About this Recording
FECD-0027 - RODRIGUEZ: Oktoechos / Favola Boccaccesca / The Song of Songs

Robert Xavier Rodriguez

Robert Xavier Rodriguez


The music of Robert Xavier Rodriguez (b. 1946) has been described as "Romantically dramatic" (Washington Post), "richly lyrical" (Musical America) and "glowing with a physical animation and delicate balance of moods that combine seductively with his all-encompassing sense of humor" (Los Angeles Times). "It's originality lies in the telling personality it reveals. His music always speaks, and speaks in the composer's personal language." (American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters). Rodriguez has written in all genres - opera, orchestral, concerto, ballet, vocal, choral, chamber, solo and music for the theater – but he has been drawn most strongly in recent years to works for the stage, including music for children.


Among Rodriguez' best-known works are the operas, Frida (1991 ), based on the life of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, and the children's opera, Monkey See, Monkey Do. Other stage works include Tango (1986), The Old Maiestic (1988), Scrooge (1994), Adoracion Ambulante (1994) and The Last Night of Don Juan (2000). Among his instrumental works are the orchestral Estampie (1981), Trunks (1982), A Colorful Symphony (1987), Ursa (1990), sinfonia a la Mariachi (1998), Bachanale (1999), The Tempest (2001) and Flight (2003) and the chamber Les Niais Amoureux (1989) and Meto 4 (1993).


Rodriguez' music is regularly performed in American, Latin American, and European musical centers, with over 2000 professional operatic and orchestral performances in recent seasons. Conductors and musical organizations who have performed Rodriguez' works include Eduardo Mata, Andrew Litton, Keith Lockhart, Sir Neville Marriner, Antal Dorati, James DePriest, Sir Raymond Leppard, Leonard Slatkin, The Dallas Opera, Houston Grand Opera, American Repertory Theater, BAM Next Wave Festival, New York City Opera, The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Mexico City Philharmonic, The Baltimore, Houston, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Boston Symphonies, The Los Angeles Philharmonic, National Symphony, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Louisville Orchestra and Cleveland Orchestra. Rodriguez has served as Composer-in-Residence with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the San Antonio Symphony and the Dallas Symphony. He is currently Professor and Director of the Musica Nova ensemble at the University of Texas at Dallas and is active as a guest lecturer and conductor. His music is published exclusively by G. Schirmer and is recorded on the First Edition, Newport, Crystal, Orion, Urtext, Albany and CRI (1999 Grammy nomination) labels.



Oktoechos, Concerto for Two Groups of Soloists and Orchestra


The title Oktoechos refers to the ancient system of Byzantine chant, in which contrasting melodic types were drawn from one single scale. Here each of the eight soloists creates an individual melodic contour out of a common kernel of rhythmic and melodic material. The soloists are divided into two groups of four, each containing a member of the orchestra's four timbral families (string, woodwind, brass, and percussion). One group has high registers (violin, clarinet, trumpet, and percussion: vibraphone, marimba, temple blocks, and triangle), the other low (cello, bassoon, tenor trombone, and piano).


Oktoechos is a work of "absolute" music; registral and timbral conflicts give the work its dramatic shape. Each solo instrument seeks independence amidst three conflicting loyalties: to its registral group (high or low), to its timbral partner (the other woodwind, brass, string, or percussion soloist) or to its larger orchestral section (the other violins or clarinets, etc.). Strong timbral groupings in the orchestra contrast sharply with the individual soloists as the work builds to a violent climax. At the end, the soloists join with their respective timbral groups in a quiet canonic ostinato drawn from the work's opening phrase.


- Robert Xavier Rodriguez


Oktoechos is the work of a composer in complete command of both the psychological and technical elements of his music. The mood ranges from the captivating calm of the opening Adagio (reminiscent of the richly scored serenity of the middle movement of Bartok's Third Piano Concerto), through the several passionate high points, to the hypnotic dying away at the close.


- Wayne Lee Gay, Musical America



Favola Boccaccesca, Symphonic Poem for Orchestra


Favola Boccaccesca (Fable of Boccaccio) was an orchestral study for the comic opera, Suor Isabella (1982), which is based on a ribald story from Boccaccio's Decameron (1353). The musical ideas and proportions are drawn from the opera's scenario, about a beautiful young nun who nightly sneaks a lover into her cell. Included are the opera's prelude, the nuns' gossip about Sister Isabella, the entrance of the Mother Superior's lover (a priest in a trunk, which is dropped), lsabella's lyrical aria, the discovery of the lovers and the opera's exuberant dance-finale (in which the nuns allow Sister Isabella and the Mother Superior to enjoy their lovers in peace).


Favola Boccaccesca draws upon its medieval roots in matters of structure (isorhythm and cantus firmus technique) as well as in the use of actual medieval melodies woven into the musical texture. Of the quotations employed, the most important is a famous Saltarello (or "jumping dance") of Boccaccio's time. This secular tune contrasts with several more decorously ecclesiastical melodies: Cunctipotens genitor, the Spanish Quen la Virgen, a highly disguised fragment of the Dies Irae, and, appropriately for the Mother Superior, a hymn of St. Ambrose originally composed to fight heresy. Bell patterns from village churches near Bellagio, Italy are quoted at the opening of the work and at its close.


- Robert Xavier Rodriguez




…The music Rodriguez has woven was fascinating in performance -dramatic, usually playful, often slyly burlesque, rhythmically complex, rampant in its color sense.


- John Ardoin, Musical America





The Song Of Songs (Shir Hashirim)

Theater Piece for Soprano, Narrotor ond Chamber Ensemble


The Song of Songs interweaves two texts The narrator, in English, tells a romantic story of Sholom Aleichem (1859-1916) about a young man who leaves home ot an early age, returns for the marriage of his childhood sweetheart, and discovers his love for her on the eve of her wedding. The story is filled with poetic references to the Biblical Song of Songs as the young man, in his reverie, recaIls Solomon's celebrated dialogue with his beloved Shulamite. The soprano, meanwhile, in English and Hebrew, sings excerpts from the original Song of Songs in alternating lines with the speaker, portraying the man's part as well as that of the woman in the Biblical drama. The music begins with the traditional Hebrew cantillation of The Song of Songs, with prominent use of the harp (the instrument of David) Thereafter, motifs from the ancient chant are woven into the musical texture along with a traditional Eastern European melody (Kol Dodi).


- Robert Xavier Rodriguez


Translation of the Sholom Aleichem story by Curt Leviant. Used by permission.


Translation of Hebrew text:


The Song of Songs, which is Solomon's: O that he would kiss me with his lips!

Indeed, your caresses are better than wine. I have come into my garden, my sister, my bride;

I have gathered my myrrh and my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey;

I have drunk my wine and my milk. Eat, friends; drink, drink abundantly, beloved friends

Rise up, come away, the watchman found me. Place me as a seal upon your heart,

A well of fresh water and flowing streams from Lebanon.


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