Fred Sturm, piano
Heitor Villa-Lobos (Brazil, 1887-1959) and Alberto Ginastera (Argentina, 1916 -1983) are without any doubt the giants of Latin American classical music. In fact, in my opinion they were two of the most exciting composers ever, from any part of the world. Both were extraordinarily creative, and each evolved a style that has its basis in the cultural heritage of his native country. Sometimes this involved the use of folk materials in a self-conscious effort to create a "national" music, as many composers were doing during the same period. But in the case of these two, it was not mere artifice: that "national character" simply became a part of their being. Villa Lobos liked to say, "I am Brazilian Folk Music."
Lenda do Caboclo (Villa Lobos, 1920) is one of Villa Lobos' most popular short works. Very Brazilian in character, it features a syncopated melody over a lightly swinging, triple/duple base. (Lenda is roughly equivalent to "ballad," while caboclo means a native person - aboriginal or of mixed race).
Doce Preludios Americanos (Ginastera, opus 12, 1944) was commissioned by publisher Carl Fischer as part of a series of contemporary works by composers of the Americas. These short character pieces range from simple two part lyricism to frenzied, percussive exuberance, and include homages to several composers, among them Aaron Copland and Villa Lobos.
A Prole do BebÃª, Suite 1 (Villa Lobos, 1918). This was one of the works that Villa Lobos took with him to Paris in 1923, a trip which transformed him overnight from an obscure regional composer to an international sensation. The legendary piano virtuoso Artur Rubenstein was very taken by this work when he visited Rio de Janeiro in 1920, and he performed it regularly throughout his career. The seventh movement, O Policinelo, became one of Rubenstein's favorite encores and was, in fact, the last encore of his very last public concert.
While on a superficial level this remarkable suite owes a great deal to the compositional techniques of Debussy, it is at the same time one of the earliest works that is authentically Villa Lobos. Villa Lobos was adamant in saying that his music should not be played like Debussy, but rather like Villa Lobos.
Each movement depicts a different member of "the baby's family" of dolls (a second suite depicts ten animals). They are (1) The White Porcelain Doll, (2) The Brown-haired Papier-machÃ© Doll, (3) The Clay Indian Doll, (4) The Rubber Mulatta Doll, (5) The Black Wooden Doll, (6) The Poor Little Rag Doll, (7) The Clown (Polchinello), and (8) The Cloth Witch.
Danzas Argentinas (Ginastera, opus 2, 1937). These dances evoke three very different characters. (1) "The Old Ox-drover" is rather stiff, but very precise and full of rhythmic subtlety. (2) "The Graceful Maiden" is suave and debonaire, but a well of passion lurks just below the surface. (3) "The Outlaw Cowboy" is wild and violent, dances with complete abandon, and loves to show off his incredible strength and dexterity.
Piezas Infantiles (Ginastera, 1934). Three brief gems based on children's songs, filled with wit and good humor.
Bachianas Brasileiras no. 4 (Villa Lobos, 1930-41). This, the fourth in a well-known series, was originally written for solo piano, though it is more often heard in its later, orchestrated version. Like the other "Bachianas," this takes its inspiration from the music of J. S. Bach, but adds a Brazilian twist. Each movement has a "Bachian" title followed by a Brazilian one. (The third and fourth movements were first published in 1935 and 1930, respectively, and later joined with the first two movements to form the completed work).
Prelude (Introduction) is, like many of Bach's preludes, based almost entirely on a single melodic/rhythmic motive, but this is given a harmonic and dynamic treatment much more exotic than any Bach would have used. In Chorale (Song in the Jungle), a simple, chorale-like melody is surrounded by the sounds of the jungle, including the raucous caw of the Araponga (a bird seldom seen, but always heard). Aria (Song) is in the form of a da capo aria, but with a middle section based on a popular Brazilian song that has a samba-like character. Dance (Miudinho) is in the spirit of a Bach Gigue, full of rhythmic vitality.
Suite de Danzas Criollas (Ginastera, opus 15, 1946). The word criollo in Latin American Spanish is quite similar to the Brazilian Portuguese word caboclo. Both imply a person who was born in a particular place, a native, often of mixed race, and of a simple, earthy character. The five movements of this suite range from a delicate, deceptively simple melody over rich cluster chords, to the rhythmic drive and stunning climax of the last movement's coda.
Fred Sturm makes his home in the Land of Enchantment, which some people refer to as the "State of New Mexico." For those of greater understanding, it is more of a "state of mind," or "spiritual state," perhaps best described by the Dine (Navajo) as "to walk in beauty."
"FÃ¼r ihn waren Kunst und KÃ¼nstlerschaft wertlos, wenn sie nicht brannten wie Sonne und Gewalt hatten wie StÃ¼rme . . . wenn sie nur Behagen brachten, nur Angehmes, nur kleines Gluck." (For him, art and artistry were worthless, if they did not burn like the sun or possess the power of storms. . . if they merely brought ease, pleasure, a little happiness.)
Hermann Hesse, Narziss und Goldmund
Este disco Ãª dedicado, com muito carinho, ao meu pai.
Recorded in Keller Hall, University of New Mexico, June - September, 2003.
Recorded, edited and mastered by Manny Rettinger, Ubik Sound, LLC, Albuquerque, NM
Copyright 2003, Fred S. Sturm
Cover design: Paul Akmajian Photos: Terri Reck Program notes: Fred Sturm
Produced with Sturm und Drang, 315 Nara Visa Rd NW, Albuquerque, NM
1. A Lenda do Caboclo
2. Para los acentos
4. Danza criolla
6. En el primero modo pentÃ¡fono menor
7. Homenaje a Roberto GarcÃa Morillo
8. Para las octavas
9. Homenaje a Juan JosÃ© Castro
10. Homenaje a Aaron Copland
12. Homenaje a Heitor Villa-Lobos
13. En el primero modo pentÃ¡fono mayor
14. Branquinha, a boneca de louÃ§a
15. Moreninha, a boneca de massa
16. Caboclinha, a boneca de barro
17. Mulatinha, a boneca de borracha
18. Negrinha, a boneca de pau
19. Pobrezinha, a boneca de trapo
20. O polichinelo
21. Bruxa, a boneca de pano
22. Danza del viejo boyero
23. Danza de la moza donosa
24. Danza del gaucho matrero
25. AntÃ³n Pirulero
27. Arroz con leche
28. Preludio (IntroduÃ§ao)
29. Coral (Canto do SertÃ£o)
30. Aria (Cantiga)
31. Dansa (Miudinho)
32. Adagietto pianissimo
33. Allegro Rustico
34. Allegretto cantabile
35. Calmo e poetico
36. Scherzando - Coda