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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Columbus Symphony May 20, 21 2016: Latin America! Piazzolla, Golijov, Ginastera

Rossen Milanov conducts the Columbus Symphony in two concerts of music by composers born in Argentina, Golijov, Ginastera and Piazzolla in the Southern Theater, Friday May 20 and Saturday May 21 at 8 PM. Violinist Bella Hristova joins the Orchestra in Piazzolla's Four Seasons of Buenos Aires.

Pre-concert talks one hour before each concert. This is the 2015-2016 season finale.


Osvaldo Golijov
Tango! The duple meter dance craze that European and african traditions sent to Argentina in the mid 19th century! I've had more than one friend born in Latin American tell me that all music made south of he border is intended to be danced. Latins don't sit and gaze into space in concert hall.Their music came from Africa, from Spain and from Italy. Rhythm and color are more important that tunes or contemplation.This weekend's Columbus Symphony concerts feature music by the master of the nuevo tango, Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992), by his teacher Alberto Ginastera (1916-1982) and by Osvaldo Golijov (b. 1960)

Of the three,  Piazzolla became a Latin American wide sensation, a popular star. He was the true successor of Carlo Gardel, whose sexy tango singing made him a heart throb on three continents before his untimely death in a place crash in 1935. Indeed, the young Piazzolla was encouraged by Carlo Gardel, who went so far as to invite the boy to tour, and its a very good thing Astor didn't get on that plane.

Piazzolla was born in Argentina but spent his formative years in New York.  He was known as a brawler, a ladies man and as an exemplary musician. Not wishing to by typed as a popular entertainer, Piazzolla studied with Ginastera and later went to Paris to work with Nadia Boulanger. That auguste lady, mentor to Stravinsky and Copland, was unimpressed until he played her some original tangos. The lady sent him packing. There is your future. Go and pursue it. He did.



Piazzola wasn't afraid to incorporate the rhythms and the sounds of the waterfront dives of New York and Buenos Aires into his music. Estancios Portenas The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires,  was written between 1966 and 1970. The composer did not intend the works to be played together. He enjoyed performing and riffing on these pieces with his own ensemble, with guitar, piano, rhythm, sometimes flute and always Pazzolla on the bandoneon.

The four seasons were knitted together into one piece after Piazzolla's death by Leonid Desnyatikov.   You'll hear delightful references to Vivaldi's Four Seasons buried in Piazzolla's fire and smolder. I'll bet Astor Piazzolla, who wanted to study counterpoint with Boulanger, would have been delighted.

Osvaldo Golijov, of Argentine, Jewish and Arab background, wrote Last Rounds  for string ensemble in 1991. He had just heard of Astor Piazzolla's debilitating stroke, leading to his death the following year. Piazzolla was a known pugilist, hence the title 'Last Rounds' in his honor. For Golijov, Piazzolla had been a national hero, and his death marked an ending point,  a "we'll never see the likes of him again" in Argentina's music. The second section of Last Rounds, lentissimo,  subtly quotes Carlos Gardel's Mi Buenos Aires Querido.


Alberto Ginastera
Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983) became an international figure. His opera Don Rodrigo opened the New York State Theatre at Lincoln Center in 1966, starring a chubby Spanish tenor called Placido Domingo. Ginastera came to the U.S. in 1945 to study with Aaron Copland at Tanglewood. He was always very good at 'netwroking' and wasn't shy about self promotion. Ginastera often used the dance rhythms of Latin America in the most modern musical forms. His music is often astringent but grabs the listener with its vitality. He is never dull. Of our three composers, Ginastera was probably the most sophisticated and sometimes the least audience friendly.



Variaciones Concertanes comes from 1953. This is similar to the orchestral suites of Bach and Haydn. We are presented with  a theme that is later explored by small orchestral ensembles featuring a solo instrument. We begin with Harp and cello, and later feature the flute, clarinet, trumpet and horn. Finally, there's a wild 'perpetual motion' for violin' and a concluding rondo for orchestra. This is the popular Ginastera, leading into a period where he favored the twelve tone method and looked toward ultra-modern music. But that's another story.

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