IMMACULATE MUSIC AT IMMACULATA

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The Immaculata Church in Mt. Adams opened its 2018-2019 Chamber Music Series with string players Christina Nam, Holly Nelson, Kanako Shimasaki, Yu-Ting Huang, Hojoon Choi, and Jonathan Lee assembled into what we hope will be a permanent ensemble playing a concert of music by Haydn and Schubert.

Haydn’s Quartet in G Major, Op. 77 is one of the last two of sixty-eight the composer wrote. He dedicated both the quartets from this opus to his patron and former employer, Prince Lobkowitz in 1799. Haydn would live for still ten more years but his composing and performing days were waning down, though mot his inspired writing. The quartet is vintage Haydn, a stately, mature work that opens with an elegant martial rhythm that spans the first movement. The members of the quartet quickly established their like-minded approach to this music at the onset, moving on to deeply soulful playing in the Adagio that follows it. The third movement, a lively Scherzo in ¾ time, was executed with panache, and followed by an even livelier final Allegro that brought the work to a happy ending.

Franz Schubert‘s one and only String Quintet was his final chamber work, composed in 1828 and completed just weeks before his untimely death. Known as the “Cello Quintet” because of the addition of a second cello to its instrumentation, the C Major quintet is filled with a pervading sadness, as if the composer had a foreboding of the end being near. This is a substantial and lengthy work that takes its time, taking the listener on an episodic journey infused with profound pathos. Melodically rich, harmonically daring, rhythmically restrained, Schubert’s final chamber opus (D.956) is decidedly a Romantic masterpiece, and the members of the quintet played it with technical assurance and intense emotional commitment.

In a city rich in musical offerings it is difficult for an ensemble of young players to establish an identity and make a mark. All the more remarkable then it is that this musically ad-hoc group that cries out for a name should begin its young journey so auspiciously. We look forward to more from Christina Nam, Holly Nelson, Kanako Shimasaki, Judy Huang, Hojoon Choi, and Jonathan Lee, individually and as a group

Will Immaculata bring them back, please?

Rafael de Acha

 

The Soul of Spain in Cincinnati

 

It was a pleasure to listen last night to Jessica Rivera, Paulina Villareal, Bill Willits and Marie France Lefebvre make musical magic at the Willis Gallery’s intimate recital hall in Cincinnati.

It was the opening concert of the 2018-2019 season of Sam Martin’s brainchild: Cincinnati Song Initiative, and a grateful audience filled up the gallery to capacity, while during the space of one hour the artists shared with us the songs of Lorca, Mompou, Granados, Rodrigo, Falla and Obradors.

Paulina Villareal is a recent graduate of CCM already well on her way in a career that next takes her to the Sarasota Opera to join their Young Artists Roster. This listener has followed the young mezzo- soprano’s journey from her arrival a few years ago and her first efforts as a first-year Master’s student in CCM’s opera productions on to what now is a fully-formed young artist. Villareal is an expressive vocalist and she infuses her singing with individuality and a terrific way with words. Hers is a bright voice, with an easy upper register and, when needed, a dark-hued solid chest register ideally suited to so much of the music she essayed in the program.

Jessica Rivera’s career has spanned Opera and concert work, and her two decades of experience in the world of music have equipped her with a complete command of the recital stage. In tonight’s concert she moved with ease from the post-Romantic world of Enrique Granados’ The Maja and the Nightingale to Federico Mompou’s songs from The Combat of Dreams, which she sang in flawless Catalan, to a set of Obradors highlighted by an exquisitely sung Del Cabello Mas Sutil. I remember Rivera’s impressive appearances in various contemporary operas here and elsewhere, but I was not prepared to hear how her lovely lyric soprano voice has blossomed, all the better to serve much of the material she sang.

Bill Willits provided idiomatically excellent support accompanying Villareal in the Lorca and Rodrigo songs and later in the Siete Canciones Populares of Manuel de Falla. The superb Marie France Lefebvre reminded us once again of what a great collaborative pianist she is, as she lovingly accompanied Rivera in the Obradors, Mompou and Granados songs.

Samuel Martin has set off on what may seem a fool’s mission to the naysayers, but those who know better and admire this young visionary are augmenting his growing following with gratitude, which I share 100%.

Rafael de Acha

HIGHLIGHTS OF CINCINNATI MUSIC IN OCTOBER

8557273265_5bce477a5b_bCovering Cincinnati for http://www.SeenandHeard-International.com, in addition to teaching music courses for UC’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, plus writing for this blog and organizing our own concert series takes up many pleasurable hours. So, that’s in case you wonder why I feature this and not that in this list of events, where I can only highlight a few of the many musical offerings in the Queen City that I personally recommend and are able to attend. For comprehensive listings, let me encourage the reader to go to the individual websites of:

CC – www.collegiumcincinnati.org

CCM — http://www.ccm.uc.edu

CMC – http://www.cincychamber.org

CSB – www.cincinnatisoundbox.org

CSO – www.cincinnatisymphony.org

LINTON – www.Lintonmusic.org

MET – www.info@meetmeattheopera.com

MFAS – www.musicseasonsCincinnati.com

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10/05/18/11AMAt Music Hall – Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
CHRIS ROUNTREE, conductor; ADAM LARSEN, violin
The ABC  of 20th century American music: Adams – The Dharma at Big Sur; Barber – Essay No. 1, Op. 12; Copland – Suite from Billy, the Kid.
TKTS: 513 – 381 3300

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10/05/18/8PMAt CCM – CCM Philharmonia
MARK GIBSON, conductor
The CCM Philharmonia plays two rarities and a beloved Dvořák.  Elgar – In the South; Chausson – Poéme; Dvořák  – Symphony no. 8 in G Major, op. 88
TKTS: 513 – 556 4183

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10/6/18/NOONMET HD presentation- AIDA –Giuseppe Verdi with Ana Netrebko in the Italian Mount Everest of soprano roles. Good cast around her, but she is the main reason to go see this tired old production.
TKTS: http://www.info@meetmeattheopera.com

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10/12/18/5:30 PM – At the Mercantile Library
Cincinnati Sound Box gives a concert of contemporary music by Mark LaMont, Rodrigo Navarro, Steven Weimer and Ivonne Paredes with Om Srivastava, saxophone; Daniel Harrison, electric guitar; Jacob Dike, percussion; and Laura Harrison, piano.
TKTS: http://www.cincinnatisoundbox.org

MIRIAM K. SMITH

10/14/18/2:00 PM – At Peterloon Estate in Indian Hill
Music for All Seasons opens its 2018-2019 season with an all-French and Spanish concert of instrumental music by Eric Satie, Gabriel Fauré, Camille Saint-Saëns, Maurice Ravel, Marcel Grandjanny, and Joaquin Rodrigo, with Yaoyue Huang, piano; Scott Sherman, piano; James Meade, guitar; Joe Rebman, harp; Miriam Smith, cello; and Kimberly Daniel de Acha, narrator.
TKTS: http://www.musicseasonsCincinnati.com

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10/15/18/7:30 PM –At Loveland’s Congregation Beth Adam
Linton Music Artistic Directors Sharon Robinson and Jaime Laredo join Cathy Meng Robinson, Hsin-Yun Huang, Misha Amory, and Keith Robinson to perform Arnold Schoenberg’s Transfigured Night and Schubert’s String Quintet.
TKTS: http://www.Lintonmusic.org

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10/20/18/12:30 PM – Camille Saint-Saëns’ opera Samson and Delilah, on a MET HD presentation with mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanča in the role of the fatal lady barber who gives hairy Samson (Tenor Roberto Alagna) a bad haircut.
TKS: 917.579.1241 / info@meetmeattheopera.com

10/19/18 THROUGH 10/27/18 on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM and on Sunday at a 1 PM and 7 PM – At CCM – Frank Loesser’s classic Broadway musical GUYS AND DOLLS
TKTS: 513 – 556 4183

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10/20/18/8:00 PM – At CCM
Guys and Dolls (THE MUSICAL) followed by The Saints and Sinners Bash – A benefit event to support the hopes and dreams of CCM students through student travel funds and scholarships.
TKTS: 513 556 2100

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10/21/18/5:00 PM – At Christ Church Cathedral – In its sixth season, Christopher Eanes’ Collegium Cincinnati celebrates the installation of the new C.B. Fisk organ with a special inaugural concert with 17th century music by Giacomo Carissimi, Francesco Foggia, Girolamo Frescobaldi, and Virgilio Mazzocchi performed by the Collegium’s singers and instrumentalists.
TKTS 513 428-2224

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10/23/18/7:30 PM – At the Aronoff’s Jarson-Kaplan Theater – In the second concert of its season, Chamber Music Cincinnati brings us the sassy and brassy Imani Winds to play music by Jeff Scott, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Astor Piazzolla, György Ligeti, Reena Esmail and Valerie Coleman. TKTS: 513 621-2787

1600x685_fanciulla10/27/18/12:30 PMMET HD presentation. Giacomo Pucini’s opera The Girl of the Golden West. Eva-Maria Westbroek sings Puccini’s gun-slinging heroine with the we-hope-he-does-not-cancel-again return of tenor Jonas Kaufmann in the role of the outlaw she loves. TKTS: 917.579.1241 / info@meetmeattheopera.com

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10/27/18/4:00 PM AND 10/28/18/4:00 PM – At Knox Presbyterian Church
Johann Sebastian Bach’s SAINT JOHN PASSION With the CCM Concert Orchestra conducted by Earl Rivers, staged by Audrey Chait, featuring the superb tenor Daniel Weeks in the role of the Evangelist.
TKTS: 513 556 2100

Rafael de Acha

 

WHERE TO NEXT?

untitledCincinnati’s music season has begun and it will soon reach full speed ahead. In my calendar I have five must-see events between now and the end of the month, and nine more in the-can’t-wait-list spaced out through October. Let me share them with you.

9/22/18/7:30 pm – Alma de España – Cincinnati Song Initiative opens its 2018-2019 line up with an all-Spanish concert with soprano Jessica Rivera, mezzo-soprano Paulina Villareal, and guitarist Bill Willits bringing to the Queen City the music of Mompou, Rodrigo, Lorca and other Iberians at the Willis Music Steinway Gallery. TKTS: $35 includes a champagne reception after the concert.

9/23/18/5:00 pm – Immaculata Concerts at Immaculata Church in Mt. Adams (free parking at the church just in case you wondered!) opens its 2018-2019 series with string players Christina Nam, Holly Nelson, Kanako Shimasaki, Judy Huang, Hojoon Choi, and Jonathan Lee playing a concert of music by Haydn (Quartet in G Major, Op. 77, No. 1) and Schubert – his String Quintet. FREE.

9/24/18/8:00 pm – At Werner Hall in CCM. Daniel Weeks, tenor and Donna Loewy, piano celebrate the Art of Song in a rare and not-to-be-missed offering of Spanish canciones, Lieder by Liszt, and American songs by Tom Cipullo. FREE.

9/27/18/5:00 pm – At Werner Hall in CCM. Two brilliant young pianists in a recital of music for piano-four hands. Make note of these names: Yaoyue Hueng and Scott Sherman. You’ll be buying tickets to their concerts in the near future. This time it’s FREE.

9/30/18/3:00 pm – At Memorial Hall. Matinee Musicale kicks off its 106th season with the Cincinnati debut of the Akropolis Reed Quintet. TKTS: Memorial Hall Box Office.

A PREVIEW OF THE 2018-2019 SEASON

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The Brentano Quartet returns to Cincinnati to open the 2018-2019 Season of Chamber Music Cincinnati on Tuesday, September 25, at 7:30 pm at the Aronoff’s Jarson-Kaplan Theatre. Their program includes music by Purcell, Haydn, Carter, Lekeu, and as its centerpiece the Quartet No. 12 in D Flat Major, Op. 133 of Dmitri Shostakovich

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In the second concert of its season, Chamber Music Cincinnati brings to town the Imani Winds to play music by Jeff Scott, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Astor Piazzolla, György Ligeti, Reena Esmail and Valerie Coleman. On Tuesday, October 23, at 7:30 pm at the Aronoff’s Jarson-Kaplan Theatre

Tickets for both these concerts are available through the Cincinnati Arts (513) 621-2787 / ticketing@cincinnatiarts.org
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In its sixth season, Christopher Eanes’ Collegium Cincinnati sets out to celebrate the installation of the new C.B. Fisk organ in Christ Cathedral with a special inaugural concert slated for Sunday, October 21 at 5:00 pm. The music will replicate that of a 17th century Roman vespers service in which some of the works of Giacomo Carissimi, Francesco Foggia, Girolamo Frescobaldi, and Virgilio Mazzocchi will be performed by the Collegium’s singers and instrumentalists.

Later on in the Collegium’s season , a multi-year exploration of three monumental masterpieces begins with a performance of Bach’s Mass in B Minor.

Elsewhere in their 2018-2019 line-up, Soprano Alexandra Schoeny and pianist Marie-France Lefevbre will give a song recital with music by Jonathan Dove, Libby Larsen, and Samuel Barber. And, as traditional with the Collegium, there will be a performance of Handel’s Messiah in December.

But before all that happens, the good people at the Collegium invite you to spend a special afternoon on September 30th at 4 pm at the Weston Art Gallery in the Aronoff Center for the Arts, with countertenor Michael Maniaci and oboist Mark Ostoich, performing music from the Baroque and beyond, while guests sip a cocktail.

Tickets for this event and all others are available through the Collegium’s website: http://www.collegiumcincinnati.org

For box office and group sales questions, please call (513) 428-BACH (2224).
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For the 2018-2019, 40th Anniversary season of Linton Music, Artistic Directors Sharon Robinson and Jaime Laredo join Cathy Meng Robinson, Hsin-Yun Huang, Misha Amory, and Keith Robinson on October 14 And 15 to perform Arnold Schoenberg’s Transfigured Night and Schubert’s String Quintet.

Later on their season includes CSO Friends & Anna Polonsky on November 11 & 12, 2018, playing music by Poulenc, Mozart, and Dvořák.

On December 2, Yefim Bronfman performs with the New York Philharmonic String Quartet playing Schumann’s Piano Quintet and string quartets by Haydn and Shostakovich.

January 20 & 21, 2019 signals the return of André Watts to the Linton stage. Watts will join Sharon Robinson, Jaime Laredo, Bella Hristova and Nokuthula Ngwenyama playing Cesar Franck’s Piano Quintet.

On March 17th, 2019, violinist Augustin Hadelich and pianist Ran Dank will perform works by Brahms, Janáček, and Franck.

On April 7 and 8, 2018 Ani Kavafian joins members of Opus One to perform Amy Beach’s Piano Quintet.

The Linton season closes on My 5 and 6, 2019 with pianist Daniil Trifonov performing his own Piano Quintet with the Ariel Quartet.

For further information and tickets call 513 381 6868 and visit http://www.LintonMusic.org

Impermanence deserving of permanence

thISW2TE0LGive us a haven upon judgment day, plead the pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela in a 12th chant that opens the stunning Sono Luminus double CD Impermanence. It features the Lorelei Ensemble, a group of nine women under the leadership of Beth Willer singing a wide ranging repertoire unified by the themes of migration and movement.

Sarah Brailey, Margot Rood, Sonja Tengblad, Christina English, Claire McNamara, Sophie Michaux, Stephanie Kacoyanis, and Emily Marvosh, led by Beth Willer take the listener on a musical journey that spans the centuries and thousands of miles that separate us from the chant of the 15th Flemish composer Guillaume Du Fay and the Japan of Toru Takemitsu, the plainchants of the late Middle Ages and brings us closer to the contemporary sounds of Peter Gilbert.

The Lorelei Ensemble’s way with all of this music is a thing of wonder. Whether imploring the Divinity for salvation, singing the praises of the Apostles, extolling the healing powers of the Virgin, or lauding the earthly and heavenly powers of St. Anthony of Padua, the Lorelei Ensemble sings in clear, idiomatic Medieval Latin and flawless Middle French. The ensemble members sustain throughout a limpid tone even as the sopranos reach the area above the treble staff with utter comfort and seeming abandon. The mezzo-sopranos and contraltos of the ensemble anchor the music with a velvety sound, providing a solid foundation for the melismatic writing that abounds in much of this music.

Uttering poetic metaphors in the classic Japanese of Saiyo Hoshi, Fujiwara no Tadamichi, and several other ancient poets, and set to music by Toru Takemitsu and Peter Gilbert, the chameleonic group adjusts its sound, making it edgier, adding more vibrato now and then, while navigating all along much of the tonally vague yet hauntingly compelling music.

The scholarly program notes, the accompanying translations, the classy packaging, and the impeccable engineering by Dan Merceruio make Impermanence deserving of permanence in the library of any collector interested in vocal music off the beaten path.

Rafael de Acha

Music for All Seasons: 2018-2019

 

Our opening concert of our Season 2018-2019 is on Sunday October 14th at 2 pm at Historic Peterloon, 8605 Hopewell Road in Indian Hill.

You will be introduced to the talents of four musical artists whose names may not yet be familiar to you: Yaoyue Huang (piano), Joseph Rebman (harp), Scott Sherman (piano) and Miriam Smith (cello) and again enjoy the return of James Meade (guitar). We will also present the 2018 Outstanding Young Artist Award to Hayden Smith, baritone, and our Co-founding Artistic Director Kimberly Daniel de Acha will narrate the event.

We have assembled a program of French, Spanish and American music by Maurice Ravel, Eric Satie, Marcel Grandjany, Camille Saint-Saëns, Gabriel Fauré, Joaquin Rodrigo and Leonard Bernstein that will delight you. As traditional with us, the concert will be followed by an informal get-together with the artists, with coffee, tea and pastries.

Please confirm your attendance at musicseasons@zoomtown.com and if by chance you are not a four-seat flexpass holder or have not renewed yours yet, please do so by sending us a check ($120) to PO Box 43172, Cincinnati, OH 45243 and take advantage of the 15% discount over the single seat prices ($35).

You might also like to know that we are offering a complimentary ticket to our flexpass holders to bring a guest to our December 9 Holiday Reception, Silent Auction and Concert.

We look forward to welcoming you at Peterloon.

Rafael de Acha and Kimberly Daniel de Acha, Artistic Directors
http://www.MusicSeasonsCincinnati.com

Memory Eternal

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Before receiving the NAXOS recording of Alexander Kastalsky’s 1917 choral composition Vechnaya Pamiat Geroyam (Memory Eternal) I had never heard the name of this composer nor had I had many opportunities to listen to any Russian Orthodox Liturgical music. Now, thanks to the exquisite work of The Clarion Choir, led by its conductor Steven Fox I have instantly become a convert not to the Eastern Orthodox Faith itself but to its mesmerizingly beautiful music.

Alexander Kastalsky wrote the music comprised in tracks 1 through 11 of this CD as a posthumous homage to the more than 16 million military and civilian fallen during the terrible years of what then came to be termed “The war to end all wars.” Kastalsky got the Soviets to allow this music to be performed in a memorial concert in Petrograd not long after the end of the war. His intention in renaming the streamlined version of his original was to avoid possible objections from both the Orthodox and Communist Party Hierarchies. He combined chorus and organ in an unusual pairing and Bratskoye Pominoveniye (The Fraternal Commemoration) went off without a hitch.

But the composer wanted to return to his original setting of these religious texts and thus he reworked his composition by doing away with the organ, an instrument never heard in the Orthodox Church. Using a refined compositional technique he had acquired as a student of Tchaikovsky, Kastalsky deftly juxtaposed the chanting of a Deacon – Bass Leonid Roschko in this recording – to choral polyphony – The Clarion Choir here – to create a hauntingly beautiful musical tapestry.

The choir is astounding. Inky-voiced basses anchor the fluctuating harmonies pitted against a ringing lyrical tenor section. A sterling fifteen-strong alto and soprano grouping capable of comfortably switching from vibrato-less hushed singing to throbbing outbursts in the upper range collectively delivers a cohesive sound in flawlessly pronounced Slavonic.

Three choral works augment this priceless collection recorded in New York in 2018, impeccably produced and engineered by Martha de Francisco and enhanced with liner notes by Vladimir Morossan. Steven Fox is the music director of The Clarion Choir, as well as The Clarion Orchestra and the Cathedral Choral Society of the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. Heartfelt thanks go to him for his enterprising leadership and to Naxos Records for continued contributions from obscure though rich pockets of the classical music canon.

The choral/orchestral version given in 1917 was not the final version of Vechnaya Pamiat Geroyam. The Clarion Choir, in collaboration with D.C.’s Cathedral Choir Society and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s led by Leonard Slatkin will give the World Premiere of the choral/orchestral version in D.C. on Sunday, October 21 at the National Cathedral.

Rafael de Acha

Stewart Goodyear tackles the Complete Beethoven Piano Sonatas

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Stewart Goodyear tackles the Complete Beethoven Piano Sonatas

Hans von Bülow famously called the Piano Sonatas of Beethoven The New Testament. Few pianists have conquered this Mount Everest of piano music. Fewer yet have recorded all 32 of them. Others have even attempted to play all 32 over the course of a few days – even a few hours, turning the whole affair into an endurance test for both player and public.

Like the finest of wines, these works must be enjoyed slowly – ideally over several listening sessions. The extraordinarily gifted Canadian pianist Stewart Goodyear, equal to the task of taking on all of these works has just released a ten-CD collection of three sonatas per disc, except for a couple into which he and his producer manage to fit as many as five onto a single CD.

Having previously reviewed his work and heard him in person, I can vouch for Goodyear’s total devotion to the task before him anywhere at any time. Here he sails into Beethoven’s 1795 Sonatas Nos. 1, 2 and 3 all from the early opus 2 with the freshness of a curious young man discovering a new music world.

More like Mozart than Mozart in their inventiveness, more Haydn-like than Haydn in their elegance, yet utterly Beethovenian in their capricious changes of mood, dynamics and tempi these are seemingly simple sonatas that nonetheless demand of their interpreter assuredness and clarity, which Goodyear abundantly provides.

The tempo of the opening Allegro con brio of the C Major Sonata number 3, for example is taken at such a speed than at its onset one wonders if it will be much too fast to allow for a clean execution of the cascading scales at its halfway point. But Goodyear neither plays it safe nor is he ever reckless for the sake of showing his titanic technique, and so he sails triumphantly through the perilous moments that Beethoven sets up for his pianist.

And so it goes, through each and every movement of the three sonatas that comprise the opus number 2 from the year 1795, a happy and productive one for the young Beethoven. Even the second movements of each of the three works, all marked Adagio are expressive, at times melancholy, but never do they approach the depths of profound sadness present in the works from the year 1799 onwards, at which time the still young composer was beginning to experience the first symptoms of the deafness that plagued him for the remainder of his life.

The ten-CD collection, simply titled Beethoven/Stewart Goodyear – The Complete Piano Sonatas is available from Marquis Recordings (www.MarquisClassics.com) and nicely packaged and engineered. Yet another plus are the insightful and at times irreverently humorous liner notes by Goodyear himself.

I will endeavor to leisurely listen to the remaining 29 sonatas included in this set and make further comments in upcoming posts. For now I simply say that I am thrilled to have this collector’s treasure in my CD library.

Rafael de Acha

Yalil Guerra’s Works for String Orchestra

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Back In July I posted some thoughts about the music of my compatriot Yalil Guerra, whom I had come to know in a roundabout way through both You Tube and Facebook.

After being in touch, Yalil sent us a couple of CD’s – one of which features the soundtrack of the PBS travelogue “A Weekend in Havana.”

About that CD, here are two brief comments echoing my words of a month ago, when I listened to several excerpts from it by way of You Tube: “some red hot music from his pen…” and “the deeply melancholy sound of another one of those Caribbean islanders who can’t quite get homesickness out of his heart.”

The title of the other album sent to us by Guerra is Guerra Works for String Orchestra, and the titles of its seven tracks hint at the deeply romantic undercurrent that runs just beneath the surface of this young composer’s music.

In El Retrato de la Paloma (‘The Portrait of the Dove’), an eighteen minute tone poem, the journey of the title’s dove is given alternatively sweeping, playful, ecstatic, elegiac and brisk music that depicts the journey from birth to flight to first love and to escape of a beloved symbolized by the winged creature of the title.

This poetically-driven work is set to music rooted in melody which in turn is supported by lush harmonies, engaging the listener yet never lapsing into sentimentality. Our composer now and then spikes up the musical narrative with moments of dissonance. He also gives the strings markings of sforzando on their lower range, perhaps to tonally depict the sharp obstacles a new life encounters in its various stages, and in so doing adding a dose of acidity to the mix.

The composition Guerra titles A la Antigua (‘In Olden Fashion’) is redolent with nostalgia; its elegant principal melodic theme, with its languid rhythm and minor key is evocative of a colonial Cuba of long ago where Creole composer-pianists held court in the salons of the Spanish aristocracy. But Guerra intertwines the seemingly placid surface of this music with momentary interruptions of dissonance, as if to remind the listener that this idyll would soon end.

Terra Ignota (‘Unknown Land’) is a substantial piece, clocking-in at almost nineteen minutes, replete with glissandi, pizzicato, and sul ponticello instances, along with sharp attacks for the upper strings in their highest register that pit them against the underpinning of the cellos and the single bass. It is music that inhabits a region where tonality is uncertain, motifs brief, and melody is buried in snippets that appear and disappear in an unpredictable sonic landscape where massive tonal clusters threaten the harmonic stability.

Old Havana bears no Spanish language title, perhaps as if to describe that other Havana of decades ago, one not altogether Cuban… a Havana that no longer exists. The briefest of the four compositions in this CD, Guerra’s closer for his album, is intensely emotional and eons away from the clichéd perception of Cuban music as an ever happy parade of hip-swaying rhythms.

Playing this music with awesome technique and intense musicality, the Ensamble Solistas de la Habana led by its committed conductor Ivan Valiente does more than well by the composer, delivering in a performance recorded live a flawless accumulation of artistic results.

Recorded mostly in the acoustically welcoming auditorium of the National Library of Cuba, and later mixed and mastered in California, under the supervision of the composer, this CD is available for download through most digital platforms. For further information go to info@rycy.com

Rafael de Acha