About this Recording
8.570341 - ESCOBAR, Jose Antonio: Guitar Music of Chile
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Guitar Music of Chile


Javier Contreras is a young Chilean composer who absorbs harmonic and formal methods from the classical tradition of the guitar while combining them with the rhythmic impulse of the popular Chilean guitar. He achieves this by writing his 'tonada', Euclídica, in the style of the cueca (the national dance of Chile) with a continually evolving melody progressing in thematic surges and returning time after time without pause or interruption. In Tonada del Retorno (Tonada of Return), Contreras exploits the instrument's percussive possibilities, moving from traditional language to a more abstract, virtuosic style. In contrast, in Tonada a mi madre (Tonada for my Mother), the composer returns to the more direct language of Euclídica. Finally, in his homage to Victor Jara, Sentido y rázon (Feeling and Reason), the composer includes fragments of the popular trova, presented with great sensitivity and in accordance with the style in which Victor himself played the guitar.

In his composition Cristalino, Horacio Salinas celebrates the relationship that existed during the 1980s between his ensemble, Inti-illimani, and the distinguished Australian guitarist, John Williams. The interest this group of New Chilean Song aroused in Williams was based not only on the relationship to popular Latin American music but also to recognition of the extraordinary musical ability of the group and its director, Horacio Salinas. The piece is nostalgic, with flights of lyricism, exploring in depth the instrument's resources, where everything that happens leads on to something else, as if the music itself generates further new music.

Antonio Restucci, composer and multi-instrumentalist, brings together the best of the Argentinian guitar tradition in La disyuntiva (Crisis), based on the harmony of La consentida (The pampered girl), the Chilean cueca – demonstrating spirit, passion, and a fine technical awareness of the instrument. In contrast, Coihues, though inspired by the lyricism of the south always keeps in touch with its essential nature, the strength of the Argentinian guitar being constantly apparent. Arrayanes (Myrtles), different again, combines the strumming of the Chilean guitar with flamenco flavours, establishing new areas of fusion of which Restucci is the master.

The music of Juan Antonio Sánchez finds itself at the crossroads where the popular music of Chile, America and Spain converge and popular music encounters classical music. The delicate balance between technical development, multiple parameters and the general style of writing practised by the academy, with the vitality and proximity of popular music, is one of Sánchez's greatest achievements. His works, which must be interpreted with both precision and flexibility, also permit certain improvisatory possibilities, especially in the introductions, a context where performers can do their own thing and endow the music with individual taste and imagination. The finesse with which Juan Antonio Sánchez develops the instrument's dynamic and tonal qualities, suggests a need for a very intimate atmosphere for its performance, such as when the guitar is played in a salon. Nevertheless, the contemporaneity of the combined elements and the vitality of the rhythmic content allow this music to communicate equally well in the larger concert hall.

Anticuecas by Violeta Parra, composed by the distinguished Chilean singer from her own experiences, were preserved only within recordings and it was not until later that these pieces were transcribed into notation, thus reaching the world of the concert guitar. From the early seventies, these pieces were recognised as truly original works of art, with a unique aesthetic, worthy of inclusion among the best guitar compositions. Such a response, revelatory of the amazed enthusiasm of the Chilean cultural scene stimulated by the eruption of the creative genius of Violeta Parra, provided a reaction similar to what happens when an archeologist discovers an antique artistic treasure. What such a reaction does not reveal is that Violeta Parra was actually developing a new musical language rather than merely writing works for the guitar in the manner of Agustín Barrios, Antonio Lauro or Heitor Villa-Lobos (to mention only those composers who wrote in a style associated with that known in Chile during the 1970s). To approach the Parnassus of the Latin American guitar, Violeta Parra needed sooner or later to have her music written down in notation.

In Anticuecas, Violeta Parra establishes a musical correlation with the anti-poetry of her brother Nicanor, not only in terms of the artistic use of popular language, but also by means of a spontaneity characteristic of oral culture. Anticuecas constitute in themselves a creative outlook, characterised by a profound spiritual renewal apparent in many other Chilean composers. Here it has to be considered whether this was due to the disappearance of Violeta, who both invented and nurtured that outlook, to the wide scope of her ideas and their theoretical foundation, or to the unreliability of the artist's unsystematic and obsessive nature in her creative work. If Anticuecas began to be well known to the public only from the early 1990s, it would make it difficult to understand the expansion of vernacular elements that developed in Nueva Canción, rock and fusion in Chile without taking into consideration the innovative treatment of tradition inaugurated by Violeta Parra.

Juan Pablo González
Instituto de Música
Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile

English translation: Graham Wade


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