DANZAS DEL FUEGO – The rhythm of the night

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Zarzuelas, Fandangos, Danzóns, Farrucas, Jotas.....  The concert programme is all about flair, fiery rhythms, and dance.  The SSO is back with another exciting concert of some of the most celebrated composers of Spain and Mexico.

G. Giménez Intermedio from La Boda de Luis Alonso
J. Rodrigo Concierto de Aranjuez
M. de Falla El Sombrero de Tres Picos (Suites 1&2)
A. Márquez Danzón No. 2
J. Moncayo Huapango

Zarzuelas, Fandangos, Danzóns, Farrucas, Jotas…..  The concert programme is all about flair, fiery rhythms, and dance.  The SSO is back with another exciting concert of some of the most celebrated composers of Spain and Mexico.

Gerónimo Giménez ……………… La Boda de Luis Alonso: “Intermezzo”

Gerónimo Giménez was a Spanish conductor and composer who dedicated his career to writing zarzuelas, such as La Tempranica and La boda de Luis Alonso. Zarzuela is a Spanish lyric-dramatic genre that alternates between spoken and sung scenes, the latter incorporating operatic and popular song, as well as dance.  ‘La Boda de Luis Alonso’ is chalk full of dances that are characteristic of Spanish dance.

In 1896, Giménez wrote ‘El baile de Luis Alonso’, based on a text by Javier de Burgos. Following thesuccess of this piece, he set to music another sainete by Burgos with the same characters, which became one of his most famous works: Las bodas de Luis Alonso (1897). This energetic work is full of sweepingmelodiclines and light, fast-moving bass lines. True to form, the piece has plenty of dramatic and comedic flair.

The 4th movement of the late nineteenth century composer’s prime work, written originally for orchestra, is presentedhere in a whimsical and virtuoso Piano transcription.

Joaquín Rodrigo ………………….Concierto de Aranjuez

I. Allegro con spirito
II. Adagio
III. Allegro gentile

Some of the world’s musical gods, such as Mozart, Schubert, and Mendelssohn, lived incredibly short lives, all passing away in their 30s.  For Spanish composer Joaquin Rodrigo, fate had a different plan, letting him live to 98 years old.  Interestingly, Rodrigo was blind from an illness he suffered at youth.  Along with Manuel de Falla, whose music is also on this programme, Rodrigo was among the top five most celebrated Spanish composers who had enormous influence in raising international prominence of Spanish music.

The Concierto de Aranjuez exhibits many of the typical elements of Spanish music.  This includes flamenco, folk music, and “copla”, or pain and redemption.  The first movement is set in flamenco style along with bulería, or a rhythm pinning sets of twos against threes.  This can be heard from the very beginning, with the solo guitar line.  The second movement, one of the most famous moments of music for guitar in the whole realm of classical music, is inspired by the recent loss of Rodrigo’s child when his wife had a miscarriage.  It represents a conversation with God; the guitar symbolizing the vulnerable human, the orchestra the almighty God.  Later in the movement, two violent guitar cadenzas seem to represent the human imploring God for an answer to why his child was taken away, for which the orchestra gives a climactic answer grounded in divinity, light, and mercy.  It is truly one of music’s most moving passages.  In the last movement we have folk dance and very light hearted, yet majestic music.

Manuel de Falla………………….El Sombrero de Tres Picos // The Three-Cornered Hat

I. Suite No. 1
a. Mediodia (Afternoon)
b. Danza de la Molinera (Dance of the Miller’s Wife)
c. El Corregidor (The Corregidor)
d. Las Uvas (The Grapes)

II. Suite No. 2
a. Los Vecinos (Neighbor’s Dance)
b. Danza del Molinero (Dance of the Miller)
c. Danza Final (Final Dance)

In 1913, Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring Ballet had made big splash in the musical scene.  Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes company had commissioned the work, and the ballet was so uncharacteristic of ballets that had preceded it (the Nutcracker two decades before, for instance) that the audience was left in shock at the Paris premiere.
Six years later, the same Ballets Russes company under Diaghilev commissioned Manuel de Falla to compose a full ballet based on his pre-exisisting, two-scene ballet after a novel by Pedro Antonio de Alarcón.  The full ballet, lasting around 40 minutes, has since been made into two concert suites that are often performed either separately or as a unit, as we are doing tonight.
The ballet is in two parts – the first part of which is mostly kept in the first suite, aside from a few bars from “Afternoon”.  The second suite omits a considerable portion of the ballet’s second part, but it does keep the most salient and vivacious dances, making for two suites that exhibit the new Spanish ballet’s fascinating characteristics.

The story itself is comical, and also shows the unbreakable love between a miller and his wife.  Much of the first suite is spent between the miller and his wife, as they dance lovingly together.  The scoundrel, a magistrate, is introduced at the third major character when he attempts to seduce the miller’s wife.  The miller and his wife play a joke on him, and the miller’s wife tries to seduce HIM instead to see where it will lead.  The magistrate, himself married, does his best to lure the miller’s wife, but the miller becomes infuriated when this goes too far, and reemerges to push the magistrate away.  The miller and his wife continue to dance together, happy and in love.

The second suite sees the magistrate have the miler arrested for fake charges.  With the miller in prison (this music omitted from the suite), the magistrate then returns to the miller’s wife, trying again to work his way to her heart.  When the distressed wife of the miller goes to sleep, the magistrate returns to the mill, only to trip and fall in the water.  The miller’s wife runs away, and the naughty magistrate undresses, hangs his clothes on a tree, and goes to sleep in the miller’s bed. The miller has escaped from prison and sees the magistrate in his bed. The miller thinks that the magistrate is sleeping with his wife and plans to switch clothes with the magistrate and avenge himself by seducing the magistrate’s wife. The miller leaves, dressed as the magistrate, and the magistrate soon wakes up. He goes outside and sees that his clothes are gone, so he dresses in the miller’s clothes.  The bodyguard comes and sees the magistrate dressed as the miller and goes to arrest him. The miller’s wife sees the bodyguard fighting with what looks like her husband and joins in the fight. The miller comes back and sees his wife in the fight and joins it to protect her. The magistrate explains the entire story and the ballet ends with the miller’s guests tossing the magistrate up and down in a blanket.  The suite’s final dance shows the gaiety of the final scene of the ballet, and is some of Manuel de Falla’s most riveting music.

Arturo Márquez Navarro…………………..Danzón No. 2

Arturo Márquez, the only living composer on this programme, became a worldwide hit in the orchestral world when the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra and their director Gustavo Dudamel performed the Danzón No. 2 by Márquez at the BBC Proms in 2007.  Since then, the Danzón No. 2 has become one of the most popular Latin works for orchestra.  The composer writes:
“The idea of writing the Danzón 2 originated in 1993 during a trip to Malinalco with the painter Andrés Fonseca and the dancer Irene Martínez, both of whom [have] a special passion for the danzón, which they were able to transmit to me from the beginning, and also during later trips to Veracruz and visits to the Colonia Salon in Mexico City. From these experiences onward, I started to learn the danzón’s rhythms, its form, its melodic outline, and to listen to the old recordings by Acerina Mariano Merceron and his Danzonera Orchestra. I was fascinated and I started to understand that the apparent lightness of the danzón is only like a visiting card for a type of music full of sensuality and qualitative seriousness, a genre which old Mexican people continue to dance with a touch of nostalgia and a jubilant escape towards their own emotional world; we can fortunately still see this in the embrace between music and dance that occurs in the State of Veracruz and in the dance parlors of Mexico City. Danzón 2 … endeavors to get as close as possible to the dance, to its nostalgic melodies, to its wild rhythms, and although it violates its intimacy, its form and its harmonic language, it is a very personal way of paying my respects and expressing my emotions towards truly popular music.”

 José Pablo Moncayo………………..Huapango

Just as the Danzón No. 2 was inspired by music aesthetic and popular themes from the state of Veracruz, Mexico, so too is the famous Huapango of Moncayo.  This work, written from very little material, frankly, shows the composer’s ability to develop and expand upon the material he set out to use.  The Huapango (which is unofficially the second anthem of Mexico, as popular as it is) shows off Moncayo’s uncanny ability to write with a wide color palette.  The piece starts out like a party. Accented notes all over the place, wild solos and musical screams of joy throughout.  The middle section is more serene, a lilting and beautiful melody that also exposes the harp nicely.  This doesn’t last long, as the party resumes in an even more unchained way, leading us to one of the wildest endings in orchestral music.

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