Gladios presents a broad survey of works by prominent twentieth-century Latin American composers. The melodic lyricism and rhythmic interplay of Latin music is highlighted, with experimental pieces by Piazzolla, Brouwer and Chavez presented alongside late Romantic works by Barrios and Lauro.
The album title derives from a journal promoting pan-American nationalist composers founded by the Mexican composer Carlos Chavez.
Lauro, like many South American composers of his generation, was passionately proud of his country’s musical heritage. His numerous works for the guitar, honoured and recorded by the great Andalusian master Segovia, are consistently melodic, featuring phrases that alternate between wistful melancholy and virtuosic brilliance. Each region of the Andes presents its own version of the bambuco dance, with variations in the number of step patterns. Rhythmic elements are distinctly characterised by hemiola-derived two-against-three syncopation.
Preludio de Adios-Alfonso Montes
Born in Ciudad Bolivar, Venezuela, Montes studied music in Caracas and London. His work is deeply rooted in Venezuelan musical tradition but also demonstrates the European musical environment of his later years, particularly Germany and the United Kingdom. His compositions have been widely recorded by many notable guitarists, including John Williams.
Seis por derecho-Antonio Lauro
Seis por derecho with the subtitle al estilo del arpa venezolana (in the style of the Venezuelan harp) exemplifies the unique stylistic characteristics of the joropo. Seis por derecho is replete with hemiola polyrhythms (6/8 and ¾), providing an infectiously driven rhythmic expression.
While the joropo and the waltz share musical attributes, the joropo is fundamentally associated with creole music (música criolla). The joropo is frequently performed by llaneros (people living in the llanos, or plains, of Columbia and Venezuela). Traditionally, the harp performs the melodic elements while a bandola or cuatro adds rhythmic and percussive syncopation. In addition to designating the musical form, joropo also identifies a celebratory occasion.
Julia Florida-Agustin Barrios Mangore
The Paraguayan guitarist and composer Barrios demonstrated the enormous potential of the guitar to an international audience. His compositions are often considered to occupy the style-void between popular and classical traditions, and this is perhaps why his music was ignored by the European guitarists of his generation. Julia Florida, one of his last works, is a melancholy barcarole. This work was composed in Costa Rica and dedicated to his student Martinez de Rodriguez.
Waltz no.4-Agustin Barrios Mangore
Waltz no. 4 succeeds in combining Chopin-influenced musical tastes with Latin American guitar gestures. A short introduction serves as an introduction to the dance interplays that follow. Barrios inventively employs a campanella, or bell-like, technique in the middle section, using the open strings to explore the instrument’s natural sonorities.
Danza Paraguaya-Agustin Barrios Mangore
The traditional musical language of his native Paraguay provided Barrios with his initial introduction to music. This work, composed circa 1926, was performed by the composer throughout his career. Numerous distinct editions were notated by the composer, who in addition freely embellished sections during live performances.
Danza Paraguaya takes the form of a polca paraguaya and texturally and rhythmically pays homage to the Paraguayan folk harp. Traditionally this musical form is presented using binary alternation but in this piece Barrios adds a third section in the key of the relative subdominant, creating a rondo variation structure (A-B-A-C-A).
Cinco Piezas para Guitarra-Astor Piazzolla
Campero, Romantico and Acentuado
The Argentine composer and bandoneon player Astor Piazzolla composed his Cinco Piezas para Guitarra as a musical homage to William Walton’s seminal Five Bagatelles for Guitar. Guitarists perform numerous arrangements of works by Piazzolla but the Cinco Piezas are the only pieces specifically conceived for solo guitar.
Piazzolla transformed the traditional tango genre, incorporating eclectic stylistic influences, including jazz, complex counterpoint and avant garde classical forms that include extended harmonic tonalities.
Piazzolla’s prolific career as both performer and composer gives his music a powerfully direct social and cultural connection. The Cinco Piezas para Guitarra were written at a time when Piazzolla was financially autonomous, allowing the composition of more ambitious and musically creative multi-movement pieces.
Tres Piezas para Guitarra-Carlos Chavez
Musical fragments of the Tres Piezas para Guitarra were initially composed in 1923 at the suggestion of Segovia. The pieces were left unfinished and unperformed until the Mexican guitarist Jesus Silva requested a work for solo guitar in 1954.
The first piece divides into two distinct parts, with the initial Largo section evocative of a song, while the second part, marked Poco Allegro, conveys a dance. The Largo section features a diatonic melody that is frequently harmonised by intervals of a fourth and seventh and their inversions. The following Poco Allegro section is a charming and succinct dance featuring elements of harmonic bitonality, richly arpeggiated chords, and oscillating rhythmic mensuration. The transition to the melodic coda section, featuring a descending chromatic phrase stated over energetic ostinato chords, unites the two contrasting elements of the piece.
The second piece, Tranquillo, opens with a two-voice march with the second melody suggestive of an indigenous percussion instrument. The monodic and freely-stated melodic line of the second section is sustained by isolated notes and chords from the incipient counterpoints.
The driving pentatonic melody of the last piece, marked Moderato, features frequently oscillating time signatures. The sonic character of the final section is anarchic with ostensibly random chains of arpeggiated chords interwoven with fluctuating melodic fragments.
Cuban Landscape with Bells-Leo Brouwer
This piece, composed in 1986, by the Cuban guitarist Brouwer demonstrates the composer’s renewed interest in modality. Numerous extended techniques are used, including Bartok pizzicato, finger tapping, and the widespread application of harmonics. The bells referred to in the title, musically intended to represent cow bells, are evoked in the final section. Cuban Landscape with Bells is one of a series of works by Brouwer inspired by Cuban landscapes.