Nationalism and European Tradition

SONGS of LOVE (Cantos de Amor)
Higueras Arte - EK CD 107 - 1998

The present programme is a selection of songs by some of the most important composers of Argentina and Brazil of the XX century. Most of them are songs of love and nostalgia and present popular rhythms elaborated by the composers. Some are even popular songs elaborated only in the accompaniment, such as Ginastera´s "Arrorró", others, like Guastavino´s "Piececitos", are free from popular bonds and nearer to European tradition. When performing them it is essential to respect the popular character which , particularly in the case of Brazilian music, will be permeated by "rubato" and a certain improvisatory spirit.

Argentina: Carlos Guastavino, born in Santa Fe in 1914 lives still, in the time of this edition, 1998. Author of over 300 songs, some of them very popular, he developed his language within traditiond confines, with diverse approaches to the popular, national roots. La rosa y el sauce", (the rose and the willow) is less popular in carácter with orchestral, polifonic development of the motifs in the piano. "Se equivocó la paloma", (The pigeon was mistaken) is his most popular song, on a poem of R. Alberti. "El Sampedrino" is written on the popular rhythm of "Vidalita", balanced between the left and right hands of the piano, the first one creating almost a counterpart to the voice while the latter melts with it. The simple writing captivates for the purity of the popular feeling. "Milonga de dos Hermanos", (Milonga of the two brothers) on a poem by J.L. Borges is a pampean "milonga" and evokes the act of telling a story. " Pampamapa" presents the "Huella" rhythm in the piano interludes, quicker than the lyric passages of the voice. Finally "Piececitos" (Little feet), reminds us of the "Lieder" of Schubert and Mendelsohn with its fluid, romantic piano writing.
Alberto Ginastera is an extremely important and prolific composer with an extraordinary evolution that took him as far as adopting microtonal, serial and other avant-garde techniques. The present songs belong mainly to an early period where national feeling was very present and the language more traditional. In "Triste" (sad) there are echoes of "vidalita" - a popular Argentinean form. The "Zamba" is a popular Argentinean rhythm - it has nothing to do with Brazilian Samba. "Arrorró" (the word repeated when rocking a child to and fro) is a very popular cradle song of Argentina which Ginastera elaborated adding a piano accompaniment and interlude which through an obstinate of high bell-like sounds recreates the atmosphere of sleep. "Canción del árbol del olvido" (song to the tree of forgetfulness) is written on a simple "vidalita" rhythm- like Guastavino´s "Sampedrino". "Canción a la Luna Lunanca" ( song to the moon) recreates the "chacarera" rhythm and the high notes in the piano generates an atmosphere of dream and illusion.

Brazil: Hector Villa Lobos emerges as the most relevant figure in Brazilian music of the 1st half of the XX century. His very prolific output is always permeated by national elements which he elaborates in a very personal way. The "Seresta" is a form of popular music from the early century in Brazil which used to be played by bohemian musicians in the streets in the evening (sera), therefore the imitation of guitar writing. The slow melody of the voice is a "Modinha" , form of sentimental song, cultivated in Brazil in the XVIII and XIX centuries which, as love songs was relatad to another of the most popular forms of "salón" ( lounge or parlour) music, the "Lundú", of african origins, introduced by the slaves witch were brought to Brazil. "Melodia Sentimental" (Sentimental Melody) is part of a large orchestral suite "Forest of the Amazone" created by Villa Lobos with fragments of the music for the film "Green Mansions". The "Lundú da Marquesa de Santos" ( Lundú of the Marchioness of Santos) is one of the three musical pieces which Villa Lobos wrote for the theatre piece by Viriato Correa "Marquesa de Santos", who was the woman who actually introduced the Lundú into court life in the XIX century. Apparently the Marchioness was the lover of Pedro I, King of Brazil and it is he who is singing his love for her. "Titilia" is the nickname for Maria Domitila, name of the Marchioness "Cançao do Poeta do Secolo XVIII" ( song of an XVIII century poet) is again a Modinha.
Francisco Mignone, another very prolific composer as well as flautist, pianist and conductor, is a very relevant figure in the musical panorama of Brazil. His romantic musical background and his nationalist musical interests go together in pieces full of freshness and a certain improviser spirit. It is noticeable that in his own playing of his own music he is extremely free in tempo and often improvises changing the notes, as can be headed in some old recordings. "O doce nome de você" ( Thy Sweet Name) is a Modinha with piano interludes of Seresta character, the score indicates that the piano should imitate the guitar, without using the pedal. "Cuando uma flôr desabrocha" (When a Flower Blooms) is a "Toada", a popular country form, merrier and swifter than the Modinha. In the left hand of the piano writing one can hear the rhythm of the Brazilian "Tango" - very different from the Argentinean "Tango". The "Cantiga de Ninar" is a cradle song which recreates the popular spirit in a concert song near to the Lied. The programme ends with the brillant "Improviso" an explosion of the improvisatory character in which Mignone was so interested. The Score indicates "mosso e con entusiasmo" ( with enthusiasm).

The nationalistic, popular character of the songs is on the one hand due to political moments which favoured nationalism, as in the case of Villa Lobos - but mainly to the research of the composers for a true national musical idiom which is however always based upon the musical tradition of central Europe. This explains the traditional musical language in a time of avant-garde experiments which would have let little room for the recognition of the own national roots. It represents a 1st moment of recognition of the national, musical identity , only afterwards has it been possible to assimilate the contemporary musical languages in the panorama of composition in Argentina and Brazil.

Jaime Del Val, 1998
© Higueras Arte S. L.

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