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

Tessa Lark and Andrew Armstrong at Cal Performances

Cal Performances at Home opens its season with a violin-piano recital by Tessa Lark and Andrew Armstrong on October 1 at 7pm PDT. The program includes:

BARTÓK (arr. Székely)Romanian Folk Dances
YSAŸESonata No. 5 for Solo Violin
SCHUBERTFantasy in C major, D. 934
GRIEGViolin Sonata No. 3 in C minor
RAVELTzigane

I had the pleasure of writing program notes for this performance, which can be found here. The stream was filmed exclusively for Cal Performances on location at Merkin Hall, Kaufman Music Center, New York City, on August 17, 2020. There will also be a pre-concert conversation with Tessa Lark and Cal Performances executive and artistic director Jeremy Geffen. 

Filed under: chamber music, music news, violinists

Augustin Hadelich Tells Bohemian Tales

Here’s a lovely taste of Augustin Hadelich’s new upcoming release, Bohemian Tales.

My recent feature on this extraordinary violinist for Strings magazine appears here.

Filed under: Antonín Dvořák, violinists

Patricia Kopatchinskaja Comes to Town

PatKop

Violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja returns to Seattle next week for concerts on Jan. 29-30 and Feb. 1. (Marco Borggreve)

My story about the matchless Patricia Kopatchinskaja, who comes to Seattle for a recital and concerts with the Seattle Symphony and Thomas Dausgaard:

Her Seattle Symphony debut drew blood. In April 2016, when Patricia Kopatchinskaja reached the final movement of Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto, her violin’s shoulder rest came loose. The screw that should have held it in place dug into her neck, breaking the skin. But the music wasn’t over yet.

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Filed under: Kurtág, Patricia Kopatchinskaja, preview, Shostakovich, violinists

Musical America’s New Artist of the Month: Hao Zhou

Congratulations to Hao Zhou, who is featured by Musical America as New Artist of the Month. Here’s my profile of this extraordinary violinist.

More on Hao Zhou here.

Video of Hao Zhou with Viano String Quartet.

Filed under: Musical America, violinists

Artistry and Humanity at the 2019 Concours Musical International de Montréal: Violin Edition

My report on the 2019 Concours Musical International de Montréal:

The 2019 edition of the Concours musical international de Montréal (CMIM), devoted this year to the violin, started off with added pressure – for the organisers, that is. Because of the convergence of several of the most high-profile violin tournaments elsewhere this spring – from Auckland to Augsburg, from Sendai to Brussels – the recently completed CMIM also had to compete with the competitions.

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Filed under: competitions, music news, violinists

1st Prize Winner in Montréal: Hao Zhou

Hao Zhou

Hao Zhou for the first time playing the brand-new violin and bow handmade by the Maker’s Forum — gifted to him as first prize winner

Heartiest congratulations to U.S. violinist Hao Zhou, who won first prize at the 2019 Concours musical international de Montréal, as well as the Radio-Canada People’s Prize. And to second prize winner Johanna Pichlmair, who played the Brahms concerto, and Fumika Mohri, who took third prize for her account of the Sibelius concerto.

Mr. Zhou’s prize includes $30,000 from the City of Montreal, the Joseph-Rouleau career development grant of $50,000 from the Azrieli Foundation, a violin and bow handmade by the Maker’s Forum (valued at $20,000), an artist residency at Canada’s Banff Centre for the Arts, and a concert engagement at the New Generation Festival.

The distinguished jury was presided over by Zarin Mehta and included Pierre Amoyal (France), Kim Kashkashian U.S.), Boris Kuschnir (Austria), Cho-Liang Lin (U.S.), Mihaela Martin (Romania), Barry Shiffman (Canada), Dmitry Sitkovetsky (UK/U.S.), and Pavel Vernikov (Israel/Switzerland).

Here is Hao Zhou in his prize-winning performance last night of the First Violin Concerto by Dmitri Shostakovich (with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal conducted by Alexander Shelley):

Here is Johanna Pichlmair’s soulful Brahms Concerto:

And the remarkable Fumika Mohri plays the Sibelius here:

Filed under: competitions, music news, violinists

Patricia Kopatchinskaja Comes to California

ojai-at-berkeley@2xPatricia Kopatchinskaja is an ideal choice to be this year’s music director of the Ojai Festival. In advance of the festival’s northern edition, Ojai at Berkeley, here’s my profile of this incomparable artist for Cal Performances:

Matters of technical proficiency are well accounted for in the arsenal of words that critics have at their disposal to describe what sets a musician apart. What is sorely lacking is …

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Filed under: Cal Performances, Ojai Festival, Patricia Kopatchinskaja, profile, violinists

Stefan Jackiw Portrait

SJ

Stefan Jackiw. Photo by Sophie Zhai

My profile of the violinist Stefan Jackiw is on the cover of Strings magazine’s February 2018 issue — and available online:

A sense of modesty may seem incompatible with the drive required to remain successful in the highly competitive realm of classical performance. Yet violinist Stefan Jackiw has made it central to his artistic credo..

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Filed under: profile, Strings, violinists

Patricia Kopatchinskaja in Lucerne

More musical revelations at Lucerne Festival: thrilling Bartók Violin Concerto No. 2 featuring Patricia Kopatchinskaja in an unimprovable program of Bartók and Haydn by Mahler Chamber Orchestra led by the impeccable François-Xaver Roth.
The Haydn (Symphonies 22 and 96) was sleek and proto-Modernist in Roth’s interpretation, overflowing in invention and brought to life by the exquisitely fine-tuned playing of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.

The Bartók Second — nicely complemented by the Dance Suite — spurred all Kopatchinskaja has to give: from her feistiest, most earth-rooted playing to star-drunk lyricism.

And then there was a post-concert treat in the “Interval,” from Kopatchinskaja plus her parents (dad Viktor on cimbalom and mom Emilia playing violin), with Venezuelan double-bassist Johane Gonzales: incisive Kúrtag and wonderful folk music arrangements.

Last night brought out still another side of Kopatchinskaja’s all-embracing artistry, in a Late Night concert with the Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra led by Matthias Pintscher.

It’s clear that the Moldovan soloist regards Ligeti’s Violin Concerto as one of the ultimate masterpieces of the repertoire. Hearing her play it, you feel this is the only music in the world that matters, a world within world of where the concept of  virtuosity itself is reimagined from the ground up.

Kopatchinskaja is the perfect violinist to advocate Ligeti’s wildly imaginative ideas, but also the formal ingenuity and, yes, melodic grace of this score. She also brought out the best from the incredibly gifted young Academy musicians. I can’t wait to hear the full ensemble shine in Monday’s all-Cerha concert.

The program also included fascinating performances of composer-in-residence Michel van der Aa’s Hysteresis for clarinet, ensemble, and tape, with Martin Adámek  as the soloist and Ligeti’s Piano Concerto, with pianist Dimitri Vassilakis.

Filed under: Bartók, Haydn, Ligeti, Lucerne Festival, violinists

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