PRO-1113: Tangos and Habaneras for Flute & Guitar

The tango and habanera are both music for dancing and share common historical roots; indeed in their earliest forms are virtually indistinguishable. "Habanera"in Spanish means literally “from Havana, (Cuba)” and was, as early as the 18th century, music and dance strongly influenced by African slaves who had been brought to Cuba by Spanish colonists to work in sugar plantations. The musical influence was felt quite naturally when it reached Spain where it resonated with music and rhythms left over from the middle ages during which the Spanish peninsula had been completely dominated by the Moors. After all, it was only in 1492, the same year in which America was discovered for the Spanish crown, that the last moorish stronghold, Granada, was finally defeated.
Of course, the tango as it flowered and flourished in Buenos Aires in the 20th century has achieved its own definite identity, although composers in Spain had traditionally not differentiated tangos from habaneras, and in fact often used the title interchangeably.
The Argentine tango, born in and around Buenos Aires at the end of the 19th century and imported as a ballroom dance to Europe about 1915, is actually a combination of dance influences from Andalucia, Havana, the contradanza criolla (i.e. country dances of the American-born Spanish settlers in Latin America) with recognizable traces of European polkas and the chotis from Madrid. The music has taken Europe and the United States by storm several times and has never lost its popularity in Buenos Aires, where it has evolved into a whole culture, complete with its own sound, style, costumes and cafés, with a following and identity as recognizable as Jazz , Rock and Roll, or Rhythm and Blues.
The Tango Català by Joan Albert Amargós offers us a vision of the Argentine tango as seen through Mediterranean eyes. Written in 1995, it was dedicated to the duo Montserrat Gascón - Xavier Coll by the composer. The latter, born in Barcelona in 1950, studied at the Liceo Conservatory and has composed chamber music, symphonies as well as music for film and ballet.
The Argentinian composer, Astor Piazzolla, one of the most original and controversial composers in the Buenos Aires-based world of the tango, was a thoroughly well-founded musician who studied with both Ginastera and Nadia Boulanger and was a proficient jazz performer as well. His compositions combine elements from classical music, the tango and jazz in a sophisticated fusion that defies its placement within any single style. In 1963, in a radio interview Piazzolla declared, “I am very tired of hearing that what I write is not the tango. Since I am so tired of hearing this from everyone, I would like to reply that what I write is the music of Buenos Aires. But just what is the music of Buenos Aires? The tango! Therefore, what I write has to be the tango.” In his own mind, his music was unmistakable; but the posing of the question demonstrates the depth of controversy his music engendered.
In his History of the Tango Piazzolla recreates four scenes that evoke different moments in the evolution of the tango, always inspired and transformed by the personal vision of the composer. According to him, the tango made its appearance in the brothels of Buenos Aires, and in its infancy was often played by a flute and guitar, hence the first movement . In Café 1930, we catch glimpses of the inherently Spanish melancholy which permeates much of Latin culture and in Nightclub 1960 we find a new transformation which includes the bossa nova of Brazil and the by-now traditional Argentine tango of ballroom and dance club. Concert d’aujourd’hui (present day’s concert) reflects the tango with unifying elements from the avant-garde, Strawinsky, Bartók and other 20th century classical composers. With good reason, the History of the Tango is one of Piazzolla most well-known works and has become an important staple in the repertoire for flute and guitar. The three Tango Etudes offered here are chosen from a collection of six etudes for either solo flute or solo violin and are late works from the composer’s last years.
Cynthia, Tango Flamenco by guitarist Pedro Javier González was written in 1995, commissioned by the duo Montserrat Gascón - Xavier Coll. Consciously an exponent of a new style of Flamenco guitar playing, González was born in 1962 in Barcelona and has won several important contests for flamenco guitar. He can be heard in recordings with Joan Manuel Serrat and Victoria de los Angeles as well as with his group “Arrebato”. His music combines many of the elements traditionally associated with Spanish music with an emphasis on the Flamenco style.
Maurice Ravel is recognized as one of the greatest composers of the 20th century. Born in France, near the Spanish border with Spanish blood on his mother’s side, it comes as no surprise that the miniature, Habanera, has become regarded as one of his many masterpieces. Originally written as a vocalise, i.e. voice without words with the accompaniment of a piano, it has been transcribed for virtually every conceivable combination of instruments, even including an orchestration by the composer. The present version for flute and guitar was transcribed by Xavier Coll.
Born in 1912, Xavier Montsalvatge is recognized as one of Spain’s most influential composers. His compositions, which number over 100 works, include sonatas, concertos, chamber works for every combination of instruments, choral works, orchestral works and an opera. The Habanera included here was originally the second of three divertimenti written for piano in 1941. From the beginning one of his most popular works, it was transcribed for various combinations of instruments by the composer himself. The present transcription for flute and guitar is by Spanish guitarist and composer Jordi Codina as approved by Montsalvatge.
Xavier Coll’s Tango y Chacarera was written in 1994 and according to the composer "is intended to follow in the footsteps of Piazzolla". Intentionally juxtaposed with the tango is the traditionally rural dance, the Chacarera, in which the bombo legüero, a drum-like instrument popular in Argentina, is imitated by striking the top of the guitar in various different places.
Tango en Skäi by internationally recognized Tunisian guitarist Roland Dyens betrays the composer’s virtuosic background and, at the same time, preserves the music’s charming appeal.
Manuel Aróztegui and Agustín Bardi are both composers of the old Argentine school and wrote some of the most recognizable and well-loved tango melodies of all time, which incidentally, have lost none of their popularity in the intervening years.

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