by Richard H. Trame, S.J., Ph.D.
This evening's concert furnishes its audience with a broad spectrum of Latin liturgical and secular music from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to the immediate present.
The Spanish-born Mexican composer, Juan Guti de Padilla (1590-1664) served as director of music in the Puebla Cathedral from 1629 until his death. Here in this major center of music of the Spanish Indies, the magnificence of Padilla's music and choirs ultimately surpassed those of Mexico City. From 1649 onward, the architectural plan of Puebla's splendid new cathedral fostered antiphonal singing, where works of Padilla such as his a cappella Exultate just in Domino (Psalm 33) for double choir of eight voices, produced a profound impression with their festal polyphony, transplanted from Europe and elaborated by him. Psalm 33 would have been sung at the liturgical hour of Nones (at 3:00pm), or as a motet at Solemn Mass.
The obscure composer Francisco de Cruzelaegui composed in 1775 a setting of Psalm 117, Laudate Daminum omnes gentes, for chorus, chamber accompaniment and continuo.
Heitor Villa Lobos (1887-1959) has come to be recognized as one of the most original composers of the 20th century. He possessed a unique ability to recreate his native Brazilian melodic and rhythmic elements into large instrumental and choral forms such as his Bachianas Brazileiras and Mass of São Sebastião, both superb examples. His setting of Ave Maria comes from among 35 a cappella sacred pieces composed between 1905 and 1952.
The distinguished Mexican composer and conductor Carlos Chávez y Ramirez (1899- 1978) played a decisive role in the musical and cultural life of his country during the second quarter of the 20th century. His primary sources of inspiration remained the historical and national heritage of Mexico. However, among his four choral works set to English words stands Three Nocturnes of 1942 (the year of his famed Percussion Toccata). He utilized poems of John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley and George Gordon, Lord Byron.
The contemporary Argentinian Elifio Rosáenz, professor of choral music at Argentina's University of Mendoza, composed his El Hacedor y la Niña (The Maker of Dreams) for women's chorus, one of his many compositions for his University singers. It was introduced into the United States in 1985.
Luis Sandi (1905-) served under Carlos Chávez from 1929 as head of choral activities in the Conservatory of Mexico City. Subsequently, between 1946 and 1963, he played a major role in the music division of Mexico's Ministry of Education and the National Institute of Fine Arts. Among his fine compositions is his Canto de Amor y de Muerte (Song of Love and Death) on poems by Rafael Lopez Velarde.
The contemporary Colombian composer Alcides Briceno composed his bambuco Rio que Pasas llorando on a poem of Jose Gnecco Fallon.
The Colombian bambuco is the national dance of the nation originating in the Andean mountains and often accompanied with a serenade. Men and women waving kerchiefs enact a courtship mime in a dignified manner, with the usual accompaniment of tiples (small 12 string guitars) and a flat-backed lute. Leonard de Paur preserving the solo serenade for tenor has provided his arrangement with accompaniment by male chorus and guitar.
Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983) rose to become Argentina's most distinguished composer of this century, so recognized throughout the western world. He manifested in his compositions strong solidarity with the European classical and romantic musical traditions which he strove to revitalize through the use of Argentinian folk music. He received many commissions from American sources. His works embrace three operas, orchestral and chamber music, and large choral works.
He composed his three movement a cappella Lamentaciones de Jeremias Propheta in 1946 during his travels and studies in the United States on a Guggenheim Fellowship. The work was premiered on July 21, 1947 in Buenos Aires. The three movements are excerpts from the Lamentations, most probably excerpted from the Office of Matins (Tenebrae Office) for Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.
Ginastera's younger contemporary Ariel Ramirez (1921- ) specialized in preserving and using the folk music of his native Argentina. He composed his greatly admired Missa Criolla in 1963, a synthesis of popular and liturgical styles and based on South American folk music, especially the rhythms and melodies of Argentina. Given the date of its composition, one may consider that Ramirez was influenced by the projected liturgical changes emerging from the decrees of the Second Vatican Council.
The Kyrie is in its rhythm characteristic of Northern Argentina, depicting a feeling of loneliness experienced by one living on a deserted high plateau. The Gloria coming from the same area, is in its rhythmic content expressive of rejoicing. The Credo, using a folk theme from central Argentina, accentuates in its obsessive rhythmic drive, a strong affirmation of faith.
Bolivian folk rhythms characterize the subdued and beautiful Sanctus. With rhythms typical of the pampas, the Agnus Dei produces as in the Kyrie a feeling of solitude, with a concluding "Give us peace" expressing the universal longing for peace.
The Spanish text is a liturgical translation by A. Catena, A. Mayo!, and J.G. Segade. The instrumental accompaniment embraces a harpsichord or piano, guitar, string bass and three percussion players.
PROGRAM NOTES ON CANTARES ARGENTINOS
by Lalo Schifrin
These are the voices of the pampas, the rivers, the mountains and the cities of Argentina. These are the songs of old traditions, five different aspects of a collective memory. These are the rhythms of legends and myths trying to defy the relentless pulse of history.
Angeles Son is the equivalent of a song of Halloween, from Corrientes (northeast) near the Brazilian and Paraguayan borders. Every 1st of November the children visit the neighboring huts asking for candies or flowers. If no present is given they show their displeasure by saying "Tukura, Tucumán" ...
El Inca De Tucuman is based on a true story about an imposter from the 17th century, Pedro Bohorquez. He was born and raised in Tucuman (Argentinian northwest and part of the ancient Inca empire). A man of courage and great imagination, he decided to travel to Peru where his claims of being a descendant of the Inca Emperor and of being the lord of the richest land full of jewels, gold and silver were believed. He convinced the church, the Spanish dignitaries, the military and the Viceroy. Even the Indians made him their leader and called him "The Inca." Finally the authorities discovered his fraud and, after a short imprisonment, he was condemned to death.
There is a great tradition of "Gaucho" literature in Argentina, such as the epic poem Martin Fierro by Jose Hernandez. However, El Gaucho Cubillos is an anonymous poem carved on Cubillo's tombstone. The authenticity and simplicity of these words compensate for the lack of the usual philosophical thoughts and "wisdom" commonly attributed to the Gauchos.
Ofertorio Galante based on words by Everisto Carriego, the poet of Buenos Aires, is a sensual tango that sings about the passions of seduction and love. Unlike other ceremonies which tend to freeze time, this languid ritual only succeeds in embracing a burning fraction of eternity.
Vidalita de Carnaval, the last movement is a celebration of Carnival (Mardi Gras) in the Northwest. A vertiginous dance, a cyclical escape from everyday life, a recurrent hope that does not want to vanish when the sun sets. Everyone knows that the joy of life will last as long as everyone keeps singing.