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ClassicsOnline Home » BROUWER: Guitar Music, Vol. 3 - Sonata / Hika / Suite No. 2 / Rio de los Orishas
American Record Guide
Leo Brouwer (b.1939)
Guitar Music Volume 3
The composer, guitarist and conductor Leo Brouwer Mezquida was born in Havana in 1939 into a family of musicians. He had his first music lessons from his father, Juan Brouwer, and his aunt, Caridad Mezquida, while his great-uncle, Ernesto Lecuona, had been famous both as a composer and as a pianist. He had his first guitar lessons in 1953 with Isaac Nicola, who established the modern school of Cuban guitar-playing, and two years later began to study composition on his own. In 1959 he was awarded a scholarship for further study of the guitar in America at Hartford University and of composition at the Juilliard School in New York, where his studies were with Vincent Persichetti, Stefan Wolpe, Isadore Preed, J.Diemente and Joseph Iadone. In 1960 he was appointed director of the Instituto Cubano de Arte e Industria Cinematográficos, a position that, over the years, brought the composition of a large number of film scores both in Cuba and abroad. From this time onwards he was associated with the Cuban musical avant-garde, serving as adviser to Radio Habana Cuba and teaching at the Conservatorio Nacional, and, as occasion demanded, in universities abroad. He established the biennial Cuban Guitar Competition and Festival and since 1981 has been general director of the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Cuba. Conducting engagements have taken him to a number of countries.
It has been possible to distinguish three periods in Brouwers development as a composer. The first of these started in 1954, with a series of pieces that explored the resources of the guitar in works that combined traditional classical forms with Cuban inspiration. In the 1960s, after the Cuban revolution, he came to know the work of avant-garde composers such as Penderecki and Bussotti, when he attended the 1961 Warsaw Autumn Festival, absorbing these influences and those of leading contemporary composers who visited Cuba from abroad, into a very personal style that made use of modern techniques of various kinds, including elements of post-serialism and the aleatoric. The late 1970s brought a third period that Brouwer himself has described as national hyper-romanticism, a return to Afro-Cuban roots coupled with elements of traditional technique and of minimalism. In addition to his many film scores, he has written orchestral works, including concertos for the guitar, the flute, and the violin, and chamber works that often include the guitar. Many of his guitar compositions have won an international reputation, with a firm place in current repertoire, played and recorded by guitarists throughout the world.
The sonata which begins this disc was written in 1990 for Julian Bream, who gave its first performance the following year. The first movement, entitled Fandangos y Boleros, begins with a Preambulo followed by a Danza section in which Brouwer merges the rhythms of the Spanish baroque Fandango with those of the Bolero, a Cuban love-song. Brouwer describes the first movement as a sort of puzzle in which the colours are recomposed and redistributed much the same way as in Paul Klees Magic Squares. There is a quotation from Beethovens Pastoral Symphony towards the end of the movement and Brouwer has likened the fragmented form of Fandangos y Boleros to the fragmented sonata form found in the first movement of Beethovens famous Pastoral Symphony. The second movement, Sarabanda de Scriabin, recreates the dark, mysterious sound world of this composers works and the final movement is called Toccata de Pasquini, which contains a quotation from the seventeenth-century Italian composer and keyboard-player Bernardo Pasquinis most famous work, the Scherzo del cucco (Cuckoo Scherzo).
Tres Piezas Latino-Americanas are based on various songs from South America. The first is based on Astor Piazzolas La Muerte del Angel (The Death of the Angel), the second on a song by Carlos Guastavino and the third on a folk-song from Peru, entitled Viva Jujuy. By adding introductions, bridge passages, harmonizations and counterpoint, Brouwer has turned these songs into his own personal utterances.
Leo Brouwer composed his Suite No. 2 as an adolescent. His Cuban roots are heard in the outer movements, while the central movement is suggestive of neo-classical Russian composers such as Shostakovich, Stravinsky and Prokofiev.
Brouwer enjoyed a close friendship for many years with the Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu. "Hika" In Memoriam Toru Takemitsu was completed shortly after the Takemitsus death. Hika means elegy or song of mourning and Brouwers piece is based around Takemitsus favourite scale, the Lydian. A wonderful sonority is achieved by tuning the second string of the guitar down to B flat and the fifth string down to G.
An Idea is a short piece written in honour of the seventieth birthday of the Canadian guitar teacher, Eli Kassner.
Cuban Landscape with Carillons is a fascinating piece, which uses repeated fragments, harmonics and some special effects, such as simultaneous tapping of the fingerboard with both left and right hands, to create a unique atmosphere.
The religion of the Yoruba was brought to Cuba by African slaves and Orishas is the Yoruban word for Afro-Cuban gods and goddesses. Brouwers Rito de los Orishas (Rite of the Orishas) is a dark, powerful, rhythmic work in two movements. The first, Exordium-Conjuro, suggests a ritual in which evil spirits are overcome. The second, Danza de la Diosas Negras (Dance of the Black Goddesses), consists of three dance variants set between mysterious reflective passages.
It was written in 1995 for the Uruguayan guitarist, Alvaro Pierri.
Un Dia de Noviembre (A Day in November) was composed for a black and white film made by Humberto Solaz in 1967.With its simple feeling of melancholy, it is quickly becoming a classic amongst guitarists and should appeal to music lovers everywhere.
Graham Anthony Devine
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