango and Huapango have similar meanings in our country. 

In 2018 I received an email from violinist Anne Akiko Meyers, a wonderful musician, where she proposed to me the possibility of writing a work for violin and orchestra that had to do with Mexican music. The proposal interested and fascinated me from that very moment, not only because of Maestra Meyers emotional aesthetic proposal but also because of my admiration for her musicality, virtuosity and, above all, for her courage in proposing a concert so out of the ordinary. I had already tried, unsuccessfully, to compose a violin concerto some 20 years earlier with ideas that were based on the Mexican Fandango. I had known this music since I was a child, listening to it in the cinema, on the radio and listening to my father, a mariachi violinist, (Arturo Márquez Sr.) interpret huastecos and mariachi music. Also since the 90’s I have been present admiring the Fandango in various parts of Mexico. I would like to mention that the violin was my first instrument when I was 14 years old (1965), curiously, I studied it in La Puente California in Los Angeles County where fortunately this work will be premiered with the wonderful Los Angeles Philharmonic under the direction of my admired Gustavo Dudamel. Beautiful coincidence as I have no doubt that Fandango was danced in California in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Fandango for violin and orchestra is formally a concerto in three movements:

  1. Folia Tropical
  2. Plegaria (Prayer) (Chaconne)
  3. Fandanguito

The first movement, Folia Tropical, has the form of the sonata or traditional classical concert: Introduction, exposition with its two themes, bridge, development and recapitulation. The introduction and the two themes share the same motif in a totally different way. Emotionally, the introduction is a call to the remote history of the Fandango; the first theme and the bridge, this one totally rhythmic, are based on the Caribbean “Clave” and the second is eminently expressive, almost like a romantic bolero. Folias are ancient dances that come from Portugal and Spain. However, also the root and meaning of this word takes us to the French word “Folie”: madness.

The second movement: Plegaria pays tribute to the huapango mariachi together with the Spanish Fandango, both in its rhythmic and emotional parts. It should be noted that one of the Palos del Flamenco Andaluz is precisely a Malagueña and Mexico also has a huapango honoring Malaga. I do not use traditional themes but there is a healthy attempt to unite both worlds; that is why this movement is the fruit of an imaginary marriage between the Huapango-Mariachi and Pablo Sarasate, Manuel de Falla and Issac Albeniz, three of my beloved and admired Spanish composers. It is also a freely treated chaconne. Perhaps few people know that the Chaconne as well as the Zarabanda were two dances forbidden by the Spanish Inquisition in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, long before they became part of European baroque music. Moreover, the first writings on these dances place them in colonial Mexico of these centuries.

The third movement “Fandanguito” is a tribute to the famous Fandangito Huasteco. The music of this region is composed of violin, jarana huasteca (small rhythm guitar) and huapanguera (low guitar with 5 orders of strings) and of course accompanies the singing of their sones and the improvisation sung or recited. The Huasteco violin is one of the instruments with the most virtuosity in all of America. It has certain features similar to baroque music but with great rhythmic vitality and a rich original variety in bow strokes. Every Huasteco violinist must have a personal version of this son, if he wants to have and maintain prestige. This third movement is a totally free elaboration of the Huasteco Fandanguito, but it maintains many of its rhythmic characteristics. It demands a great virtuosity from the soloist, and it is the music that I have kept in my heart for decades.

I think that for every composer it is a real challenge to compose new works from old forms, especially when this repertoire is part of the fundamental structure of classical music. On the other hand, composing in this 2020 pandemic was not easy due to the huge human suffering. Undoubtedly my experience with this work during this period has been intense and highly emotional but, I have to mention that I have preserved my seven capital principles: Tonality, modality, melody, rhythm, imaginary folk tradition, harmony and orchestral color.”

Filed under: new music, Seattle Symphony, violinists

Houses of Zodiac: Poems for Cello

I’m looking forward to Houses of Zodiac: Poems for Cellothe first album collaboration between Paola Prestini and former Kronos Quartet cellist Jeffrey Zeigler (her husband).

Zodiac presents Zeigler’s performances of Prestini’s solo cello works, along with poetic interludes featuring the writings of Anaïs Nin (which are read by Maria Popova of Brain Pickings fame), Pablo Neruda, Brenda Shaughnessy, and Natasha Trethewey. The album also includes Prestini’s score for We Breathe Again, an award-winning documentary performed by musicians Tanya Tagaq and Nels Cline and others.

Filmmaker Murat Eyuboglu has additionally created a full-length film featuring dance and choreography by Butoh master Dai Matsuoka and New York City Ballet soloist and “Rogue Ballerina” Georgina Pazcoguin.

Filed under: music news, new music

In Memoriam Paul Taub

Today at 4:00 pm PDT, LoudSwell will stream a memorial concert for the irreplaceable flutist and musical visionary Paul Taub.  You can access the performances at Loudswell.com and on The Royal Room Facebook page.

Both sites will have a link to donate to the artists. Performed live on The Royal Room stage, following all Washington State Department of Health guidelines.

The lineup of performers includes:

Members of Seattle Chamber Players
Seattle Modern Orchestra
Laurie DeLuca
Dave Sabee
Mikhail Schmidt
Byron Schenkman
Angelique Poteat
Kin of the Moon (Heather Bentley, Leanne Keith, Kaley Eaton)
Cristina Valdes
Beth Fleenor
Chuck Deardorf
Wayne Horvitz
Jarrad Powell
Jovinos Santos Neto
Michael Partington
Agata Zubel
Claire Chase
And many more…

The obituary I wrote following Paul’s untimely death on 13 March is here.

Filed under: memorial, music news, new music

The No One’s Rose at Stanford

Here’s my preview of a remarkable collaboration between American Modern Opera Company and the Philharmonia Baroque, reshaped by the pandemic interruption:

After nearly a year of postponement, Stanford Live prepares to present the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale‘s collaboration with the American Modern Opera Company. The No One’s Rose, a project created in a moment of prevailing uncertainty about the identity of art, uses the poetry of Holocaust survivor Paul Celan as a framework to reflect on creating art as a community in the face of overwhelming loss and despair…

continue

Filed under: commissions, new music, poetry

Bang on a Can Marathon Live Online

For MaerzMusik 2021, Bang on a Can has curated a special edition of its online Bang on a Can Marathon: four hours of live performances from both sides of the Atlantic. Bang on a Can Marathon Live Online – MaerzMusik Edition will be presented by Berliner Festspiele on Sunday, 21 March 2021 from 3pm-7pm ET.

The Bang on a Can Marathon is one of many events taking place during the MaerzMusik Festival 2021, running March 19-28. MaerzMusik 2021 aims at providing a variety of online experiences: world premieres recorded with state-of-the-art 360° camera and 3D sound technology, binaural audio streams, live-streamed concerts, pre-produced concert films, music videos, documentaries, lectures and talks.

In addition to the artists of the Bang on a Can marathon, works by Jessie Cox, Halim El-Dabh, Jessica Ekomane, Beatriz Ferreyra, Carlos Guitérrez, Sofia Jernberg, Marisol Jiménez, Hannah Kendall, Daniel Kidane, Tania León, Bernard Parmegiani, Éliane Radigue, Manuel Rodríguez Valenzuela, and many others can be experienced.

These digital productions are connecting the physical locations Haus der Berliner Festspiele, Chamber Music Hall of the Philharmonie, Zeiss-Großplanetarium, SAVVY Contemporary, silent green, Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, Université du Québec à Montréal, and Schloss Rheinsberg, as well as private apartments and studios around the world where music, language, and moving images are being created for this festival. The full festival programming is available here: www.berlinerfestspiele.de/maerzmusik-en

The Bang on a Can Marathon is free to watch, but viewers are encouraged to consider purchasing a ticket. Doing so helps Bang on a Can and MaerzMusik to pay more players, commission more composers, and make more music. 

Bang on a Can Marathon Live Online – MaerzMusik Edition

Set times are approximate and subject to change. 

3PM NEW YORK | 8PM BERLIN

Daniel Bernard Roumain Why Did They Kill Sandra Bland? performed by Arlen Hlusko

Arnold Dreyblatt

Mazz Swift

Rohan Chander or THE TRAGEDY OF HIKKOMORI LOVELESS from FINAL//FANTASY performed by Vicky Chow

4PM NEW YORK | 9PM BERLIN

Kristina Wolfe Listening to the Wind performed by Molly Barth

Miya Masaoka

Aeryn Santillan disconnect. performed by Ken Thomson

Adam Cuthbert

5PM NEW YORK | 10PM BERLIN

Ken Thomson Birds and Ambulances performed by Robert Black

Tomeka Reid Lamenting G.F., A.A., B.T., T.M. performed by Vicky Chow

Steve Reich Vermont Counterpoint performed by Claire Chase

Christina Wheeler

Molly Joyce Purity performed by David Cossin

6PM NEW YORK | 11PM BERLIN

Tyshawn Sorey

Jeffrey Brooks Santuario performed by Mark Stewart

Moor Mother

Bill Frisell

Marathon Program Info

Filed under: festivals, new music

Remembering Paul Taub (1952-2021)

Some thoughts on the wonderful and irreplaceable Paul Taub. May his memory be a blessing.

An internationally acclaimed flutist and pioneer of Seattle’s new music community, Paul Taub died at his home in Seattle on March 13 after a heart attack. He was 68.

continue

Paul Taub’s last performances were with the organist Joseph Adam, on 26 February 2021 as well as in the video shown above, which premiered online on 28 February but was prerecorded for a program titled Solo Flute Spectacular. For the latter program, he played from Barang I (1974) by Barbara Benary (1946-2019) and the Air in G Minor (1947) by Lou Harrison (1917–2003).

His very last live performance took place on 26 February at Seattle’s St. James Cathedral. For this live concert stream, titled A Musical Prayer, Paul and Joseph Adam performed the following program:

Jehan Alain, arr. Marie-Claire Alain: Trois Mouvements for flute and organ
Alan Hovhaness: Sonata for Ryūteki and Shō, or Flute and Organ
Julie Mandel: Every Monday for flute alone (world premiere)
Anna Bon di Venezia: Sonata No. 1 in C major, Op. 1, No. 1 for flute and organ

Filed under: music news, new music, Seattle Chamber Players

Hannah Kendall Returns to Seattle Symphony

My latest story for The Seattle Times:

Two of the most famous names in the classical canon — Beethoven and Ravel — appear on the program for Seattle Symphony’s upcoming livestream on Feb. 25. But the concert’s opening work was written by a composer, currently 36 years old, whose boldly individual, exquisitely crafted music sounds completely at home in their company…

continue

And some excerpts that got cut from the published version:

 In addition to her orchestral music, Jonathon Heywqrd conducted the Royal Opera House production of “The Knife of Dawn” and has been entrusted with the premiere of her opera-in-progress “Tan-Tan and Dry Bone.” The new opera is based on an Afrofuturist story and is being written for the experimental vocalist and movement artist Elaine Michener.  

Heyward points out that Kendall’s gifts as a storyteller echo Ravel and his ability in the Mother Goose Suite “to encapsulate vivid worlds through texture.” With Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4, which will feature Seattle favorite Conrad Tao as the soloist, he emphasizes the role of the very short slow movement and its powerful contrast with “this gargantuan first movement and jubilant finale.The sense of stillness, of time stopping here, is another thing that Hannah does amazingly in her work.”

Filed under: Hannah Kendall, new music, Seattle Symphony

Whispers of an Italian-Jewish Past Fill a Composer’s Music

Here’s a link to my latest story for the New York Times, which is about the extraordinary composer Yotam Haber. He is the recipient of the 2020 Azrieli Commission for Jewish Music — one of three biannual Azrieli Music Prizes. Haber’s new piece, Estro Poetico-armonico III, will receive its world premiere on 22 October at 8pm ET via free livestream on medici.tv and the Azrieli Facebook page.

Filed under: commissions, new music, New York Times

New from Sarah Kirkland Snider

When I was researching material for my cover story Secular Requiems for the recent issue of Chorus America’s magazine The Voice, I came across so many relevant contemporary compositions that it was painful not having the space to cover more of them.

The American composer Sarah Kirkland Snider‘s Mass for the Endangered offers yet another angle on the concept of a requiem, though it doesn’t use that term. Kirkland collaborated with the poet Nathaniel Bellows, who crafted a libretto juxtaposing parts of the traditional Ordinary Mass with elegiac meditations on our era of extinction and the threat humanity poses to the natural world.

“I wanted to open the gates in my mind between centuries-old European vocal traditions and those of more recent American vernacular persuasion, and write from a place where differing thoughts about line, text, form, and expression could co-exist,” says Kirkland.

Mass for the Endangered was commissioned by Trinity Church Wall Street as part of a project curated by Daniel Felsenfeld. It was premiered there in April 2018 and was recently released as a collaboration between New Amsterdam Records, which Kirkland cofounded, and Nonesuch Records.

The new recording features the English vocal ensemble Gallicantus and instrumentalists, with Gabriel Crouch conducting. Scored for SATB chorus, piano, string quintet, flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, harp, and percussion, Mass for the Endangered is something of a departure for a composer whose aesthetic outlook has been characterized as “post-genre.”

Kirkland explains: “The origin of the Mass is rooted in humanity’s concern for itself, expressed through worship of the divine—which, in the Catholic tradition, is a God in the image of man. Nathaniel and I thought it would be interesting to take the Mass’s musical modes of spiritual contemplation and apply them to concern for non-human life—animals, plants, and the environment. There is an appeal to a higher power—for mercy, forgiveness, and intervention—but that appeal is directed not to God but rather to nature itself. As someone not traditionally religious who draws enormous spiritual and artistic inspiration from the natural world and is deeply concerned about climate change, the text spoke to me on a personal level.”

“[B]ecause of the global crisis we’re facing and the losses we’ve already suffered, the music can’t just be a celebration—it has to also be an elegy, and a plea. I tried to let the music acknowledge some of that, even in its most exuberantly joyous moments.” 

Filed under: choral music, new music

Music of Luca Francesconi at Boulez Saal

Luca Francesconi

Pierre Boulez Saal in Berlin continues to buzz with a remarkably varied program of events — including this chamber concert by the Boulez Ensemble directed by Daniel Barenboim. Along with pieces by Beethoven and Schumann, the program offers a chamber-cameo of the fascinating composer Luca Francesconi.

Across the street over at the Staatsoper, Francesconi’s much-produced opera Quartett — based on Heiner Müller’s deconstruction of Les liaisons dangereuses — is at last getting its Berlin premiere. I well remember the US premiere production at the 2017 Spoleto Festival, which I covered for Musical America and Opera Now. And before the pandemic intervened, Francesconi’s new opera Timon of Athens was scheduled to be premiered at the Bayerische Staatsoper.

I thoroughly enjoyed interviewing Francesconi and writing about his work for the Boulez Saal program book.

The video above is from an interview last year, when Barenboim premiered Daedalus, a work newly commissioned for Boulez Saal.

Filed under: Daniel Barenboim, new music, Pierre Boulez Saal

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

RSS Arts & Culture Stories from NPR