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Brandon Patrick George, flute • Toyin Spellman-Diaz, oboe • Mark Dover, clarinet • Monica Ellis, bassoon • Kevin Newton, horn
De Memorias: A Latin Perspective
PAQUITO D’RIVERA (b. 1948)
La Fleur de Cayenee
TANIA LEÓN (b. 1943)
HEITOR VILLA-LOBOS (1887–1959)
Trio for Oboe, Clarinet and Bassoon
— Intermission —
PIXINGUINHA (1897–1973) (ARR. JEFF SCOTT)
Um a Zero
MIGUEL DEL ÁGUILA (b. 1957)
Quintet No. 2
- Back in Time
- In Heaven
- Under the Earth
- Far Away
ASTOR PIAZZOLLA (1921–1992) (ARR. JEFF SCOTT & MONICA ELLIS)
Suite de Piazzolla
- Vayamos al Diablo
About the Imani Winds:
Celebrating over two decades of music making, the twice Grammy nominated Imani Winds has led both a revolution and evolution of the wind quintet through their dynamic playing, adventurous programming, imaginative collaborations and outreach endeavors that have inspired audiences of all ages and backgrounds.
The ensemble’s playlist embraces traditional chamber music repertoire, and as a 21st century group, Imani Winds is devoutly committed to expanding the wind quintet repertoire by commissioning music from new voices that reflect historical events and the times in which we currently live.
Present and future season performances include a Jessie Montgomery composition inspired by her great-grandfather’s migration from the American south to the north, as well as socially conscious music by Andy Akiho, designed to be performed both on the concert stage and in front of immigrant detention centers throughout the country.
Imani Winds regularly performs in prominent international concert venues, including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, Walt Disney Hall and the Kimmel Center. Their touring schedule has taken them throughout the Asian continent, Brazil, Australia, England, New Zealand and across Europe. Their national and international presence include performances at chamber music series in Boston, New York, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Philadelphia and Houston. Festival performances include Chamber Music Northwest, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, the Ravinia Festival, Chautauqua, Banff Centre and Angel Fire.
Imani Winds’ travels through the jazz world are highlighted by their association with saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter, woodwind artist and composer Paquito D’Rivera and pianist and composer Jason Moran. Their ambitious project, “Josephine Baker: A Life of Le Jazz Hot!” featured chanteuse René Marie in performances that brought the house down in New York, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Los Angeles and St. Louis.
Imani Winds’ commitment to education runs deep. In 2021 Imani Winds joined the Faculty at the Curtis Institute of Music, where they serve as the school’s first ever Faculty Wind Quintet. Imani Winds has also served as Resident Artists at Mannes School of Music, and as Ensemble-in-Residence at University of Chicago. The group participates in other residencies throughout the U.S., giving performances and master classes to thousands of students each year. Academic and institutional residencies include the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Duke University, the University of Michigan, The University of Texas at Austin, Da Camera of Houston and numerous others across the country. The ensemble launched its annual Imani Winds Chamber Music Festival in 2010, bringing together young instrumentalists and composers from across North America and abroad for exploration and performance of the standard repertoire and newly composed chamber music. Festival participants also take part in workshops devoted to entrepreneurial and outreach opportunities, with the goal of creating the complete musician and global citizen.
In 2021, Imani Winds released their latest album, “Bruits” on Bright Shiny Things Records, which received a 2022 Grammy nomination for “Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance.” Gramophone states, “the ensemble’s hot rapport churns with conviction throughout.”
Imani Winds has six albums on Koch International Classics and E1 Music, including their 2006 Grammy Award nominated recording, The Classical Underground. They have also recorded for Naxos and Blue Note and released Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” on Warner Classics. Imani Winds is regularly heard on all media platforms including NPR, American Public Media, the BBC, SiriusXM, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.
In 2016, Imani Winds received one of their greatest accolades to date: making a permanent presence in the classical music section of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC.
The title and inspiration for this evening’s program was drawn from Pulitzer Prize–winning composer Tania León’s woodwind quintet, the second work on the program. Playing on the notion of “remembrance” evoked in the work’s title, Imani journeys onto the field of contemporary Latin composers, also paying tribute to the generation who blazed the trail ahead of them. This “reflective prism”, the ensemble write, “reveals a textured landscape, one that complements introspective designs by Miguel del Águila and Astor Piazzolla with the playfulness of Paquito D’Rivera, Heitor Villa-Lobos, and Pixinguinha’s madcap Um a Zero”.
The program opens with a work that exemplifies the “reflective prism” and “textured landscape” born of connections up and down the Americas and across the Atlantic. La Fleur de Cayenne, by Cuban-American composer, clarinetist, and saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera, offers a take on a joropo, the national dance form of Venezuela, a coalescence of indigenous, African, and European elements. Like the fandango, its Iberian cousin, the joropo features a triple meter, structured in such a way as to emphasize duple groupings, giving rise to an infectious metrical dynamism. D’Rivera’s embrace of an eclectic blend of styles—he has the rare distinction of winning Grammy Awards in both classical and jazz categories—is a poignant rejection of the limitations placed on music during his upbringing in Cuba, including when jazz and rock music, viewed as emblems of a capitalist-imperialist Western bloc, were temporarily banned in the early 1960s.
Tania León’s remarks about De memorias offer a point of entry into her work:
“Dedicated to my teacher, Cuban composer Alfredo Diez Nieto, De memorias has the sensation of days gone by, of my own memories, so familiar that I know them ‘By memory’. The internal movement of the piece contrasts sounds framed within a rhythmic atmosphere; and opposite them, an atmosphere that is completely free, giving the sensation of a dialogue between capricious imaginary resonances. The work is marked by the use of insistent accents, over which weave contrasting, lyrical fragments. The use of various methods of tone production contributes to the creation of a special, unified atmosphere. Contrasting elements in the work exist between parallel movements and other materials of an apparently opposing nature. Brief ostinato throughout the piece impart a definite structural cohesiveness, as do glissandi, a discreet use of microtones, and a few specific dialogues between pairs of instruments.”
Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos, part of that “trailblazing generation” of Latin American composers of concert music, belonged to an era preoccupied with the relationship between national identity and cultural production, intensified by contexts of nationalism and imperialism. Villa-Lobos made his greatest artistic impact by bringing the rich traditional musics of Brazil into contact, and indeed confrontation, with techniques of European modernism, never shying away from the musical firecrackers that sparked from the frictions of that encounter. This unique synthesis is epitomized in mature cycles of works, like Chôros—named for a popular urban genre that Villa-Lobos considered the true “sound of Brazil”—and his Bachianas brasileiras. The relatively early Trio for oboe, composed in 1921, blends South American dance rhythms with French Impressionism, two years before Villa-Lobos’s first pivotal trip to Paris.
The second half of the program opens with one of the most popular tunes by Brazilian flutist, saxophonist, and composer Alfredo da Rocha Viana Filho, better known (like many Brazilian soccer stars) by a mononym: “Pixinguinha”. If less inclined toward European modernism than Villa-Lobos, Pixinguinha shared his compatriot’s admiration for the choro: he grew up playing choros with his father, and soon became one of the most popular choro composers of the radio era. Um a Zero was first recorded and released in 1946, although Pixinguinha, who plays saxophone on that recording, had likely written and performed it previously. The title—perhaps best translated as “1-nil”—commemorates Brazil’s victory over Uruguay in the 1919 South American soccer championship, with the winning goal scored by the heroic Arthur Friedenreich.
Miguel del Aguila writes the following about his Wind Quintet No. 2, op. 46:
“Written in 1994, the Wind Quintet No. 2 is dedicated to The Bach Camerata who commissioned and premiered it in Santa Barbara, CA on January 26, 1995. In the same year the work was awarded a Kennedy Center Friedheim Award for excellence in chamber music composition. Wind Quintet No. 2 tells the events of a story which take us to a completely different place in each movement, much in the same way as would four acts of a theater play. I exploited the nearly unlimited coloristic possibilities of the instruments to obtain unconventional sounds. Harmony and melody are also used to help the instruments create these particular colors. Although I made extensive use of new performance techniques and effects, I avoided making them sound “new” or obtrusive by blending them with other instruments playing in conventional styles.”
The program concludes with a pair of tunes by Astor Piazzolla. Born in Argentina to a family of Italian immigrants, Piazzolla’s musical upbringing was further enriched by a childhood spent in Lower Manhattan. It was there, in Little Italy, that young Piazzolla first got his hands on a bandoneón, the emblematic instrument of the Argentine tango. Despite wide-ranging musical and compositional interests, it was with the tango that Piazzolla made his name, introducing new instruments and stylistic crosscurrents to the genre in the second half of the twentieth century. Oblivion and Vayamos al Diablo are two examples of the “nuevo tango” style that emerged in Piazzolla’s wake. The wistful “Oblivion”, composed in 1982, quickly became one of Piazzolla’s most famous songs after it was featured in the 1984 Bellocchio film Enrico IV (Henry IV). The contrasting “Vayamos al Diablo” (“Let’s Go to the Devil”), composed in 1965, exemplifies Piazzolla’s experimental and adventurous approach to the tango, with its rollicking seven-beat meter sure to burn the house down.