Sonoric Rituals

Rarely Performed Latin American Piano Music




Sonoric Rituals






César Guerra Peixe

Juan José Castro

Orlando Jacinto Garcia

Alfredo Rugeles

Tania León

Carlos A. Vázquez

Mariza Rezende

Marta Garcia Renart

Isabel Aretz

Alicia Terzián



Twentieth-century Latin American composers of various generations and aesthetic persuasions have contributed substantially to piano literature that remains undiscovered by most. In the last few years, Martha Marchena, however, has endeavored to reveal the various facets of this repertory and appears now to be one of the foremost Latin American and Caribbean pianists specializing in this select treasure. She has also been concerned with disseminating the works of specifically women composers from that region of the world.

The present compact disc includes pieces by seasoned composers such as Juan José Castro, Isabel Aretz, Alicia Terzian, and César Guerra Peixe, but also works of the younger generation of composers who reveal an outstanding maturity in composition and a profound knowledge of the instrument.

César Guerra Peixe: Prelúdios Tropicais

Among twentieth-century Brazilian composers, César Guerra Peixe (1914-1993) occupies a special place. He first cultivated atonality and twelve-tone music, then attempted to combine two apparently irreconcilable music trends: twelve-tone and nationalist music. Whether such a compromise proved tenable or not, he created original, well-conceived works cast in a new, modern expression of musical nationalism.

The seven Prelúdios Tropicais date from 1979 and are inspired by various aspects of Brazilian folk and popular music, justifying the qualifier "tropical." The first prelude is a song of folia de reis (a vernacular song of praise on King's Day), the fourth imitates the picked style (ponteado) of the Luso-Brazilian folk guitar (the viola), and the last is entitled "Toccata" in a typical virtuoso style of the genre. These three preludes epitomize the new expression of nationalism in a modern harmonic and rhythmic context.

Juan José Castro: Corales Criollos No. 1

Composer and conductor Juan José Castro (1895-1968) was the leading figure in the Argentine nationalist movement in the 1930s, especially with his Sinfonía argentina (1934) and Sinfonía de los campos (1939). He rarely resorts, however, to direct quotations of folk materials. The national flavor of some of his works results from a synthetic reworking of rhythmic patterns of typical folk and popular dances. Characteristic tango syncopations, for example, appear in his 1941 piano piece Tangos. Some of his most skillful references to various Argentine national music genres are found in the Corales criollos nos. 1 and 2 (1947) for piano (although no. 2 was never completed), the Sonata campestre (1948) for "bandoneón" (the diatonic accordion typical of tango ensembles), and the Corales criollos no. 3 (1953) for orchestra. Musical nationalism was not an exclusive interest of Castro; his formative training in Paris under Vincent d'Indy was a strong influence on his quest for a more international style. He felt particularly attracted by Spanish subject matters and Spanish music. Two of his operas are on texts by García Lorca: La Zapatera prodigiosa (1943) and Bodas de sangre (1953).

The Corales criollos no. 1 follows a theme and variations form. The theme is reminiscent of an Argentine folk tune presented in a chorale-like modern harmonic (pandiatonic) setting. The following eight variations explore various compositional and technical ideas, combining vernacular rhythms and decidedly modern harmonic idioms, especially a Stravinskian type of neo-Classic pandiatonicism.

Orlando Jacinto García: Recuerdos de otra música para piano

Cuban-born composer Orlando Jacinto García is Head of Music Theory and Composition at Florida International University, where he founded and directs that institution's Music of the Americas Festival and the May in Miami Music Festival. He studied under David Del Tredici, John Corigliano, and Morton Feldman. The recipient of numerous grants and awards, García was a Fulbright scholar and composer-in-residence in Caracas, Venezuela, during 1991-92 and was awarded a Fulbright Senior lectureship for a fall 1996 residency at the University of Salamanca in Spain. He was also the recipient of a 1994 Cintas Foundation Fellowship to support the completion of new works for the New York Camerata, for soprano Cheryl Marshall, and for Bert and Nancy Tartezky. His works have been performed throughout Europe and the Americas by distinguished ensembles and are recorded on Opus One, O.O. Discs, CRS, North/South, and CRI records and published by the ACA and North/South Editions.

García's music is mostly understated, delicate, sparse, and unfolds slowly. According to the composer, his aesthetic concerns are based upon the exploration of subtle musical nuances including the point where we perceive that silence begins and sound ends. In Recuerdos de otra música para piano (Remembrances of another music for piano) of 1990, the composer uses vague and veiled references to a somewhat traditional pianistic virtuosity combined and juxtaposed with more abstract, static material. The sonorous world that results from this combination is the basis for the title of the work.

Alfredo Rugeles: Tanguitis

Alfredo Rugeles (b. 1948) is widely recognized as one of the most creative individuals in Venezuelan contemporary composition. He studied at the Juan Manuel Olivares School in Caracas, especially choral conducting with Fedora Alemán and Alberto Grau, and composition with the Greek Yannis Ioannidis. In the mid-1970s, he went to Germany to continue his studies at the Schumann Institute in Düsseldorf, under Gunther Becker and Wolfgang Trommer. He also studied orchestral conducting with Sergiu Celibidache, Michel Tabachnik, and Franco Ferrara. He was the recipient of the Venezuelan National Composition Award and the Caracas Municipal Music Award. His numerous conducting engagements have taken him to Holland, Germany, Mexico, El Salvador, and Argentina, where he premiered works by Venezuelan composers. He teaches composition and conducting at the Instituto Universitario de Estudios Musicales in Caracas. Since 1994 Rugeles has been the Director of the Fundación Orquesta de Cámara de Venezuela.

The title of the work Tanguitis is clearly a play on the word "tango." Indeed the passion displayed in the music and dance of the tango brings about implicitly a resulting excitement and outburst, an inflammation, that this piece explores very effectively. The coda features an unexpected quotation from Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde," which reaffirms the humorous character of this composition.

Tania León: Ritual

Tania León is an internationally renowned composer and conductor born in Cuba of French, Spanish, African, and Chinese descent. León received her degrees from the national Conservatory in Havana and from New York University. She is the Artistic Director of Composers Forum Inc., and a member of the Board of Directors of the American Music Center. Ms. León is the founder of the Dance Theatre of Harlem's music Department and the Brooklyn Philharmonic Community Concert series. Her most recent position includes serving as assistant conductor and composer in residence of the New York Symphony Orchestra. She has just completed a world tour of Spain, South Africa, Germany, and Australia, where she conducted concerts of her own orchestral works. Ms. León has received commissions from the National Endowment for the Arts; American Composers Orchestra; Queens Symphony; Dance Theatre of Harlem; the Kennedy Center; Whitney Museum; Affiliate Artists; and National Public Radio, which commissioned her for the theme music of its "Latin File" program.

The work of Tania León is a melting pot which blends a wide array of musical styles and influences. It synthesizes a rich musical heritage that ranges from European classics to jazz, without neglecting Cuban cultural tradition.

Impervious to trends and labels, León has imparted to some of her works an intensely rhythmic, percussive movement which brings a new awareness of the latent symphonic potential in the distinctive genes of her cultural heritage. It is a formulation that goes beyond anecdotal and picturesque intentions and suggests an increasingly purified and integrative ascent, based on an "architectonic" approach to musical composition.

León's sound revelations form part of the great Cuban venture into modernity that began in the mid-1920s. Pioneers such as Amadeo Roldán and Alejandro Garcia Caturla promoted the recovery of musical elements that had been shunned by senseless bigotry, and elevated them to the status of symphonic composition. The challenge Roldán and Caturla faced was that of taking command of a language in which "Cubanness" would spring from their culture's most authentic and deepest essence, freed from shallow professions of nationalistic faith, and through which musical metaphor would be enriched by the artist's own imagination. Ritual (1987) is the product of an impetus that seems to have been inspired by a similar challenge: lively music, marked by violent rhythmic transitions. As K. Robert Schwarz had observed, León gradually builds up, after a languid introduction, to an ostinato pattern that leaps from the lowest to the highest notes on the keyboard. "Time after time," states Schwarz, "the pulse is constant but the accents are unpredictable; time and time again, the musical elements are absorbed by the savage and brutal rhythmic power."

Written for piano solo, the piece is inspired by "the fire that kindles the spirit of those who inspire others, for these others see something they themselves do not perceive: the fire of initiation," as León has confessed. Here, intuition reveals itself as a way of knowledge, with a vision of vastness that seems to spring from the innermost depths of Mother Earth.

Ritual exudes spontaneity and power, a musical idiom which runs counter to melodic sentimentality and lassitude. In sheer energy and tension, Ritualis like a yoruba liturgy.

Carlos A. Vázquez: Imágenes Caribeñas

Born in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, in 1952, Carlos Vázquez studied music at the University of Puerto Rico, the University of Pittsburgh, New York University, and finally the University of Paris where he earned a doctoral degree. His composition teachers included Rafael Aponte Ledée, Frank MacCarty, and Bruce Saylor. His works have been performed in Europe and the Americas and commissioned by several institutions in Puerto Rico and the US. He has been the recipient of several ASCAP awards. He was the founder and first president of Puerto Rico's National Association of Composers. Currently (November 1996), he serves as Executive Director of the organization known as the Caribbean Composers' Forum, Musical Director of the International Electroacoustic Music Sample, and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Iberian-American Music Council, based in Madrid. Since 1978 he has been teaching in at the University of Puerto Rico Department of Music, where he directs the Electronic Music Laboratory.

The three piano pieces, Imágenes Caribeñas, composed in 1993, refer to vivid impressions the composer had at specific places in the Caribbean. Varadero, Cuba's most famous beach, impressed the composer for its "colors, rhythms, passions and sensuality." Irazú, Costa Rica's volcano, evoked "mysticism and admiration toward nature," according to the composer. Puerto Rico's Rio Grande de Loiza is dammed on its way to the sea to create Lake Carraizo, San Juan's main water reservoir. Vázquez comments that "after big rain downpours the gates of the dam are open and the water, otherwise peaceful, turns into a huge manifestation of strength and vitality."

Mariza Rezende: Ressonâncias

Born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1944, Mariza Rezende came of age as a composer and teacher of composition in the 1980s. She studied piano and composition at the School of Music of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and at the Federal University of Pernambuco. She received her Master's Degree in Piano Performance and her Ph.D. in Composition from the University of California at Santa Barbara. From 1977 to 1987 she taught Music Theory at the Pernambuco Federal University in Recife, and since then she has been Professor of Composition at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, where she also leads the Grupo Música Nova, an ensemble dedicated to Brazilian contemporary music. Her orchestral works have been performed by Brazilian orchestras such as the Sinfônica Brasileira and the Sinfônica do Estado de São Paulo. The New York Da Capo Players and the Lontano Ensemble of London have performed her works on tour. The majority of her output consists of chamber music. In recent years she has also written music for multimedia collage environments.

As the title Ressonâncias suggests, this work explores various registers and dynamic levels of the piano, at times creating spatial sounds, through improvisational scale and arpeggio passages. Its structure is ternary, with a central slow section, brought about by a long transition. Another feature of the work is its prevailing sense of non-meter. Composed in 1983 in Santa Barbara, California, the work was premiered by Elden Little, the pianist to whom it was dedicated.

Marta García Renart: Tres Momentos

Marta García Renart (b. in Mexico City in 1942), pianist, orchestra conductor and composer from Mexico, has emerged as one of the most significant women composers in Mexico of the last two decades. She initiated her musical education as a private pupil of Elizabeth Hartman, Pedro Michaca and Baltazar Samper. In 1959, she received a scholarship to study at the Curtis Institute of Music where she was a student of Rudolf Serkin and Eleanor Sokoloff, and graduated in 1964. She then studied in New York at the Mannes College of Music- composition under Peter Simons and orchestral conducting under Paul Bear. She returned to Mexico in 1967 and began her pianistic and conducting career. From 1971 to 1977 she directed the choir of the Orfeo Catalá, for which she wrote a few pieces.

The Momentos is a set of three miniatures composed in 1980. Each one of them explores a different feeling and character. The first one is playful and nonchalant, relying on the use of the "re-do" motif prevalent throughout the piece. The second conveys a sense of calm suspension, achieved through the use of a triple ostinato accompaniment over an improvisational melody. The combination of upper and lower registers creates a dialectic effect. The agitated, restless nature of the last piece is enhanced by an ostinato accompaniment and an almost constant change of meters, accented by jazz-like harmonies.

Isabel Aretz: Por La Senda de Kh'asana

Isabel Aretz (b. 1913 in Buenos Aires) has had an influential career as an ethnomusicologist, folklorist and composer. She studied piano and composition at the Buenos Aires National Conservatory of Music. She also studied folklore and musicology with Carlos Vega. In 1946 she married Venezuelan folklorist/musicologist Luiz Felipe Ramón y Rivera, and later moved with him to Caracas where she developed her own career as a researcher, teacher, and composer. She held various appointments, among them Director of the Instituto Interamericano de Etnomusicología y Folklore, later renamed Fundación de Ethnomusicología y Folklore. As a leading authority on South American folk and traditional music, her activities as a composer have been closely connected with that music. In her compositions, she has cultivated a highly personal nationalist style, based on a combination of indigenous or Afro-Hispanic folk traditions with avant-garde European-derived elements, including electronic techniques.

She has written a good number of piano works. Por la Senda de Kh'asana, composed in 1935, is a dreamy piece which reflects Aretz' interest in Indian folklore with impressionistic musical influences.

Alicia Terzián: Toccata

Alicia Terzian (born in Córdoba, Argentina in 1934) is one of the most dynamic musical figures in Argentina. Pianist, conductor, and musicologist, she studied piano and

composition at the Buenos Aires National Conservatory of Music, graduating with special honors. Her musicological interests have focused especially on medieval Armenian religious music. Her extensive catalogue of over 60 compositions includes works for various media (orchestra, chamber ensembles, solo instruments, electronic means and voice) and in different styles. Her works have been performed throughout Latin America, Europe and the United States. In 1978, she founded the Grupo Encuentros de Música Contemporánea de Buenos Aires, with which she toured the world, presenting new works of some of the most important new music composers of Latin America.

The piano Toccata of 1954 is one of Alicia Terzián's most important works, and was dedicated to her teacher, the great Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera. This work begins in a traditional manner. However, in the second section and in the coda, Terzian experimented with the form by presenting a new thematic idea based on a rhythmic pattern common in Argentinian folk music.

Martha Marchena

Martha Marchena is increasingly acclaimed as one of the most innovative and powerful pianists of today. A rising star of her generation, Marchena gained recognition early in her career for her command of the instrument and artistic insight. Noted for the originality of her programming, critics have praised the intensity of her interpretations as well as the emotional impact she brings to the audience. David M. Greene, historian and critic, has hailed her playing as "exquisite and breathtaking," remarking on her impressive capacity to understand the pieces and bring to life their great emotional range.

Before immigrating to the United States in 1979, Martha Marchena was one of Cuba's leading pianists, with appearances scheduled in Moscow and East Berlin. A versatile artist, Marchena performed as a soloist with orchestras, and in chamber music ensembles all over Europe and in North and South America, with recent appearances with the Orchestra Gran Mariscal de Ayacucho in Caracas, Venezuela and the Rome Music Festival in Italy. After graduating with honors from the University of Miami's doctoral program under the tutelage of Dr. Rosalina Sackstein, Marchena participated in worldwide competitions, most notably the Third International Villa-Lobos Piano Competition in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where she emerged as a finalist. She has also studied extensively with two exiled Cuban pianists, Daniel Evardo Daroca and Zenaida Manfugas. Since then, Marchena has continued to concertize gaining recognition for her ambitious and refreshing repertoire in contemporary music, as well as for her expertise in Latin American music. Today, Marchena emerges as the leading champion of Latin American music, bringing to the forefront many of the lost and under-represented composers of her heritage. Her recent repertoire uniquely incorporates the music of many contemporary female composers.

In addition, Marchena has kept a rigorous academic profile as professor and coordinator of keyboard at the Music Department at Kean College of New Jersey. She has participated in residencies, giving Master Classes, lecturing and performing recitals in universities throughout the United States, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and Spain. She has also maintained a busy lecture schedule at various symposia bridging Latin American music and women's studies.

Notes (with the exception of Tania León) by Gerard Béhague, The University of Texas at Austin. Notes on Tania León by Wilfredo Cancio Isla.

The artist would like to thank all her family, friends and colleagues that made this project possible, especially Prof. Ricardo Viera, Dr. Gerard Béhague, Wilfredo Cancio Isla, Steve Ballard, Daniel Daroca, Maria Martinez Cañas, Dr. Juana Rosa Pita, Dr. Antonio Prieto, Milena Sales, Richard Price, Gregory Squires and Kean College of New Jersey.

· Cover Art: Maria Martinez-Cañas Tres Totems

(Serie Negra), 1991

· Design by Ricardo Viera, RVdesignconsulting

· Portrait of Martha Marchena, Douglas Mason, 1996

· Produced and engineered by Gregory K. Squires, Squires Productions

· Digital editing and mastering by Richard Prices, Squires Productions

· Recorded March 1996 at SUNY Purchase,

Purchase, New York

· Steinway piano

SonORic Rituals: Rarely Performed Latin American Piano Music

Martha Marchena, Pianist

César Guerra Peixe

Prelúdios Tropicais

No. 1(2:59)

No. 4 (2:26)

No. 7 (2:56)

Juan José Castro

Corales Criollos No. 1 (12:46)

Orlando Jacinto Garcia

Recuerdos de otra música para piano (8:40)

Alfredo Rugeles

Tanguitis (3:48)

Tania León

Ritual (8:37)

Carlos A. Vázquez

Imágenes Caribeñas

Varadero (3:24)

Irazu (6:24)

Carraizo (1:35)

Mariza Rezende

Ressonâncias (6:18)

Marta Garcia Renart

Tres Momentos

Momento de juego (1:34)

Momento de reposo (2:22)

Momento inquieto (1:58)

Isabel Aretz

Por La Senda de Kh'asana (3:29)

Alicia Terzián

Toccata (4:17)

Total Time = 74:38