NPR

| Back to npr.org


Support for NPR by

Sempra Energy
 
Regular Features
 
Live in Studio 4A
Our showcase for artists invited to perform on the program and talk about their music
The PT 50
Our list of 50 essential classical CDs
Piano Puzzlers
Bruce Adolphe's "name that composer" piano quiz
 
 
 
La Jolla SummerFest in Focus
"An Evening at KPBS"
NPR/KPBS/SummerFest set shot From the soundstage of station KPBS in San Diego, Fred Child hosts a performance-chat for your ears and your eyes as PT goes TV. It's Performance Today's television debut at La Jolla SummerFest.
Highlights include violinists Gil Shaham and Cho-Liang Lin playing duets; guitarist Sharon Isbin and cellist Carter Brey trading leads in Manuel de Falla's "Suite Populaire Espagnole," and the La Jolla musicians re-enacting a Madrid street party in the TV studio with the raucous "Fandango" by Luigi Boccherini, featuring Fred Child on the castanets and tambourine.

Perf-Chat at KPBS
Video still from La Jolla SummerFest in Focus: "An Evening at KPBS"
Violinists Gil Shaham and Cho-Liang Lin
Violinists Gil Shaham and Cho-Liang Lin pick their way through Bartók
Credit: Erin Skelton, KPBS
Guitarist Sharon Isbin and cellist Carter Brey
Guitarist Sharon Isbin and cellist Carter Brey play music by Manuel de Falla
Fred Child plays the tambourine in Boccherini's Fandango
Violist Ori Kam and violinlists Michael Shih and Adele Anthony
Violist Ori Kam and violinists Michael Shih and Adele Anthony
Violinists Adele Anthony and Gil Shaham'
Violinists Adele Anthony and Gil Shaham play "Sweet Georgia Brown"

BÉLA BARTÓK (1881-1945) audio iconListen | audio iconWatch
Select duos for two violins, Sz. 98, BB 104 (1931)
        Cho-Liang Lin, violin -- bio
        Gil Shaham, violin -- bio

MANUEL DE FALLA (1876-1946) audio iconListen | audio iconWatch
"El Paño Moruno" from Suite Populaire Espagnole (1926)
"Jota and Polo" from Suite Populaire Espagnole (1926)
        Sharon Isbin, guitar -- bio
        Carter Brey, cello -- bio

LUIGI BOCCHERINI (1743-1805) audio iconListen | audio iconWatch
"Fandango" from Quintet No. 4 in D Major for guitar and strings, G.448 (1771-1788)
        Sharon Isbin, guitar
        Adele Anthony, violin -- bio
        Michael Shih, violin -- bio
        Ori Kam, viola -- bio
        Carter Brey, cello
        Fred Child, castanets -- bio

ANTONIO VIVALDI (1678-1741) audio iconListen | audio iconWatch
Concerto in D Major for guitar, strings and continuo, RV93 (1716)
Allegro - Largo - Allegro
        Sharon Isbin, guitar
        Adele Anthony, violin
        Ori Kam, viola,
        Carter Brey, cello

MACEO PINKARD (1897-1962) audio iconListen | audio iconWatch
"Sweet Georgia Brown" (1925)
Arranged for two violins by Julian Melone
        Gil Shaham and Adele Anthony, violins


 
PROGRAM NOTES
by Eric Bromberger

Suite Populaire Espagnole
MANUEL DE FALLA
Born November 23, 1876, Cadiz
Died November 14, 1946, Alta Grazia, Argentina

Vivaldi spent nearly forty years (1704-1740) as music director of the Ospedale della Pietà, a home for illegitimate, abandoned, or orphaned girls in Venice. In that era (perhaps more progressive than our own), the Ospedale believed that teaching these girls to play an instrument would give them a useful skill, rescue them from a life of poverty, and keep them from becoming lifelong burdens on the state. At the Ospedale, Vivaldi's responsibilities were to teach the violin and to write music for the girls to play, and it was for the use of these girls that he wrote most of his 450 concertos. The vast majority of them are for the composer's own instrument, the violin, and he also wrote for other stringed instruments and for winds. But apparently some of the girls in the Ospedale played unusual instruments, and Vivaldi wrote for them too: among these works is the Concerto in D Major heard on this program, which was originally composed for lute and orchestra.

Though it was conceived for an unusual instrument, this has become one of Vivaldi's most popular concertos, and it exists in several forms-it is probably best known in its present arrangement for guitar, but it has also been played on the mandolin and even the violin. This popularity is no surprise at all. Its pleasing melodies, rhythmic vitality, and infectious spirits have made this concerto a favorite with both audiences and performers.

Perhaps because he was writing for an instrument that is not very powerful, Vivaldi scored this concerto for the unusual orchestra of only two violin parts and a basso continuo line. Much of this music's effectiveness comes from the deft interplay of soloist and orchestra, for the ritornello themes are full of snap and energy, and they contrast nicely with the delicate but agile sound of the guitar. This concerto requires little description, and many listeners will discover they already know this pleasing music. It is in three movements in the expected fast-slow-fast sequence. Vivaldi launches the concerto with a firm Allegro giusto built on the orchestra's rhythmic opening ritornello, and the soloist plays off the orchestra's strong statements. This music feels constantly alive, from the snapped 32nd-notes of the ritornello through the busy runs that are exchanged by soloist and orchestra. An expressive Largo is followed by a concluding Allegro that dances (gallops?) happily along its 12/8 meter.

 
Quintet No. 4 in D Major for Guitar, Strings, and Continuo, G.448
LUIGI BOCCHERINI
Born February 19, 1743, Lucca
Died May 28, 1805, Madrid

During his forty-year tenure as court composer in Madrid, Boccherini appears to have been charmed by the exotic life of his adopted country, and in his compositions he sometimes included "non?musical" sounds he heard around him in Spain. One of his quintets, full of the sound of hunting horns and bird?calls, is nicknamed the "Aviary," and another work-subtitled "Nocturnal Music of the Streets of Madrid"-makes use of church bells and bugle calls from the military garrison. This attention to the native sounds of Spain appears as well in the series of guitar quintets that Boccherini composed during the 1790s, late in his life-in the Guitar Quintet in D Major, he expands the range of Spanish sounds in his music by including two of the most "Spanish" instruments of all, guitar and castanets. These late guitar quintets were not new compositions, but rather arrangements-for guitar and string quartet-of music Boccherini had originally composed some years earlier for string quintet; in the present case, Boccherini borrowed the first two movements from a quintet composed in 1771, the final two from another composed in 1788.

Boccherini was not so much concerned in this music with sonata form and developing his materials rigorously as he was with writing pleasing melodies and agreeable harmonies, and this guitar quintet is full of enjoyable tunes and bright rhythms. In the vigorous opening Allegro maestoso, Boccherini lets the strings take the lead, with the guitar content to repeat their themes or provide chordal accompaniment; this movement makes striking use of cello harmonics. In the relaxed Pastorale, Boccherini mutes the strings and has the guitar provide a rippling accompaniment to their flowing, silken melodies; several times he reminds the performers to play dolcissimo. The final movement is in two parts: it opens with a slow introduction marked Grave assai, but then leaps ahead at the Fandango. A fandango is an old dance of Latin origin in which the tempo gradually accelerates; the accompaniment is usually by castanets or guitar. Boccherini achieves a rather full sonority from his players in this movement, and the writing-sometimes featuring long cello glissandi-is imaginative. He brings all these elements together in the exciting and colorful conclusion to this quintet, where the tempo gradually eases ahead and then rushes to the close, pushed ahead by explosive interjections from the castanets.

 
Concerto in D Major for Guitar, Strings, and Continuo, RV 93
ANTONIO VIVALDI
Born March 4, 1678, Venice
Died July 26/7, 1741, Vienna

Falla had moved from Madrid to Paris in 1907, but returned to Spain at the beginning of World War I. His final work before that departure was the Seven Popular Spanish Songs, completed in Paris in 1914. It comes from a period of unusual creativity: El Amor Brujo would follow in 1915 and Nights in the Gardens of Spain in 1916. In arranging that collection of songs, Falla took the unaccompanied melodic line of seven Spanish popular or folk songs and harmonized them himself, occasionally rewriting or expanding the original melodic line to suit his own purposes. Several years later the Polish violinist Paul Kochanski arranged six of the songs-with the approval of the composer-for violin and piano and published them (in a different order) as Suite Populaire Espagnole. The arrangement for cello and guitar performed this evening is based on Kochanski's version, though it presents the songs in Falla's original sequence; the guitar part was arranged by Emilio Pujol from the piano accompaniment in the original Falla vocal version.

El paño moruno or "The Moorish Cloth" (Allegretto vivace) is based exactly on the famous song, and Kochanski's arrangement makes imaginative use of harmonics and pizzicato.

Asturiana (Andante tranquillo) is a tune from Asturia, a province in the northwest part of Spain. Here the cello, muted throughout, plays the melodic line above a quiet sixteenth-note accompaniment.

Jota (Allegro vivo) is the best-known part of the suite. A jota is a dance in triple time from northern Spain, sometimes accompanied by castanets. Slow sections alternate with fast here, and the extensive use of chorded pizzicatos may be intended to imitate the sound of castanets.

Nana (Calmo e sostenuto) is an arrangement of an old Andalusian cradle song, and Falla said that hearing this melody sung to him by his mother was his earliest memory. The cello is muted throughout, and the accompaniment is quietly syncopated.

Canción (Allegretto) repeats a dance theme continuously: the entire middle section is performed on artificial harmonics.

Polo (Vivo) The polo is a specific form: an Andalusian folksong or dance in 3/8 time, sometimes with coloratura outbursts. This particular polo, while based on Andalusian elements, is largely Falla's own composition.

 
In Depth