As with much of Aguila's music, nothing is as straight or explicable as it might seem. He makes contemporary music of a rugged, easy-to-digest sort - The Los Angeles Times
For solo English Horn and orchestra
Broken Rondo is a one-movement English horn concerto. The work begins with a slow introduction where the English horn, accompanied by the strings and clarinet, sings quasi-free cadenzas and arabesques, setting a calm, somewhat nostalgic mood. Soon, the rondo theme begins. This simple, upbeat modal theme drives the piece forward with an ostinato rhythm of Andean character. At first light and dance-like, it becomes progressively more dramatic until the rondo is interrupted by an extended orchestral interlude. The English horn finishes the piece with a slow, somber, extended cantilena as the piece dissolves in darkness.The orchestration is light, bright and always focused on the solo instrument. The word “broken” of the title suggests not only the fact that the rondo form breaks down towards the end, but also implies an unexpected emotional struggle and a fracture from which the piece never recovers. The work was commissioned by Johanna Cox with a grant from the University of Oklahoma Research Council and from Mr. Carl Rath. The work is dedicated to Johanna Cox who premiered it on June 26, 2010 in Norman, Oklahoma during the International Double Reed Society Conference with the IDRS Orchestra under conductor David Lockington.
13’ long, Op.105 CARIBEÑA for orchestra was commissioned and premiered 2012 Boston, USA Boston Landmarks Orchestra conducted by Christopher Wilkins. A bright and rhythmically driven overture, this is Aguila’s perhaps most unabashedly Latin pop sounding work. The Latin percussion instruments and orchestration are reminiscent of the Caribbean Latin “Combo” ensembles and the bright treatment of brass and woodwind effects remind us of the Latin Jazz and 1940’s big band sound, performance techniques and expression. In this case, the simple, pop-inspired themes reach a dramatic climax and intensity which goes beyond the usual treatment of this style. The music starts with the rhythmic ostinato played by the piano and percussion and soon we hear fragments of the themes played by muted brass and solo woodwinds. The excitement grows and towards the end it gives way to a dramatic climax where the piece seems to be stuck in its own rhythmic frenzy unable to conclude or move forwards, the piece ends with a solo flute scream violently silenced by a final tutti. Caribeña is dedicated to the memory of the composer’s brother Nelson del Aguila (1964-2012), who passed away unexpectedly while this work was being written.
The press described it as:
“With a 1940's big band style dance frenzy...the piece is a fascinating and compelling soundscape. Urgently driven by Latin rhythms, the desperate dance is finally overwhelmed by the orchestration's sinister edge and driven to an explosive climax. Santa Barbara News-Press
“… splashed Brazilian color and excitement all over the first twelve minutes of the evening. This excitement from a young, powerful composer keeps classical music in full motion, even in the 21st century…” Dulluth Reader.
CARIBEÑA is available in two different orchestrations: 2222 -4331 and 1111 1110 + piano, harp, perc strings. It is the shorter, smaller version of the earlier work Caribbean Bacchanal (1994), which itself was inspired by themes from Aguila’s first opera: Cuauhtemoc (1992). There is also a two-piano 8 hands version of this work (1994). Caribeña is published by Peermusic. Performance material available through Subito Music.
CHAUTAUQUAN SUMMER, Op.80- 2004
Chautauquan Summer Overture was commissioned by the Chautauqua Institution in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra. The work is scored for triple Winds, 4 Horns, 3 Trumpets, 3 Trombones, Tuba, Harp and Strings. 4 percussionists playing: Timpani, Wind machine, Metal Wind Chimes, Bass Drum, Tam-Tam, Large Suspended Cymbal, Small Suspended Cymbal, Crash Cymbals, Tambourine, Triangle, Snare Drum, Bird Whistle filled with water, Cuckoo Whistle, Police Whistle, Glockenspiel, Gun Shot. It was premiered on 7/3/04 at Chautauqua Institution Summer Festival by Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra conducted by Uriel Segal.
Miguel del Aguila writes:
“Chautauquan Summer, was conceived as a short concert opener (or closer). A work that portrays the moods and changing landscape around Chautauqua Lake, NY from Autumn to Summer. All its imagery stems from my memories and experiences during the 3 years I spent there as resident composer of Chautauqua Institution Summer Festival. As the work begins it is late fall and a cold wind blows over the almost frozen Chautauqua Lake announcing a long cold winter. Most of the work conveys the barrenness and isolation of this winter. Towards the end of the piece, spring and finally summer arrive.
Two motifs are heard constantly throughout the piece. First introduced in a darker, mysterious mood by the horns and double basses, the themes are transformed into a lyrical, nostalgic Tango in the middle “winter” section played by a clarinet. After more dramatic turbulence, the main theme returns being slowly transformed into humorous, carefree carousel music with an ever-increasing circus-like street-fair character which announces the upcoming summer and festival. All residents, flora and fauna awaken or return to Chautauqua lake to bring life and excitement one more time. The work ends with an upbeat, triumphant finale that challenges the orchestra’s technical and endurance abilities.
CONCIERTO EN TANGO
For cello and orchestra. Also version for VIOLA and orchestra and SOLO STRING QUARTET and orchestra.
Concierto en Tango was commissioned by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra for principal cellist Roman Mekinulov who premiered with JoAnn Falletta conducting on May 18 2014 in Buffalo NY. Only a year after its premiere, CONCIERTO EN TANGO has already been performed/scheduled 15 orchestra performances in The US, Mexico, and South America. Most recently Toronto Symphony performed it in celebration of the opening of the Pan American Games in that city, and it was nominated for a Latin Grammy 2015 for Best Contemporary Classical Composition.
Mr. Aguila writes: "In 2012 Roman Mekinulov suggested to me the idea of writing a concerto in tango form that would explore the less classical sound and technique of the cello. I liked this idea, as the cello has the intensity and expressivity of a tango singer and is an excellent medium for such a work.
"While most people associate Tango with the 1920's Valentino films or the Tango Nuevo of Piazzola, to many of us who grew up in Montevideo or Buenos Aires in the 50's and 60's, Tango has a very different connotation. It is associated with childhood memories of happy and prosperous times and with happy family gatherings where we as children often just enjoyed watching everyone dance. In that context, Tango carries a special nostalgia from that time and place in a society that no longer exists. Those were the times before the economic collapse of the 70's and the horrors of the 'Guerra Sucia' of the military dictatorships that followed. The imagery of these events is portrayed within the music of Concierto en Tango. "Rather than limiting myself to this style, I also included idioms from earlier Tango styles, including the 19th century Spanish Tango-Habanera, the Brazilian Tango/Maxixe, and the early Milongas of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, in which the African influence was still evident in its syncopations and fast beat. However, Concierto en Tango has a rhythmic complexity beyond any of these dances, and it represents my abstraction of those rhythms as they fuse with my own personal style. "The harmonic language is conservative. It relies mainly on major/minor modes and 7th or 9th chordal harmonies, as they are used in Tango. I deliberately tried to avoid a 'classical' sound and especially the overly intense romantic style of many cello concertos, which combined with the melodrama of tango would have resulted in a very dark work. Several humorous and light hearted passages add a joyful side to the tango genre which is traditionally deprived of such positive emotions.
"The overall form is ABA - fast-slow-fast. The middle, slow section features the traditional cantabile and expressive qualities of the cello while the outer fast sections require an outmost rhythmic precision, bow control and accuracy of intonation in the highest registers of the instrument. Some of these fast sections challenge the performers with constant time signature shifts. (At times we can find almost one hundred consecutive bars where each one has a different and irregular time signature). The most used meters are 7/16 + 9/16 + 11/16 + 5/16. Some of these passages are played by a quintet of soloists comprising the cello, violin, double bass, piano and conga drums. Concierto en Tango was written to honor the memory of my brother, Nelson del Aguila (1964-2012)."
CONCERTO FOR VIOLIN AND ORCHESTRA Op. 94 - 2007
The Journey of a Lifetime (El viaje de una vida). 28’
Commissioned by the New Mexico Symphony and its music director Guillermo Figueroa
The Journey of a Lifetime
I. Crossing the Ocean to a New World (Cruzando el océano hacia un nuevo mundo)
II. (Vidalita) - In the Purple Land (En la tierra púrpura)
III. The Return (El regreso)
IV. Finale (Jota)
Commissioned and premiered by the New Mexico Symphony and its music director Guillermo Figueroa, Concerto for Violin and Orchestra was finished in early 2007, and premiered on 1/18/2008 in Albuquerque, NM. It was revised shortly after the premiere. The violin soloist is turned here into a traveler who becomes the protagonist of the story. The orchestra often represents the outside world as he sees it. As the work progresses, the actual trip becomes a symbol of a more existential journey: LIFE.
As the Concerto begins, the traveler abandons his homeland to embark in a long journey as a minimalist, undulating theme carries him steadily across the ocean. During the long journey, he reminisces and loses himself in introspection. The 2nd. Movement, is distant and somber as the soloist backstage seems to play from a place far away in South America, as suggested by a repeating theme in the style of the Vidalita: the simple, slow and nostalgic song of the Uruguayan Gauchos. The brief movement III depicts his return and the final movement, which starts on a light mood ends the work with a dramatic confrontation between soloist and orchestra, (…or the traveler and the outside world).
THE GIANT GUITAR Op. 91 – 2006
For full orchestra
Was jointly commissioned by WNED-FM Radio of Buffalo, NY and by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra for the 2006 JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition. It was premiered at Buffalo’s Kleinhans Hall in 2006 by Buffalo Philharmonic conducted by JoAnn Falletta. A short overture-like work inspired in the guitar and by Andean folk idioms. The opening theme and harmony originates form the guitar’s open strings (E A D G B E). The Harp introduces this theme as the strings, and later the horns, use the same notes to provide harmony. Having lived the first twenty years of my life in South America I can’t think of a guitar without associating its music to my early memories there. I often view South America as a “giant guitar”…friendly, sentimental, nostalgic, apparently week, and yet concealing a great power, only suggested by occasional “rasqueado” chords or historical revolutions. As in the political events of the 1970’s. Thus this work starts in a somewhat nostalgic mood which seems to transport us to a place high in the Andes . After these few introductory bars the flutes re-introduce the guitar theme now in a very rhythmic pattern resembling an Inca Andean-flute chant. The orchestra strings accompany the melody through rhythmically complex pizzicati, imitating a giant guitar or “charango”. The drama begins almost unnoticed as the originally delicately strummed chords turn into violent bass-drum and timpani hits. A final chord, from a third higher then the rest of the piece, offers a last note of defiance as it confronts a police siren, only to be quickly crushed by the overwhelming percussion.
CONGA (also titles CONGA-LINE IN HELL)
for full orchestra. Conga 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. As the name implies the work has a definite Caribbean flavor. The rhythmic pattern of the conga dance beats throughout the piece and is at times distorted into a 13/16 pattern.
It employs unusual percussion and rhythmic structures, and instruments are often playing at their most extreme registers. The piano is used 'obbligato' as a sort of metronome, very much like the harpsichord of the old Baroque times. The music is humorous, sarcastic, grotesque, sensuous and at times also terrifying. I rely mainly on the dramatic and expressive qualities of rhythm to convey the evil forces that govern my imaginary hell. As thematic material I primarily use rhythmic claves (Spanish for clef or key) as they are used in Latin American music: a sort of 'rhythmic tonality' to which harmony and melody must conform. After the sensuous middle section the work rushes frantically toward the end to explode in a dramatic finale. REVIEWS: A "delicious send-up of Minimalism. Here, sequences in stepwise motion career out of control, a comic device Haydn also used to wonderful effect." -- Bernard Holland, The New York Times
"[It] sounds, at first, like idiosyncratic pop, and it touches on jazz and salsa before morphing briefly into a slow, lush Viennese dance, then back to speedy jazz." Allan Kozinn, The New York Times.
HEXEN (Witches) Op. 16
for solo bassoon and string orchestra (12:00 min).
Written in 1986 and premiered 1987 at the Katholische Hochschulgemeinde Hall in Vienna, Austria by bassoonist Judith Farmer and the composer at the piano. The version for solo bassoon and string ensemble (Hexen Op. 17), was written in 1987 and premiered 1988 at Vienna’s Konzerthaus by American Music Ensemble Vienna, Hobart Earl conductor and J.Farmer bassoon. The US premiere took place 1988 in New York City by Brooklyn Philharmonic, Lucas Foss conductor and Frank Morelli, bassoon. This orchestral version was released by Albany Records (Troy CD 066, Th. Berger-Miguel del Aguila).
Hexen, an early work on Aguila’s catalogue, already shows a strong influence of the folklore of his native Latin America; in this case that of Brasil. Written in ABA form it features a mysterious, and somewhat lyrical middle section between two outer fast sections. A single rhythmic motive in the unstable 11/16 time signature lends structure to the whole piece which depicts a bewitchment ritual in its various stages. In this ritual the realm of magic and the supernatural is reached by means of rhythm and dance as is often the case in the Candomblé or Macumba rituals of Brazil and Uruguay. The Viennese press review of the premiere aptly described the work as “thrilling and ghastly”. Hexen is published by Peermusic Classical.
ISLAMORADA (The Purple Island) Op.106
for solo piano and string ensemble 9:30’. Written 2013 for the Philadelphia Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra, conductor Dan Spalding and pianist Gabriela Imreh who premiered it on March 16 2013 in Islamorada, Florida. Composed for full string ensemble, Islamorada can also be performed by a minimum of 5 strings (two violins, viola, cello and bass), and piano. The work is played by Philadelphia Virtuosi with piano, 8 Violins, 2 violas, 2 celli and 1 bass, and was conceived for this setting. Miguel del Aguila writes:
"I sketched part of Islamorada in early 2012 as a full, three movements piano concerto. When I was asked to write a short work to be premiered on March 2013, I merged ideas from the last two movements and added new material to create a fully independent work. The title of the work was inspired by the name and the place of its premiere: Islamorada, an idyllic village on the Florida Keys.
As the work begins, blurry fragments of the main theme or motif are introduced by the piano and soon the double bass plays this five-note motif which is present throughout the piece, constantly mutating and adopting different moods, tempos, colors and forms ranging from its beginning minimalist pulsation, through a mocking quickstep Fox Trot, a South American Zamba, a Caribbean Conga and full neo-romantic drama.
The piece follows one straight dramatic line to the end as the piano drives the ensemble through the continuous shifts of moods, rhythms and styles. Islamorada is mainly a happy "place"; it contains much humor and even mockery.
IT’S SO COLD TONIGHT
For solo high voice and orchestra. Also version for medium high voice and orchestra
PIANO CONCERTO Op.57
II Adagio Recitando
III Finale Allegro
Written in 1997 it was premiered the same year in Ventura California by the New West Symphony Orchestra (Ventura Symphnony) conducted by Boris Brot with the composer at the piano.
Piano Concerto follows formally the traditional concerto form. However the first movement is slow and some themes are present in all three movements. This piece is programmatic music and its story could be as long as a novel, however it is a very personal story which I chose to keep it undisclosed. The first movement is a dramatic account of hopeless desolation, depression and sorrow. Something beautiful happens in the second movement which slowly heels the wounds of the first movement. This simple second movement is an intimate dialogue between pianist and orchestra and without too many notes getting on the way. The movement ends in an introspective and reflective mood. There is peace but the bad memories are still too present and the future remains uncertain. The third movements is the “happy end” of the piece. The theme of the “beautiful event” of the second movement returns now with full power and sweeping self-assurance leaving behind all doubts that the drama of the first movement will ever return.
RETURN Op. 66
for solo violin and orchestra
Return to Homeland was commissioned by Ms. Tish Korman-Harris and it is dedicated to Dr. Burns Taft who also contributed to finance this commission. It was premiered at the Ventura Chamber Music Festival on May 8 1999. Miguel del Aguila writes about this work: “As the title suggests, Return is an imaginary trip to the place of our childhood. In my case, to the city of Montevideo which I left many years ago and have not returned to since as of 2015. As the piece begins the traveler is at the end a long trip on board an ocean liner. It is daybreak of a cold winter morning and as the light increases the skyline of Montevideo slowly appears in the horizon gray and gloomy. As the view gets closer there is anticipation and excitement as well as sad memories. With the beginning of the samba rhythm the traveler arrives at the city. As he drives through the streets, memories begin to awaken with an intensity that soon becomes overwhelming. After a dramatic climax that ends in a crash the traveler realizes that the city he came to see no longer exists. This is a new place that doesn’t recognize him, for here he stopped existing when he left many years ago. “His” city only exists in the past, in his memories and no longer in a geographical place. With this realization the work ends in total darkness as the violin repeats the nostalgic themes of the beginning and the samba rhythm has now taken a funeral character. As the traveler closes the door of his hotel room the city he just saw sinks again in an imaginary fog and fades away. I think Return to Homeland is as close as I will ever get to writing music of a romantic nature. The expressive and dramatic qualities of the solo violin seemed to me the perfect medium for this symphonic poem which has a solo violin as its main protagonist. The work has three sections which are Lento – Allegro – Lento. Return to Homeland was finished in 1999. A piano-violin version of this work was finished in late 1998. Two themes from my piano trio “Charming Lynch Mob” are also heard in this piece. This was to me a natural thing to do since both works depict different episodes of a same story..”
THE FALL OF CUZCO
For full orchestra
Commissioned through the Magnum Opus project: Kathryn Gould, founding patron and commissioner,
and Meet The Composer, project manager.
(La caída de Cuzco) Op. 99 - (2009)
The work loosely follows the events that led to the collapse of the Inka Empire and its capital Cuzco.Miguel del Aguila writes: “With this work I tried to recreate my fantasy of this mystical place and time, as well as give a voice to those who were silenced as a result of the Conquest almost 500 years ago. As in many of my works, the music here tells a story and suggests imagery. The pantheistic mood of the beginning is followed by an idealized depiction of this pre-columbian Inka world before the collapse. The Andean inspired themes are slowly transformed to convey fear, sadness betrayal and ultimately the agony of battle and death. The underlying theme is gold and its power over men and their greed. Once Pizarro arrives, the gold theme, starts subduing the other three which struggle for their survival throughout the entire piece. Finally, it triumphs and it ends the piece in all its boisterous brilliance. The closing bars depict this mountain of gold, blinding, seductive and overwhelming, while heralding at the same time the birth of a new race in a new America. Having survived myself the “Guerra sucia” of the ‘70’s by the military dictatorships in my native South America -which ultimately forced me to emigrate to the USA- I couldn’t avoid relating Pizarro’s crimes to those of modern dictators like Stroessner and Pinochet and relating the struggle of the Inka to those of my contemporaries.
Fall of Cuzco uses a simple pentatonic language inspired by the indigenous music of South America; from the slow Guaranias of the lowlands to the upbeat music of the Altiplano. This music is deceivingly simple. Its pentatonic nature, its strict harmonic, melodic and rhythmic structures, and its non-dramatic character, makes its fabric extremely fragile and elusive. At the first attempt of thematic development, its essence vanishes. On the other hand, abiding by all its rules, results in a pale imitation of it. Writing The Fall of Cuzco I walked the thin line between both.
1. High in the Andes the rising sun is greeted by a Caracol as a new day begins in Cuzco
2. Pizarro arrives, and after the initial fear and suspicion he’s greeted with music and celebration
3. During the celebration, Pizarro captures the Inca king: Atahualpa who offers him a room filled with gold in exchange for his freedom. Pizarro agrees.
4. Over many days gold is brought in endless processions, from all corners of the land.
5. The gold finally fills the room to the ceiling, while even larger piles surround the building and bury it. As the clouds dissipate the sun shines upon it with blinding light. (After all the gold is taken, Pizarro will kill Atahualpa)
TIME AND AGAIN BARELAS CHORAL SUITE No.2
for orchestra and chorus (opt. solo tenor) (20 and 33 minutes.) 1. Overture (only Suite No.2) 2. Ignacio’s Dream 3. The Rhythm of the city 4. Ave Maria 5. River’s Death (only Suite No.2) 6. Sunrise. Both Suites are taken from del Aguila’s third opera: Time and Again Barelas which was commissioned by the New Mexico Symphony, the National Hispanic Cultural Center, Meet The Composer and the City of Albuquerque in celebration of the 300th. anniversary of its founding. The Opera premiered in April 2006 By New Mexico Symphony under conductor Guillermo Figueroa. Choral Suite No.1 premiered in 2005 by NMSO conductor R. Melone. The longer Choral Suite No.2 was written for The Lancaster Symphony and its music director S. Gunzenhauser. It includes some of the main choral numbers from the opera as well as a new overture on themes from Time and Again Barelas. The score has been enlarged by extra winds, brass and strings, and the chorus has been expanded into a large symphonic chorus. About the opera: “Rather than writing an incidental work for the event,” wrote del Aguila, “I was more interested in writing a dramatic work that would be of timeless and of universal interest. In summer of 2004, I finished a synopsis of the story: a love story that lasts 500 years with the neighborhood of Barelas as background.” Situated on the Camino Real that ran from Mexico to Santa Fe, Barelas had been settled by the Spanish sonce early 17th century. Although most characters are fictional, the opera starts with the historical event of Don Barelas’s murder. The soldier who commits the crime, Don Ignacio, and Barelas’s daughter Marcelina, are the central characters of the story. Following a shaman’s curse, they are fated to fall in love through the ages. While Don Ignacio lives in shame and remorse, Marcelina only gradually becomes aware of his true identity as the murderer of her father. Her forgiveness of Ignacio ends the work in hope and affirmation. The composer states: “I did not try to write music that is true to a particular historical time or place. Instead, my music is mainly "Latin" in a broad sense and it conveys the story and the place of Barelas in a cohesive unity of style and form. I use music themes to represent events and places to create a sort of familiar musical landscape in which the action takes place.” Choral Suite No. 2 - Synopsis: 1. Overture 2. Ignacio’s Dream World War Two. An ocean apart, Marcelina and Ignacio think of each other. Ignacio prepares for yet another assault on German lines. Back in Barelas, Marcelina wonders when people will abandon violence and learn to forgive, love, and live together in peace. 3. The Rhythm of the city.Building a city, 1650-1850. The town of Barelas rises. Its hard working people build the town house by house. Slowly the wide open sky of the New Mexico desert is transformed into a modest city skyline. Marcelina presides over a happy and thriving community. Ignacio enters, pursuing an escaped slave Marigold. The people of Barelas help Marigold escape. 4. Ave Maria. River has just revealed to Marcelina that the man she loves is a monster who has killed Marcelina's father. Marcelina recoils in horror as we are transported to Los Alamos/While Sands, 1945. Humanity attains the ultimate violence – the ability to destroy itself. The famous news photo of scientists at White Sands is recreated as the first nuclear test occurs. Horrified, Marcelina and the people of Barelas watch the eerie cloud and silent fallout that ensues, as a heavenly chorus sings an Ave Maria imploring for human forgiveness. 5. River’s Death A cold winter night on a deserted street in Barelas, 1980's. Ignacio's guilt has driven him to the street, homeless. Marigold has become a drug addict, and as she tries to buy drugs River enters. In a struggle River is stabbed, by one of the dealers. Ignacio comes to her aid and takes her to Marcelina's house. River is amazed at the transformation in Ignacio; Marcelina's love has re-awakened humanity in him. For the first time he feels the full weight of his guilt. As River lies dying, she tells Marcelina that Ignacio has changed and that he deserves forgiveness. As River's soul leaves her body she calls on the Shaman to lift the curse 6. Sunrise A place out of time. As the curse is lifted, Marcelina forgives Ignacio as they clasp hands and see a vision of the future. Barelas, 2206. The people of Barelas watch the sun rise over a sky as bright as their future. Learning from the past everyone has come to love, forgive and erase spite from their hearts.
orch: 2222-2111-6perc,pf,str. 8:00 - Toccata was written in Vienna in 1988 and premiered at Vienna’s Konzerthaus in 1989 by the American Music Ensemble-Vienna, conducted by Hobart Earle. The theme of Toccata is an ostinato rhythmic cell of 6/8 + 7/8 which is present throughout the piece. Toccata is usually a work for keyboard which is technically difficult, brilliant and often driven by rhythm. This is the model of this Toccata with the difference that it is here transferred to a whole orchestra. The work has one single theme which is also used in the slow introduction. The rhythmic inspiration of this piece is the Uruguayan Candombe –a fast and rhythmic Afro-American dance play by drummers. The rhythmic ostinato becomes increasingly loud and intense to culminate in a dramatic climax after which the piece seems to disintegrate before it sinks in darkness to conclude with the sound of an ambulance speeding away. “As I started Toccata I planned to write a light, non-dramatic, upbeat piece. While composing the end of this work in Vienna a sad event occurred which changed my mood and that of the end of this piece”. A version for solo piano and one for solo harpsichord of Toccata are also available.TOCCATA is recorded on the SONY-Austria label CD: “Licht ins Dunkel” by Odessa Philharmonic and Hobart Earle.
for treble chorus,piano or harp accomp. 4'
Also version for chorus and chamber ensemble
Widely-performed composer Miguel Del Aguila's setting of the Ave Maria text is adapted from a section of his Choral Suite from the Opera "Time and Again Barelas". Under 4 minutes long, this work follows the traditional Latin text of the Hail Mary prayer. The music is soft, serenely expressive and with a mysterious character given by the two unlikely chords that support the main theme based on a tri-tone. Surprisingly, he makes this tri-tone interval, usually associated with tension, sound soothing, and easy to sing and remember. Since its premiere in Albuquerque, NM in 2006, critics have called it “hauntingly beautiful” and “a little jewel”.
BOLIVIANA Written in 2008, it was commissioned by Cuarteto Latinoamericano with a grant from The Peter S. Reed Foundation to be premiered by the quartet and Manuel Barrueco. The three movements are highly descriptive. As their titles suggest, there is a protagonist and a physical Space: The Bolivian “altiplano”. As I was writing this music I could actually see, get acquainted with, and relate closely to this specific person wondering in the desolated landscape of Bolivia’s highlands. I never met this person and have no idea why it was there. In the music, this protagonist’s voice becomes that of the guitar.
This first movement serves as a short introduction to the work, setting the place and time in the South American Altiplano. This theme will later return in an expanded form to close the work in the 4th movement. The mood is bright and cheerful. It’s the beginning of a new day and a new journey.
II. Returning Home Under the Rain
(Regresando a casa bajo la lluvia)
The Traveler is on his long journey home. He is tired and lonely as he walks under freezing rain. The music portrays here the general mood, the landscape. The listener sees the action from a distance.
III. Lost My Way in Darkness
(Me perdí en la oscuridad)
Now, the entire ensemble becomes the travelers’ own intimate feelings, his own voice (still mainly played by the guitar). The sky becomes dark and he loses his way. He feels that in the same way, he has lost his way in life and that this is the reason that made him undertake this long journey home: to find himself again.
VI. And the Sun Came Out
(Y el sol salió)
Finally the clouds dissipate and the sun comes out brighter than ever. He can now see home in the distance. The music/journey is filled with optimism and excitement as the travelers know that everything will be fine now that he is back home where he is anxiously expected.
The musical language in this work uses elements from Andean folklore and the string instruments are often imitating some traditional instruments Latin American instruments like Quenas, Charangos, Bombos and other percussion instruments. The writing for the strings and guitar often calls for unusual techniques and can be demanding and virtuosistic at times.
BROKEN RONDO Op. 103 (Rondó roto)
for English Horn and Orchestra (EH and piano version)
duration: 11' - Written 2010
orchestra: Piccolo, Clarinet, Bassoon, 2 horns, Timpani, 1 percussion, harp and strings
Broken Rondo is a one movement English horn concerto. The work begins with a slow introduction where the E. horn, aided by the strings and clarinet, sings quasi free cadenzas and arabesques setting a clam, somewhat nostalgic mood. Soon, the recurring Rondo theme begins. This simple, upbeat modal theme drives the piece forward with an ostinato rhythm of Andean character. The light, dance-like theme turns heavy and dramatic until the rondo is interrupted and collapses. The horn finishes the piece with a slow, poignant extended cantilena as the piece disappears in darkness.
The orchestration is light, bright and always focused on the solo instrument. The word "broken" of the title suggests not only the fact that the rondo form breaks towards the end, but it also implies an unexpected emotional struggle and a fracture from which the piece never recuperates.
The work was commissioned by Johanna Cox with a grant from the University of Oklahoma Research Council and from Mr. Carl Rath. The work is dedicated to Johanna Cox who premiered it June 26, 2010 in Norman, Oklahoma during the International Double Reed Society Conference with the IDRS Orchestra under conductor David Lockington.
CHARANGO CAPRICCIOSO Op. 90
for string quartet and piano 11’
Commissioned by the Austin Chamber Music Center where it was premiered on July 11 2006 by Cuarteto Latinoameriocano joined by Felicity Coltman, Heather Coltman and Margaret Coltman. The work opens with a mysterious theme, which - in an unintelligible tongue - seems to invite us to a remote place high in the Andes. The piano and later the solo viola take us to a quiet beautiful landscape where soon the solo cello meditates about the sad events that took place there starting with the Spanish conquest. A charango (suggested by the piano) introduces an Inca-inspired upbeat theme that after dancing through shifting rhythms becomes obsessed. At this point, the “unintelligible” theme returns with a new, almost disturbing character. Before the dance flies out of control, the solo cello reappears with the meditative theme as distant bells (played by the piano) restore the peace. "I tried to balance the massive sound of piano-four hands with that of the strings by separating them as two different elements; and at times by opposing them. When playing together, the strings part is written with big strokes, in an almost orchestral fashion".
CLOCKS Op. 58
for string quartet and piano
1. Shelves full of Clocks
2. Midnight Strikes
3. The Old Clock's Story
4. Sun Dial 2000 B.C.
5. Romance of the Swiss Clock and the Old Clock
6. The Joy of Keeping Time
Written in 1998, Clocks was commissioned by the Ventura Chamber Music Festival. It was premiered on May 9, 1998 by Cuarteto Latinoamericano and Miguel del Aguila in Ventura, California during the Festival. In 2011, Clocks was honored with a Latin Grammy Nomination for Best Contemporary Classical Composition. This suite of six movements portrays an imaginary visit to a clock museum, exploring the vast sound world of clocks from the deep resonance of clock towers to the finely calibrated workings of clock mechanics. The final movement, “The Joy of Keeping Time,” takes place after the museum closes and the clocks come to life in an exuberant jam session. The composer writes: “I tried to avoid the piano quintet sound, which is so much associated with the quintets of Brahms and Mozart. The theme of Clocks allowed me to explore different kinds of sound and different ways to produce it by using plucked strings notes for the piano, extreme high registers, and pizzicatos as well as rhythmic ostinatos in the strings. The piano is used as one more instrument of the ensemble and not as the dominating instrument as in the usual quintets. Only in the last movement does the piano take a more dominant role.” Clocks is recorded by Camerata San Antonio on the Bridge CD “Salón Buenos Aires", by Cuarteto Latinoamericano on Hoot/Wisdom FAU Recordings CD "Clocks", and by Onix Ensemble on Global Entertainment Recordings CD "El Tiempo"
CONGA-LINE IN HELL
for chamber ensemble
See program notes under Works for Orchestra: Conga
CRYSTAL FLUTES SWING Op. 83
for flute octet (optional quartet)
Written in 2005 Crystal flutes Swing is dedicated to Kay Logan who commissioned and premiered this work the same year at Chautauqua Festival in New York with the Chautauqua Flute Ensemble in residence lead by flutist Richard Sherman. The music, light and upbeat and is inspired by the swing style of the 1940's. The lead flute is often not the top voice but it's hidden in the middle register often playing block harmony, as in barbershop quartet or big band orchestration. Optionally a piccolo flute can double the lead flute part. The main themes are taken from the opera Time and Again Barelas. Crystal Flutes Swing is self published and available from firstname.lastname@example.org
HALF OF ME Op. 70
Forpiano left hand only. 8' 2000,
Written for the Van Cliburn Foundation for the 2000 International Piano Competition; Half of me begins with a theme extracted from my previous work: Nocturne and it continues to a faster, more dramatic section. It illustrates the feelings of sadness and loneliness that arise when someone loved is gone, when love ends; when one is left alone. This feeling that a "half of yourself" is missing is expressed in the music and of course, in the title of the piece and the fact that you play it with only one hand.
for unaccompanied violin
Cutting Limes (Cortando Limones) for solo violin was was written in 2015. It was commissioned, premiered and recorded by Stephanie Sant'Ambrogio. A five minute long work for unaccompanied violin the piece showcases the rhythmic possibilities of the violin through complex chords, harmonics, alternating hands pizzicati and other etended techniques. Built on a simple modal theme the music has an Andean character. The unaccompanied violin imitates a range of Latin American instruments such as charango, quena and Zampoña as well as the singing of a chicharra (Cicada). As I was writing this piece, I kept visualizing the way in which the bow moved along the strings while performing this music. In my mind, it looked as if it was sawing the strings. When I sent the first draft -still untitled- to the violinist, Stephanie soon replied that she was unable to play it because she accidentally cut her fingers while cutting limes. I immediately felt that this was the perfect title of the piece as this dangerous movement of a knife cutting limes was similar to the sawing bow movements I visualized while compositng this work.
DISAGREE! - Op. 116 - 2016 - duration 10:15
For clarinet, violin, cello and piano
Overloaded with apparently incompatible thematic material, Disagree is a work about integrating disparity. By doing this, it celebrates and makes a statement for pluralism in music and in our society. This “disagreement” of thematic material carries over to the performers who as the work progresses seem to increasingly disagree about the piece and its direction as they keep interrupt and at times, mocking each other. After much discrepancy, friendly dialogue and playfulness, a confrontation and a wild chase rushes the piece to its uplifting conclusion as all realize that they have made music together in spite of their differences.
The varied thematic material is evocative of South American dances like Malambo, Vals Criollo, Tango and Milonga with occasional neo-romantic outbursts from the pianist, minimalist passages from clarinetist and violinist, pastoral moods and dissonant, polytonal percussive clashes. The clarinet and piano are often the soloists of the ensemble and dominate the piece with often virtuosistic passages.
HALF OF ME Op.70 for piano left hand only - 8:00
Written for the Van Cliburn Foundation for the 2000 International Piano Competition; Half of me begins with a theme extracted from my previous work: Nocturne and it continues to a faster, more dramatic section. It illustrates the feelings of sadness and loneliness that arise when a loved one is gone. This common empty feeling that "half of yourself is missing” is expressed in the music and in the title of the piece and also in the fact that it’s played with only one hand. The first public performance of this work took place in 2017 at Bloch Hall, West Virginia Univ. by pianist Sornsuang Tangsinmonkong .
HEXEN(Witches) Op. 16
for solo bassoon and piano (12:00 min).
Written in 1986 and premiered 1987 at the Katholische Hochschulgemeinde Hall in Vienna, Austria by bassoonist Judith Farmer and the composer at the piano. See complete notes under Works for Orchestra: Hexen
LIFE IS A DREAM (La vida es sueño) Op. 76
for string quartet
Life is a Dream was commissioned for the Audubon Quartet by the Chautauqua Institution and Kay Logan. It was premiered in 2002 at the Chautauqua Institution Summer Festival in NY by Audubon Quartet. “As I started writing this music, words from Calderon de la Barca’s play Life is a Dream began ringing obsessively in my mind without any particular reason. After I re-read this play I realized the reason: With these words, Calderon’s main character realizes that he can no longer tell reality from dreams. A crisis has led him to this state of mind. Being myself in a somewhat similar situation at that time, I probably chose this subject matter subconsciously, out of the psychological need to deal with it. I then set out to do with music, what Calderon achieved through words: To blur and confuse the boundaries between the real and the imagined. Thus I wrote a piece in which the “real” music is often used as background merely accompanying “imagined”, “dreamed”, “remembered” and “suggested” music. The entire concert hall becomes the performance space as the musicians recite Calderon’s words as they play. The lack of direction and thematic development, gives this work an introspective, often meditating character. Its form is derived from the text and the subject matter. Calderon’s 17th Century Spain has also influenced the music: The first section is written in the Spanish Phrygian mode and is followed by a lively Jota dance that seems to be stuck on its own rhythm.
Op. 115 A - for bassoon and piano
Op. 115 B - for bassoon and string quartet
Op. 115 C - for bassoon and string orchestra
Also available versions for:
Clarinet and piano - Clarinet and strings
Saxophone and piano - saxophone and strings
Flute, double bass and piano
All three first versions of this 13 min. work were composed simultaneously and should be considered original versions. Jointly Commissioned by bassoonists: Benjamin Coelho, Judith Farmer, Wendy Holdaway, Mathieu Lussier, Richard Meek, Scott Pool, Carl Rath, Barrick Stees, Sabrina Stovall, Aura Marina Trevino and Lia Uribe, Malambo was premiered July 2016 at Talis Music Festival, Switzerland by Scott Pool and the Festival Quartet. As in many of Aguila’s works, this work features virtuosistic writing for the bassoon often within a language that combines drama, color, driving rhythms and the melodic inflections of Latin American folk music elements. In only two years, Malambo has had over 100 performances worldwide.
Miguel del Aguila: "Before I start writing a new work, I often see a blank, empty imaginary space which, as I compose, starts being populated with things, events, emotions and of course my own music. Sometimes ït’s not a landscape but the inner thoughts and emotions of a person, and in the case of Malambo the music switches between both. Here, we are in the main square of a village in the Argentine Pampas where a celebration is taking place, while the main protagonist (the bassoon/bassoonist),struggles with past memories and with the decision of joining the party or isolating. As the sound of church bells trigger memories, the bassoon/bassoonist sings alone only accompanied by distant birds and insects. Soon the bassoonist decides to join in a dance taking place near him. While the rhythmic character of this dance was inspired by the Malambo dance of the South American gauchos. My music here represents only the abstraction of these dances in my memory as rendered in my own musical language and rhythm which in this case consists of alternating 12/16-7/16 meter. In the midst of the dance the bells ring again and the bassoon isolates again. Away from the rest it sings an expressive song which grows in intensity until the dissonant bells finally trigger an emotional climax that dissolves in darkness. Suddenly, as if waking up from a dream, the dance resumes. This time, without interruptions, it gains momentum building up to a joyous, life affirming ending."
MIAMI FLUTE SUITE
completed in 2014, was written for flutist Néstor Torres, who premiered the work the same year in Miami, FL. The three movements, all ¬based on material drawn from Aguila’s earlier works, are quite different in style and mood. With its irregular, shifting meters, and the wide range of emotional expression it requires, the suite is a tour de force for the flute.
I.Seducción (Seduction), the first movement, begins with a lyrical introduction evoking the style of the Brazilian
chôro. This gives way to a frantic, restless Latin dance propelled forward by a series of ostinatos and rhythmically irregular themes. Written mainly in 13/16 meter, this dance begins with a percussive, almost primal theme that becomes increasingly breathless and ever more intense to end the movement in a passionate climax. Rhythm is the captivating (seductive) element here, with the melodic material playing a secondary role.
II. Silencio (Silence) is the slow, nostalgic and introspective middle movement. Its simple structure is dominated by two recurring lyrical themes that contain elements from 1940's Latin jazz and tango. This movement was inspired by the sudden passing of the composer's brother Nelson del Aguila (1964-2012), and expresses the sadness of this loss. The title refers to the void or emptiness left by a person who is absent: a voice that is no longer heard.
III. The suite concludes with Milonga, a light, upbeat dance inspired by the character of the early Uruguayan milonga (a fast-paced dance that preceded the tango). Here, the milonga rhythm is distorted into irregular, constantly shifting patterns that drive the piece forward. Towards the end the music seems to get caught up in its own rhythmic frenzy and ends in an ever-growing reiteration of the theme.
MUSIC IN A BOTTLE Op. 67
For solo piano 10' 1999, commissioned by J. Miltenberger
Music in a Bottle portrays the symbolic journey of a bottle carrying a message across the oceans and finally sinking without its message never having been delivered. The bottle and its journey represent to me our own selves and our own lives 'journey and how when we die we take with us most of the memories within us, many of which were undisclosed to everyone else. The work is divided in 3 sections:
I The Journey
II The Message
III The bottle sinks
Music in a Bottle has been recorded by James Miltenberger on Scotwood Music Label, CD @0th Century Dances and Improvisations.
For solo piano 8'
Written in 1998 Nocturne was premiered the same year by pianist Karen Corbett in Ventura, California.
A lyrical, slow moving and introspective piece, it is heavily influenced by Jazz and 1940's South American Song style. These two elements are combined to create a mood of sadness and nostalgia not too far from that of the Blues and the slow Brazilian Chôro. Miguel del Aguila writes: "I wrote Nocturne in just a few hours on a foggy afternoon in California. Its form and harmonic structure are very basic and the lack of development give this piece an almost folk-style flow where emotions are expressed with spontaneous simplicity and sincerity. 15 years later, I unknowingly returned to this style in Silence, a work for violin and piano that seems to continue the mood of this piece and to be related to it in its mood."
for bassoon and string quartet
2. Long Ago
Written in 1998, and revised in 2016, Nostálgica was commissioned by bassoonist Barrick Stees who premiered it 1998 at the International Double Reed Convention in Arizona. "I wanted to write a piece in which the bassoon would be the "solo singer" of the ensemble. Soon after I started writing this work, the tone qualities of the bassoon started determining the thematic material and even the form of the piece. Even though the bassoon is the solo singer here, the strings have a technically demanding part which includes extreme registers and the extensive use harmonics.
1. Nostálgica Is quiet and lyrical and it sets the mood for the entire piece establishing the bassoon as the main singing voice. The music is inpired by the Brazilian Chôro.
2. Long Ago is a calm, almost pastoral middle movement. The bassoon plays carefree arabesques often in pentatonic mode and accompanied by shimmering string harmonics and the relax beat of violin pizzicati.
3. Finale concludes the piece with a lively Latin dance. The bassoon provides here the beat with its fast, often percussive notes.
ONE OF YOU
For solo organ, 14’ was written in 2000, and premiered June 2001 at the American Guild of Organists National Convention in San Diego, California by organist West organ. The work loosely illustrates the words of Jesus during the Last Supper: “One of you will betray me”, and the feelings of Judas and Jesus as they anticipate the imminent betrayal. “Beyond illustrating the biblical story, I also wanted this work to portray the personal sadness and sorrow caused by the betrayal of a loved one”. One of You is dedicated to the memory of the composer’s father ; Miguel del Aguila (1915-1999).
OPHELIA IN SEVILLE Op.85
For soprano, tenor and chamber ensemble
Duration 16:00' Instrumentation: soprano, tenor, flute, clarinet, bassoon, trombone, and string quartet. Written in 2005, It was commissioned by Utah State University for the inauguration of its new Recital Hall in October 2005. The work is intended as a short theatrical work where singers and ensemble are integrated equally into the performance. The text for Ophelia in Seville was taken from Gustavo A. Becquer's "Rimas". Only one of his poems deals with the subject of Shakespeare’s Ophelia. Other subject related poems from Rimas complete the text. The Shakespearean characters are here seen through the eyes of Becquer, and given a 19th. Century Spanish-romantic, symbolic character. The entire piece represents Ophelia’s thoughts, fantasies and hallucinations. Miguel del Aguila: "I tried to recreate musically the atmosphere of Becquer's poems, his dreamy and at times melodramatic moods, as well as the poetic romanticism of Seville of the 19th Century. The music mirrors Ophelia's moods and thoughts rather than a illustrating a particular music style or time. At the beginning of the work, she has been already abandoned by Hamlet and has lost her mind. In her heart, she feels Hamlet's presence (tenor) everywhere although he is in reality not present and his voice is heard from the tenor backstage. At the end both lovers (the real and the imagined), say a symbolical farewell to each other as Ophelia decides her death.
PACIFIC SERENADE Op.59
for clarinet and string quartet - Also Version for Clarinet /piano and Saxophone/piano
Written in 1998, Pacific Serenade was commissioned by Pacific Serenades Ensemble who premiered it 1998 in Los Angeles. The ensemble’s name helped inspire this work as well as its theme: a romantic serenade, meant to be performed at night under the stars. The main “singer” here is the clarinet. In general the music is extremely quiet, delicate, sensuous and sentimental. The sensuousness is created by the use of South American folkloric idioms, especially the Brazilian “choro”, which is at times combined with Blues melodies and Jazz harmony. Miguel del Aguila: “In an age of boom boxes, media bombardment and an increasingly aggressive pop culture, I felt the need to write just the opposite.
for string quartet - also for guitar quartet and guitar/strings octet. Originally the last movement of Aguila's String Quartet No.2 (1988), PRESTO II was transformed by the composer into a larger, independent piece. This version was written for Cuarteto Latinoamericano who premiered it in 1996 and recorded it in 1998 for New Albion Records (NA100CD).
PRESTO II is a humorous, ironic and sometimes mocking Latin dance. The introduction has 1920's Jazz elements and the following Latin dance is based on a small rhythmic and melodic cell which is repeated constantly in odd irregular time meters. A challenging work for the performers, it uses unusual playing techniques and effects and rapidly shifting irregular rhythmic patterns.
"I wrote this piece while living in Vienna. For the Viennese, the string quartet form is sacredly serious. With PRESTO II I was mocking the form, and the protocol of classical string quartet tradition. String Quartet No.2 was premiered in Vienna, and not surprisingly, the Viennese press found it "not serious".
PRESTO II is also recorded by Alcan quartet on Naxos, by Santiago Quartet London on Cubafilin Records, and by Camerata San Antonio on Bridge Records.
SALON BUENOS AIRES Op.84
for chamber ensemble, (piano, flute, clarinet, violin, viola and cello)
2. Tango To Dream
3. Obsessed Milonga
Commission by the Cactus Pear Music Festival in 2005, it was premiered by the Festivals ensemble in San Antonio, TX the same year. Written in three movements Salon Buenos Aires is a nostalgic musical trip to 1950’s Buenos Aires. The music conveys the general mood of this period of great prosperity and optimism that preceded the social collapse of the 1970’s in the hands of militaristic regimes. The mood is set by numerous South American dance forms used throughout the work. From carefree Brazilian Samba rhythms to old fashioned melodramatic Tangos and Milongas (an Uruguayan dance which preceded Tango). After a bright upbeat first movement, the next “Tango to Dream” starts with a mysterious introduction to a Lullaby that slowly acquires a beat to transform itself into a dramatic, passionate Tango. In the final movement, a Milonga rhythm is distorted into irregular patterns as its constant beat drives the piece from the good spirited lightness of the beginning to an out of control obsessive finale. Salon Buenos Aires recording by Camerata San Antonio (Bridge Records), was nominated for two Latin Grammys in 2010.
SEDUCCIÓN (Seduction) Op.96
for violin and piano - also versions for flute/pno, clarinet/pno flute/pno and oboe/pno.
Commissioned by Saul Bitran and Header Coltman, it was premiered 2008 at Florida Atlantic University in Miami. Written in 2007 Seducción is a frantic, restless dance. The work is propelled forward by a series of ostinatos and rhythmically irregular themes. Rhythm is here the captivating (seductive), element which often relegates the melodic material to a secondary role. The Latin inspired dance begins with a percussive, almost primal theme that becomes increasingly breathless and ever-more-intense leading the work towards a final romantic climax. A tour de force for both pianist and violinist Seducción demands not only stamina but outmost rhythmic accuracy through various shifting meters.
For violin and piano also violin and clarinet.
Written in 2013 Silence is a slow, nostalgic and introspective work. Its simple structure is dominated by a recurring lyrical theme which contains elements from 1940's Latin Jazz/Tango. This highly melodic and expressive work was inspired by the sudden passing of the composer's brother Nelson del Aguila, and it expresses the sadness of this loss. The title Silence refers to the void or emptiness left by a person who's absent. A voice who is no longer heard. Silence was premiered 2013 by Guillermo Figueroa and Miguel del Aguila at Music in the Mountains Festival in Colorado, USA
SONATA No.2 - for piano
Written in Vienna in 1988 it was first heard there at a Bösendorfer Hall recital , and officially premiered at Carnegie Recital Hall by the composer the following year.
1. The first movement written mainly in 11/16 time, starts with an ostinato rhythm as dark, distant melodic fragments played in the piano’s lowest register serve as introduction. As the movement progresses the music becomes increasingly lively, rhythmic, colorful and expressive. Above the rhythmic ostinatos often melodies, reminiscent of the Gaucho song of Uruguay and Argentina sing freely. The singing becomes a dance of irregular rhythms and it reaches a dramatic climax that dissolves in darkness. The second movement begins with an opening of quiet slow arpeggios followed by a slow and sensuous Blues. The final movement is witty, lively humorous and sarcastic. A continuous animando from beginning to end, it begins with a 1920’s Jazz sound alternated by rhythmically irregular Caribbean dance rhythms and short melodic fragments played in double 8ves. The rapidly shifting rhythms of 11/16 +15+16 provides excitement and a bumpy beat which has prompted many dancers to choreograph this movement in different instrumentations. After a long buildup, the piece seems to fly out of control to end in a dramatic fff arm cluster. Thematic material from this movement was later used by the composer on his String Quartet No2 and his Presto II. And in many other settings some of which include violin, double bass, piano and percussion. The Sonata is dedicated to Jorge Basurto and published by Peermusic. Sonata No.2 is recorded by James Miltenberger on ACA Recordings CD: Piano Music of the Americas.
for flute, viola and harp - 9:30 min.
Submerged, written in 2013 was commissioned by Hat Trick and Brigham Young University. It is based on Alfonsina Storni's romantic, surrealist poem "Yo en el fondo del mar" On the surface, both the poem and music seem innocent and light-hearted, but one feels differently when the author’s fascination with the sea, and her later suicide by drowning in it, are taken into consideration. The piece follows the form of the poem except for the lively introduction and a coda which illustrate the poet's childhood near her native Argentine Andes, and in Switzerland. With six harp loud chords, the piece “falls” deep underwater: this slow middle section is mysterious, intimate and magical. It recreates the poem's isolated submerged world where fish with flowers, octopus and sirens dance while birds chirp happily far above water. The harp uses unusual extended techniques, some stemming from Paraguayan harp playing. The viola adds a rhythmic edge by playing constant multiple stop pizzicati imitating a Charango. The flute is the Quena of the ensemble and it uses often extended techniques as well. “In my interpretation of Storni’s poem this underwater world is that special place of isolation where many artists withdraw to create, a place and mood that can easily turn into depression. A place that ultimately Alfonsina chose to remain and which became her death. In my Submerged, I continued the events of the poem and made the listener return to the real world above water. This return is triggered by the memories of her childhood played by the harp and viola as a music box Ländler which turns into a Vidalita, both music which Alfonsina would have heard in her childhood.
Yo en el fondo del mar from Mundo de siete pozos (1934)
Storni, Alfonsina ( 1892 - 1937 )
Published by Tor, Buenos Aires (1935)
En el fondo del mar
hay una casa
A una avenida
Un gran pez de oro,
a las cinco,
me viene a saludar.
un rojo ramo
de flores de coral.
Duermo en una cama
un poco más azul
que el mar.
me hace guiños
a través del cristal.
En el bosque verde
que me circunda
—din don…din dan…—
se balancean y cantan
de nácar verdemar.
Y sobre mi cabeza
arden, en el crepúsculo,
las erizadas puntas del mar.
Me at the Bottom of the Sea
Alfonsina Storni (1892-1938)
(from World of Seven Wells, 1934)
At the bottom of the sea
there is a house
made of glass,
at the edge
of a coral-lined
A big golden fish
comes to greet me
it brings me
a red bouquet
of coral as flowers.
I sleep on a bed
than the sea.
now winks at me
through the glass.
In the green forest
that surrounds me
swaying mermaids sing
—ding, dong … ding, ding—
in their nacre and aquamarine.
And above my head
glow in the twilight
the prickling pins of the sea.
Translation by M. del Aguila (2013)
SUMMER SONG, Op. 26
for oboe and piano, was written 1988 in Vienna, and premiered there a year later by oboist Vasile Marian, for whom it was written. “The work is all about nature, how it affects us and how we interact with it. It was inspired by an Aztec poem that, though lost long ago, I still recall visually: It’s a quiet, warm and lazy summer afternoon and the protagonist is lying on the grass. As he daydreams, his thoughts interact with the actual landscape, creating a magical, unreal place. Soon, as passing clouds bring rain the protagonist falls asleep and dreams. As the storm passes birds begin to sing, waking him up”. The work opens with a gentle, modal theme, followed by a more lively and rhythmic second theme. Their interplay provides a gentle dialogue that takes us through a set of variations. The themes become agitated and trigger the "dream" section of the piece from where a bird seems to slowly guide us back to reality. The themes we heard at the beginning return and are later joined by a new, almost scandalous theme, reminiscent of Brazilian samba “Summer Song stands alone among my works due to its capricious form, its over-abundance of thematic material, and most of all for the disparity of styles which somehow seem to merge together: idioms ranging from Indian chant and the 1940s Big Band era coexist with the late Renaissance, Middle Eastern arabesques, music from the Caribbean and Brazilian Samba. Originally written in 1988, I revised the work in 1996, expanding it in both length and, alas, difficulty”. Katsuya Watanabe brilliantly masters the work's challenges in his recording with pianist David Johnson on the Profil label. Summer Song is recorded by Katsuya Watanabe, oboe, and David Johnson, piano, on
Profil CD 8977792
SUNSET SONG Op.42
for bassoon and piano was written and premiered in 1994 at the Los Angeles Museum of Art, Bing Theater. It is the composer's second large work featuring the bassoon as soloists (after Hexen) and like Hexen it is also dedicated to bassoonist Judith Farmer who premiered it with the composer at the piano. Sunset Song is technically a tour de force for both the bassoon and the piano. It is a happy, sensuous, obsessive and at times mocking often reflecting the time in which it was written and the events of a Mexico tour that followed the first performance during which the piece underwent revisions. Sunset Song starts with an introduction played by the bassoon almost entirely. This introduction uses elements of 1950's pop music. A middle section fallows where a static -almost Middle Eastern- ostinato rhythmic pattern beats with increasing tension. This pattern is then transformed to a Latin beat which finally returns the piece to the opening mood. The bassoon ends the piece in an irreverent tone, with a pitch written two octaves above the official limit of the instrument’s register. The title Sunset Song was inspired by California’s sunsets and the sun setting on the Pacific Ocean.
TANGO TRIO Op.71
for violin, cello and piano (also cl, cello and pno and oboe cello and pno, ob bn pno) - 2002
TANGO TRIO was written in 2002 in New York. It was premiered at the Chautauqua Music Festival that summer by the New Arts Trio. The work evokes Argentine-Uruguayan tango idioms, recalling especially the neo-romantic and sentimental style of the early tango period between 1910 and 1940. The musical language is intense, dramatic and direct, becoming at times melodramatic and humorous.
Written as an homage to Tango, TANGO TRIO does not follow the form, rhythm or style of the traditional Argentine dance, nor that of Piazzolla’s “Nuevo tango”. It is more often an abstraction of the dance that contains elements from a broader spectrum of Latin American dances such as Brazilian Samba, and Uruguayan Milonga and Candombe. The piano often provides the sharp rhythmic beat characteristic of this dance, but occasionally blurs the beat with turbulent, virtuosic arpeggios. The tango rhythmic pattern, present through most of the work, undergoes several tempo meter transformations, becoming at times highly syncopated and varied through asymmetrical groupings within the measure. The melodic material, usually given to strings and bandoneons in the typical tango ensemble, is here given to the violin and cello. TANGO TRIO is also available for clarinet, cello and piano and for oboe cello and piano. Tango Trio is published by Peermusic Classical and it is recorded by Arcos Trio on Centaur Records.
TENNESSEE Op. 72
For solo guitar.
Written in 2001, is inspired by controversial character from Tennessee William’s “A Streetcar Named Desire”. The work starts with a sentimental old fashioned waltz, which portrays Blanche. This nostalgic waltz is also Blanche remembering and yearning for the long gone world of her youth. The middle section that follows is the train theme expressing her sensuality, her madness and ultimately her self-destruction. This theme is purposefully written in unstable 7/8 meter. Blanche’s waltz theme reappears challenging the train theme but it quickly returns to its nostalgic nature dissolving hopelessly into fragile, guitar harmonics as Blanche, now gone insane, is being dragged away. The work has been recorded by Matt Greif on CD Permanent Transition.
Toccata Op. 23 for piano. 5’ Premiered 1988 by the composer in Vienna’s Bösendorfer Hall, It is a typical keyboard toccata build on an ostinato of alternating hands and meter (6/8+7/8) and requiring endurance and rhythmic precision from the performer. The work has on single theme which is also used in the slow introduction. The rhythmic inspiration of this piece is the Uruguayan Candombe –a fast and rhythmic Afro-American dance. In Toccata the performer uses his hands on the piano similar to the way the candombe drums player would play his instrument. The rhythmic ostinato becomes increasingly loud and intense to culminate in a dramatic climax after which the piece sinks in darkness and fades away as a last recitando statement gives a last sad farewell. Toccata is published by Peermusic and has been recorded in its harpsichord version by Marink Brecelj for the KKM Vienna Records,. The orchestral version was recorded by Odessa Philharmonic Orchestra, conductor H. Earl for Sony Austria.
Op. 48 piano solo 5
Written in 1995 it was premiered the same year at Bing Theater at the Los Angeles Museum of Art by the composer. Miguel del Aguila writes: I wrote Vals Brutal almost spontaneously after returning from a meeting in which I was confronted by some narrow-minded , prejudiced people who called themselves patrons of the arts. Infuriated I came home, sat at the piano and improvised this mocking, grotesque and violent waltz to vent my emotions.” Vals Brutal is a tour de force that requires great stamina as it also challenges the pianist technically with continuous runs and arpeggios on the right hand while the left hand mainly provides the waltz rhythm trying to keep the piece under control. After a final accelerando to the fastest possible tempo the piece flies off the handle as the work ends on a gesture of defiance by asking the pianist to violently drop the piano lid on the keys.
WIND QUINTET No.2 Op.46
1. Back in Time
2. In Heaven
3. Under the Earth
4. Far Away
Wind Quintet No.2 was written in 1994 and premiered the same year in Santa Barbara by the Bach Camerata. In 1995 it was awarded a Kennedy Center Friedheim Award for excellence in chamber music composition.
The four movements are held together by an undisclosed program that takes the listener through four different places (movements), as would the four acts of a play. Back in Time has a primitive, ritualistic character. The flute, accompanied by chant, plays a simple, modal theme. The simple musical structure and melodic material are retained as the movement progresses. In Heaven is a delicate, relaxed and stylized Caribbean dance. Extensive new performance techniques and effects are used in this movement which at times makes the quintet sound like a delicate, distant percussion ensemble. Under the Earth is perhaps the composer’s darkest and most realistic musical depiction of death. Miguel del Aguila: “The wind quintet is often thought of as an ensemble dominated by the high instruments with limited bass support. I tried to prove the contrary with this movement which explores not only the expressive depth of the wind ensemble but the extreme low registers of some of the instruments”
Far Away takes us to a busy scene in the Middle East. Several Arabic maqams and oboe solos, combined with a digeridoo sounding ostinato bass are used to create an exotic fabric in which the entire ensemble is challenged to the limits of their technical abilities before bringing the piece to a fiery conclusion.
Recordings: The Borealis Wind Quintet, CD: Discoveries (HE1030) Helicon Records
"brilliant and... provocative. It is fun to listen to"
Santa Barbara News-Press
Copyright Miguel del Aguila. All rights reserved.