CANCIONES DE CUNA
CANCIONES DE CUNA
For Lilian and Julian
The repertoire of cradle songs is vast. From the perspective of a guitarist, I have made a selection of pieces that covers the life of the classical guitar from the early nineteenth century to the present day. As I was putting them together, I was surprised by the affinities and influences that became evident and by the intensity with which the personality of each composer is reflected in these miniatures.
Two valuable gifts, specially composed for this occasion, gave me the chance to include lullabies of the twenty-first century: Uspávanka s pocitánim ovci for violin or voice and guitar, by the Czech composer Sylvie Bodorovà—whose deep friendship I have enjoyed for well over twenty years and whose brilliant career I am privileged to follow very closely—and ...che move il cielo e le altre stelle, a piece for solo guitar by Simone Fontanelli, whom I first met at the Accademia Chigiana in Siena in 1982, when he was a student in Franco Donatoni´s course, and whom I encountered again years later as a colleague at the Mozarteum in Salzburg.
Wiegenlieder and Berceuses, Nanas and Canciones de Cuna, Ninna-Nannas and Lullabies
Our very first experiences of music are typically the cradle songs our mothers and grandmothers sing to us when we are very small. These songs also form an important part of our cultural identity.
In Europe, the first lullabies, nanas or Wiegenlieder were sung at the Christmas crib. Interest in the folk song repertoire increased towards the end of the eighteenth century. Des Knaben Wunderhorn, a collection of popular songs compiled by Achim von Arnim and Clemens Brentano, was published in Germany at the beginning of the nineteenth century.
Most of the representative composers of the Romantic period, among them Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn and Brahms, composed Wiegenlieder that reflect popular cradle songs both in their characteristic rhythm and intimate character and in their allusions to certain words or images and to nature in general. The instrumental versions of these cradle songs were called Berceuse.
Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909), the guitarist from Valencia who founded a guitar school that had a strong influence through the world, knew that a transcription of Schlummerlied op. 124 N° 6 by Robert Schumann (1810 - 1856) would suit the guitar very well. But Domingo Prat, one of his students, criticized this version very harshly, complaining that it was impossible to recognize the original melody in it.
During his short life, Franz Schubert (1797-1828) wrote nine symphonies, liturgical music, operas, incidental music, and chamber music. Unlike the Viennese composers of the classic period, he also dedicated a large part of his compositional output to small lyric forms. He wrote over 600 Lieder, one of which is Wiegenlied op. 98 N° 2. Although Schubert owned a guitar, there is no evidence that he used it to accompany his songs. However, the guitar was a popular instrument in Vienna during this period, and music publishers used to release both a guitar and a pianoforte accompaniment in the scores of the Lieder they released.
Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) was of the most remarkable musicians of his generation. He was appointed organist in the Église de la Madeleine and director of the Paris Conservatoire (where he managed to reform the study programs in order to cover a broader spectrum of music from the Renaissance to Impressionism). Berceuse op. 16 shows the qualities that the French composer, as a pedagogue, wished his disciples to develop: good taste, a feeling for harmony, love for pure lines, surprising and colorful modulations.
The influence of Manuel de Falla
Manuel de Falla (1876- 1946) was born in Cádiz and studied composition with Felipe Pedrell, who helped to awaken his interest in flamenco music and cante jondo. In 1907 he travelled to Paris, where he became acquainted with the impressionist movement and joined a group of composers that included Paul Dukas, Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy and Isaac Albéniz.
His first important piece, La vida breve, was composed in Madrid in 1907 and premiered in Nice in 1913. It was subsequently performed at the Opéra Comique de París. Max Eschig showed interest in publishing the score, and the contract with the publishing company brought some financial relief for de Falla, allowing him to concentrate on his work as a composer. The first fruits of this period were already finished in 1914: Siete canciones populares españolas, which include the Nana. These pieces have become established among the most popular songs in the Spanish repertoire, both in their original versions and also in transcriptions: for violin and piano by the violinist Paul Kochanski, a friend of de Falla; for cello and piano by Maurice Maréchal; and versions for voice and orchestra by Cristobal Halffter and by Luciano Berio.
De Falla’s friend Miguel Llobet (1878-1938) transcribed the Siete canciones populares españolas for voice and guitar. The famous guitarist from Catalonia also performed the premiere of de Falla´s only original piece for guitar, Homenaje pour le Tombeau de Claude Debussy, written in 1921, soon after the composer and his sister moved to Granada.
A student of Francisco Tárrega, Miguel Llobet arranged a series of Canciones Catalanas. They include one of the most popular cradle songs: El noi de la Mare, a lullaby of the sixteenth century that is addressed to Mary and her son Jesus.
Born in the province of Granada in 1898, Federico García Lorca showed his ability to learn popular songs while still a child. In his youth, before devoting himself to literature, he continued to develop his musical skills as a pianist. In 1931, he recorded ten pieces from his Colección de Canciones Populares antiguas together with the famous singer La Argentinita. One of these songs is the beautiful Nana de Sevilla.
Some years before, in 1922, Manuel de Falla had organized the Cante Jondo Competition in Granada together with the guitarist Andrés Segovia, Fernando de los Ríos, the painter Ignacio Zuloaga, and García Lorca. The competition was an audacious attempt to connect the musical art of Andalucía with “universal” art. De Falla´s aesthetic motto, “from the local to the universal,” remained forever in García Lorca´s heart. In 1928, the poet gave a lecture in Madrid titled “Canciones de cuna españolas” in which he said, “Some years ago, walking close to Granada, I heard a woman of the village singing as she rocked her child to sleep. I had always noticed the keen sadness of the cradle songs of our country, but I had never felt this truth as clearly as I did then… As I drew closer to the singer in order to write down the song, I noticed that she was a beautiful Andalusian lady, cheerful, without any air of melancholy, but she was imbued with a living tradition and followed its commands faithfully, as though listening to ancient voices flowing in her blood”.
“A wonderful instrument, as restrained as it is rich, that sweetly or roughly takes possession of the spirit.” This is the description of the guitar which Manuel de Falla gives in the preface to the method La Escuela Razonada de la Guitarra basada en los principios de la técnica de Tárrega. In this method, the Catalan guitarist Emilio Pujol (1886- 1980) put together the fundamental principles of his teacher´s school. Although Emilio Pujol´s concert career was not as significant as that of Llobet or Segovia, he did remarkable work in the fields of pedagogy and musicology. His Canción de Cuna (Berceuse) was published in Paris in 1931.
Born in 1895, Mario Castelnuovo Tedesco began to compose in 1909 under the influence of French Impressionism and, in particular, of Claude Debussy. His love for literature motivated him to write music for Shakespeare´s tragedies and comedies as well as operas based on libretti by Macchiavelo (La Mandragola), D`Annunzio, and Pirandello. Other sources of inspiration upon which he drew throughout his life were nature—especially the landscapes of Florence—as well as paintings and sculpture.
de Falla and Mario Castelnuovo Tedesco met for
the first time in Florence in 1919. Castelnuovo Tedesco was impressed
by M. de Falla’s calm and serene voice, his slender build, and his introverted,
mystical, ascetic appearance that contrasted with the exuberance of his
music. De Falla fell in love with Florence just as Castelnuovo Tedesco
had fallen in love with Granada during his journey to Spain in 1913. Their
friendship endured even when both had to go into exile (de Falla in Argentina,
Castelnuovo Tedesco in the United States). An encounter with Andrés
Segovia in Venice in 1932 marked the beginning of a long friendship that
stimulated Castelnuovo Tedesco to write for the guitar. He ultimately
became one of the most important composers in the guitar literature of
the twentieth century.
Juan Ramón Jiménez used to call Platero y yo “Elegía Andaluza,” an Andalusian elegy. In this book, published in 1914, the writer narrates his adventures with the donkey Platero in the surroundings of Moguer, his birthplace. La Arrulladora, in which he describes an Andalusian girl rocking her small brother, is one of the most beautiful and moving moments of this work.
Greek composer Manos Hatzidakis (1925 –1994), who was
also active in the field of theater, used the Rembetika,
a popular urban Greek song form, in many of his works. From 1950 onwards,
he concentrated on writing popular pieces. He won an Academy Award in
1960 for his song Never on Sunday, written for the eponymous
Back in central Europe
Carl Maria von Weber (1786 –1826) was a German pianist, conductor, guitarist, and critic, and was also one of the first significant composers of the Romantic period. He was appointed director of the Operas in Breslau, Prague, and Dresden. He organized a rehearsal plan and an arrangement of the musicians in an orchestra that is still in use today. His operas, among them Oberon and Der Freischütz, had a strong influence on the style of later German composers. The text of this Wiegenlied was written by Franz Carl Hiemer, a German actor, dramatist, and painter who also wrote the libretto for Weber’s opera Abu Hassan.
grandson of the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, Felix Mendelssohn
Bartholdy (1809–1847) was born into a Jewish family whose
home was frequented by the most interesting European artists, musicians,
and scientists. Mendelssohn later converted to the Lutheran faith. Already
as an infant he was a musical prodigy. It is thanks to his interest that
the music of Johann Sebastian Bach was rescued from oblivion.
In the New World
Guastavino (1912-2000) was born in Santa Fé, Argentina.
Because of the character of his works, which reflect the influence of
romantic and neoclassical styles, he became known as “the Schubert of
Jars containing chemicals lined the walls of Carlos Guastavino's small apartment in Buenos Aires, souvenirs of his early studies as a chemical engineer. He lived somewhat reclusively, writing his music between four and eleven o´clock each morning; his interest in science and his love of music and nature (to both of which he reached with deep emotion) protected him from any sense of loneliness.” In his own words: "When I realize that I have written what I want, I stand, make gestures, laugh or cry, and thank God. Music doesn't grow by itself, I don't carry the responsibility; a part of my brain has music".
His series Seis Canciones de Cuna for voice and piano, written to lyrics by the Chilean poetess and teacher Gabriela Mistral, stand out among his rich range of music for voice. Four of these songs, “Hallazgo,” “Apegado a mí,” “Corderito,” and “Meciendo,” are well suited to a guitar accompaniment. Inspired by the American identity and by love and nature, the lyrics are taken from her books Ternura and Poema de Chile. The influence of Manuel de Falla, with whom Guastavino was acquainted because the Spanish composer lived in Argentina, can be felt in these pieces.
The Argentine folklorist, poet, philosopher, and guitarist Atahualpa Yupanqui (1908-1992) was born in Pergamino in Buenos Aires province. His father was Argentine, a descendant of the Quechuas (an indigenous group in Argentina), and his mother belonged to a Basque family. His original name was Héctor Roberto Chavero Aramburo, but as an artist he adopted the name Atahualpa, after the last of the native lords of the Inca Empire, and Yupanqui, a quechua word meaning “he who comes from ancient lands to communicate something”.
Yupanqui became a student of the indigenous culture. In 1935, he played on a radio show in Buenos Aires, where he met Antonieta Paula Pepin Fitzpatrick, his lifelong partner and collaborator under the pseudonym ”Pablo Del Cerro.” He was a winner of the Charles Cros Academy Prize for best foreign recording and went on extensive concert tours in Europe. His very personal style, unmistakable because of the color he achieves through glissandi, vibratos, and other technical effects, pervades even his simplest pieces, such as this arrullo (lullaby) Duérmete changuito. Atahualpa Yupanqui´s version of a piece by Ernesto Grenet, Drume Negrita, which he used to sing while accompanying himself on the guitar, represents one of his most successful interpretations.
This song also inspired the Cuban composer Leo Brouwer (1939), who recreated it in a lovely Afro-Cuban Canción de Cuna. A winner of the renowned Tomás Luis de Victoria 2010 Prize , Brouwer is a guitarist and conductor and one of the most important composers of the twentieth century. He has composed chamber music, symphonies, film music, many pieces for solo guitar, and several concertos for guitar and orchestra. His first works were influenced by the style of Béla Bartók and Igor Strawinski . Later he experimented with modal and serial music. He has approached minimalism in his latest works. An honorary member of UNESCO since 1987, Leo Brouwer has also done remarkable work as a pedagogue and has held positions with Cuban radio and television.
The influence of African music in Latin America are also evident in the music of the Río de la Plata, especially in the candombe. This influence can be felt in Calabú, a candombe cradle song written in 1856. Its composer, the porteño (resident of the city of Buenos Aires) Sebastián Piana (1903-1994), was born into a family of Italian immigrants. He and the poet Homero Manzi became famous as a team that created many songs, such as Milonga sentimental. Piana enriched the milonga with a more substantial musical structure, something he considered essential for this musical form. He composed around 500 pieces.
Mocking bird, also known as Hush little baby, seems to have its origins in North America. Its author and date of creation are not known. In the lyrics, all kind of rewards are offered to the child if he will be quiet. The arrangement on this recording is by Richard Charlton, one of the most renowned Australian guitarist-composers, who was born in Great Britain in 1955. According to the British magazine Classical Guitar, Charlton has created some of the most inspired and accessible pieces for the guitar in our era.
to the Wiegenlieder of the nineteenth century through Brahms
In 1857 he dedicated Sandmännchen to the children of Robert and Clara Schumann. Robert had died one year earlier. Clara, a great pianist and composer, was an inspiring muse for Brahms and a long-lasting friendship developed between the two.
Notwithstanding his reputation as a composer of long pieces and complex structures, many of the works that were successful during his lifetime were short, popular pieces: Hungarian dances, waltzes, and cradle songs such as Wiegenlied op. 49, N° 4: “Guten Abend, gute Nacht.”
In the twenty-first century
Fontanelli (Milan 1961) studied guitar, philosophy, composition,
and conducting. After winning the International Mozart Competition in
Salzburg in 1995, Fontanelli is regarded as one of the most interesting
and authentic personalities of contemporary music.
L´Amor che move il sole e l´altre stelle
María Isabel Siewers- Translation: Eva- Raphaela Jaksch
for her extraordinary lyricism, refined artistic temperament and outstanding
technique, María Isabel Siewers has performed
in many of the greatest halls, including the Wigmore Hall (London), Konzerthaus
(Vienna), Martinu Hall (Prague), Carnegie Hall (New York), and the Théatre
des Champs Elysées (Paris), and has played in many important
music festivals. She has regularly toured, taught and adjudicated in international
competitions throughout Europe, North and South America, Australia, and
New Zealand. She has occupied several teaching posts in Argentina and,
since 1989 she has been head of a guitar department in the Arts University
Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria.
Rösel was born in Thüringen, Germany. At the age of
five he had his first piano lessons and became a member of the Thüringer
Ganz was born in Montevideo (Uruguay), and began studying the
violin at the age of sux. Five years later he won the First Prize at the
national competition of Jeunesses Musicales and embarked on a
solo career. His teachers in Uruguay were Israel Chorberg, Ilya Fidlon,
and Jorge Risi. After graduating from the Montevideo Conservatory, he
received a scholarship which allowed him to study at the Moscow “Tchaikovsky”
Conservatory with Viktor Pikaisen.
Cambiasso pursued music studies and obtained degrees in Choir
Conducting and in Vocal Studies from the Conservatorio Superior de
Música Manuel de Falla, Conservatorio Alberto Ginastera
and Instituto Universitario de las Artes in Buenos Aires. She
also completed vocal specialization courses with Lucía Boero, Víctor
Srugo, Heather Harper, Constanza Cuccaro and Erick Werba
Pazur was born in Argentina in 1976. She graduated from the Escuela
de Arte Dramático of Buenos Aires.
Nicolás Pazur graduated as Profesor Superior de Violín
from the Conservatorio Manuel de Falla in Buenos Aires. He also studied
violin and viola with Alberto Varady.
– Wiegenlied (Cradle Song)
mein Prinzchen, schlaf ein- attributed to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
(KV 350), later to Bernhard Flies and after new research to Friedrich
Anton Fleischmann (1766-1798)
von Weber- Cradle Song
Close to my
Guten Abend, Gute Nacht (Good evening, good night)