The Passion According to Four Evangelists
Carole Haber, Gloria Raymond, William Hite, David Murray, The Back Bay Channel
For the modern reader, the word "passion" suggests strong emotion or sexual desire. However, the word derives from Latin -- passio -- and even more distantly, from Greek -- pascho, pathos, pathema -- meaning "to suffer." In this latter sense, it relates to "the passion" -- the gospel narrative of Jesus' suffering and death on the cross as told by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the New Testament.
The challenge of composing a passion in the twentieth century is considerable given the fact that there is no sizable contemporary repertoire in this genre and hence, no prospective models -- only two "recent" works come to mind: Krzysztof Penderecki's St. Luke Passion (1963-65) and Arvo Part's Passio (1973). In these modern passions, as well as those by Bach and other baroque composers, the story is narrated by a single figure, one of the four evangelists. From the beginning, I decided to take a different path in terms of storytelling and musical dramatization. In writing the text, I began with the Revised Standard version of the gospels, and after interweaving the four stories together, I set about the task of "editing" the entire text. I distilled the stories into a poetic form which has been created, not as literature, but as a text to be set to music.
In The Passion According to Four Evangelists I intend every note to be heard simply and directly -- I hope that the power of the story is felt through the starkness and clarity of the musical expression. I am not interested in reflecting trends or fads (the latest "-isms") or relying on historical references -- rather, for each scene, I have strived to compose music which proceeds from the inner core of the narrative. I have tried to convey only the essential -- no more, no less. Beyond that, that story speaks for itself.
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I Cantori & The Archbishop’s Ensemble
In the library of a small Catholic college in Pennsylvania I found the complete Chilam Balam, the sacred books of the Maya Indians of Yucatan. The prophet Balam in his 15th century writings foretold of strangers from the east who would bring a new religion to the Maya. It was from these books that most of Apologetica's text was gleaned.
The choral-string piece Totoka (track 3) and the introducton to the song Lovely Bird (track 5) use texts created from mixing Hopi and Navajo words and phrases. Apologetica, the final work in this set of pieces uses a text drawn from The Tears of the Indians, a 1542 book by Fray Bartoleme de las Casas, the Spanish Bishop who was known as the Protector of the Indians.
Apologetica went through several incarnations before reaching its final form of 14 pieces -- ten songs and four instrumental interludes. The texts, created by Sheilah Britton and myself, are as true to the spirit of the original sources as possible.
The world premiere of Apologetica took place at St. Moritz Cathedral in Kromeriz, Czech Republic in June 1996 with Zdenka Vaculovicova conducting the Archbishop's Ensemble. Since that time there have been complete and excerpted performances in Kobe, Japan, the ISA's Drama City, and at Musica Visual Festival in Lanzarote, Canary Islands.
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Música de Feria, the string instruments
The four string quartets exhibit rhythmic trickery and a Ravelian harmonic sophistication, in addition to a cheerful way with folk materials that has parallels in Stravinsky, Bartok, and Janacek, though the feel is sunnier.
—The New Yorker
I was born in Santiago Papasquiaro, Durango, on December 31, 1899. It is located, I think, near the mountains, since my earliest and most vivid childhood recollection is of a trip through the sierra tied to the back of a mule—I was just a little fellow—sleeping in a tent on the ground, hunting birds with a slingshot, picking berries at daylight, hearing the wolves in the night. I was left from that time on with an impulsive, humble love of pine trees, mountains, and the horizon.
As a small boy (and maybe as an adult) I always preferred banging on a washtub or dreaming up tales to doing something useful. And that is how I spent my time, imitating instruments with my voice, improvising orchestras and songs to accompaniments on the washtub, one of those round galvanized tubs that I always preferred to drum on more than to bathe in.
I began to love Bach and Beethoven at a very early stage. It gave me much pleasure to stroll Chapultepec Park's romantic avenues, taking long strides, arms behind my back, long hair in disarray. Those lithographs and engravings of poor Beethoven, grim-faced, defying the storm, had a strong influence over me. I could do no less myself.
I have had many teachers. The best of them, with no degrees, knew more than the others. For that reason I have always had little respect for degrees. Now, after many years I still study, have teachers, write music, dream of distant countries, and sometimes bang on washtubs.
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David Tanenbaum, guitar
This is a cycle of some of the most loved works by Piazzolla (1921-1992), whose musical language was an Ellingtonian expression of his culture. It weaves the Latin urban forms of tango, milonga, rumba, rag and bossa nova into dance-like concert music. Featuring first recordings of arrangements by Sergio and Otair Assad ("Las Cuatro Estaciones Porteños") and Leo Brouwer ("La Muerte del Angel"), David Tanenbaum's virtuostic performance also includes arrangements by Augustin Carlevaro ("Chau Paris") and the only works Piazzolla wrote specifically for guitar, the "Cinco Piezas".
These pieces remain true to Piazzolla's equation: Tango + Comedy + Tragedy + Whorehouse = Nuevo Tango.
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Four, for tango
String quartets by Astor Piazolla, Arturo Marquez, Jose Evangelista, Miguel del Aquila, Paquito d’Rivera, Javier Alvarez, Frederico Ibarra, Javier Montiel
The Cuarteto Latinoamericano has been deeply invested in performing the cycle of composers of Latin American heritage around the world for the past few decades. On a given night on a concert stage they will perform works from these composers -- as well as Silvestre Revueltas from Mexico, Héitor Villa-Lobos from Brazil, Alberto Ginastera from Argentina and many others -- works which lift expression from the popular and folkloric toward a variable abstraction, work of powerful individuality, which is the musical relative of literature's magical realism, and which Ginastera referred to as imaginary folklore.
José Evangelista (born in Valencia, Spain) resides in Montreal, Canada where he is a professor and founder of the Balinese gamelan workshop at the University of Montreal, and a resident composer of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. Spanish Garland is made up of twelve folkloric melodies, mostly very ancient and from Spain's very different Islamic regions. The styles come from the Muslims, from India, from the gypsies and from the memory of the virtuosity of Pablo de Sarasate.
Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992) took the tango from a popular dance form and from it made art. Four, for Tango (1987) contains remarkable instrumental vigor, powerful rhythm, and aggressive and passionate sonorities with a characteristic taste of Buenos Aires nostalgia.
Considered by the international press as "one of the most outstanding composers of South America," Miguel del Águila was born in Montevideo, Uruguay in 1957 and studied there, in Vienna, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Presto No. 2, written for and premiered by the Cuarteto Latinoamericano, is a Latin dance of never-ending movement. The candid and swinging theme insinuates itself with pizzicatos, progresses in crescendo and bursts into an agitated scherzo to arrive at a climax that involves a hilarious wink toward Ravel's La Valse.
The musicologist Yolanda Moreno Rivas wrote of Javier Álvarez (b. 1956), "He is probably the most interesting Mexican musician born in the '50s." Álvarez has written various pieces commissioned by and named after the Mexico City Metro system. Metro Taxqueña imagines a late night itinerary, with only a few travelers in the cars, and a somber and melancholic meditation sliding down the windows.
Paquito d'Rivera (b. 1948) former member of the Cuban group Irakere, saxophone virtuoso and fundamental figure of Latin jazz, has toured the world and recorded profusely. Written in the '70s and inspired by the music of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, Wapango relates to the orchestral work by Moncayo called the Huapango.
Arturo Márquez (b. Mexico, 1950) is a composer of luxuriant imagination and has experimented frequently with the dialogue between concert and popular music of the Caribbean and Latin American origins. Homenaje a Gismonti, which honors the Brazilian musician Egberto Gismonti, was written in 1993 for the Cuarteto Latinoamericano by request of the San Miguel de Allende Chamber Music Festival. The composer was inspired by the music of the Huasteca people who performed at the San Joaquin, Queretaro, Festival. Some of the melodic and rhythmic bow strokes are suggested by the Huastecan sones, and a cello solo is in honor of Gismonti.
A leader among the current generation of Mexican composers, Frederico Ibarra (b. 1946) works in chamber, symphonic music and opera. The String Quartet No. 2, Órfico, also commissioned by the San Miguel de Allende Chamber Music Festival, is divided into three movements. His compositions are characterized by a deep and eclectic assimilation of modern and contemporary techniques and languages, and by an emotional impact that frequently reaches dramatism.
Few themes in history have been as known as Niccolo Paganini's Caprice No. 24 for solo violin. The variations by Javier Montiel -- composer and violist of the Cuarteto Latinoamericano -- have evolved into the Cuarteto's preferred encore. Going from enunciation to ironic insinuation, from neo-classicism to contemporary instrumental resources, Montiel's variations are clearly rooted to the end of the 20th Century.
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