CARNEGIE HALL PRESENTS

Performance Monday, December 10, 2012 | 8 PM

Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela

Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
This energetic group of young Venezuelans and its acclaimed conductor, Gustavo Dudamel, were a hit when they made their New York premiere at Carnegie Hall in 2007. On this program, they perform works by some of Latin America’s finest 20th-century composers, including a suite of lusty, wild music by Silvestre Revueltas.

Este grupo energético de jóvenes venezolanos y su aclamado director Gustavo Dudamel debutó con gran éxito en el Carnegie Hall en 2007. En esta ocasión, su presentación incluye obras de algunos de los mejores compositores de América Latina del siglo XX, entre ellas, una suite energética e impetuosa de Silvestre Revueltas.

Este grupo energético de jovens venezuelanos e seu reconhecido maestro, Gustavo Dudamel, foi um sucesso na sua estreia em Nova York no Carnegie Hall em 2007. Neste programa, eles tocam obras de alguns dos melhores compositores do século XX na América Latina, incluindo uma suíte de música cheia de vitalidade e energia de Silvestre Revueltas.
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The Program

CARLOS CHÁVEZ
Sinfonía india

About the Composer


The most prominent Latin American composer of his generation, Carlos Chávez enjoyed a long association with the US, reaping numerous commissions and conducting gigs that culminated in an appointment to the Charles Eliot Norton Chair of Poetics at Harvard. He forged a new musical art based on what he called a "reinvention" of Mexican songs and Aztec motifs. Unlike Silvestre Revueltas, he worked mainly in Classical forms, a preference evident in the concise sonata-symphony structure of Sinfonía india.

Chávez moved from an early Schumannesque Romanticism toward a personal modern style. His harmonies are for the most part tonal and modal, projecting the majestic sense of open space that has characterized New World symphonic music ever since Dvořák's "New World" Symphony. Though full of vivid colors and scintillating experiments with Mexican Indian percussion, his music has a striking purity compared to the wildness of Revueltas and the lushness of Julián Orbón.


About the Work


This single-movement piece incorporates Huichol, Yaqui, and Seri Indian themes. Its most striking feature is an imaginative array of Mexican percussion, including water gourd and rasps. These are often exchanged for modern instruments in US performances, but the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela uses authentic percussion, allowing us to hear the composer's original intentions.


A Closer Listen


By turns celebratory, ritualistic, and lyrical, Sinfonía india opens with a snappy introduction, blossoms into an expansive song, and then rocks into an exuberant dance. At the end, the brass play repeated Seri Indian patterns and roar bold glissandos as the percussion battery finally unleashes its full power. Chávez's counterpoint and shifting syncopation are highly sophisticated, but the overall effect is thrillingly basic. As Leonard Bernstein told an audience at one of his famed Young People's Concerts half a century ago, "Chávez takes these simple primitive scales and makes them not just interesting, but so exciting you want to jump out of your seat."


—Jack Sullivan

© 2012 The Carnegie Hall Corporation

JULIÁN ORBÓN
Tres versiones sinfónicas

About the Composer


Born in Spain, Julián Orbón became a Cuban citizen in the 1940s and joined the Grupo de Renovación Musical, which championed Cuban music. Winner of the 1954 Juan José Landaeta Prize at the First Latin American Music Festival in Caracas, Orbón's Tres versiones sinfónicas was written during the post-war phase of the Latin American music revival.


About the Work


One can hear Copland-esque harmonic and rhythmic touches in the first movement of the Tres versiones sinfónicas—in fact, Aaron Copland was Orbón's teacher at Tanglewood. Unlike the modernist experiments of Alberto Ginastera (who flirted with serialism in his late works), Tres versiones sinfónicas is vividly accessible, unabashedly tonal, and steeped in vernacular sources. At the same time, it is fastidiously structured and harkens back to old musical structures—a bow to the fashionable neo-classicism of the day.

Orbón references themes from different centuries and traditions; the work freely interprets the three musical quotations that appear at the beginning of each movement. Orbón explains the source of the three quotes: "The first is taken from a pavane by Luis de Milán, the Spanish composer and lutenist of the 16th century. The second is taken from a clause from a conductus of Perotinus Magnus, the French master of the Notre Dame School of the 12th century. And the third is a rhythmic pattern taken from an original example of African Congolese music."


A Closer Listen


Orbón's treatment of these sources is highly personal. The opening "Pavana," with its majestic climaxes, unites sonata-form symmetry with shifting rhythm. The rapturous second movement "Organum" reprises the medieval practice of layering original parts on top of an existing secular melody. Orbón was particularly happy with this movement and called it "a recreation of medieval form." All hell breaks loose in the swinging "Xilofono" movement, a polyphonic Afro-Cuban eruption of blatting brass, scampering strings, and relentless rhythm.


—Jack Sullivan

© 2012 The Carnegie Hall Corporation

SILVESTRE REVUELTAS
La noche de los Mayas

About the Composer


Silvestre Revueltas wrote some of the most imposing music to emerge from the Mexican Revolution of the 1930s. His "dangerous, take-no-prisoners attitude," as Osvaldo Golijov puts it, is explosive. He is known mainly for audacious film and theater music, but he was also a conductor, violinist, professor, and political activist during the Spanish Civil War. Revueltas is often presented as the quintessential Romantic—living on spontaneous intuition and dying in alcoholic poverty—and as a hardcore Mexican nationalist. Though there is truth in both myths, Revueltas was a rigorous, highly trained artist who combined fervid expressionism with careful analysis.

He began studying music at the age of 15 at the Conservatorio Nacional de Música, and then later moved to the US to continue his studies at the Chicago Musical College. He worked with theater orchestras in Texas and Alabama, and was lured back to Mexico by Carlos Chávez to help conduct the new Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de México. Among his admirers were Edgard Varèse, with whom he shared a fondness for explosive percussion and Mayan legends; Aaron Copland, a passionate aficionado of Mexican music; and Pablo Neruda, his comrade in the Spanish Civil War. Seven years after Revueltas's death, Leopold Stokowski put his music on the international map with an RCA recording of Sensemayá, a vocal-orchestral piece that became a popular showpiece.

Revueltas eschewed traditional symphonies and concertos, preferring overtly pictorial symphonic pieces—"sophisticated picture-postcards," in Robert Stevenson's words—as well as theater and film music. Like Erich Korngold and Franz Waxman, he got into writing film music through accident and political upheaval. His start came when a new fine arts minister in the revolutionary Mexican government asked him to replace Carlos Chávez in a 1935 quasi-documentary by Paul Strand called Redes. Revueltas soon discovered that film music was ideally suited to his gifts, allowing him to maximize his genius for bold, pictorial ideas and to work with colleagues in other media.


About the Work


One of Revueltas's last movie scores was the 1939 La noche de los Mayas, a film long forgotten except for its memorable music. Shot on location in the Yucatán jungle and directed by Chano Urueta, it was an ambitious flop. Revueltas's score survived thanks to the preparation of a concert suite by José Yves Limantour in 1960. Rather than following the structure of the film, the suite is organized into four movements that resemble those of a symphony, including an overture, scherzo, slow movement, and theme-and-variations finale.

The overture, "Noche de los Mayas," begins and ends with a sonorous theme vibrating with gong and timpani; a swaying string melody provides lyrical contrast. Racy syncopations careen through "Noche de jaranas," and then fade into "Noche de Yucatán"—a passionate slow movement based on a Mayan theme, "Los Extoles." Revueltas's use of strings in this movement is exceptionally delicate.

In the apocalyptic finale, "Noche de encantamiento," the orchestra erupts into frightening dissonance. As in the Chávez and Orbón finales, the percussion battery gets a virtuosic workout, but Revueltas's rhythms are more elemental and aggressive. (Not surprisingly, this finale is often compared to Stravinsky's Rite of Spring.) At the end, the suite's opening idea screams one more time, climbing into ecstasy.


—Jack Sullivan

© 2012 The Carnegie Hall Corporation

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Funding for the Carnegie Hall Live broadcast series is provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
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