Performance Tuesday, December 11, 2012 | 8 PM

Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela

Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
The charismatic Gustavo Dudamel and the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela thrill audiences worldwide with their ecstatic energy and contagious enthusiasm. On this concert, they dive into the deep wells of Latin America’s classical music tradition with such works as Villa-Lobos’s Chôros No. 10—a monumental piece of Brazilian musical nationalism that was a huge hit at its 1926 premiere in Rio de Janeiro—and Estévez’s Cantata criolla, a portrait of the Venezuelan spirit.

El carismático Gustavo Dudamel y la Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar de Venezuela emocionan a públicos en todo el mundo con su fabulosa energía y su contagioso entusiasmo. El programa seleccionado para este concierto se sumerge en los pozos profundos de la tradición de la música clásica de América Latina con obras como Chôros No. 10 de Villa-Lobos—una obra monumental del nacionalismo musical brasileño que gozó de gran éxito desde su estreno en 1926 en Río de Janeiro—y Cantata criolla de Estévez, un retrato del espíritu venezolano.

O carismático Gustavo Dudamel e a Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar da Venezuela vem emocionando plateias no mundo inteiro, com a sua energia e seu entusiasmo contagiante. Neste concerto, eles mergulham nas profundezas da tradição musical clássica da América Latina com trabalhos tais como os Chôros No. 10 de Villa-Lobos—uma obra monumental do nacionalismo musical brasileiro que foi um grande sucesso, estreando em 1926 no Rio de Janeiro—e a Cantata criolla de Estévez, um retrato do espírito venezuelano.
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The Program

Chaac (Maya Water God) from Rituales Amerindios

About the Composer

Argentinean Esteban Benzecry is recognized as one of South America's most renowned young composers. Heard throughout Europe and the United States, his works have been commissioned and performed by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre National de France, and many others. His upcoming projects include a new piano concerto commissioned by Lang Lang. Like the work being performed tonight, Benzecry's most recent compositions attempt a fusion between diverse aesthetic currents in European contemporary music, and rhythms and folklore rooted in the Latin American tradition.

About the Work

Rituales Amerindios is dedicated to Gustavo Dudamel. The work represents the three great ancient Latin-American cultures (the Aztec in Mexico, the Maya in southern Mexico and Central America, and the Inca in Peru); the roots, rhythms, and mythologies of these cultures inspire the musical language. The second movement, Chaac (Maya Water God), sets forth a mystical, orchestral palette and features many instrumental effects and unusual percussion instruments, including the rainstick.

In the Composer's Own Words

Chaac   was the god of rain and also of fertility. He was a universal god of great relevance, the symbol of creative energy; we always find Chaac in relation to the importance of learning to channel our creativity wisely.

We should understand the Mayan symbology: If water is the symbol of life on the planet, water is also the life-giving energy inside each human being. Not a single god, Chaac was also considered to be divided into four equal entities, representing North, South, East, and West.

The water god, with his fecund energy, appears at the beginning of the movement as a water drop, until becoming a powerful tide in the central part, which contains the Aztec wind god's fanfare (from the first movement of the Rituales Amerindios triptych). The musical technique that is the basis for this movement is that of clusters, which provides a foundation for little melodic motifs or the rhythms of an imaginary Mayan folklore, within a mysterious atmosphere submerged in the sounds of a tropical jungle.

—Dr. ToniMarie Marchioni

© 2012 The Carnegie Hall Corporation

Chôros No. 10

About the Composer

Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos is noted particularly for his prolificacy of composition and his creation of a unique nationalistic musical style that was labeled as being distinctly Brazilian. Primarily self-taught through his study of the guitar, clarinet, and cello, as well as from his days as a street-performer, Villa-Lobos was influenced largely by Brazilian styles and regularly incorporated these elements into his music. His experiences and interests had a direct ramification on his compositional techniques, resulting in the juxtaposition of classical styles and forms with indigenous components such as rhythm, melodic content, mythological folklore, instrumentation, harmony, and articulation.

With a total compositional output possibly exceeding 2,000 works, Villa-Lobos wrote in nearly every possible genre, both standard and unusual. He still stands as the single most important figure in 20th-century Brazilian art music and the most significant Latin American composer to date.

About the Work

The name Chôros is derived from the Portuguese word chorar, meaning "to weep or lament." It refers to a form of popular music performed by chorôes, the serenading bands of Brazil that performed not only in the streets, but also in cafes and theaters, and at other social events. Their performances were often spontaneous, with music that contained elements of improvisation and extreme virtuosity; some scholars have related the style to that of early American jazz bands.

Chôros No. 10 is one in a series of 16 pieces of the same title composed between 1920 and 1929. These works, scored for a variety of ensembles that range greatly in size and instrumentation, represent the codifying of Villa-Lobos's Brazilian style. The composer himself described the grouping as "a new form of musical composition," transforming Brazilian music and sounds through the prism of his own personality.

A Closer Listen

In Chôros No. 10, Villa-Lobos combines Brazilian ambient sounds suggestive of the tropical forest, melodic lines that resemble Indian scales, Afro-Brazilian percussion, urban song, and popular poetry to create a musical pastiche that symbolizes Brazil as a whole. Dedicated to Paulo Prado, an investor and arts patron, Chôros No. 10 is subtitled "Rasga o coração" (literally, "Tear out my heart") because it uses a popular song of the same name from 1912 by Anacleto de Madeiros with text by Catulo da Paixão Cearense.

The work is divided into two main sections. The first shows the vast and rich landscape of the Amazon forest, using birdcalls and percussion instruments to foster the atmosphere and create a nearly cinematic depiction of the country. The second part uses the choir above a sizeable percussion section, using voices to produce onomatopoeic effects, recreating the language of the aborigines by repeating specific syllables in rhythmic patterns. A third textural layer above the voices and percussion adds the previously mentioned popular song "Rasga o coração."

Revered Villa-Lobos scholar Eero Tarasti said Chôros No. 10 "has been considered by all sources as one of his most successful compositions—as a significant work both in the esthetic and formal sense." With his massive orchestral and choral forces complemented by a battery of Brazilian percussion instruments, Villa-Lobos has created a nationalistic Brazilian work of epic proportions.

—Dr. ToniMarie Marchioni

© 2012 The Carnegie Hall Corporation

Cantata criolla

About the Composer

Antonio Estévez was a Venezuelan composer and oboist. Following his studies and work as an orchestral musician in Venezuela, he traveled to the United States to study with famed conductor-composers Serge Koussevitzky and Leonard Bernstein at Columbia University and Tanglewood from 1945–1949. After moving back to Caracas, he composed Cantata criolla, his most significant work, in 1954. Eventually, Estévez became critical of his own compositional style, considering it old-fashioned, and moved to Paris in 1961 on a fellowship from the National Institute of Culture to study electronic techniques. Once he returned to Venezuela, he adopted a more eclectic style and achieved recognition from his government and fellow countrymen alike. A contemporary of Aaron Copland (US) and Alberto Ginastera (Argentina) in both chronology and mission, he is credited with establishing the Venezuelan national musical style.

About the Work

Cantata criolla is a three-movement musical epic that sets text by Alberto Arvelo Torrealba. The mythic poem portrays a singing contest between Florentino, a llanero ("prairie man"), and the Devil. The legend is Faustian in nature, and the music has elements of many 20th-century classics, especially hints of Stravinsky, Debussy, Puccini, and Orff. From its first hearing, Cantata criolla was immediately recognized as an effective synthesis of Venezuelan culture and is still considered to be one of the most important nationalistic Venezuelan works.

A Closer Listen

Estévez's music is melodic and dramatic, combining Western musical elements with complex Latin rhythms. The vocal parts, including the chorus, often seem to float atop a percussive and rhythmic orchestra. The cinematic and narrative qualities of the music capture the colorful epic myth in two parts.

Part I sets the stage for the Devil to issue his challenge to Florentino. The musical mood shifts between atmospheric and overtly dramatic. The melodic material for the two main characters are based on Gregorian chants—"Ave maris stella" for Florentio and, appropriately, "Dies irae"   for the Devil.

Parts II depicts the actual singing contest, and Estévez uses touches of tone painting to represent the action. One notable and original moment occurs during the duel, when each competitor must use the last line of his opponent's verse as the beginning of his own.

At the end of the work, each party declares triumph, but Florentino ultimately outlasts the Devil by reciting holy verses, which are then adopted by the choir and orchestra. A musical texture that was so divided and separate throughout the work finally merges together in communal celebration.

—Dr. ToniMarie Marchioni

© 2012 The Carnegie Hall Corporation

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