About this Recording
8.559611 - SIERRA, R.: Piano Trios Nos. 1-3 / Fanfarria, aria y movimiento perpetuo (Trio Arbos)

Roberto Sierra (b. 1953)
Piano Trios • Fanfarria, aria y movimiento perpetuo


The three piano trios in this recording span seventeen years (1991–2008) of my creative life. Each reflects a different creative impulse and the ideas that were in my mind at the time I wrote them. There are nevertheless common threads that link these works: a constant preoccupation with the intersection of a modern musical language and the vernacular that comes out of my ethnic background, and also timbral explorations often linked to instrumental virtuosity.

My first trio is titled Trio Tropical (1991), implying from the outset my intention of tropicalizing a genre that has a long tradition. The four movements reflect the rhythmic gestures, timbres and melodic gestures of the music I heard growing up in Puerto Rico. The insistent rhythms of En do (In C) are infused with the Latin jazz elements of the music I would hear on the radio, while the dreamy middle section evokes the atmosphere of the tropical nights, also evoked in Habanera nocturna. The last movement contains a slow introduction (Intermezzo religioso) followed by a fast perpetual motion. In the Religious intermezzo piano riffs of salsa music are superimposed on chorale-like textures, leading to wild explorations of polyrhythms in the movimiento perpetuo.

Each of the four movements of Trio No. 2 (2002) treats the same material, namely a twelve-tone row/motive that is used without transpositions or inversions, but in very different ways. Out of this restricted material a first movement emerges written in clave, the underlying rhythmic backbone of salsa, hence the title Clave de mediodía (Midday Clave). Espejos (Mirrors) transforms the same material into a mirage of counterpoint, while in Juego (Game) that material becomes a playful scherzo. The trio ends with music for an imaginary ritual, where the three instruments join in rhythms that resemble Afro-Caribbean drumming.

Piano Trio No. 3 (2008) incorporates extended tonal idioms infused by non tonal chromatic sonorities in many ways similar to Trio Tropical. Here too Afro-Caribbean musical gestures are present. I subtitled this trio Romántico to denote the expansive and broad musical gestures evocative of late-nineteenth-century chamber music. The first movement, Con profunda expresión, follows in a loose manner a sonata-allegro formal scheme. Here the sweeping and broad melodic gestures are interrupted by violent outbursts of seemingly unrelated harmonies and rhythmic gestures, which in the course of the music create their own continuity and sense of urgency. The second movement, Veloz (Fast), is a scherzo where the traditional triple meter is substituted by an asymmetric 5/8 meter. A slow movement follows, Con gran sentimiento, como un ‘Bolero’ (With great feeling, like a ‘Bolero’). This bolero is not the Spanish dance that inspired Maurice Ravel, but rather the slow Latin Ballads that became popular during the 1950s. The trio closes with a rondo (Agitado), with a main theme written in the style of Puerto Rican folk-tunes. Mirroring the first movement in a kind of inverse equation, the interruptions here are caused by broad sweeping melodic gestures. The work was written for the Trio Arbós, who gave the première of the work in Spain (Gijón, Asturias) in November 2008.

The opening sounds of Fanfarria, aria y movimiento perpetuo (2000) are based on the kind of open intervals and triads reminiscent of sonorities that Aaron Copland favored in his music (the work was commissioned by the Library of Congress as part of the Copland centennial celebrations). The fanfare was written to sound almost like an improvisation in which rhythmic elements of salsa can be heard. The aria is a slow section that explores the expressive qualities and singing tone of the violin. As a reminder of the open intervals used at the beginning, and to serve as a bridge to the perpetual motion, we again hear fanfare-like material. The work closes with running sixteenth notes movimiento perpetuo—a rhythmic evocation of salsa music.

Roberto Sierra

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