1.VALS SENTIMENTALE Piotr Ilych Tchaikovski
2.ROMANZA Anton Rubinstein
3.DANZON Paquito D’Rivera
4.FOLK SONGS No 12C (andante) Reza Vali
5.FOLK SONGS No 12C (allegro scherzando) Reza Vali
6.VOCALISE Sergei Rachmaninoff
7.CANCION DEL PUERTO Joaquin Gutierrez Heras
8.SONG WITHOUT WORDS Felix Mendelssohn
9.LOUANGE A L’ETERNITE DE JESUS Oliver Messiaen
10.REQUIEBROS Gaspar Cassadó
11.PRAYER Ernest Bloch
12.VUELVE Javier Montiel
13.LE GRAND TANGO Astor Piazzolla
In September of 1882, Piotr Ilych Tchaikovski (1840-1893) finished a series of brief piano pieces that can be readily identified as salon music, and which he produced under the collective title of Six Pieces. Their original titles are Valse de Salon, Polka peu Dansante, Menueto Scherzoso, Natha Valse, Romance and Vals Sentimentale.
The Valse Sentimentale op. 51 #6 is an elegant delicate waltz, one in which the movement of ¾ is more subtle than in similar pieces in Tchaikovsky’s symphonies and suites. Nonetheless, subtlety and refinement cannot cloud the fact that this is a fundamentally dark waltz. Tchaikovsky dedicated it to a lady by the name of Emma Genton.
If there is a trait that sets pianist and composer Anton Rubinstein (1829-18940 apart from his Russian contemporaries, it was his distance from nationalist ideology, which led him to write music firmly rooted on German tradition. His fame as pianist has caused his work as a composer to remain practically forgotten. In 1862 he founded the St. Petersburg Conservatory, which he directed for the next five years. His Romanza op. 44 is characterized by its sweet melodies and romantic harmonies. The piece is one of a set of six, originally written for solo piano in 1860 under the collective title Nights in Saint Petersburg. The Romanza is the first in the series and was later arranged by Rubinstein as a song titled Night, on a text by Pushkin.
A fundamental participant in the modern jazz scene, saxophonist and clarinetist Paquito D’Rivera (born 1948) has quite rightly been credited with a pivotal role in the creation of authentic Latin Jazz, a style clearly distinct from Afro-Cuban jazz.
Regarding his Danzón, this is what Paquito D’Rivera has to say: “ This piece was originally conceived for an opera (unfinished) that was to be titled Cocktail time in Cuba. It was later recorded by Mario Bauza’s Afro-Cuban jazz band, our clarinet-cello-piano trio, and especially arranged in a cello-piano version for the great Aztec cellist Alvaro Bitrán. The form is based on Cuba’s national rhythm and dance”.
FOLK SONGS No 12C
Iranian composer Reza Vali (born 1952) studied at the Teheran Conservatory, the Academy of Music in Vienna and at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. The main asset of his output lies on the ability of successfully combine ethnic musical sources (especially those from his homeland, Iran) with the basic principles of Western music. Regarding this particular piece, this is what the composer says: “Folksongs N0 12 C is written and dedicated to my dear friend Alvaro Bitrán. This is the twelfth set of an ongoing cycle of Persian Folk Songs, which I have been composing since 1978. The piece consists of two movements, which are written on a style of a folk song (imaginary). Both songs are interconnected through thematic relationships.”
The huge and well-known reputation of Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) as the last of the great romantic pianists, alongside his solid prestige as a symphonic composer, has up to a certain point prevented his chamber and vocal music output to be widely known. Sergei Rachmaninoff’s op. 34 contains fourteen songs written in 1912, except for one of them, written in 1910. The last of the series is the famous Vocalise; as its title clearly indicates, it is meant to be sung without a text, and therefore the cello is especially apt for this kind of musical discourse. The composer revised this famous piece in 1915.
CANCION DEL PUERTO
A former architect student, a musician of great intuition, self taught in his early years, a great film connoisseur, a specialist in early music, a sensitive teacher, Joaquin Gutierrez Heras (born 1927) is one of Mexico’s more significant composers.
He wrote Canción en el Puerto (Seaport song) in 1995. This song belongs clearly to the composer’s neo-romantic vein. This is a refined and contemplative piece, with a clear nostalgic streak that is also quite evocative.
SONG WITHOUT WORDS
The Songs without words (Lieder ohne Worte) occupy a significant place in the piano output of Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847). That Mendelssohn was very close to this type of composition is evident in the fact that he also wrote a Song without words op. 109 for cello and piano in 1845. Although it is true that classical elements can be found in this piece, the fact is that it also belongs in the world of romantic utterance. It is a song in which brevity is combined with a solid and serious outlook in both structure and expression.
LOUANGE A L’ETERNITE DE JESUS
Composer, organist and writer of wide interests and great intellectual depth, Oliver Messiaen (1908-1992) is one of twentieth century’s most important composers. To the strong influence of the music from India and a peculiar transformation of sounds of nature (specially birds), Messiaen added a religious vision of Christian foundations, to build a unique musical language. In 1940 Messiaen was detained and interned in a concentration camp in Silesia, where he wrote one of his most important works: the Quartet for the ends of times. Louange a l’eternite de Jesus is the fifth movement of this magnificent work. There is an unmistakable religious feeling, slow, simple and contemplative.
Catalonian cellist and composer Gaspar Cassadó (1897-1966) was a pupil of Pablo Casals in Paris and had a very active career. Among the works written by Cassadó (under the evident influence of Falla and Ravel) mention must be made of his many cello works. The word Requiebros in Spanish refers to a flattering expression used in the ritual of courtship.
Born in Switzerland and American-naturalized in 1924, Ernest Bloch (1880-1959) dedicated a significant part of his efforts to musical education. He was also an active promoter of his philosophical and religious beliefs, through numerous works based in Hebrew melodies or on ideas or concepts related to Hebrew culture. In 1924 Bloch wrote his three pieces titled “From Jewish Life”, for cello and piano. The prayer is the first of these pieces. In it, the cello assumes a clearly declamatory role with a dramatic profile that approaches the spirit of vocal liturgy.
Javier Montiel has been the violist of the famous Cuarteto Latinoamericano since it’s founding in 1982. For this ensemble he wrote his best-known piece Variations on Paganini’s Caprice No. 24. This is what the composer says: “Vuelve is a short piece, tender and intimate in character. I originally wrote it for voice and piano, based on a poem with the same title by Constantin Cavafis, the poet from Alexandria. In 1996 and for the present disc, I arranged the song for cello and piano as a gift for Alvaro Bitrán, my friend from many years. The piece is dedicated to Marta Fontes”.
LE GRAND TANGO
Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992) the great personality in the renewal of tango was born in Argentina and educated in New York. His first important contact with the world of tango came when he was hired to play the bandoneon on the soundtracks of some of the films featuring Carlos Gardel. Tango, jazz and the formal teachings of Alberto Ginastera and Nadia Boulanger where synthesized by Piazzolla as an unmistakable and highly individual style, aptly called New Tango o “El tango Nuevo”. This piece was written for the great Russian cellist Msitislav Rostropovich.
Notes by Juan Arturo Brennan
Álvaro Bitrán was born in Chile of a family of distinguished musicians. He
started playing the cello at the age of seven and concluded his formal
studies at Indiana University under the guidance of world-renowned
cellist Janos Starker.
In 1982 he founded the Cuarteto Latinoamericano, a string quartet
that now enjoys worldwide recognition. In addition to frequent tours
of both North and South America, the quartet also tours Europe, Israel
and New Zealand.
Recent performances have included New York’s Carnegie Hall,
Washington’s Kennedy Center and Milan’s Teatro Alla Scala.
His recordings (more than 50 in all) have appeared in various labels
such as Dorian, New Albion and Urgent and have received several pri-
zes, including two Grammy Nominations in 2001: Best Chamber Music
Performance and Best Classical CD at the Latin Grammys.
Álvaro Bitrán is regularly invited to play as soloist with some of the major
orchestras in our continent: Mexico, Uruguay, Argentina and Venezue-
la symphony orchestras, Dallas Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic,
Seattle and San Antonio Symphony in the U.S. and Ottawa’s National
Arts Center Orchestra in Canada, among others.
Álvaro Bitrán is firmly committed to the creation of new music for his
instrument and has premiered and recorded many new works died-
cated to him.
He has recently released two cello and piano CD’s featuring new mu-
sic by Latin American composers, as well as traditional repertoire.
He has devoted much of his energy to teaching and is responsible for
the development of an entire generation of cellists in Mexico. Currently
he is a faculty member at the Centro Cultural Ollin Yolitzli in Mexico City and at the UANL in Monterrey.
He offers seminars and master classes in many universities in the US and
México and plays in a cello built by Martin Sots, in 1817, in
A versatile pianist, Josef Olechowsky adds to his career as soloist an intense activity in the field of chamber music.
After being thoroughly trained in is native Poland, mainly in the cities of Krakow and Katowice, as well as taking master classes in Europe, Olechowsky embarked on a successful international career, performing throughout Europe, the United States, Central America, Japan Australia and New Zealand. He currently resides in Mexico, where among his many activities are included the study, rescue and dissemination of Mexican classical music. His recordings of nineteenth and twentieth century music have been enthusiastically been received by both audiences and critics. For these merits and other endeavors, Olechowsky has been awarded a diploma by the Mexican Union of Theater and Music Critics.