Explore The Music
(Click the names below to expand info.)
By William Kanengiser
LAGQ’s recital celebrates the rich musical interaction of the Americas; beginning with a brief visit to Africa (the source of many Latin rhythms), they traverse the music of Venezuela, Mexico, Brazil, Chile and especially, Cuba. Sometimes seen through the filter of North America sensibilities, sometimes directly from the source, these explorations highlight the inherently guitaristic nature of Latin and American music.
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KANENGISER: Mbira and YORK: Djembe
Born Orange, NJ, July 22, 1959
Composed in 1997, 3 minutes
Born Atlanta, GA, July 31, 1958
Composed in 1997, 4 minutes
These two original compositions, often referred to as part of “African Suite,” represent LAGQ’s early excursions into world-music adaptations for guitar quartet. Created for their first recording on Sony Classical in 1998, these pieces helped to define their sound as a distinct cross-over voice in the classical music world.
The first piece is Mbira, William Kanengiser’s first original composition. Named for a type of African “thumb-piano,” a larger cousin of the kalimba, Mbira is based on a Zimbabwe groove pattern, using overlapping divisions of triple meter. It imitates the ideophonic rattle of the mbira through the use of staples lightly attached to the treble strings.
Andrew York’s Djembe is also named for a traditional African instrument, in this case a large resonating drum. Beginning with percussion effects in imitation of the djembe, the work passes chords across the group to evoke a virtual echo-machine. A variety of permutations of rhythmic divisions of the 12/8 feel are explored, and a brief quote from Mbira precedes the return of the opening echo-like material.
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Born Ciudad Bolívar, Venezuela, February 5, 1955
Composed in 2006 for LAGQ; 7 minutes
In addition to his work as arranger and composer for guitar, Venezuelan composer Alfonso Montes has developed an active career as a performer in Europe and Latin America, especially with the Duo Montez-Kircher, based in Stuttgart, Germany. Written expressly for LAGQ, Llanura refers to the high plains of the Venezuelan mountain region. It captures the rhythmic and sonic spirit of traditional folk music of the area, specifically the resonant and polymetric textures used on the Venezuelan harp. Progressing through a sequence of sections in distinct key centers and rhythmic grooves, the piece retains throughout the infectious overlapping subdivisions typical of this style, reminiscent of the famous solo guitar piece Seis por Derecho by Venezuelan master Antonio Lauro.
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COPLAND: Two Mexican Pieces
Born Brooklyn, November 14, 1900; died Sleepy Hollow, NY, December 2, 1990
Two Mexican Pieces
Danza de Jalisco
Composed in 1959; 7 minutes
The son of immigrant parents, Aaron Copland lived to become the most celebrated of American composers. His popular reputation in the US is founded on his thoroughly American ballets, Billy the Kid, Rodeo and Appalachian Spring, while a great variety of other compositions won him an unassailable position in American concert life. In the course of his composing and conducting career, Copland made many visits to Central and South America; and, from El Salon Mexico of 1933-36 onwards, the rhythms and colors of the region have enlivened several of his shorter works.
The second and third of his Three Latin American Sketches were originally presented under the title Two Mexican Pieces, at the 1959 Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy. The first movement, Paisaje Mexicano (Mexican Landscape) features a wonderful mix of lyric and languid atmosphere. The second, Danza de Jalisco, is based on the son, a traditional dance form from Veracruz. Using the alternation of 6/8 and 3/4 meters which typifies much Spanish and Latin-American music, Copland’s own distinctive voice is evident in the use of open harmonies, broad textures and exotic percussion.
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Imagens do Brasil
In this set of “Images of Brazil,” LAGQ pays tribute to the rich sonorities and infectious rhythms of Brazil. Inspired by their collaboration in 2006-07 with the brilliant singer Luciana Souza, LAGQ recorded a CD dedicated to the music of Brazil for the Telarc label.
The five selections presented here begin with A Furiosa (composed in 1995; 5 minutes) by the prolific guitarist/ composer Paulo Bellinati (born Sao Paulo, October 12, 1950), which was written for LAGQ. Beginning with a mysterious introduction imitating natural sounds of the Amazonian jungle, it opens to a joyous version of the maxixe (an antecedent to the samba) and ends with a percussive interlude in imitation of the traditional batucada.
This is followed by a piece by one of the towering figures of Brazilian songwriting, Antonio Carlos Jobim (born Rio de Janeiro, January 25, 1927; died New York, December 8, 1994). His O Morro Não tem Vez (arr. M. Alves; composed in 1963; 4 minutes) tells of the hopelessness of the people living in the favelas of Rio, who can forget their troubles once a year at Carnaval.
Next is a tune by the idiosyncratic jazz musician Hermeto Pascoal (born Arapiraca, Brazil, June 22, 1936), sometimes referred to as the “Frank Zappa of Brazil”; his De Sábado pra Dominguinhos (arr. W. Kanengiser; composed in 1987; 4 minutes) is a fine example of the endless fount of tunes and surprising harmonic changes that characterize his music.
Heitor Villa-Lobos (born Rio de Janeiro, March 5, 1887; died Rio de Janeiro, November 17, 1959) is one of Brazil’s most celebrated classical composers and a favorite among guitarists. His A Lenda do Caboclo (The Legend of the Native) (arr. S. Assad; composed in 1920; 4 minutes) was originally written for piano, and it features a gently gliding melody interrupted by a bow to the French Impressionist school.
The set finishes with music of the iconic guitar virtuoso Baden Powell (born Varre-Sai, Brazil, August 6, 1937; died Rio de Janeiro, September 26, 2000), with his Samba Novo (arr. M. Tardelli; composed in 1979; 5 minutes). Written in part as a reaction against the wave of popularity of the gentler bossa novo style, his music is hard-driving and aggressive, with an extroverted melodic sense.
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MARTÍN: Hasta Alicia Baila
Born Havana, 1956
Hasta Alicia Baila
Composed in 1991; 7 minutes
Eduardo Martín is a prominent guitarist composer residing in Havana. About his piece he writes:
“Hasta Alicia Baila (Until Alicia Dances), originally for two guitars, and later adapted for guitar quartet, is based on the popular style of Cuban rumba called guaguancó. The typical guaguancó features a singer recounting a story, while the instrumentalists carry a rhythm with claves, tumbradores and the cajita china. There is frequent improvisation and ‘call & response,’ while dancers evoke the sensual movements of a fertility dance. To imitate the indigenous percussion instruments, percussion on the body of the guitar is employed in a variety of ways, while the chiming of a quinto is occasionally heard, freely intertwining with the soloist. The idea behind this work, aside from its popular rhythm and character, is something personal; the ‘Alicia’ was a cultured, refined neighbor of mine who strictly favored the most select classical music and not so much my folkloric guitar playing. One day, while these rhythms were bouncing around in my head, I thought: ‘I will write a guaguancó that, when she hears it, will even make Alicia feel like dancing!’”
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BROUWER: Paisaje Cubano con Lluvia
Born Havana, March 1, 1939
Paisaje Cubano con Lluvia (Cuban Landscape with Rain)
Composed in 1984; 7 minutes
Leo Brouwer has become recognized as one of the most innovative and creative guitar composers of our time. His Paisaje Cubano con Lluvia (Cuban Landscape with Rain) is a one of a number of works inspired by Cuban landscapes (others include Landscapes with Bells, with Rumba, and with Sadness). This piece is among his earliest works for guitar quartet, and it received its premiere recording by LAGQ in 1987.
This particularly evocative piece is a fine example of musical/environmental sensitivity in Brouwer’s writing. It features a rather remarkable portrayal of a rainstorm on a tropical island; starting gently, it builds as wind, rivulets of water, and finally a hailstorm pass, ultimately receding into the final drops falling off the jungle flora.
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CARLOS RAFAEL RIVERA
Born Washington, D.C., August 18, 1970
Yambé (New York premiere, 92Y co-commission)
Composed in 2012 for LAGQ; 8 minutes
Carlos Rafael Rivera, who spent his youth in locations as diverse as Washington, DC; Miami and Central America, naturally draws from a variety of musical sources, most prominently Afro-Cuban music. Since his graduation with a Master’s Degree in composition from the USC Thornton School of Music (where he met and became close friends with LAGQ), he has gone on to establish himself as an important new voice in contemporary American and Latin composition. He has received awards from BMI and ASCAP, and recent commissions include works for Chanticleer, the Miami Symphony and the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet.
Mr. Rivera, who describes himself as a "folkloric musical essayist," remarks: “Yambé” is an evocative celebration of many aspects of the Afro-Cuban tradition: from the Coro-Pregón (Call and Response) singing, to the varied guaguancó and batá rhythmic patterns, this piece attempts to bring the world of Afro-Cuban music to a broader classical audience, through the seductive sound of plucked and struck strings and wood.”
Yambé receives its premiere on February 8, the night before the 92Y performance, at the University of Vermont in Burlington, which has co-commissioned the work along with 92Y and Soka University in Alios Viejo, CA. The 92Y performance marks the work’s New York premiere.
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DUNNE: Cuba Libre
Born Boston, March 19, 1959
Cuba Libre (New York premiere)
Composed in 2012 for LAGQ; 7 minutes
Matt Dunne is professor of guitar and composition at the University of Texas in San Antonio, where he has found a special niche for creating a fusion between jazz, Latin and classical styles. He has been commissioned to write three previous works recorded by LAGQ. Cuba Libre is also receiving its world premiere in Vermont, and therefore it is receiving its New York premiere at this concert. It is, as the composer notes:
“a tribute to the resilience of the Cuban musical spirit. There are two extended sections loosely representative of conflict, with bits of African, Spanish and post-tonal musical sources interacting; sometimes peacefully, sometimes not so peacefully. Surrounding these sections is a simple salsa tune with a jazz bridge, showing that musical spirit survives political and social upheaval. As a guitarist/composer, it’s impossible to overstate the enormous contribution of Leo Brouwer to our instrument. Rather than fruitlessly try to avoid his influence, I decided to include Brouwer in my tribute by borrowing the rondo form from one of his most famous guitar compositions, El Decameron Negro.
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SALINAS: Two Chilean Pieces by Inti-Illimani
Born Lautaro, Chile, July 8, 1951
Two Chilean Pieces by Inti-Illimani (arr. S. Tennant)
La Fiesta de la Tirana (composed in 1981; 4 minutes)
Tarantella (composed in 1990; 3 minutes)
Horacio Salinas is the leader and main composer of the brilliant Chilean folk ensemble Inti-Illimani; in their frequent international tours, they have collaborated with guitarists such as John Williams and Paco Pena. LAGQ member Scott Tennant arranged two of the pieces from these collaborations for the Quartet’s first “world-music” recording on Sony Classical. La Fiesta de la Tirana is meant to portray a religious processional, in which pilgrims march up an Andean mountain pass carrying a statue of the Virgin Mary (La Tirana). The piece begins quietly, as if from a distance, and gradually gets closer and closer. Some of the traditional instruments imitated are the charango (a small guitar with an armadillo-shell body), caja (large drum) and sikus (pan-pipes), achieved by scraping the nail across the wound bass strings. Tarantella is Salinas’ take on the traditional 14th-century Neapolitan dance, said to imitate the spastic throes of a spider-bite, enhanced with his own distinctly South American twist.
© 2013 William Kanengiser
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Los Angeles Guitar Quartet
For three decades, the Grammy® Award-winning Los Angeles Guitar Quartet (LAGQ) has set the standard for expression and virtuosity among chamber ensembles. Its critically acclaimed transcriptions provide a fresh look at the music of the past, while its interpretations of works from the contemporary and world-music realms continually break new ground.
The LAGQ’s 2012-13 season opened with a residency at the California State University (CSU) SummerArts festival in Monterey Bay and a tour of Germany. In November, the Quartet made its first visit to Australia with orchestral performances in Sydney and Perth. This April, the Quartet will make its Oregon Symphony debut and will reprise SHIKI: Seasons of Japan for the LAGQ and Guitar Orchestra by Shingo Fujii at SUNY– Potsdam. The work was premiered last March in commemoration of the one-year anniversary of the Japanese earthquakes and tsunami.
The LAGQ also continues to give productions of “The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote: Words and Music from the Time of Cervantes” with guest artist Phil Proctor, which it presented at 92Y in November 2009. Last year, Mel Bay released a DVD of the program, which was recorded at the historic Sheldon Theater in St. Louis.
Other memorable career moments include performances of the Rodrigo Concierto Andaluz at the composer’s official centenary in Spain at the invitation of his daughter and to a crowd of thousands at the Hollywood Bowl; and the 2010 Telarc release of Interchange, the LAGQ’s first recording of concertos by Rodrigo and Assad. The title work, Interchange for Guitar Quartet and Orchestra, had been written specifically for the Quartet by guitar master Sergio Assad and received a Latin Grammy nomination for best classical contemporary composition. The Quartet has toured extensively in Europe and Asia, where it was featured at the Hong Kong, Singapore and Manila international arts festivals, and where it recently made a highly successful debut in Beijing.
The LAGQ’s CD Guitar Heroes released on Telarc, won the group a Grammy Award in 2005 for best classical crossover album. Sound and Visions named it one of the “Top 10 Surround Discs of All Time,” joining discs by such artists as The Who, Pink Floyd and Dire Straits. In 2003, the LAGQ’s first Telarc CD, LAGQ–Latin, which included its popular transcription of Bizet’s Carmen, earned the group its first Grammy nomination. Other Telarc releases from the past decade include Spin (2006) and LAGQ–Brazil (Telarc, 2007), featuring vocalist Luciana Souza. The Quartet’s website is lagq.com.
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