Piazzolla's Fugue from Maria de Buenos Aires
performed at Staunton Music Festival
August 22, 2019
Trinity Episcopal Church, Staunton, VA
JP Jofre, bandoneon
Federico Diaz, guitar
Mary Boodell, flute
Diane Pascal and Airi Yoshioka, violins
Vladimir Mendelssohn, viola
Jan Mueller-Szeraws, cello
Pete Spaar, double bass
Heini Kärkkäinen, piano
I-Jen Fang and Brian Smith, percussion
Carsten Schmidt, conductor
Video by Stewart Searle
from MARIA DE BUENOS AIRES. Music by Astor Piazzolla . Lyrics by Horacio Ferrer. Warner Chappell Music, used by permission
About the Music
The name of Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992) goes hand in hand with that of tango. Born in Argentina to an Italian immigrant family, Piazzolla actually grew up in New York City. He learned to play the bandonéon (a concertina, similar to an accordion) on the streets and progressed rapidly. Astor would go on to become one of the most renowned bandonéon players of all time, frequently playing his own works in concert and writing tango-inspired music that forever changed the genre. But he also studied classical composition and delved into symphonic and film scores. Piazzolla combined tango with jazz and classical idioms to elevate the rather seedy world of tango to a place among high art.
And speaking of high art, Piazzolla—a former student of the great Nadia Boulanger—even introduced fugue into his works. For example, the sixth number in his tango-opera María de Buenos Aires (presented in its entirety on Saturday evening) is a fugue. The subject unfolds in skipwise motion, proceeding from bandoneon to flute and eventually strings. Under it all runs the infectious rhythmic pattern of the dance so indelibly linked with this composer: Argentinian tango.
(c) Jason Stell, 2019
What is a fugue? How does it work? Staunton Music Festival artistic director Carsten Schmidt sits down at the harpsichord to explain and demonstrate the basic principles of what made the fugue so attractive to composers over the past 500 years.
Carsten Schmidt provides background insights into how he selected a diverse collection of fugues to create the Serenades & Fugues concert, presented at the festival in August 2019. From Josquin to Piazzolla and beyond, this exploration shows the great richness of the fugue genre.
Long noted for his interpretations of Bach's keyboard music, pianist Glenn Gould also dabbled a bit in composition. In 1963 he penned a witty and yet musically satisfying piece for voices and string quartet that offers a primer on fugue composition.
Toward the end of his life, J. S. Bach gathered together a collection of contrapuntal works based on a single theme. The entire collection, known as The Art of Fugue, aptly summarizes all that Bach had achieved in this most distinctive and inspiring genre. Includes program notes.
American composer Lou Harrison wrote his Fugue for Percussion in 1941, making use of both traditional and non-traditional instruments. He creatively structures this fugue around contrasting timbres and types of percussion instruments. Includes program notes.
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