The programme was selected from the opuses of seven South American
composers active during the early to mid- twentieth century,
and representing their respective countries of Argentina, Columbia,
Brazil and Peru. While the music embodies creative elements
borrowed from or inspired by native folk music, it also reflects
the Italian and French influence absorbed during the periods
of study and inculcation at prestigious conservatories in such
places as Paris and Milan (see composer notes at the end of
Gabriel Castagna writes and conducts with missionary zeal. He
laments the large number of Latin-American orchestral compositions
that have suffered neglect and are awaiting rediscovery. Considering
Indian themes, and subjects of the Andean region alone, more
than 250 works can be identified: operas, ballets, cantatas,
overtures, symphonic poems, rhapsodies, concertos and symphonies.
Almost none is recorded or played regularly. In many cases scores
have been lost or abandoned.
During many years of research, Castagna has amassed hundreds
of scores by over 250 different Latin American composers, active
during the last one and a half centuries. Collectively the symphonic
literature of Latin-America over that period is surprisingly
large. Quality may vary, but much is unquestionably of artistic
value. Castagna describes the music presented as a fusion of
ethnicities, religions, traditions, styles and legends and all
kinds of other conflicting centrifugal forces that render its
biggest virtue uniqueness, and at the same time its biggest
artistic challenge. Also noted is the influence that the spirit
of the dance has in a large number of Latin-American compositions
of academic tradition.
Castagna highlights the role of misleadingly bad reviews of
bad performance in undermining the genre’s reputation. These
are often a result of application of fixed parameters, suitable
for analysis of standard European repertory. Further exacerbating
this is insufficient interest on the part of official institutions
to support the culture of their own nations.
Argentinean conductor and musicologist Gabriel Castagna began
his studies in Buenos Aires. He then studied in the USA and
took master-classes with Leonard Bernstein, Sergiu Celibidache
and Max Rudolf. It is evident from his performance on this CD
and contributions to the liner-notes, that Castagna is a man
with a mission. This is not his only premier recording of Latin
American composers. In 2008 his book and CD entitled Argentina
Sinfonica was also published. He is well qualified to construct
a programme of superior Latin American symphonic music by its
premier composers. Despite lack of familiarity with much of
the work, these qualities are quickly identifiable by the astute
This CD implies that a treasure trove of undiscovered, quality
symphonic music resides in the opus of Latin-American composers
of the past one and fifty years. It explores only a minuscule
part, albeit it in a highly musical and well-recorded way.
Notes on composers
Piazzolla was a bandoneon virtuoso/composer who had the opportunity
to study with the famed Nadia Boulanger at the Fontainebleau
American Conservatoire. Even though Piazzolla won the Sevitzky
Prize in 1953 for his Sinfonia Buenos Aires, she dissuaded
him from further large-scale works, sensing that his unique
talent lay in an astonishingly fertile, creative response to
the tango idiom.
Gomez was important as an ethnomusicologist who in 1823 presented
two books of arrangements of folk melodies collected in N. Argentina.
As well as a composer and educationist, in later life he was
the leading light of a vocal ensemble formed from his large
Theodre Valcárcel Caballero
Caballero was part of the Nationalist musicians in Peru who,
during the 1920s, were keen to explore the country’s pre-Hispanic
indigenous traditions. His highly tuneful violin concerto is
based largely on modal melodies and was completed in 1949, shortly
before his early death.
Mognone’s flautist father was an Italian immigrant to Brazil.
Mignone’s Congada was influenced by African and Cuban
styles common to Brazilian music of the time. It was also written
during a period garnished by strong Italianate flavour, apropos
his spell in Milan.
Guillermo Uribe Holguin
A prolific composer, Holguin was born in Bogotá, Columbia. Between
1914and 1961 he composed eleven symphonies. The three dance
forms represented by Tres Danzas were also featured in
the large-scale collection of 300 piano pieces that he composed
between 1927 and 1939, published under the title ‘ Trozos
en el sentimiento popular’
Williams returned to his native Buenos Aires in 1889 after a
seven year period in Paris. In this same year he composed Primera
obertura de concierto. While in Paris he studied composition
with César Franck and harmony with Emile Durand.
Juan José Castro
Aside from his composing, Castro also enjoyed a distinguished
career as a conductor. He became the director of the revered
Teatro Colon in his native Buenos Aires. His international
career as a conductor began in the 1940s. In 1947 he conducted
the Havana Philharmonic and the Sodre Orchestra of Uruguay in
1949. During 1952-53 he was conductor of the Melbourne Symphony