20 Digitus Piano Duo © 2014

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MUSIC BY GUASTAVINO, MOREL CAMPOS, SELDEN, CORDERO AND MILHAUD
Copies sold at Live shows for $10 (for other requests please contact us)

PROGRAM NOTES CD 4+1

 

 

Carlos Guastavino - "Se Equivocó la Paloma" 

 

Born in 1912 in Santa Fé, Argentina to a family of aficionado music lovers who played the guitar, mandolin, clarinet and piano, and who would improvise and sing around the home. Folkloric music was learned in this familiar way. A pianist in his own right he is known for writing many art songs (most with a argentinian folkloric flavor). One of his most famous songs is this one based on a poem by Spanish poet Rafael Alberti. Translated it means "The Dove was Mistaken". Originally for voice and piano, Guastavino himself wrote a "free version" for two pianos. From the two piano version we have created a four hand piano version which is now recorded. 

Juan Morel Campos - Four Danzas (1857-1896)

Born in Ponce, Puerto Rico to a Dominican father and a Venezuelan mother Morel Campos studied music from a young age. He’s been said to have learned to play every single brass instrument.

In the early 19th Century the Spanish “Contradanza” (Country Dance) was very popular in Puerto Rico. This was a very rigid dance in which a kind of director (“Bastonero”) would decide how many couples would dance and what position and figures were to be performed. This type of rigidity did not bode well and after ensuing discord at many dances the “Bastoneros” fell out of favor by 1839. During the 1840’s Puerto Rico received a large influx of Cuban immigrants who brought with them their own music. As the Spanish “Contradanza” was losing popularity due to its rigidity the new “Contradanza Habanera” began to gain popularity with the young due to its freedom.

Morel Campos had his own dance orchestra and most of his Danzas were written for the ensemble. He would later arrange some for the piano. Danza means dance. In general the compositional format of a Danza is as follows: there’s always a Promenade (“Paseo”) in which both dancers circle each other as they are preparing to dance and always ends with a half cadence at which point the couples curtsey. Following there’s a first, second and third theme. The third theme is usually of a contrasting to the others and in it the "Bombardino" (an accompanying instrument which sounds very much like a trombone) leaves its role as accompanist and becomes the soloist. After the third theme there is a recapitulation of the first theme and sometimes a coda as well. All parts except the coda and recapitulation are played twice. There are variations to this general format.

The Four Danzas presented in this recording were written specifically for piano four hands by the composer. Their titles are: El Ciclón (The Cyclone), También Lo Dudo (I Doubt it), Noche Deliciosa (Delicious Evening) and La Traviesa (The Mischievous Girl). Some are more romantic in nature others more lively. The “habanera” rhythmic influence is a common thread throughout many of them.

Ken Selden - Dialogues

Dialogues (2015) by Ken Selden “ for piano (four-hands) is an expanded version of a brief sketch that I composed in November 2014, inspired by the playful and fantastic creativity and artistry that I observed in the friendship and rehearsal process of the tremendously talented and entertaining XX Digitus Piano Duo. I derived the harmonic language for this sketch from a series of six note chords, improvisatory in nature. Of the six notes in each chord, three will often contradict the other three. The functionality of the progressions is based on the amount of tension between the notes in the left and right hands of each pianist. Because of the way the hands are juxtaposed, the counterpoint occasionally leads our ears to hear jazz harmonies.”

“In December, I composed two additional sketches to complement the original. The first and third pieces are rhythmic and incisive, while the second is rather romantic in spirit, with the lingering harmonies streaming together to create hovering clouds of color. In the acrobatic third movement, each pianist must find a way to reach around the other to play notes that are far beyond each half of the instrument.”

“In March 2015, I completed Dialogues by expanding and developing the material from each of the original three pieces. I also composed a final coda in which new versions of the unresolved harmonic progressions heard previously are frozen and suspended in time. This final version is about six minutes long.” (Ken Selden)

Roque Cordero - Duo 1954 

Born in Panama City in 1917, Cordero studied composition under Ernst Krenek and conducting under Dimitri Mitropoulos, Stanley Chapple, and Leon Barzin before becoming director of the Institute of Music and Artistic Director and conductor of the National Symphony of his native country. Later he was professor of composition at Indiana University, and, from 1972, distinguished professor emeritus at Illinois State University.  His works have been widely performed in Latin America, the United States and Europe, receiving international awards. He was also a renowned conductor. After retiring he spent the last eight years of his life living with his family in Dayton, Ohio, where he died at age 91.

The Duo 1954 is  dodecaphonic in style and consists of three continuos sections in the traditional fast- slow-fast presentation. The slow section is expansive and very expressive.  

 

Darius Milhaud - Le Bouef Sur Le Toit (1919)

Aside from Heitor Villa-Lobos, credit should be given to composers like Darius Milhaud and Louis-Moreau Gottschalk for bringing Brazilian folk music to the concert stage.

Darius Milhaud’s Le Boeuf Sur Le Toit (The Ox on the Roof) is an exciting and delightful romp that is comprised of close to thirty Brazilian tunes (choros, brazilian tangos, fados, sambas) by composers like Ernesto Nazareth and Marcelo Tupinambá amongst others. Milhaud lived in Brazil for two years during World War I and during that time he became fascinated with Brazilian music. He marveled at its seeming ease juxtaposed by its complex and driving rhythmical nature. He purchased many scores and would practice them until he got the right “feel”. Back in France two years later (1919), Milhaud haunted by this beautiful music began to compose a Divertissement on South American “airs” named after a then-popular tango, O boi no telhado, literally The Ox on the Roof, as an imagined accompaniment to a Charlie Chaplin film. When Jean Cocteau heard of this, he immediately proposed it be a theatrical spectacle and created a Dadaesque pantomime inspired by the American speakeasies that continued serving alcohol in spite of the just-approved Prohibition amendment. (At its 1920 premiere, at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, Le boeuf was nicknamed The Nothing Happens Bar, later changed to The Nothing Doing Bar.)

The one generally accepted tune attributed to Milhaud is the first theme, the Barman theme. This, as well as being a central figure in the story, may be the reason why it is the unifying rondo-like theme that returns throughout the piece getting some Bach treatment (inspired by his Preludes and Fugues) as it is presented in all twelve major keys. Compositionally polytonality is prominent in this work as well as melodic counterpoint.