“A delightful showcase...both are outstanding musicians...this will be one you reach for time after time.” (Cleveland Classical)
Sonatina Tropical Jose Lezcano
En Clave de Són (5:19)
Canción de Madrugada (4:27)
A Casinha Pequenina trad., Brazilian, arr., Almeida
Triptico Criollo Ricardo Iznaola
Distance (5:32) Vincenzo Sorrentino
Sonatina, Opus 205 Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco
Allegretto grazioso (4:24)
Tempo di Siciliana (5:41)
Scherzo - Rondo (4:56)
Jobiniana no 2 (7:08) Sergio Assad
Tigre de Lapa (4:13) Luiz Americano, arr., Aron
Vals del Olvido (4:36) Marco Granados
The concept for this project emerged as an outgrowth of our mutual fascination with the music of both Latin America and Italy. Latin American music, in all its richly varied guises has been a large part of both of our musical experiences--mine, through the deep well of guitar repertoire from the region, and expressed once in the prior Clear Note release, “Brazilian Masterworks,” and for both of us through an earlier choros project, Poco Tango, a quartet of flute, guitar, bass and percussion. As to Italy, it is the site of numerous and lengthy visits for both of us. And, of course, its music is simply central to the classical musician’s experience.
However, it was when we stumbled across the marvelous new works for flute and guitar written by Ricardo Iznaola and Vincenzo Sorrentino, and paired them in concert with recent contributions to the literature by Sergio Assad, Jose Lezcano Marco Granados, that the form and scope of this cd came into focus. So compelling are these pieces, so fresh and exuberant in their forms of expression, and so consistently embraced by our audiences, that recording them seemed natural and even important.
Jose Lezcano writes: “I composed my Sonatina Tropical in 1998 as a way to put together three musical languages that don't often come together: the rhythms and melodic inflections of Cuban popular music, the harmonic twists of American jazz, and the formal procedures of the Viennese sonatina.” The work opens in an unmistakably Cuban voice. En Clave de Son--written in the characteristic rhythm of the signature Cuban son instrument, the clave, features a whirling alternation of Cuban grooves and lyrically romantic interludes. The second movement, Cancion de Madrugada (Song of the Dawn) is an exquisitely realized classic ballad written in jazz-inflected harmony. It may be our favorite moment on the recording. Lezcano concludes his Sonatina with the Brazilian-influenced Samba. Establishing the familiar samba groove at its opening, it offers several contrasting episodes, only to return, rondo-like, to the samba. Towards the end, a new motive is introduced and presented in canonic imitation. The rhythm is based on the Argentine zamba, a play on words and the composer’s subtle musical joke! At the work’s conclusion, Lezcano sends us off in a wild, virtuosic unison for a brilliant conclusion. Jose Lezcano is a Cuban-born guitarist-composer currently on the faculty of Keene State College in New Hampshire; his growing catalogue of works and emergence as a serious musicologist specializing in Latin American folkloric music find him increasingly featured at music events worldwide.
The Brazilian folk song, A Casinha Pequinina (A Little House) has been arranged numerous times in myriad ways, normally to be sung. This simple version by the late Brazilian-American guitarist Laurindo Almeida has long been a favorite. As an instrumental, is assumes a new and darkly beautiful character.
Ricardo Iznaola’s Triptico Criollo was a major find for us: a brilliantly crafted and pleasingly virtuosic and colorful work with folkloric impulses at its roots and a romantic melodic sensibility. The composer writes: “Tríptico belongs to what could be called a ‘neo-nationalistic’ style owing much to the rich mélange of European, indigenous and African musical traditions that gave birth to new forms whose rhythms, melodies and harmonies, though related to the original ancestors, are, in fact, distinct and characteristic. Thus, in Venezuela, the elegant waltz of the Europeans became the more rambunctious valse criollo while seguidillas and fandangos evolved into forms like the joropo. The Tríptico pays homage to three ladies in my family: my sister Raquel, my niece, Carolina, and my grand-niece, 5-year-old (at the time of composition) Camila. A bit of character portrait is attempted in each, from the mixture of drive and hesitation in the first, the contrast between sadness and wild joy in the second, or the unblemished felicity of the third, where Camila happily sings and dances, unclouded…” We find Iznaola’s Triptico to be an easy audience favorite; it is sure to enter the standard repertoire. Iznaola is a Cuban-born guitarist-composer currently serving as guitar professor at the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music; his is well-established as a leading artist and pedagogue.
Vincenzo Sorrentino’s Distance is written in quite a different style than the other works in this collection. Harmonically serene, it offers a quiet contrast to the recording’s general mood. Of the piece, Sorrentino offers: “each one of us takes refuge in his inner world, isolating ourselves from the world and creating a "distance" between us and others…” A native of the province of Naples, Sorrentino graduated with honors in piano and composition from the Conservatorio di Musica Cimarosa in Avellino. His compositions have won numerous awards.
The only standard repertoire work on this recording, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Sonatina Op. 205 was written in 1965. It is written in Tedesco’s familiar and appealing style: harmonically conservative, melodically inventive and structurally sophisticated. He uses imitation and counterpoint often in his works; both compositional devices find delightful expression in this Sonatina. Both exquisitely romantic and brilliantly virtuosic, it is a genre favorite. Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895-1968) emigrated from his native Italy in 1939 to America, where he found considerable success as a composer, not least as a result of his success on Hollywood film scores. He wrote over 100 works for guitar!
Jobiniana No. 2, by Sergio Assad, is an extraordinarily imaginative work written in a style at once Brazilian and French. Contrasting a hard-driving groove clearly evoking a Brazilian percussion section with impressionistic flights of pastoral fantasy, the work both is both current and revelatory. The flute plays a role less melodic than percussive at times, with angular punctuations evoking sounds from the jungle; yet at other times, Assad leads us into serenely familiar-sounding reveries, including a romantic-style ballad and a gentle waltz. Harmonically, Assad embraces the whole-tone scale as a point of departure, establishing a gently modernist language against which his contrasting episodes rub in a startling and satisfying way. The piece ends in a furious and virtuosic flurry. Sergio Assad, half of the storied Assad Duo (with his brother, Odair), is a Brazilian-born guitarist-composer, currently serving on the faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He has emerged as one of the field’s most interesting and important composers.
Tigre de Lapa is one of numerous hits by Brazilian clarinetist and choro composer Luiz Americano (1900-1960). Famous for its cascading diminished-seventh arpeggio opening and infectious traditional choro-rhythm melodies, its title translates more or less as “hot player [tiger] of the jam session.” So exciting and fun is the beginning of the piece, we enjoy using it as a concert opener. This arrangement shifts tempo for a sultry treatment of the third section, creating a pleasing contrast and rendering in this relatively slight and traditional choro, a more substantial concert-work. Americano was a highly successful wind player and a leader of several bands of different types, including one with composer Radames Gnattali; He was a recording artist with Odeon and Victor in the 1930‘s and worked for Brazil’s Radio Nacional.
The Vals del Olvido is one of Marco Granados’ most compelling original melodies; it is a jazz-inflected waltz-ballad in a richly tragic cast. Its moving melody is both irresistible and unforgettable. An authentic “cross-over” musician, Granados is a Venezuelan-born flutist-composer now living in Boston, where he teaches at the Longy School of Music. His performing and recording career has established him as a leading international soloist, chamber musician and bandleader.
While at first blush, it may not seem obvious to pair the music of Latin America and Italy, we hope you’ll agree with us that the combination is surprisingly satisfying and even subtly revealing; both are lushly romantic at times, and both rely on strong driving rhythms at others. In the end, we hope you enjoy listening to this music as much as we enjoy playing it.