(Six musical pictures inspired by paintings from Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso)
for symphonic wind band
- composition date: 2020/21
- duration: ca. 50 min. (5’+6’+13’+11’+6’+9’)
- commission: Banda Musical de Amarante
«To the Amarante Wind Band and its conductor, Hugo Folgar, with friendship and esteem.
In commemoration of the centenary of the death of the great Portuguese and Amarantine painter Amadeo de Souza Cardoso (1887-1918).»
I – Entrance (Fanfare)
II – Popular Song – the Russian Woman and the Figaro
III – Corpus Christi Procession
IV – Dom Quijote
V – Popular Song and Bird from Brazil
VI – Finale (Untitled)
- detailed orchestration:
picc. (= fl. 3.)/ 2 fl./ 2 ob./ eng. hr./ 2 fg./ contrafag. [opt.]/ Eb-cl./ cl.: I, II & III in Bb (min. 4 each)/ bass clar. in Bb/ contrabass clar. in Bb [opt.]/ sop. sax./ 2 alto sax./ 2 ten. sax./ bar. sax./ bass sax. [opt.]/ 4 hr./ 3 trpt./ 2 flug. (= trp. 4. & 5.)/ 3 ten. trbn./ bass trbn.)/ 2 euph./ tubas (min. 2)/ String bass [opt.]/ timp./ 5 perc.* / celesta [opt.]/ guitar [opt.]/ harp
* percussion details:
- glockenspiel; xylophone; vibraphone; tubular bells; crotales; triangle; snare drum;
3 suspended cymbals [small/ medium/ large]; güiro [reco-reco]; 3 temple blocks; claves; agogo; tam-tam; 2 wood blocks; sizzle cymbal
- vibraphone; glockenspiel; xylophone; crotales; triangle; floor drum [no snares]; tambourine; snare drum; tam-tam; claves; 2 temple blocks; güiro [reco-reco]; bird whistle
- tubular bells; triangle; 3 suspended cymbals [small/ medium/ large]; tam-tam [large];
snare drum; sizzle cymbal [medium]; ratchet; floor drum [no snares]; splash cymbal;
cymbals a2; 2 bongos; güiro [reco-reco]; flexatone; 2 wood blocks; mark tree;
- vibraphone; cymbals a2; tambourine; 3 suspended cymbals [small/ medium/ large];
cabasa [afuché]; slapstick; triangle; Rute; tam-tam; claves; tom-tom (high); 2 cowbells; rainstick; güiro [reco-reco]; ratchet; tenor drum [no snares]
- tubular bells; mark tree; bass drum; tambour provençale [or floor drum]; 3 temple-blocks; bass drum; tambourine; wood block [medium]; slapstick; vibraslap; snare drum;
surdo [or floor drum]; suspended cymbal [large]; cymbals a2; crotales; Rute; tam-tam
- glockenspiel; xylophone; vibraphone; tubular bells; crotales; triangle; snare drum;
[pitched percussion (bold + italic) needs not be doubled]
- premiere: [tba]
Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso, one of the leading figures in Portuguese modernist painting, was born in Amarante in 1887, but won the World in Paris, where he lived from 1907 to 1914. There, he had contact with some of the greatest artistic figures of that time, including Modigliani, Chagall, and Klee. Upon his return to Portugal, he met Almada Negreiros and the Orpheu group in Lisbon, a generation of artists responsible for the introduction of modernism in the Portuguese arts and literature. He died in 1918, victim of the Spanish Flu epidemic, which is estimated to have taken the lives of more than 20 million people and infected around 500 million worldwide (about a third of the world population at the time). In Portugal alone, the “Pneumónica”, as it became known, took, apart from Amadeo, the lives of composer António Fragoso (1897-1918), conductor David de Sousa (1880-1918) and the also painter Guilherme de Santa-Rita (1889-1918).
When, in 2018, the conductor Hugo Folgar approached me about the possibility of writing a major score based on paintings by Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso to commemorate the birth centenary of the artist, I mused for some time on the best way to face the challenge. I have written quite a lot of music inspired by painting (Chiaroscuro, Metamorphoses, Mosaico, Níl, …), but always taking an indirect approach to the pictorial universe. Whether it was an engraving, a technique or a mere color that inspire my music, I have always tried to avoid linear artistic perspectives like describing in sounds a painting or engraving or any other characteristic of the painting universe. Rather, I have always chosen a somewhat inverse path: what (abstract) music does what I am observing evokes in me? In this sense, my music is not so much a consequence of that image or painting in which I seek inspiration, but rather its artistic (musical) complement, with its own vicissitudes and intentionality. The challenge thrown by maestro Folgar later materialized into an official commission from the Amarante Musical Band, in 2020, and I threw myself into the task. I didn’t initially plan for a symphony, but as the composition evolved, the density of the music I was writing seemed more and more deserving of that title, both for the dimension it was taking and as a tribute to the great painter. The quality of the body of work left by Amadeo deserves to be celebrated in a grand manner, and that is what I sought in my Symphony Amadeo, based on six of his paintings.
Again, I did not try to directly describe the visual content of the paintings. But I did look, this time, for elements on each painting that could, in some way, be transported to my music. Thus, I conceived a large symphony in six movements, each one corresponding to one of Souza-Cardoso’s paintings I selected:
- Entrance (fanfare): here I use the idea of the very title of the painting, which is also a word that appears drawn on the canvas itself. In turn, is also related to the idea of Intrada, a Latin term for a piece of music in the form of a fanfare as an introduction to a larger work. In my case, I wrote, precisely, an eloquent fanfare for large wind band to open this symphony with pomposity.
- Popular Song – the Russian woman and the Figaro: the “Figaro” referred to by Amadeo is the centenary French newspaper Le Figaro, which appears subtly imbued in the painting. I chose to use in a somewhat theatrical manner, the word “Figaro” now imbued in my musical vocabulary. It is whispered, spoken, and even shouted, at various moments in the piece, either by all the musicians or by specific sections, and once even by a particularly relevant individual in front of the orchestra. There is also a brief and scathing reference to another very famous Rossinian Figaro. For the “Russa woman” I picked an excerpt from a Russian folk song.
- Corpus Christi Procession: religion is a strong social component of Portuguese life way, especially in the north of the country where Amarante is located and where Amadeo was born. Backed by a static, mournful, and almost omnipresent procession rhythm, I unfold several musical impressions that Amadeo’s colorful and surreal painting evokes in me. I also use, mixed with my own themes, the medieval hymn Pange lingua, written by St. Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century precisely for the solemnity of Corpus Christi.
- Don Quixote: the Knight of the Sad Countenance is brought to my music by means of an elegant and sophisticated medieval dance (quasi gagliarda) filtered through the eyes of a 21st century composer. As a contrasting trio, I use an equally stylized “rustic dance” to evoke the pragmatic Sancho Panza (although he does not appear in the painting), who is the counterpart of the nobleman and dreamer Don Quixote.
- Popular song and bird from Brazil: here I used a traditional Brazilian tune which pervades the entire movement in a permanently effusive and festive atmosphere. There is even an allusion to a samba bateria, in a joyful revelry led by the percussions. The exoticism of the Brazilian bird fauna is portrayed in a moment of cheerful chaos seeking to imitate the cacophony of birdsong in the Amazon rainforest.
- Finale (Untitled): one of the cliché titles of modernist Art is actually “Untitled”! And a symphony dedicated to Amadeo could not ignore his numerous untitled paintings. If the canvas chosen here has no title, the music has it as “Finale”, corresponding indeed to the movement that brings the symphony to a conclusion. For the music, I have drawn on the abstractionism prevailing in the painting, but I also inserted citations to all the other five previous movements, in a process of recapitulation and self-referencing that culminates in a slightly modified version of the grandiose fanfare that also ends the first movement. Hence, the aim is to give structural coherence to the work as a whole, after the long trip through Amadeo’s paintings.
Despite the more direct connection I assumed this time to the paintings that served as my motto (even if, I must re-emphasize, without any deliberate descriptive intent), my symphony is an autonomous work with its own artistic universe. In fact, each of the movements is conceived as a small self-sufficient tone poem that can be presented individually as an autonomous piece or combined with some of the other movements. Thus, I intended to create a work of art per se (a symphony), propelled by another pre-existing works of art (Amadeo’s paintings) in the spirit of a creational dialogue between generations.
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