Sonidos de las Américas: Argentina – “Beyond Tango!”
Festival Brings Largest-Ever Gathering of Argentinean Composers to New York For Week-long Festival March 1-8
The American Composers Orchestra in cooperation with Carnegie Hall and the Consulate General of Argentina will present Sonidos de las Américas: Argentina – “Beyond Tango!” a week-long panorama of concert music from the country that gave birth to the Tango and much more, March 1 – 8, 1998. The festival will bring together 25 of Argentina’s most respected composers, the largest-ever gathering in the U.S. of the country’s important musical creators. With concerts at Carnegie Hall and other venues around New York City, Sonidos de las Américas: Argentina explores the rich cultural heritage, unique blend of European influences, and inquisitive experimentalism, that make Argentine music among the most diverse and intriguing in all the world. A series of educational programs and opportunities for cultural exchange including master classes, symposia, composer-to-composer sessions and pre-concert talks will also take place during the festival. Highlights of the festival include several chamber music concerts at Weill Recital Hall, a concert focusing on electronic and multimedia work at The Kitchen and a culminating orchestral concert with the American Composers Orchestra (ACO) performing works by Alberto Ginastera, Astor Piazzolla, Marta Lambertini, Ezequiel Viñao and Lalo Schifrin Sunday, March 8 at 3pm at Carnegie Hall.
“Tango is so hot now that there is a misperception that that is all there is to the music of Argentina,” says ACO’s Latin American Music Advisor, composer/conductor Tania León. “Tango is wonderful music, especially in the hands of a master such as Astor Piazzolla or Pablo Ziegler, but Tango is just one dimension of this country’s musical riches. In this festival we want to explore all the dimensions of Argentina’s music.” she adds.
Tango figures prominently in the festival’s performances. Thursday, March 5 at the Thalia Spanish Theatre in Queens, and Friday, March 6 at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, Los Tangueros with pianists Pablo Ziegler and Christopher O’Riley performs Tangos by Piazzolla and Mr. Ziegler. Ziegler knew Piazzolla close up: he was the pianist in Piazzolla’s famous quintet during its final and greatest decade. Christopher O’Riley (who is not Argentinean) is among the most versatile of classically-trained musicians on the international scene. In these two piano arrangements they “take the Tango to levels of sophistication and refinement probably undreamed of by Piazzolla,” according to the Chicago Tribune. On Saturday, March 7 at 3pm at the Jamaica Arts Center, 161-04 Jamaica Avenue, Queens, Orquesta Nova, a chamber ensemble founded by composer/pianist Carlos Franzetti and violist Juliet Haffner performs. The group takes the Nuevo Tango of Astor Piazzolla as its launching-off point. Chamber Music Magazine calls Orquesta Nova, “a bursting amalgam of Argentinean classical, popular and folkloric traditions integrated with jazz-style improvisation.” And on Saturday, March 7 at 8pm, the New York Tango Trio featuring Raúl Jaurena, bandoneón, Pablo Aslan, bass, holds forth at the the Nuyorican Poets Café, 236 East 3rd Street in lower Manhattan.
The composers represented in Sonidos de las Americas: Argentina are a diverse group in the extreme. They range from those who have taken folk and popular elements such as the Tango and the Milonga as their material to those who are devout followers of European models. (Much of Argentina’s population is descended from Italian and German roots and Buenos Aires has been a major center for international cultural tours since the 19th century.) For years, Argentina has been a hotbed of the avant-garde, with composers doing pioneering work in electronics and multimedia. Argentinean composers can be counted among the world’s most commercially successful, scoring films and television, while others write music that is openly absurdist or grows out of performance art. And then there are Argentineans, particularly the younger generation, who roll all of these distinguishing characteristics into their music.
Two recently deceased composers remain Argentina’s most influential. Astor Piazzolla, after studies with the famed Nadia Boulanger in France, revolutionized the tango and today, Piazzolla’s tango—as seen in recent performances and recordings by artists such as Yo-Yo Ma and Gidon Kremer—is sweeping classical music circles in this country. If Piazzolla represents the heart and soul of Argentinean music, Alberto Ginastera represents the international artistic heights to which it can soar. Ginastera is one of two Latin American composers (Heitor Villa -Lobos is the other) to achieve true worldwide concert-hall acclaim. Ginastera’s music is highly charged, often expressionist and filled with magic and fantastic disparate elements. He is widely viewed as one of the most significant composers of the 20th century. Another revered composer is Carlos Guastavino, who is much beloved as the writer of hundreds of beautiful songs and choral works in the traditional 19th century style. Guastavino will be represented in a concert of his music by the Americas Vocal Ensemble, Nelly Vuksic, music director on Tuesday, March 3 at 2pm at Hostos Center for the Arts and Culture, 450 Grand Concourse (West 149th) in the Bronx.
The concert at The Kitchen, Monday, March 2 at 8pm focuses on electronics and multimedia and the interaction of these elements with acoustic instruments. Composers Alicia Terzian and Ricardo Dal Farra are considered pioneers in the field. Ms. Terzian has been one of the leading women on the international musical scene with countless performances throughout Europe, Asia and Latin America. José Halac and Martin Matalon are part of a new generation—familiar with rock, jazz, and world music, and schooled at Pierre Boulez’s IRCAM (Institut de Recherche et de Coordination Acoustique/Musique) the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center and other international centers of cutting-edge musical research—that has stretched the techonological state-of-the-art.
On Tuesday, March 3rd at Weill Recital Hall at 8pm is a concert that is “Percussion Plus,” featuring music for one or more percussionists with other unusual instrumental combinations. Pulitzer-Prize winning composer Mario Davidovsky’s Synchronism No. 5 for percussion and tape is the program centerpiece. There is also music by Mariano Etkin, Dante Grela, and Alejandro Iglesias Rossi, as well as Gerardo Dirié’s A String of Longing for solo harp.
The ACO Chamber Orchestra takes the stage at Weill Recital Hall on Wednesday, March 4 at 8pm. ACO’s resident conductor Paul Lustig Dunkel and Latin American Music Advisor Tania León share the podium. On the program are Maria Villanueva’s Partida, Julio Martín Viera’s Guggenheim-commissioned Musica Nocturna, the Concerto Breve byMaximo Flügelman, Jorge Liderman’s Ondeggiando, Osvaldo Golijov’s Last Round and Mauricio Kagel’s absurdistPhantasiestuck.
On Friday, March 6 at Weill Recital Hall at 8pm a concert entitled “Tango & Beyond” ties the tangos of Piazzolla and Ziegler to concert works by Gerardo Gandini, whose complex deconstruction of Mozart themes in his Mozartvariationen belies his work as a noted Tango pianist, Music of Pablo Ortiz and Eduardo Alonsio-Crespo then leads the way to more Piazzolla Tangos by Los Tangueros with Pablo Ziegler and Christopher O’Riley.
The culminating event of the festival is the American Composers Orchestra concert, Sunday, March 8 at 3pm at Carnegie Hall. ACO’s music director Dennis Russell Davies conducts a program that has Argentina’s two most recognized composers, Piazzolla and Ginastera—as its pillars. Piazzolla’s Concierto para bandoneón will be performed with Raúl Jaurena (perhaps the leading virtuoso in the U.S.) as soloist. Ginastera’s Glosses sobre temes de Pau Casals, commissioned by Rostropovich and the National Symphony Orchestra and dedicated to Casals. Also on the program, the world premiere of Lalo Schifrin’s La Represión short tango-inspired work, and two premieres by younger generation Argentine’s: Marta Lambertini’s Antigone II and El Sueño de Cristobal by Ezequiel Viñao.
In addition to the concert performances, Sonidos de las Américas offers several educational programs and opportunities for exchange between composers, performers, and audiences, including symposia, master classes, and composer-to-composer sessions. “The idea is to create a dialogue… a forum for exchange just as Aaron Copland and Carlos Chavez did years ago,” says Tania León. Towards that end the delegation of Argentinean composers will meet with a U.S. delegation to learn about each other’s music. Pre-concert discussions with the visiting composers, held one hour prior to each of the Carnegie and Weill Recital Hall concerts, are free to ticket holders, allowing the opportunity for audience members to ask questions.
Support of the American Composers Orchestra is also from Alliance Capital Management L.P., Mr. Thomas Buckner, the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, the Booth Ferris Foundation, the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Mr. Francis Goelet, the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, J.P. Morgan & Co., and the Helen F. Whitaker Fund. This concert is also made possible with public funds from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. Additional funding comes from Meet the Composer, Inc., with support from ASCAP, the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, JP Morgan & Co, and the Virgil Thomson Foundation.
Tickets for Sonidos de las Américas: Argentina’s concerts at Carnegie Hall and Weill Recital Hall are available through CarnegieCharge at 212-247-7800. For the March events at other locations, call the corresponding box office: Monday, March 2: The Kitchen, tickets are $15, call 212-255-5793; Tuesday, March 3: Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture, admission is free, no tickets or reservations are necessary; Thursday, March 4: Thalia Theatre – ticketss are $15 at the door, call 718-729-3880; Saturday, March 7: Jamaica Arts Center – concert is free-of-charge, admissions is free, no tickets or reservations are necessary. Saturday, March 7: Nuyorican Poets Cafe, tickets are $15 at the door, no reservations accepted. For further information about Sonidos de las Américas events contact the ACO at 212-977-8495.