Some might surmise that a piano is a rather large and bulky object to submit to the dance. Its rigidity and fixture in place—to provide an artist a stable platform on which to paint his/her canvas—seems by its very function to militate against movement. What pianist would want to see their instrument roll away from their hands in the midst of a concert? Nevertheless, a good piano—under expert hands—does indeed “dance” after a fashion; it moves, it vibrates, it seems to breathe. Jenny Lin is more than amply capable of drawing from the piano its hidden, terpsichorean resources, and has prepared for Symphony Space a program of Spanish and Latin American works.
The work of Catalan composer Federico Mompou claims a direct inheritance from the French Impressionists. In 1918, a French critic proclaimed Mompou the successor to Claude Debussy. As Mompou’s long life progressed, the music of Erik Satie began to mean more to him, and this serves as part inspiration to Mompou’s collection Música callada (literally “Silent Music”). Música callada consists of 28 piano pieces spread over 4 books; most pieces occupy just two or three lightly scored pages of music. Música callada sometimes breaks into brief, wistful dance phrases; otherwise the music can be characterized as containing only the barest indication of a pulse.
Argentine composer and bandleader Astor Piazzolla was the founder of the Nuevo tango, whereby Piazzolla revolutionized the highly conservative form of the Argentine tango, beginning in the 1940s. Piazzolla led a double life for most of his career, studying advanced compositional techniques with Nadia Boulanger and Alberto Ginastera while making a living playing the tango in cabarets. Though resistance to his efforts remained strong in Argentina throughout his lifetime, Piazzolla’s music caught on practically everywhere else. Leijia’s Game is described as a “Tango Prelude” and was the first of a set of Three Preludes Piazzolla composed for piano in 1987.
Gabriela Ortiz was born in Mexico City and is one of Mexico’s most esteemed voices in contemporary music. Jenny Lin is a strong advocate of Ortiz’ piano works; Ortiz’ Estudios entre Preludios is also in her repertoire. Su-Muy Key is an earlier composition about which Ortiz herself has said, “I grew up surrounded by Latin American music and I love dancing salsa. Writing this piece, I tried to let this joy filter through in my writing so that I would be a personal portrayal of me and not just a literal approach to salsa.”
Though Ricardo Lorenz was born in Venezuela, he has lived in the United States since 1982. He is best known for orchestral pieces, including Rumba Sinfónica (2007) which pits the talents of the Cuban group Tiempo Libre against a full orchestra in a concertante type setting. Bachangó is a blend of folk motifs, complexity, rhythmic brio, and swing, and was first performed by Lorenz himself.
Composer and guitarist Arthur Kampela was born in Rio de Janeiro and studied with contemporary composers Mario Davidovsky and Brian Ferneyhough. As a guitarist, he is noted for special techniques of tapping and other percussive effects. He also leads a chamber group that plays “Avant Bossa Novas” and “Atonal Sambas”. With Nosturnos, Kampela states that “I used the concept of an ‘archetypal field,’ which implies the perception of contrasting musical worlds, gestures and techniques that make themselves ‘acutely visible/audible’ only at the moment they disappear, by stylistic contrast.”
Carlos Sanchez-Gutierrez, born in Mexico City, now lives in the Rochester, New York area where he teaches composition at the Eastman School of Music. Ariles y más Ariles is the third piece from the series Mano a Mano for solo piano. Several pieces from Mano a Mano are indeed intended as studies, both pianistically and compositionally. They are highly virtuosic, intense, and extremely demanding miniatures, to some extent exploring aspects of Mexican folk music.
Uruguayan composer Miguel del Aguila was born in Montevideo. While he has lived away from his native land for some time, the Latin element in del Aguila’s music is unmistakable, particularly in Conga, the solo piano version of del Aguila’s best known work, a piece for chamber orchestra entitled Conga Line in Hell. As del Aguila remembered, “It began as a dream. At first there was the visual image of an endless line of dead people dancing through the fire of hell. I gradually started hearing the music, which was flowing spontaneously out of me in an effort to entertain and alleviate the pain of those poor souls. I woke up and wrote the music as I remembered it.”
— David N. “Uncle Dave” Lewis