Looking For Red, White and Blue Between Bach, Beethoven And Brahms: Can American Music Be Found at American Music Festivals?

Santa Fe, New Mexico
July 17-August 23, 1999

Chamber music and chili peppers: that’s the image of the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival conjured both by its musical choices and by the 20-year series of posters Georgia O’Keefe created for it.

American — Northern and Southern hemisphere — works can be found at Santa Fe in abundance. Here Latin composers share the lime(light) with the U.S. For those music lovers who like their chamber music picante, Santa Fe is the place to go.

Highlights of Santa Fe’s 27th season include the Festival — commissioned (its 24th so far) world premiere of a string quartet by Mexican composer Mario Lavista performed by the Cuarteto Latinamericano, the fiery Mexican string quartet on a mission to bring Latin American composers to the world.

Lavista joins Shulamit Ran, Oliver Knussen and Leon Kirchner as composers-in-residence this year. (Past resident composers have included Aaron Copland, Ned Rorem, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich and John Harbison.)

Traditional and new works are categorized as equals here, in a cladistics method of programming that makes for some strange but thought-provoking bedfellows, like Ligeti’s Continuum in the middle of a program of Bach sonatas and partitas.

Laced with intriguing Southwestern-themed programs, Santa Fe acknowledges its surroundings, as in an evening of Spanish chamber music and tapas with musicians, music and food from Spain and Mexico held at the 18th-century Spanish colonial Rancho de Las Golondrinas, or its free concerts to celebrate Santa Fe’s Spanish and Indian heritages.

One especially enticing program features Argentine-born composer Osvaldo Golijov’s Yiddishbuk and a 1931 string quartet by Silvestre Revueltas played by the Cuarteto Latinoamericano, Lavista’s Marsias for Oboe and 8 Crystal Glasses, plus Astor Piazzolla and the late Mexican-based American-expatriate Conlon Nancarrow played by pianist Ursula Oppens.

Another Golijov work, K’Vakarad, will be performed by the Canadian in-residence St. Lawrence String Quartet and clarinetist Chen Halevi, along with a Weber quintet and Schubert and Brahms pieces.

Cuarteto Latinoamericano also performs Revueltas’s String Quartet No. 4 (“Música de Feria”) and the Boccherini “Fandango” quintet with David Leisner on guitar at Las Golondrinas on a concert that includes songs from de Falla and the Spanish Renaissance.

Composer, pianist and Santa Fe Artistic Director Marc Neikrug plays Bartók’s Contrasts with clarinetist Chen Halevi and violinist Joseph Silverstein on a program with Stravinsky, Haydn and Beethoven. Another concert pairs Britten and Takemitsu with Mozart and Schumann.

Pianist Leon Fleisher, cellist Ralph Kirshbaum, violist Michael Tree and violinist Pinchas Zukerman will give master classes this year, and the public is invited to open rehearsals, concert previews and roundtable discussions with composers and musicians.

Santa Fe also sports a small jazz series, evolved from the unfortunately-ended “Music of the Americas” program that ended after five years of surveying music from Bolivia, Puerto Rico, Argentina, Brazil, Peru and Mexico. Artists featured this year are Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba and singer Cleo Laine.

World music is covered as well with a performance by the Indonesian Sekar Jaya Gamelan Orchestra.

More in the traditional idea of American music, a tribute to the Broadway and Hollywood film music of George and Ira Gershwin opens Santa Fe’s season. But then again, didn’t one of them write Cuban Overture?

From Looking For Red, White and Blue Between Bach, Beethoven And Brahms
by Mic Holwin
© 1999 NewMusicBox

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