About this Recording
8.572707 - CORDERO, E.: Caribbean Concertos - Concierto Festivo / Insula / Concertino Tropical (Pepe Romero, Figueroa, I Solisti di Zagreb)

Ernesto Cordero (b. 1946)
Caribbean Concertos for Guitar and for Violin


Concierto Festivo

Cordero’s Concierto Festivo for guitar and string orchestra is his fourth concerto, written in 2003 and dedicated to the legendary guitarist, Pepe Romero. It was commissioned by the University of Puerto Rico, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its foundation, and the re-opening of its Theatre. The Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra was conducted by Guillermo Figueroa. This concerto has three movements, written in a modal and neo-Romantic style, in which the contrapuntal elements of the Spanish Renaissance combine with contemporary harmonies giving it a distinctive flavour which is present in most of Cordero’s works.

As in his previous concertos, Afro-Antillean influences occasionally appear in this composition, with their rich, sumptuous rhythms. Ernesto Cordero explores creatively the sonorous resources of the guitar offering it a virtuoso solo feature enriched by dialogues with the other instruments. In many lyrical sections of the piece, the guitar shines and projects a romantic spirit, through beautiful phrases that reflect Cordero’s passion for life and for his beloved Puerto Rico.

The distinguished Spanish guitarist Pepe Romero says of Ernesto Cordero’s Concerto:

Concierto Festivo (Festive Concerto) is a wonderful bridal feast where the extraordinary knowledge of the guitar and the divine inspiration of singular composer Ernesto Cordero wed. We are in the midst of a brilliant concerto, filled with a virtuosity which is always there to serve music, with beautiful melodies and enchanting harmonic progressions, irresistible rhythms that dig deeply inside the music in an essential fashion, transporting us to the beginning of time.

Composer Ernesto Cordero states:

When commissioned to write this concerto, I promised myself not to be influenced, or to include, elements from the folklore of my native Caribbean island, Puerto Rico…Yet, it seems I was doomed to fail…From the beginning of the first movement, syncopated rhythms that characterize Caribbean culture may be found. Airs from the “requinto”, a small guitar, remembrances of “trios”, groups of singers and guitar players, typical of Latin America and the Caribbean, are present. As an example, in the second movement, a guitar is occasionally heard, playing rhythms reminiscent of the “bolero”. The movement has the dramatic and romantic quality characteristic of this genre. No less important, and aligned with this Afro- Antillean music, we find echoes of old Spain, spattered with strums and touches of “Flamenco” music.

I must confess that the singular artistic personality, plus the friendship binding me to Pepe Romero, was decisive for the final results of this Concierto Festivo. I must not forget, either, our work sessions, rehearsals, his ingenious suggestions for the Concerto. All these episodes, however, came to a happy ending, accompanied by a good cigar and a glass of fine wine.

Carlos Barbosa Lima

Ínsula • Concertino Tropical

The two violin concertos, Ínsula and Concertino Tropical, are inspired by the diversified cultural aspects of the Caribbean island called Puerto Rico. The inspirational sources forging these two works are found in the landscapes, trees, birds and the vast cultural fusions existing among Hispanic, African and Native influences within this land. Ínsula is dedicated to the violinist and conductor Guillermo Figueroa, who gave the première of the work in Croatia in 2009, together with I Solisti di Zagreb.

The first movement of Ínsula, Paisajes (Landscapes), is a brief, imaginary voyage looking at different parts of the island’s geography, mountains, seas, and our colourful coasts. The movement develops within a modal, minimalistic style. In the movement’s final section, there is juxtaposition between the soloist (with marked Baroque tendencies) and the orchestral accompaniment, with the strong Caribbean sound of the Guajira.

The second movement, Jájome, takes its name from a mountainous ridge found at the centre of the island. The relaxing peace and serenity permeating this region turn it into an ideal meditation site. From this lovely spot in the town of Cayey Puerto Rico, with its impressionist elements, rises the contemplative character that characterizes this movement. I imagined an afternoon in this place, with Guillermo and myself listening to Erik Satie playing his Gymnopédies at the piano, and frankly admit that this wonderful thought did influence this movement.

The third movement, Las Indieras de Maricao (The Indianists of Maricao), is inspired by the town of Maricao, in the depths of the Central Mountain Range of the island. Thanks to its remote location, this area became the last refuge of the Taino Indians. In the year 1800 the census recorded a population of two thousand pure Taino Indians, a fact that created the name by which the area became known, Indianist’s Town. This movement is based on a minor pentatonic scale, made up of five sounds without semitones. This scale rises from music’s ancient roots, and has been used in various Latin- American countries that have indigenous descendants. Some other resources I have used to get closer to the indigenous aesthetic are quarter-tones, glissandi and trills.

The fourth movement, Fantasía salsera (Salsa Fantasy), is based on the Afro-Caribbean aspect of our insular musical culture. Because of this the syncopated rhythms and harmonic sequences that characterize Caribbean music are frequently used in this movement. In the middle part of this composition, there is a change of atmosphere and rhythm identified as “lento giocoso”. The creative element in this section is born of the violin’s open strings (G, D, A, E). The work ends with a recapitulation which takes up again the Afro-Caribbean element.

The three movements of Concertino Tropical are inspired by components of the tropical surroundings of Puerto Rico; they are: Yerba bruja (Witch-Herb), Los caobos (The Mahogany Trees) and El colibrí dorado (The Golden Humming Bird). The work, dedicated to violinist Henry Hutchinson, was premièred in Puerto Rico in 1998.

The dominant element of the first movement, Yerba bruja (Witch-Herb), is found in the rhythmic cell or pattern 3-3-2, a syncopated rhythm very common in traditional Afro-Caribbean music. This rhythmic cell has a great influence in the melodic and harmonic structure which is very modal. The movement ends with a quite emotional and virtuosic cadenza followed by a classical recapitulation.

The second movement, Los caobos (The Mahogany Trees), composed with an essentially modal vocabulary, juxtaposes a melody of indigenous character with another elaborated in a counterpoint texture that reminds us of European Renaissance music. This movement is inspired by the beautiful mahogany tree, native to America. It was brought to Puerto Rico around the year 1775.

The third movement, El colibrí dorado (The Golden Humming-Bird), is a moto perpetuo. Barely lasting a minute and half it is the shortest and most virtuosic part of the Concertino. The soloist runs, with great velocity and without interruption, through all the registers of the instrument, while the string orchestra maintains the harmonic support. The violin, through a virtuosic and uninterrupted melody, evokes or recreates the flight or hum of Puerto Rico’s golden humming-bird.

Ernesto Cordero

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