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 199495 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
composers 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 composers
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
rhythman 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
movements 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.