Digital Playbill

Latin American Dances

Table of Contents
Premiering February 20, 2021
Music Director: Eric Garcia


Astor Piazzolla
(1921 – 1992)
Histoire du Tango
I. Bordel – 1900
II. Café
III. Nightclub 1960
IV. Concert d’aujourd’hui

Manuel Ponce
(1882 – 1948)
Petite suite dans le style Ancien
I. Prelude. Allegro
II. Canon. Allegro moderato
III. Air. Andantino
IV. Fughetta. Moderato


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Anna Dunford, Marimba

Rebekah Desta (on leave), Assistant Principal Second Violin

Emily Jones, Viola

Lisa Cooper, Cello

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Anna Dunford

Rebekah Desta (on leave)

Emily Jones

Lisa Cooper


Education and
Program Notes
Latin American Dances

Astor Piazzolla / March 11, 1921 – July 05, 1992

Histoire du Tango

Born in Argentina in 1921, Astor Piazzolla grew up with the tango implanted in his soul. As a youthful composer, however, he abandoned his musical inheritance and began to write music inspired by early 20th-century European composers. As luck would have it, he moved to Paris to study with the fabled Nadia Boulanger, and she saved him from his misguided path. In his words, "When I met her, I showed her my kilos of symphonies and sonatas. She started to read them and came out with a horrible judgment. 'It's very well written,' she said, 'but here you are like Stravinsky, here like Bartók, here like Ravel -- but I cannot find Piazzolla.' After I confessed to her that I was a cabaret tango musician, she asked me to play on the piano some bars of a tango of my own. She suddenly opened her eyes, took my hand and told me, 'You idiot, that’s Piazzolla!' And I took all the music I composed, ten years of my life, and sent it to hell in two seconds." He spent the next 18 months with her perfecting his native talent.

Piazzolla took Nadia’s advice to heart. It became his passion to bring the tango, which began as a seductive partner dance in the brothels and dance halls of Argentina, to the world’s concert halls. In 1985, he wrote The History of the Tango to capture its evolution during the 100 years since its beginning. To accompany the music, he left us with a program note for each of the four movements, notes that need no further explanation:

Bordello, 1900: The tango originated in Buenos Aires in 1882. It was first played on the guitar and flute. Arrangements then came to include the piano, and later, the concertina. This music is full of grace and liveliness. It paints a picture of the good-natured chatter of the French, Italian, and Spanish women who peopled those bordellos as they teased the policemen, thieves, sailors, and riffraff who came to see them. This is a high-spirited tango.

Cafe, 1930: This is another age of the tango. People stopped dancing it as they did in 1900, preferring instead simply to listen to it. It became more musical and more romantic. This tango has undergone total transformation: the movements are slower, with new and often melancholy harmonies. Tango orchestras came to consist of two violins, two concertinas, a piano, and a bass. The tango is sometimes sung as well.

Night Club, 1960: This is a time of rapidly expanding international exchange, and the tango evolves again as Brazil and Argentina come together in Buenos Aires. The bossa nova and the new tango are moving to the same beat. Audiences rush to the nightclubs to listen earnestly to the new tango. This marks a revolution and a profound alteration in some of the original tango forms.

Modern-Day Concert: Certain concepts in tango music become intertwined with modern music. Bartók, Stravinsky, and other composers reminisce to the tune of tango music. This is today's tango, and the tango of the future as well.

Manuel Ponce / December 08, 1882 – April 24, 1948

Petite suite dans le style ancien

Manuel Ponce was one of the 20th century’s most distinguished and influential luminaries of Mexican music. As a young man, he went to study where the action was: Europe. For five years he honed his skills in Italy and Germany. When he returned, he became the Music Director and Conductor of The National Symphony Orchestra of Mexico. In 1925, he took a six-month leave to travel to Paris to study with Paul Dukas (Sorcerer’s Apprentice). He overstayed his visa for eight years. When he finally returned to Mexico City in 1933, he became the Director of The Conservatorio Nacional de Música, the alma mater of Plácido Domingo.

Much of Ponce’s music derives its inspiration from Mexican folklore and folk music. He also wrote significant classical guitar pieces for his friend Andrés Segovia. The Petite Suite’s roots, however, come from his time in Paris where he fell under the sway of Igor Stravinsky – but not the revolutionary pre-WWI Rite of Spring Stravinsky, the post-war neoclassical Stravinsky who returned in 1920 to traditional forms from earlier styles, especially baroque forms from the 18th century. Ponce’s engaging Petite Suite for string trio “in the old style” harkens back to the contrapuntal and rhythmic practices of Johann Sebastian Bach. It begins with a fantasia-like sunny prelude. The second movement is a canon with all voices imitating each other. The third is a lyrical air; and the fourth a zestful fughetta, or “little fugue”. Fascinating. All roads seem to lead to Bach, even from Mexico.

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