Conductor: Alexandra Arrieche

Program Notes:

Carlos (Romuald) Gardel (1890-1935), “The King of the Tango”, is revered in Argentina, although his actual place of birth (France, Uruguay, Argentina?) is a matter of some speculation. Gardel was a singer, who made the tango form a popular song style (tango-cancion), using his deep baritone voice, which made his a “heart throb” in Buenos Aires; he is emblematic of the “golden age” of Argentinian tango. He was also a film actor, musician, and composer. In the 1930’s, Gardel brought tango to the rest of the world, through his recordings compositions, and appearances in the musical “shorts” which appeared before feature films. Gardel was the archetype of the “Latin lover”: dark hair and eyes, moustaches, well-dressed, sporting a fedora, deep voice.

“PorunaCabeza” (“By a Head”) 1935 (Lyrics by Alfredo La Pera)
• Popularly recognized as the tango featured in the film, “Scent of a Woman”, and helped to cement Gardel’s fame as “The King of the Tango”.
• This piece describes the conflict a gambling man faces, and comments on the perils and similarities, of loving women, and continually betting on the racehorse which can never quite win (“by a head”). The disillusioned bettor eschews betting and women… until the next one comes along.

Astor Piazzolla(1921-1992), born in Argentina, introduced “Nuevo tango” in his home country after musical studies abroad (in Argentina, with Alberto Ginastera; in Paris, with Nadia Boulanger; and strongly influenced by jazz saxophonist, Gerry Mulligan). Piazzolla repatriated to Argentina in his teens, after spending his childhood years in New York City’s Greenwich Village. This “new” music gained great acceptance in Europe and North America, despite some resistance in his native Argentina. Some native Argentinian musicians felt that he “killed” the old (traditional) tango. Piazzolla is credited with raising the profile of the bandoneon from dance hall fixture to the works of performance art, and not just dance music. In his artistic career, Astor Piazzolla collaborated with musical luminaries such as the Kronos Quartet, Yo-Yo Ma, Emanuel Ax, Gidon Kremer, and Msitslav Rostropovich.

“Tangazo” 1967
This piece echoes the influence of Bach’s musical style on Piazzolla’s musical sensibilities.
Thirteen minutes long, this tango composition starts with bass setting the principal melody line, followed by strings. The musical theme bears similarity to a Baroque chaconne, with little resemblance to tango. “Tangazo” fades into silence as suddenly as it began.

“Fugay Misterio” 1968 from Maria de Buenos Aires
From Maria de Buenos Aires, and originally composed for bandoneon, this piece was later rewritten by Coco Nelegatti,
• Argentinian guitarist and composer, for violin, cello, viola, and vibraphone.
• The viola begins the piece, and carries the tango musical theme throughout.
• The “Misterio” portion is articulates a sense of opacity and “mystery” with a marked slowing of tempo. This characteristic change is short-lived, as the piece returns to the original tango theme.

“Libertango” 1973
In the composer’s words, “Libertango stands for the freedom which I allow my musicians. Their limits are defined solely by the extent of their own capacities and not through any exterior pressure.”

Piazzolla composed this piece for his Octeto Nuevo de Buenos Aires. Distinguished by a lyrical quality, this piece represents the tango’s “freedom” from the strict interpretation generally associated with its musical heritage.

“Adios Nonino” (“Farewell, Nonino”) 1959
Astor Piazzolla composed this piece a few days after the death of his father, Vicente “Nonino” Piazzolla. With numerous recordings, and various re-arrangements, “Adios Nonino” has become one of Piazzolla’s most beloved and widely appreciated pieces.

Hector Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) composed more than 2000 works for orchestra, chamber, instrument and voice, earning him the distinction of being the most prolific and significant Brazilian composer of the 20th century. His father was an amateur musician, and it was through his weekly musical get-togethers that Villa-Lobos developed a love of music. Villa-Lobos spent several years traveling around the less explored interior of Brazil, absorbing himself in the native Brazilian musical culture, and this experience greatly influenced his compositions. Villa-Lobos’ early writing challenged the traditional compositions of the time, and he became a symbol of modern Brazilian music, reflecting the spirit of the nationalist mood of the 1920s. Between 1930 and 1945, Villa-Lobos wrote a series of nine suites called Brasileiras Bachianas, which melded his love of Brazilian folk music with the Western art music of Bach.

Bachianas no. 2 is the second piece in the series and is contrapuntal in nature (two melodic lines playing at the same time.) It opens with visions of the casual, laid back lifestyle of rural Brazil, then takes a turn with fast-paced energy and a stronger theme featuring the saxophone and trombone. This theme leads into the third movement, which takes the listener through a scene reminiscent of a folk dance. In the final movement, the listener will visualize a train moving through the countryside and hear rhythmic effects, conjuring up the image of a steam engine as it glides into the station. The final movement is significant, as it has become an anthem of sorts for the people of Brazil.