“Collectively, they are the only classical guitar quartet of real stature in the world today; in fact, they virtually invented the format.”—The New York Times

The Royal Family of the Guitar returns to 92Y bringing a program celebrating one of Europe’s most culturally vibrant regions—Andalucia, the southern part of Spain. Especially famous for the flamenco, its music is an intriguing mix of Western and Arabic traditions. This concert spans more than two centuries, from the Classical era to works written by Celedonio Romero, the founder of the ensemble, and his son Pepe, the current leader of the clan.

Join us for a free pre-concert talk at 7 pm with your ticket, with Benjamin Verdery, artistic director of 92Y’s Art of the Guitar series and chair of Yale’s guitar department.

Exclusive New York engagement
The Romeros
      Pepe Romero, guitar
      Celin Romero, guitar
      Lito Romero, guitar
      Celino Romero, guitar


¡Viva Andalucía!

LORENTE: Preludio from La Revoltosa (arr. Lorenzo Palomo)
CELEDONIO ROMERO: Los Maestros
TURINA: Fantasia Sevillana, Op. 28
RODRIGO: Tonadilla for Two Guitars
BOCCHERINI: Selections from Guitar Quintet No. 4 in D major, G. 448, Fandango (arr. P. Romero)
      Introduction
      Fandango
DE FALLA: Miller’s Dance from The Three-Cornered Hat (arr. P. Romero)
DE FALLA: Danza española No. 1 from La vida breve (arr. P. Romero)
CELEDONIO ROMERO: Dance No.1
CELEDONIO ROMERO: Fantasía cubana
VILLA-LOBOS: From Preludes for Guitar, Nos. 1 and 3
GRANADOS: Intermezzo from Goyescas, Op. 11
P. ROMERO: Selections from Suite flamenca:
      En el Sacromonte
      Colombianas
GIMÉNEZ: La boda de Luis Alonso (arr. Torroba/Romero)

Program subject to change

 

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Art of the Guitar and the 92nd Street Y Guitar Institute are supported by The Leir Charitable Foundations in memory of Henry J. and Erna D. Leir; The Augustine Foundation; and The D’Addario Music Foundation.

Explore the Music

(Click the names below to expand info.)

An Introduction, by John Henken

It may be hard to articulate a precise and concise definition of Spanish music, but to paraphrase Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart on obscenity, we know it when we hear it. Many Spanish musicians, of course, resisted—and resented—the siren song of cultural archetypes, but this program is all about the affirmative embrace of cross-cultural signifiers and vernacular elements, particularly flamenco, itself a hybrid.

Take zarzuela for example. Always an almost defiantly idiosyncratic form of music theater, in the 19th century it was avowedly nationalistic and populist, in explicit contrast to the Italian opera favored by the aristocracy and upper classes. The género chico sub-genre of one-act works that dominated Spanish theaters in the last quarter of the 19th century zestfully explored and appropriated everything from rural village customs to urban slice-of-life street scenes, of which La Revoltosa (composed in 1897) is a fine example.

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CHAPÍ: Preludio from La Revoltosa (arr. Lorenzo Palomo)

Ruperto Chapí y Lorente (born in Villena, March 27, 1851; died in Madrid, March 25, 1909) had considerable success with a string of three-act zarzuelas grandes in the 1880s and was cultivating the string quartet at the end of his life, but he remains best-known for his género chico hits. La Revoltosa is a sort of low-life Madrid Much Ado About Nothing, centered on a bickering couple who are finally brought together by the machinations of their friends and neighbors. In typical fashion, its vigorous Preludio (5 minutes) is based on the main themes to come.

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CELEDONIO ROMERO: Los Maestros / Dance No.1 / Fantasía Cubana

Flamenco was always a prime inspiration for Celedonio Romero (born in Cienfuegos, Cuba, March 2, 1913; died in San Diego, May 8, 1996). He was born in Cuba while his Spanish parents were on a business trip to the island. He studied in Madrid and built a successful solo career, but Franco refused to let him tour abroad, so in 1957 he secretly emigrated with his family in 1957 and settled in San Diego. One year later he launched a new guitar quartet with his three sons.

Composed in 1986, Los Maestros (5 minutes) is an homage to his sons—“tres canciones para tres principales,” as it is subtitled. All of his music is imbued with that castizo spirit of stylistic authenticity that is so crucial to composers working in traditional Spanish forms, and the three flamenco-infused pieces of Los Maestros express it fully. The brooding, cante jondo-inspired Copla (a type of popular ballad or a couplet from one) is for Ángel; La rueda (the wheel or circle), with its muted colors and purposeful contrasts, is for Celin; and the vivid, extroverted Baile (dance) is for Pepe.

In Dance No. 1 and the Fantasía Cubana (4 minutes)—a variant of the Fantasía from his early Suite Andaluza, based on the traditional guajira genre—characteristic technical brilliance is married to ebullient rhythmic verve and ingratiating tunefulness.

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TURINA: Fantasia Sevillana, Op. 28

Joaquín Turina (born in Seville, December 9, 1882; died in Madrid, January 14, 1949) made his debut as a pianist when he was 14, followed by further study in Madrid and Paris, and a close friendship with Manuel de Falla. His home town remained his strongest musical influence, however, referenced in the titles of many of his works. His Fantasia Sevillana, Op. 28 (composed in 1923, 6 minutes) is a darkly powerful flamenco fantasia, an evocative and virtuosic reinterpretation of the traditional Andalusian gypsy genre.

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RODRIGO: Tonadilla for Two Guitars

Joaquín Rodrigo (born in Sagunto, November 22, 1901; died in Madrid, July 6, 1999) was a composer closely associated with the Romeros, writing for them his Concierto andaluz (for four guitars and orchestra) in 1967 and Concierto madrigal (for two guitars and orchestra) the following year. The highly virtuosic Tonadilla for Two Guitars (13 minutes), composed for Ida Presti and Alexandre Lagoya in 1959, reveals Rodrigo’s characteristic interest in refreshing Spanish traditions—here the tonadilla, a short, satiric and thoroughly vernacular theater entr’acte—and his use of pungent dissonance in generally tonal contexts. Sometimes the dissonance is an acerbic intensifier, as in the hot-tempered opening movement; in other places, such as the rondo-like finale, it adds a mocking, comic zest. The middle movement quotes, “pomposo,” Luigi Boccherini, the great Italian cellist and composer who was so important to the musical life of Madrid during the last decades of the 18th century.

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BOCCHERINI: Introduction and Fandango from Quintet for Guitar and Strings No. 4 in D major, G. 448, Fandango (arr. Pepe Romero)

Luigi Boccherini (born in Lucca, February 19, 1743; died in Madrid, May 28, 1805) had an almost proto-Paganini career as a touring cellist, dazzling aristocratic audiences in Paris particularly. He subsequently moved to Madrid, and spent the rest of his life in Spain, where he absorbed national and local idioms, composing zarzuelas and pioneering quintet writing: string quintets, piano quintets and six quintets for guitar and strings.

It was the Marqués de Benavente, a devoted amateur guitarist, who commissioned those guitar quintets, which the composer adapted in 1798 from some of his earlier quintets. They were not published during Boccherini’s life, and the original manuscript does not survive, leaving a tangled provenance descending from a manuscript copy made by the guitarist François de Fossa about 15 years after the composer had died.

The Introduction and Fandango (composed in 1798; 6 minutes) are the oft-arranged closing movements of Boccherini’s Quintet for Guitar and Strings No. 4 in D major, G. 448, Fandango. The Introduction is a delicate Grave assai, a sort of prolonged inhalation before the fiery dash of the famous Fandango finale in the tonic minor, full of the folkloric swagger that Boccherini sometimes disavowed privately. It offers plenty of opportunities for improvised embellishment and special instrumental effects (castanets are often added), and a Vivaldian degree of rhythmic insistence.

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FALLA: Miller’s Dance from The Three-Cornered Hat (arr. P. Romero) / Danza Eespañola No. 1 from La vida breve (arr. P. Romero)

Manuel de Falla (born in Cádiz, November 23, 1876; died in Alta Gracia, Argentina, November 14, 1946) developed a love of the theater from an early age, and he stuck with it as a young composer, despite the fact that only one of the six zarzuelas he wrote in the first years of the 20th century ever saw the stage, and that only briefly. He also internalized flamenco influences thoroughly, distilling them and other Spanish traditions with rare unsentimental power in almost all of his music.

This is quite apparent in these dances. After Falla’s sixth attempt at a hit zarzuela went nowhere, he pushed the genre boundaries a bit with the lyric drama La vida breve (composed in 1904–1905; revised in 1913), a loving depiction of Granada in a brutal tale of betrayed gypsy love—and saw it languish for almost a decade before finally being produced… in Nice, in a French translation. The restless Danza Española No. 1 (4 minutes) comes from the beginning of the second act, where a wedding party is in progress.

The ballet El sombrero de tres picos (The Three-Cornered Hat) (composed in 1919) was Falla’s greatest theater success, written for Serge Diaghilev and his Ballets Russes, with sets and costumes by Pablo Picasso. The central narrative follows the traditional characters of a jealous miller, his beautiful young wife and a lecherous corregidor (the local magistrate, whose position is symbolized by his three-cornered hat). The oafish but persistent corregidor is thwarted at every turn, mistakenly arrested by his own constables, and suffers the peasant justice of being tossed with a blanket in a finale of general merriment. Leonid Massine choreographed the ballet and danced the part of the miller, whose solo dance (3 minutes) is a dark and fiery flamenco farruca, the earthiest dance in the ballet.

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VILLA-LOBOS: Selections from Preludes for Guitar

The Brazilian Heitor Villa-Lobos (born in Rio de Janeiro, March 5, 1887; died there, November 17, 1959) is the obvious exception to the Spanish order of the day here, but his thorough assimilation of national and vernacular styles makes him a natural fit on this program. He met Andrés Segovia while living in Paris in the 1920s and composed 12 Etudes for the guitarist in 1929. His Five Preludes, though written for Segovia in 1940, were dedicated to Mindinha—i.e. Arminda, the composer’s second wife. The Prelude No. 1 (5 minutes) is an A-B-A form, with haunted lyricism surrounding a vivacious little dance. Although perhaps the most rhapsodic of the five, the Prelude No. 3 (5 minutes) is also one of Villa-Lobos’ many tributes to J. S. Bach, a toccata-style piece in two contrasting sections.

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GRANADOS: Intermezzo from Goyescas, Op. 11

Enrique Granados (born in Lérida, July 27, 1867; died in the English Channel, March 24, 1916) originally composed his Goyescas, Op. 11 as a suite of solo piano pieces in 1911, inspired by Francisco Goya’s early paintings. It proved very popular, and Granados was urged to put the tunes to further use, which he did, creating an opera (1915) in three tableaus with them. The elegantly floating Intermezzo (5 minutes), popular in a wide range of arrangements, is as stylized and idealized as Goya’s paintings. “I am enamored with the psychology of Goya, with his palette, with him, with his muse the Duchess of Alba, with his quarrels with his models, his loves and flatteries,” Granados wrote.

That obsession led indirectly to Granados’ death. In 1916 he was in New York City for the premiere of Goyescas at the Metropolitan Opera. Granados’ stay in the US was an artistic triumph and prolonged by an invitation by President Woodrow Wilson to perform at the White House. This caused him to miss a planned ship that would have taken him and his wife directly to Spain. Instead they took a later ship to England, and after staying in London a few days with the Catalan sculptor Ismael Smith, they boarded a ship for France. It was torpedoed in the English Channel, and both Granados and his wife were drowned, with conflicting stories about who leaped into the water to save whom.

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PEPE ROMERO: Selections from Suite flamenca

Romero repertory has always drawn generously from the deep wells of Spanish music, not least the many forms and flavors of flamenco. And in this, Pepe Romero (born in Málaga, March 8, 1944) is indeed his father Celedonio’s son. “My father was the greatest guitarist known to me,” Pepe wrote, “for everything that I personally am is only an offspring of that magnificent tree of music that he was.”

Pepe Romero has recorded several albums of flamenco, and in addition to his solo work, he created a flamenco-based suite for the family ensemble. “En el Sacromonte” returns us to the Granada of La vida breve and its gypsy quarter; the colombiana is a lighter flamenco form, a transatlantic adaptation similar to the tango.

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GIMÉNEZ: Intermezzo from La boda de Luis Alonso (arr. Torroba/Romero)

Probably the most popular of all instrumental zarzuela excerpts is the zesty Intermezzo (6 minutes) from Gerónimo Giménez’ La boda de Luis Alonso (composed in 1897), a medley of several traditional dances composed in the same year as Chapí’s La Revoltosa. (One of the themes is a seguidilla that Falla also used in El sombrero de tres picos.) Also an esteemed conductor, as a composer Giménez (born in Seville, October 10, 1854; died in Madrid, February 19, 1923) specialized in the género chico, including El baile de Luis Alonso and its prequel, La boda de Luis Alonso. The title character was a historical dancing master from Cádiz, where both of these works take place. Their token plots are simply vehicles for lots of dancing.

© 2014, John Henken

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Artist Bio

The Romeros

More than half a century after entering the world stage as the first classical guitar quartet, The Romeros continue to be a veritable institution in the world of classical music, dazzling countless audiences and winning the raves of critics worldwide. Known to millions as “The Royal Family of the Guitar,” the Romeros were founded by Celedonio Romero with his sons Celin, Pepe and Ángel in 1958. The Quartet went through natural transformations and today consists of Celedonio’s sons Celin and Pepe and a third generation: Celin’s son Celino and Ángel’s son Lito.

Celebrating their 55th anniversary and the 70th birthday of the group’s current leader Pepe, The Romeros are touring Asia, Europe, South America and the US. They are also presenting special concerts and festivals in memory of the 100th anniversary of patriarch Celedonio Romero, including a performance in their birth city of Málaga, Spain.

As the world’s reigning classical guitar quartet, The Romeros have performed with the leading orchestras of cities ranging from Boston to Shanghai, and they have given recitals in such renowned venues as Carnegie Hall, Vienna’s Konzerthaus, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, Madrid’s Auditorio Nacional de Música and the Beijing Concert Hall. The Romeros have performed at the White House on multiple occasions and at the Vatican for Pope John Paul II. In 2000, His Royal Majesty King Juan Carlos I of Spain knighted Celin, Pepe and Angel into the Order of “Isabel la Católica.”

At 92Y The Romeros have appeared on the Art of the Guitar series, participated in the 2006 Guitar Marathon: 450 Years of the Spanish Guitar and performed for the 2009 New Year’s Eve Concert. In addition, Pepe Romero has given several solo recitals here, most recently in March 2012.

The Romeros have built an enviable discography. A recent project with Deutsche Grammophon was Christmas with Los Romeros, a much-anticipated disc of holiday favorites from around the world, released in 2012. Other recent recordings include a recital CD by Sony Red Seal label entitled Los Romeros: Celebration and a retrospective collection from Decca, Los Romeros: Golden Jubilee Celebration. Among its many honors, The Romeros received the President’s Merit Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, producer of the Grammy Awards. Perhaps The Romeros’ most lasting legacy is the creation of an entirely new repertoire for guitar quartet. The ensemble has inspired distinguished composers like Joaquín Rodrigo, Federico Moreno Torroba and Morton Gould either to write new works or arrange existing ones. Its website is romeroguitarquartet.com.

The Romeros: from left, Celino, Pepe, Celin, Lito. Photo: Marvin Sloben.

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  • The Romeros

    Date: Sat, Nov 22, 2014, 8 pm

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    Venue: Kaufmann Concert Hall

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