by Mike Telin
Since its founding in 2010, BlueWater Chamber Orchestra has quickly immersed itself into the cultural fabric of the community. The orchestra’s neighborhood-based programs bring classical music directly to listeners’ doors. One such program is BWCO’s residency at St. Ignatius High School — a partnership which unites students with professional musicians.
On Saturday, September 12 at 7:30 pm in the Breen Center for the Performing Arts, BlueWater Chamber Orchestra, under the direction of Carlton Woods, will present a Spanish/Latin-inspired concert which will include the music of de Falla, Revueltas, and Márquez. The concert will also feature Grammy-winning guitarist Jason Vieaux in Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez. The concert will last approximately 70 minutes and will be performed without intermission.
Saturday’s concert is part of BWCO’s Near West Neighborhood Series. “We were challenged to create a project that would connect with Cleveland’s large Hispanic/Latino population who live on the Near West Side,” BWCO founder and artistic director Carlton Woods said by telephone. “Ward 14 councilman Brian Cummins was very helpful in connecting us to the neighborhood. Last spring we invited Raphael Jiménez from the Oberlin Conservatory to guest conduct, and during the summer we presented the Near West Fiesta at Kyle Field at St. Ignatius High School. This weekend’s concert is the final performance in the series.”
The program will open with Spanish-born composer Manuel de Falla’s “Suite No. 1” from his ballet The Three-Cornered Hat, which Woods described as a fantastic piece that works perfectly for chamber orchestra. “We’ll continue with a fascinating piece, Homage to Federico Garcia Lorca, by Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas. I’ve had a lot of fun learning it, although it is quite dark, especially during the first and second movements. But the last is bright and cheery and celebrates the life of the Spanish poet Lorca.”
The concert will also include American composer Aaron Copland’s final work for orchestra, Three Latin American Sketches, as well as the sultry Danzon No. 4 by Mexican composer Arturo Márquez. “This is a beautiful piece that was influenced by tangos, which gives it a certain sensuality.”
Woods pointed out one thing that ties the program together: the use of the fandango rhythm. “This rhythm is constant in almost all Spanish music, and it appears in at least one movement of each piece on the program.”
Woods is especially excited about the opportunity to perform Joaquin Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez with celebrated guitarist Jason Vieaux. “It’s a wonderful piece, and Jason performs it so well. No matter what taste people may have in music, they are always drawn to the slow movement. The first and third movements are certainly exciting, but the second has such an emotional impact on audiences.”
Prior to Vieaux’s performance of the Concerto with the Akron Symphony in February of 2015, ClevelandClassical.com spoke to the Grammy-winning guitarist. The following excerpt from that interview has been revised and reposted.
Composed in 1939, Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez is without a doubt the composer’s best-known work. “It is a popular piece and deservedly so,” Vieaux said during a telephone conversation. “The second movement is a masterpiece. As a guitarist, I am a little biased, but I think it’s so cool how the solo line brings the entire concerto to a climax at the end of the second-movement cadenza. Rodrigo understood the guitar well enough to make sure it was at its very loudest during those ten-note flourishes.”
According to Vieaux, listeners should not draw the conclusion that the concerto is easy to play just because it is so popular. “It’s a fantastic piece of music but it is always challenging to perform. It’s a very difficult piece.”
What makes it difficult? “Ironically it’s the lighter-sounding outer movements that are extremely difficult to play. Rodrigo wasn’t a guitarist and it wasn’t until he started working with Segovia that he began to write more idiomatically for the instrument. Rodrigo wrote Concierto de Aranjuez in 1939, and Regino Sainz de la Mazzo gave the premiere. But it doesn’t appear that the soloist made much of an effort to suggest some changes to Rodrigo that would make the piece a little more idiomatic. The technical passages in the first and third movements are always very challenging to any guitarist. I’ve played it about 150 times, so it has become a little easier. But you want to be at the top of your game with your scale playing in order to make sure you have a good performance. It’s just that kind of piece.”
Vieaux, who heads the guitar department at the Cleveland Institute of Music and teaches at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, says that even with his most talented students he doesn’t recommend that they start learning the concerto until they have developed physical strength in their hands — and have had a lot of experience playing very rapid scales.
“It’s not like playing fast scales in the Ponce Concerto, for example, where the scales are isolated. In this concerto you’re playing fast scales immediately after an arpeggio in the right hand, or after some tough choppy chords. The outer movements are in what I call a ‘pocket,’ meaning there is not any room for rubato. The music should retain a very lively gait, so the guitarist needs to be on top of those shifts and the scales.”
As great as the writing in the concerto’s outer movements is, it’s still the beautiful melody in the middle movement that has captured the hearts of listeners as well as musicians of all genres — for example, Miles Davis in his 1960 album Sketches of Spain. “I’ve even read that Led Zeppelin — and I’m a big fan of their albums — would include bits and pieces of the second movement in their extended improvisations during concerts. I’m certain that many audience members will recognize the second movement from movies and commercials. But there’s nothing like the experience of hearing it live.”
A fun fact — the United States premiere of Concierto de Aranjuez was given by The Cleveland Orchestra on November 19, 1959 under the direction of Robert Shaw with Rey de la Torre as soloist.
Published on ClevelandClassical.com September 8, 2015.
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