Thus begins Rafael Alberti’s poem reflecting on childhood memories, playfully set by Catalan composer Xavier Montsalvatge in his “Cinco Canciones Negras.”
Themes of love, loneliness and nostalgia are common in more commonly heard art songs from German, French and Italian composers. But with few exceptions (mostly focusing on Mary the mother of Jesus), art songs about the mysteries of motherhood are generally absent in those canons. Not so when it comes to Spanish language art song, where canciones de cuna (cradle songs, or lullabies) are nearly an entire genre unto themselves. This is why these beautiful, romantic and lush — but rarely heard — selections are ideal for a light Mother’s Day concert as Great Bend Center for Music marks its long-awaited return to live performance.
The names of Montsalvatge, Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona, and Argentine composer Carlos Guastavino may not be well known outside of their home countries.
But their music, demanding both piano and vocal virtuosity, is absolutely remarkable. The vocal lines are highly lyrical, but often make use of Latin rhythms and folk styles; while the piano parts are less accompaniment and more the piano telling its own version of whatever story is benign portrayed. The results are works that are both formal and highly expressive.
Our planned 60-minute matinee performance will be intimate and interactive, with Great Bend founder Matthew Melendez discussing more about the composers and poets featured in the program, as well as some of the colorful techniques they employ to suggest everything from tango dancing to weeping.