Colin Davin (USA) guitar and Duo Melis (Spain and Greece), guitars - June 11 at 7:30 p.m., Eastern Time

---COLIN DAVIN (USA), guitar---
Antonio Lauro (1917-1986) From Valses Venezolanos
No. 2 "Andreina"
No. 3 "Natalia" Pedro Elías Gutiérrez (1870-1954), arr. Alirio Díaz Alma Llanera Leo Brouwer (b. 1939) Sonata del Caminante Visión de la Amazonia
El Gran Sertao
Danza festiva
Toccata Nordestina Manuel María Ponce (1882–1948), arr. Celil Refik Kaya Estrellita Jorge Morel (1931-2021) Danza Brasilera

When Spain colonized the new world, the guitar followed. By this time, the guitar was already a successful transplant in Spain, having woven itself into Spanish culture via the Moorish invasion in 711 AD. Indeed, it was well suited for emigration: easy to carry, adaptable, and sufficient unto itself for providing music for any occasion. (We might consider it the portable MP3 player of its day.) This recital offers selections of music that, though seeded in Spain, blossomed on foreign soil.

Antonio Lauro (1917-1986) got an early start in music. His father was a singer and composer, but died in 1922. Perhaps to pick up the torch, the younger Lauro applied himself to musical studies, becoming a regular radio performer in his teens. A 1986 television interview from his home—you can find it on Youtube—showed him to be an entrancingly lyrical player. Lauro became a lifelong champion of Venezuelan music.“I have made it my purpose to cultivate nationalism. First, for its true pleasure. Second, for the greater pleasure of annoying the enemies of my nation.” Asked if one had to be Latin American to correctly play his music, Lauro agreed—to a point. But he believed any fine musician could fare well: “I can also say with respect to the Venezuelan vals—in particular my valses which are played by guitarists—that it is possible to suggest the vals with just the notes put down on paper, so that by simply following the melodic line, the structure, the logic of the accent, it is possible to obtain perfectly valid interpretations.”

Barely known outside Venezuela, Pedro Elías Gutiérrez (1870-1954) was a composer and band leader. Sometime before 1914 he set to music the poem “Alma Llanera,” an ardent paean to his native land. Shortly later in 1917, the Victor Talking Machine Company in Caracas released its first recording of the song. Alma Llanera went viral, eventually becoming the unofficial national anthem of Venezuela.

Cuban composer Leo Brouwer (b. 1939) wrote his Sonata del Caminante in 2007 for Brazilian guitarist Odair Assad. A rough English translation of "caminante" is "wayfarer.” Thus, this sonata depicts a journey through Brazil. Of it, he wrote: “Composition is a birth with its pain, its effort and its joy but, in this case, everything was organic. Thinking and doing were one and the same. An impossible challenge for any guitar virtuoso is something common for Odair. This contributed to the fluidity of the sound in the sonata. The Sertão and the great forest intersect in waterfalls of sounds distant and static, calmed like the plain. Thematically you won’t find in this sonata sweet melodies nor gracious batucadas—if I intended something, it was intensity. I hope to have succeeded.”

Mexican composer Manuel Ponce (1882-1948) wrote Estrellita in 1912, inspired by an overnight train trip under a clear Mexican sky. He published the song two years later, and it became an instant hit. But he failed to secure a proper copyright, and earned no royalties as the song swept across Mexico. It was picked up and performed by many classical musicians. Violinist Jascha Heifetz heard it in a Mexico café in 1923 and jotted the melody onto a napkin. He performed it frequently, even playing it in the 1939 movie They Shall Have Music.

Although named Jorge Scibona at birth, Argentine Jorge Morel (1931-2021) changed his name shortly after moving to New York. (He did it at the suggestion of a friend, who convinced him that it would be easier for Americans to remember.) He explained his decision to move to New York bluntly: “Because that’s where the work was.” But Morel also had a deeper reason: “It was the love of jazz that made me come to this country—the music here, the jazz.”

Notes by Tom Poore

-------------------------------------- ---DUO MELIS (Spain & Greece), guitars---
Antoine de Lhoyer (1768-1852) Duo Concertant, op. 31 no. 2 Allegro moderato - Minuetto
Poco vivace
Adagio cantabile
Rondo Allegretto Joseph-Nicolas-Pancrase Royer (1703-1755) L'Aimable Le Vertigo Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909) Mallorca Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983) Danzas Argentinas Danza del viejo boyero
Danza de la moza donosa
Danza del gaucho matrero


Almost forgotten after his death, Antoine de Lhoyer (1768-1852) never was a professional musician. Rather, he was a soldier in the French army. It was his misfortune to serve his military career during three revolutionary upheavals in France. Depending on which side was ascendant, Lhoyer found himself in and out of France, variously exiled in Germany and Russia. Through all this, Lhoyer managed to compose 38 opus numbers, mainly chamber works with guitar. Judging from the virtuosity of the guitar writing, he must have been a player of considerable skill. Rediscovered in the late 20th century, his music is emerging from a century and a half of neglect.

Born and raised in Italy, Joseph-Nicolas-Pancrace Royer (1703-1755) relocated to Paris in his early 20s. There he landed on his feet, rising through the ranks to become a chamber musician to Louis XV, and music teacher to the king’s children. By 1753 he became music director of the Chambre du Roi and the Royal Opera orchestra. He was a successful opera composer during his lifetime. But today, if he’s remembered at all, it’s mainly for his lively harpsichord music. He wrote of these works: “The pieces are open to great variety, passing from the tender to the lively, from the simple to the tumultuous, often successively within the same piece.”

Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909) wrote Mallorca while living in London. He dedicated the piece to Ellie Lowenfeld, the daughter of theater impresario Henry Lowenfield. Believing that Albéniz had it in him to be a theater composer, Lowenfield collaborated with him on many operettas. Today these are virtually forgotten. But the brief Mallorca remains ever popular, though better known as a guitar transcription than in its piano original. Legend has it that as Albéniz lay dying, visiting fellow composer Enrique Granados played Mallorca to ease his pain.

Argentine Alberto Ginastera (1916–1983) was a musical omnivore, composing three operas, five ballets, eleven movie scores, numerous concertos for a bevy of instruments, cantatas, and a host of chamber and solo works. His early works were overtly nationalistic. Perhaps his most popular early work is his 1937
Danzas Argentinas, comprising three movements. The first movement, Danza del viejo boyero (Dance of the Old Herdsman), is a bitonal piece—in the piano original, the left hand plays only black keys and the right hand plays only white keys. Be sure to listen for the imitation of the guitar’s open strings near the end. Danza de la moza donosa (Dance of the Beautiful Maiden) is a languid and sensual dance in 6/8. This is Ginastera at his lyrical best, and it justly is one of his most beloved melodies. Danza del gaucho matrero (Dance of the Renegade Cowboy) is a wild finale, sprinkled with markings like “furiosamente,” “violente,” and “salvaggio.”

Notes by Tom Poore
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