Fiesta Criolla

Saturday, September 3rd, 2011, 5:00-6:00 p.m.

Guillermo Uribe Holguín (1880-1971). Tres Danzas (1926/40). Württembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen, Gabriel Castagna. Chandos 10675, Tr 13-15. 8:05

Theodoro Valcárcel Caballero (1896-1942). Concierto indio (1940). Nora Chastain, violin, Württembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen, Gabriel Castagna. Chandos 10675, Tr 9-11. 18:47

Manuel Gómez Carrillo (1883-1968). Rapsodia santiagueña (1922). Württembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen, Gabriel Castagna. Chandos 10675, Tr 7. 11:57

Francisco Mignone (1897-1986). Congada (1921). Württembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen, Gabriel Castagna. Chandos 10675, Tr 12. 4:53

“I’ve been searching for these all my career!” The conductor from Argentina gazed at the more than 100 Latin American scores on the desks around him at the Fleisher Collection, just a fraction of the works found by Nicolas Slonimsky in Central and South America. Gabriel Castagna had flown to Philadelphia to study these, and he couldn’t believe his eyes.

Since 1909, Edwin Fleisher had scoured the United States and Europe for every orchestral work available, so in 1941 he turned to Latin America. He funded Slonimsky with $10,000 of his own money to acquire whatever he could find. The Collection then hand-copied or microfilmed the scores, extracted the parts for many of them, and returned the originals to their owners. Much of the music remained unpublished, and manuscripts sometimes disappeared in Latin America over the years, so it was often the case that the music existed only here, in Philadelphia.

Castagna was thrilled to discover music he thought was gone forever. From the scores he looked at come most of the music on this new CD. It’s called Fiesta Criolla, and on our program we’ll hear works by four of the composers on it.

Guillermo Uribe Holguín was the leading mid-century composer in Colombia. He studied with d’Indy in Paris, alongside Erik Satie. He became Director of the National Conservatory in Colombia until retiring to his coffee plantation. He conducted the premiere of Tres Danzas in 1927, then reworked the orchestration in 1940.

An Indian from both sides of the family, the Peruvian Theodoro Valcárcel Caballero was a talented child who at 15 studied music in Spain. He had no other formal training and loved to use Incan melodies he knew in his compositions. Some of his works were orchestrated by the German-born Rudolph Holzmann, who resided in Lima, but the charming Concierto indio is fully Valcárcel’s. He entered it into the Latin American Violin Concerto Competition funded by Philadelphia industrialist Samuel Fels, losing out to a concerto by the Brazilian Camargo Guarnieri.

Manuel Gómez Carrillo’s works are also often inspired by native music. His Rapsodia santiagueña is an example of his “accumulating folkloric material, and integrating it in established musical forms,” as he explained to Slonimsky. Based on tunes from his province of Santiago in Argentina, the Rapsodia premiered in Paris in 1924.

Francisco Mignone’s Congada is more of a Brazilian-Congolese-Catholic celebration than a mere dance. It’s his most successful orchestral piece, taken from the opera Contractador dos Diamantes. After studying in Italy, Mignone returned to Brazil to become a successful composer of concert music. He also wrote pop songs under the name Chico-Bororó, after the Bororó Indian tribe.

“The Collection saved… our repertory,” says Gabriel Castagna. He’s recording and performing as many of these as possible, to open the ears of the world to the richness and variety of this music. He comments on the good fortune of finding this safe in the Fleisher Collection, the start of what we hope are many such CDs, “You are doing a great service to the Latin American cultural heritage.” We think the same of him.

On the first Saturday of the month Jack Moore and I host Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection on WRTI 90.1 FM in Philadelphia and on the all-classical webstream at wrti.org. We also broadcast encore presentations of the entire Discoveries series (now nine years and counting!) every Wednesday at 7:00 pm on WRTI HD-2. For a look at all the shows, click here.

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