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ERNESTO CORDERO Tres Conciertos del Caribe Tropical Concerti: Concierto de Bayoán para Guitarra y Orquesta (performed by Iván Rijos) Concierto Criollo para Cuatro y Orquesta, (performed by Edwin Colón Zayas) Concierto Evocativo para Guitarra y Orquesta, (performed by Leonardo Egúrbida) Orquesta San Juan Pops under Musical Director Roselín Pabónobtain from PO Box 22107 UPR Station, San Juan, Puerto Rico 00931, Fax # (787) 274-8808


Until recently for most European and North American music lovers, occasional forays into the music of Villa-Lobos and Ginastera of Brazil and Argentina, Chávez and Revueltas of Mexico, and the occasional guitar piece by the Cuban Leo Brouwer have been the sum total of our exposure to Central and South American music. Lately classical music lovers appear to have gained a strong interest in the tango master Astor Piazzola (who was, incidentally, born in New York City where he lived until he was sixteen and who studied with the legendary Boulanger) which now seems to be translating itself into curiosity about the broader spectrum of other Latin American composers.

Ernesto Cordero, also born in New York but raised in Puerto Rico and educated there and in Spain, with two years of post-graduate study in composition in Rome and one in New York, is a guitarist/composer well represented on this recent CD. Tres Conciertos del Caribe features three guitar concertos dating, in order on the CD, from 1990, 1986, and 1978. Mr. Cordero is Professor of Composition and of Guitar in the University of Puerto Rico and is in demand as soloist, performer, and teacher. Most of his compositions, including two more concerti, chamber music, and solos, feature the guitar.

Each concerto on this CD features a different soloist, accompanied by Orquesta San Juan Pops under Musical Director Roselín Pabón. The first work, Concierto de Bayoán para Guitarra y Orquesta, performed by Iván Rijos, was commissioned by the Sixth International Congress of Guitar in Mettman, Germany and chosen by Krzysztof Penderecki for the Casals Festival of 1993; it was revised in 1994–95 by Cordero. The second, Concierto Criollo para Cuatro y Orquesta, features Edwin Colón Zayas performing on the cuatro, a member of the guitar family identified as the ‘folkloric instrument of national Puerto Rican identity.’ The final concerto, written in 1978 and revised in 1980, is the Concierto Evocativo para Guitarra y Orquesta, performed by Leonardo Egúrbida who premiered the work. Of this concerto Leo Brouwer wrote: ‘Ernesto Cordero brings us a soundscape of the old Spain of the Renaissance, hence the unavoidable logic of its title. But the concerto not only evokes the scenery and memories of our mother cultures, it also brings forth the composer’s personal view of what is Spanish in our Antilles today, of what by way of being seen or known on a day to day basis has become part of our landscape.’

The Concierto de Bayoán para Guitarra y Orquesta begins with an homage to Rodrigo with added Caribbean flavor and a nice lyrical quality. For me this is perhaps the best work of the CD, although each has much to recommend it to guitar aficionados. The entire concerto demands virtuosity from the performer and the percussive effects on the guitar body in the second movement add to the rhythmic qualities present in this work, yet this movement projects serenity and ‘an almost mystically primitive indigenous atmosphere.’ The use of the flute in this movement is haunting and lovely, enforcing the mood. The final movement is virtuosic and dramatic, alternating with moments of ‘serene calmness and romanticism.’ Definitely regional music, this concerto gives an entrancing portrait of the composer’s homeland.

The Concierto Criollo para Cuatro y Orquesta is ‘the first concerto ever written for cuatro (an instrument similar to the old Spanish vihuela) and symphony orchestra.’ Cordero uses fragments of a popular fifties Puerto Rican song and African rhythms which might suggest to some ‘an underlying message against racism.’ A haunting bell is featured throughout the movement. In the second movement we hear Cuban melodies and rhythms, and the last movement features the clave rhythm—an Afro-Caribbean rhythmic scheme based on Central African culture. Over this Cordero lays modal-style melody. The movement concludes with a brilliant cadenza featuring cuatro and bongos improvising on the movement’s theme, after which a short coda brings all the performers together in a celebratory finish. This concerto has a strong African flavor, while the first features more Spanish reminiscences.

Concierto Evocativo para Guitarra y Orquesta, the final offering, strikes a different mood from the others, yet maintains the portrayal of the Puerto Rican landscape. Quoting Leo Brouwer again, ‘The everyday experience reveals a collage of baroque palm-treed arcades, old colonial castles with flamboyant Renaissance facades, and young, beautiful schoolgirls engaged in gymnastic movement. . .Cordero quintessentializes for us the sonority of the world of Milán, Narváez, and Mudarra, with a contemporary touch, in a totally organic manner.’ The mood of this concerto owes much to the evocation of Renaissance music successfully evoked by Cordero, infused with contemporary harmonies. The second movement is a lovely, placid Lento with melodic lines beautifully presented by Leonardo Egúrbida. This concerto maintains an almost pastoral sense throughout while sacrificing none of the rhythms which distinguish all of these Puerto Rican concertos.

Guitar lovers and those who appreciate melody and rhythm lovers will find much in this CD to please. The three soloists are each fine in their works, and the performance of percussionist Orlando Cotto on the bongo in the second concerto should receive notice as well. The orchestra accompanies nicely with the necessary dash, emphasizing the rhythms while never drowning out the delicate sounds of the guitar.

N.B. Adapted from the excellent notes accompanying this CD by Carlos Barbosa Lima, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

For information about obtaining this CD I recommended that you contact the manufacturer directly, preferably by fax.


Jane Erb


Jane Erb

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