Argentina is a land of myth as much as a land of history. It was here that Maria Callas and Enrico Caruso sailed for such memorable performances at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires during their summer vacations. European musicians flocked to Argentina during the Second World War as a safe haven and because they felt at home with the elegance of the European-styled theaters, audiences, and ambiance. Additionally the vastness of the landscape and the huge Argentine ranches gave the country a cultural aspect reminiscent of the famed “American West” of the 1890s. But the open ranges still exist in Argentina today.
Antonio Lysy captures the cultural range of this country in our recording. He chose these particular works because they all draw inspiration from the folk music traditions of Argentina. Like Bartok in Europe and Copland in the United States, Ginastera served as the Argentine grandfather of a generation of composers who turned folk tunes into concert music that became known as quintessentially Argentine. Ginastera focused on Inca and Gaucho rhythms and melodies, much as Bartok drew inspiration from folk tunes from Eastern Europe. All of the composers on this album follow Ginastera’s lead. The rich and romantic sound of the Argentine savanna (or Pampas) returns in the newly commissioned work by Schifrin. And Antonio evokes the atmosphere of smoke-filled urban dance bars in works by Golijov, Bragato and Piazzolla. All of these works celebrate the ‘cello as a soloistic and virtuosic instrument.
This music champions the rich soul of Argentina, and Antonio makes excellent use of his heritage in this recording. Antonio is the son of famed Argentine violinist Alberto Lysy, who entered the European musical scene as a laureate of the Queen Elizabeth Competition when he was twenty years old. Alberto Lysy later became the protegé of the legendary violinist Yehudi Menuhin. They remained close friends and colleagues until Menuhin’s death in 1999. In addition to his many solo performances around the world, Alberto Lysy had the pleasure of performing with distinguished musicians such as Pablo Casals, Benjamin Britten, Jaqueline DuPré and Nadia Boulanger. Alberto lived in Argentina and Switzerland, and it is in appreciation of his father that Antonio Lysy wishes to dedicate this album.
Antonio Lysy’s performances, both in recital and in concertos, include concerts in Royal Festival Hall, Concertgebouw, Tonhalle, Salle Pleyel, Wigmore Hall, Royce Hall, Sala Verdi, Berlin Philharmonie, Teatro Colón, and now The Broad Stage in Santa Monica (www.thebroadstage.com). He has appeared with orchestras such as the Royal Philharmonic and Philharmonia Orchestras of London, Camerata Academica of Salzburg, Zurich Tonhalle, the Zagreb Soloists, Orchestra di Padova e il Veneto, Israel Sinfonietta, and in Canada with the Montreal and Toronto Symphony Orchestras, and Les Violons du Roy. He has collaborated with distinguished conductors such as Yuri Temirkanov, Charles Dutoit, Sir Yehudi Menuhin, and Sandor Vegh. Antonio Lysy founded the Incontri in Terra di Siena chamber music festival in Tuscany in 1998 (www.itslafoce.org), and now chairs the String Department at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music. Antonio has recorded extensively for CBC Radio, BBC Radio, Classic FM and other European radio networks. In addition, he has released albums with the Claves, Dinemec Classics, Fonè, and Pelléas labels. His live recording of solo ‘cello repertoire by Bach, Berio, Henze and Walton was released on the Pelléas label to high critical acclaim: “...some of the most beautiful Bach ever heard” – La Presse, Montreal. In addition to his concert career, Antonio Lysy taught at McGill University in Montreal, as well as at the International Menuhin Music Academy in Switzerland.
Following performances at The Broad Stage and at The Ed Edelman Stage at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Yarlung Records recorded this concert repertoire on June 8th and 9th, 2009, at The Broad Stage. We have the honor of releasing the first commercial recording made in this new concert hall. Our sincere thanks to Suzanne & David Booth, Audrey & Arthur Greenberg, Mari & Ed Edelman and The Mari and Edmund D. Edelman Foundation for Music and the Performing Arts, Dale Franzen and The Eli and Edythe Broad Stage, The Italian Cultural Institute, Merle & Peter Mullin, Lalo Schifrin, and Elizabeth & David Wright.
Pianist Bryan Pezzone plays often with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, and works regularly with composers and conductors John Adams, John Harbison, Oliver Knussen and Pierre Boulez. Bryan’s prior recordings include classical, jazz, and avante-garde works such as Mel Powell’s Settings and John Harbison’s song cycle, The Natural World, on New World Records. Yarlung Records fans will remember Bryan’s recordings with Martin Chalifour in Walt Disney Concert Hall.
Argentine bass player and composer Pablo Motta lives in Buenos Aires and Los Angeles, and plays with Trio Tangábile, The Los Angeles Tango Quartet, The Pablo Motta Trio, Forever Tango, Justo Almario Quartet, The Bobby Rodriguez Latin Jazz Big Band, Patrice Quinn, Ronald Muldrow, Ark Sano Trio, Santa Barbara Symphony, Mládí Chamber Orchestra, Birdie Mendoza, Julio Andrade and Capitol Ensemble.
The Capitol Ensemble members Phillip Levy and Julie Gigante violins, Robert Brophy viola, and David Low ‘cello, perform music from the Baroque era to the Twenty First Century. They have collaborated individually with some of the world’s most renowned artists including Mstislav Rostropovich, Neville Marriner, Michael Tilson Thomas, Yehudi Menuhin, Janos Starker and Leonard Bernstein. The ensemble has performed live on National Public Radio, and premiered and recorded new works by myriad California composers. They also perform as soloists and chamber musicians in many international festivals and are the resident ensemble for the Sundays Live radio program at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
We recorded this album on analog tape and on high resolution digital media sampled at 176,400 cycles per second and 24 bit depth. I chose an AKG C-24 stereo microphone with its original brass surround CK12 tube, made available to us by Gearworks Pro Audio. We used five-foot long Yarlung-Records-designed stranded silver interconnects, customized vacuum tube preamplifiers and no mixer. The signal path was as short as we could make it, with as few electronics between performer and final product as possible. With this minimalist recording technique we believe we give you the closest sound possible to the live event with our musicians in this beautiful acoustic environment. We hope you enjoy the results.
Recording at The Broad Stage is a terrific experience. The 499 seat concert hall offers friendly and adjustable acoustics, an inspiring setting and a cool invigorating breeze off of the Pacific Ocean when one steps outside for a break. Our sincere thanks to Dale Franzen, Artistic Director of The Broad Stage, and to Denise Stoeber and Mitch Heskel, who made it possible to make this recording in the new concert hall. It is also thanks to Dale that Yarlung Artists presented pianist Ryan MacEvoy McCullough for the opening concert at The Broad Stage (following several galas), on October 16th, 2008. Finnish violinist Petteri Iivonen (also a Yarlung artist) joined Ryan for a surprise Ravel Sonata, and for encores.
So The Broad Stage feels like home. And even though the theater opened recently, it has already established itself as an important and integrated part of the performing arts community in the greater Los Angeles area.
-Bob Attiyeh, producer
Notes by Antonio Lysy:
Introduction to the music
I am delighted to present this music by Astor Piazzolla, Alberto Ginastera, José Bragato, Osvaldo Golijov and Lalo Schifrin. These works highlight the ‘cello as a solo instrument and illustrate the impact of pre-Hispanic Amerindian traditions and Spanish based Creole influences as well as the effect of more modern musical developments like the tango on Argentine composers.
My personal interest in this music emanates from my heritage: My father Alberto, to whom I lovingly and respectfully dedicate this album, was born in Argentina and returned there frequently throughout his distinguished career as a concert violinist and pedagogue. On my first journey to Argentina with him when I was a young performing ‘cellist, he introduced me to the sounds and textures of a fascinating and colorful country, one I had only previously known as a child on vacation. All of a sudden this music filled me, from Ginastera’s rhythmically contrasting works to the sentimental and passionate Tangos played over the radio, to the rich repertoire of folk songs performed by Eduardo Falú. On each successive return I discovered more about the wonders of the land extending from the icebergs beyond Tierra del Fuego in the south, to the jungle and waterfalls of Iguazú in the north. I learned more about the fabulous and simultaneously tragic history of the many peoples of Argentina, drinking Yerba mate and discussing the Guardia Vieja (the first generation of tango players) with the Porteños (people from Buenos Aires), riding horses with friends in the Pampas, the rich Argentine grasslands. Unforgettable events included playing in the large, ornate, Italianate opera house, the Teatro Colón, going to the many post concert asados (Argentine barbecue feasts) at country estancias or ranches. Over the years I continued to search for Argentine music written for my instrument, and I asked composers and arrangers to create more works for ‘cello. It is my privilege to be presenting some of these works in this recording. Two of these works are commissions very dear to me, and this is how they came about:
After Piazzolla’s death, I asked José Bragato if he would consider arranging Le Grand Tango for me to play with ‘cello and string ensemble. Bragato was a renowned ‘cellist, and I knew he would do a good job. He bristled at my request, and snarled a hasty “NO!” I retreated, knowing not to push the matter. He added “The ‘cello will not come through. The writing is too thick.” The next day he apologized for his brusque reply and reminded me that he had been a close friend of Piazzolla’s, toured with him regularly, and arranged for him often. Since Piazzolla’s recent death, everyone was asking him to make a fresh arrangement of one or another of Piazzolla’s works. He had granted many of these wishes, but many of these friends were taking advantage of him, refusing even to credit Bragato as the arranger. I reassured Bragato that I fully understood his reticence and returned home to Canada. Two years later, a student of mine returned from studying with Bragato in Buenos Aires, and brought me a large envelope with a score. The student smiled, and said, “This is for you, from Bragato.”
There it was: a fresh and exhilarating arrangement of Piazzolla’s Le Grand Tango for strings and piano obbligato “to keep the colors and authentic nature of this work alive.” What a treasure,and what an unexpected gift! I premiered Le Grand Tango in Montreal with Camerata Lysy for CBC Radio shortly thereafter. Bragato was delighted with the recording but soon sent me a second arrangement with lighter orchestration. I love this second arrangement, and it is this version we play on this recording. Thank you, Maestro José Bragato, for your generosity and for your musical gift.
I met Lalo Schifrin in his studio in Beverly Hills in early 2009, the walls filled with framed photographs and impressive documents of musical connections past and present, and a mantelpiece brimming with trophies. After asking him whether he might contribute a piece to this project, Schifrin invited me to listen to his guitar concerto’s slow movement. This was a work he felt would work beautifully, modified and transcribed for ‘cello and piano. I fell in love with the lyrical theme, which reawakened many images of the land and people of Argentina in my memory. But I worried that the rich and powerful orchestration would be more than a ‘cello and piano could achieve. Schifrin’s eyes twinkled, he waived his hand dismissively, and said “just leave that to me.” We did, and I’m glad.
In this composition, I tried to convey the vastness of the plains between the South of the Buenos Aires province and the Patagonia which is called the Pampa. The distant horizon puts into perspective the solitude without shadows. The first theme is distant and evocative which leads to a contrasting section of rhythmic energy. The ‘cello states the introspective second theme but during the responses, the piano accompaniment is reminiscent of Gaucho and Afro-American folk music. The development is a dialogue between the two instruments in which both themes are being explored. The last section of the movement brings us the ‘cello against a descending line by the piano. A somber pedal point is a preparation of the reinstatement of the introduction. A calm figure pleads to the solo ‘cello’s final response. This work was commissioned by violoncello Master Antonio Lysy for which I’m very grateful.
I very much enjoyed the opportunity to get to know Osvaldo Golijov. After we decided to include Omaramor on this recording, Golijov gave me valuable advice about how to play the piece. After our first meeting, I sent him a live recording of my first performance of the work. His comments were revealing and extremely helpful, and allowed me to probe deeper into his thoughts and desires about his music, especially for this piece, which he wrote early in his career. I eventually sent him the final version on this album to which he kindly responded: “I LIKE IT A LOT. It’s definitely dirty enough, especially as it gets into the tough tango section. It’s a beautiful interpretation. I’m grateful that you include it in the CD along with music from composers I admire so much!” Golijov writes:
Carlos Gardel, the mythical tango singer, was young, handsome, and at the pinnacle of his popularity when the plane that was carrying him to a concert crashed and he died in 1935…. Omaramor is a fantasy on “My Beloved Buenos Aires” [by Gardel]: the ‘cello walks, melancholy at times and rough at others, over the harmonic progression of the song, as if the chords were the streets of the city. In the midst of this wandering the melody of the immortal song is unveiled.
We include four works by Alberto Ginastera on this album, his famous Pampeana2 and Puneña 2, and a pair of songs from his Cinco Canciones Populares Argentinas: Triste op. 10 No. 2 and Zamba op. 10 No. 3. Bryan and I play the lyrical transcription for ‘cello and piano by Pierre Fournier. Triste is a song of unrequited love. This melody comes originally from the Kechua tribe, and became popular in Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Uruguay. Zamba is a dance originally from Peru and is an Argentine national dance as well, performed by couples who circle each other waving elegant white handkerchiefs. Its delicate 6/8 meter for the vocal (‘cello) line recalls the rural dance festivals at which this song is still popular.
For a 70th birthday tribute to the distinguished Swiss conductor and generous patron Dr. Paul Sacher, Mstislav Rostropovich invited twelve of Sacher’s composer friends (including Berio, Dutilleux, Lutoslawski and Ginastera) to collaborate in writing a set of variations based on his name (SACHER making E-flat, A, C, B, E, and D).* Puneña No. 2, op. 45, is Ginastera’s contribution to the birthday party. “Puna,” from which Puneña takes its name, is a Kechuan word for the Andean highland plain, which like the Tibetan Plateau, starts at about 12,000 feet above sea level. This region was the Inca empire heartland. For the first movement, Harawi, Ginastera wrote a melancholy love song using two melodies, the notes associated with Sacher’s name, plus an ancient melody from Cuzco, Peru. Wayno Karnavalito, the second movement, he fashioned into a wild carnival dance also made from the notes in Sacher’s name, full of the sound and atmosphere of drums, native corn alcohol, and the charango, or South American version of the guitar. I especially enjoyed imitating the mysterious quena bamboo flute, the furious strumming of the charango and I imagined myself at a traditional Kechua carnival.
Ginastera studied briefly with Aaron Copland in the United States, and as Copland did with the American countryside, Ginastera painted his native landscapes and folklore into his music. In Pampeana, Rhapsody No. 2, op. 21, he depicts the pampas, the flat fertile plains that stretch for thousands of miles, and home to the Argentine cowboys, the gauchos. In this rhapsodic piece, Ginastera incorporates a sense of improvisation right from the start and continues an emphatic insistence through repetition and harmonic grounding around the note D. For me, Pampeana conjures powerful images of the gauchos and all their machismo. Rhythmic passages illustrate the proud Gaucho on his stallion, parading in his Sunday best, sporting smart coin-studded belts, and a crimson poncho, engaging in a friendly competition for the sharpest and deadliest facón or knife. Other passages convey the companionship of passing around Yerba mate, the famous Argentine herbal tea. Haunting phrases illustrate an intimidating sense of space, endless distances, vast open skies and silence. Then the piece returns to the hunting and chase of local ostriches. One can hear the virtuoso flings of the boleadoras (an ancient Patagonian throwing weapon with balls attached to rawhide cords), galloping horses, wild shouts and the culmination in a celebratory asado feast with dancing and drums.
Astor Piazzolla’s music has moved and enthused millions around the world. For me, these pieces evoke a rich kaleidoscope of city images in Buenos Aires, the bright colors of La Boca and the night life, but also the unique and haunting tones of the bandoneón which Piazzolla played so eloquently. One can hear the sounds of the origins of Tango, and the transformation of this seductive musical form – a sort of rebellion from an established decadence. Piazzolla was an intelligent and thoughtful composer with high ambitions for his writing. At one point in his career he struggled to find his musical identity and through his search eventually redefined the Tango as the world knew it. We have chosen some of his most celebrated works for our album, arranged supremely by his long-time friend and musical collaborator, José Bragato.
José Bragato was born in Italy in 1915, and dedicated his life to both classical and popular music. During his long career Bragato discovered, revived and published important collections of Argentine and Paraguayan folk music. In 1946, Bragato won the position of principal ‘cellist with the Philharmonic Orchestra of Buenos Aires, which in turn led to a new position in 1948 as the substitute ‘cello soloist of the Orquesta Estable of the Teatro Colón. Despite an increasingly busy career as a soloist and chamber musician with the Buenos Aires Quartet, the Pessina Quartet, and many other respected chamber quartets in Argentina, he never stopped composing music. In addition to his career as a classical performer, Bragato celebrated his love of the tango. He played with some of Argentina’s most outstanding tango orchestras, such as those led by Francini Pontiers, Anibal Troilo, and Atilio Stampone, the latter two with which he recorded. In 1954, Bragato accepted Astor Piazzolla’s challenge to assemble the Octeto Buenos Aires. From that moment on, he and Piazzolla remained close friends. Piazzolla convinced Bragato to join Sextango in 1989. Among other aspects of Bragato’s long and illustrious career for which I am grateful, Bragato included the ‘cello in the typical tango orchestra. Before this evolution, it was only to the violin that composers would assign the leading voice. Moreover, Bragato encouraged Argentine composers to write tangos that featured the ‘cello, not just the bandoneón or the violin. His Graciela y Buenos Aires became a classic in the symphonic tango repertoire.