Saturday, November 17, 2018 | 8PM | CrossWalk Church, Williamsburg

The 2018-2019 Williamsburg Classics Series begins with a program of Spanish and South American origins. We’ll hear from a variety of composers hailing from Spain, Chile and Argentina for a dynamic, colorful program that highlights some familiar and some not-so-familiar works. The lush, whimsical sound of Soro’s Three Chilean Aires will sweep you away. The romantic tangos of Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires featuring Concertmaster Vahn Armstrong will leave your heart racing and toes tapping. Then we dive into de Falla’s Three Cornered Hat Suite No. 1 with its lively characters and drama, followed by Ginastera’s folkloric and expressive Concert Variations.

Gonzalo Farias , conductor
Vahn Armstrong , violin

Soro : Tres aires chilenos
Piazzolla : Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas
de Falla : El Sombrero de tres picos, Suite No. 1
Ginastera : Variaciones concertantes

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Gonzalo Farias, currently the recipient of the prestigious BSO-Peabody Conducting Fellowship, is an engaging conductor, pianist, and educator. Mentored by Marin Alsop, Mr. Farias’ ambition is to establish music-making as a way of rethinking our place in society by cultivating respect, trust, and cooperation.

While Music Director of the Joliet Symphony Orchestra, Mr. Farias revitalized the city of Joliet by crafting tailor-made pre-concert lectures and sold-out events. A vis-à-vis Spanish and English narrated version of Bizet’s Carmen intended to bring together all members of the community was one of the highlights of recent seasons. Currently, he is the new Associate Conductor at the Occasional Symphony, one of most innovative and exciting chamber orchestras in Baltimore.

Recently, Mr. Farias attended the 2017 Gstaad Menuhin Festival Conducting Academy. Under the guidance of Jaap van Zweden and Johannes Schlaefli, he was selected to conduct the prestigious Gstaad Festival Orchestra in several occasions. Under the mentorship of Paavo and Neeme Järvi, Mr. Farias also studied at the Järvi Academy and was selected to close its final concert at the Pärnu Music Festival. He has also attended the Pierre Monteux School for Conductors, where he was awarded the Osher Scholar Prize in conducting. As part of the Peninsula Music Festival, Mr. Farias worked as an Assistant Conductor under the “Emerging Conductor” program established by esteemed Music Director Victor Yampolsky.

An advocate for contemporary music, Mr. Farias served as an Assistant Conductor of Donald Schleicher in the recording project of “Astral Canticle” by Augusta Read Thomas, released by Nimbus Records. Mr. Farias also served as a Conducting Fellow at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music as the recipient of the Bruno Walter Conducting Scholarship.

Mr. Farias has worked with conductors Harold Farberman, Diane Wittry, Markus Stenz, Christoph König, Hannu Lintu, Nicholas McGegan, Leonard Slatkin. Garrett Keast, Otto-Werner Mueller, and Larry Rachleff, as well as with members of the Boston Chamber Orchestra, Norwalk Symphony, Charlotte Symphony, Worcester Youth Orchestra, Bard Conductor’s Institute Orchestra, Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic, National Symphony of Chile, Pleven Philharmonic, Zagreb Philharmonic, and Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

Mr. Farias was born in Santiago de Chile. He began his piano studies at age five and earned his Bachelor’s degree at the P.C. University of Chile. Mr. Farias continued his graduate studies at the New England Conservatory, earning his Master´s, Graduate Diploma, and Doctoral degrees as a full-scholarship student of Wha Kyung Byun and Russell Sherman. He has won first prize at the Claudio Arrau International Piano Competition and prizes at the Maria Canals and Luis Sigall Piano Competitions. As a conductor, Mr. Farias attended the University of Illinois, working with Donald Schleicher as his Assistant Conductor. He is currently a student in the inaugural class of Marin Alsop at the Peabody Conservatory.

Besides having a fond love for piano, chamber, and contemporary music, Mr. Farias is an avid reader of second-order cybernetics from authors Heinz von Foerster, Humberto Maturana, and Francisco Varela. His Doctoral thesis “Logical Predictions and Cybernetics” explores the case of Cornelius Cardew’s “The Great Learning” to redefine our music activity as a social and “cybernetic” organization. In addition to that, he has a warm affection for Zen Buddhism, which he has practiced for many years.


Vahn Armstrong, violin
Dorothy Redwood Cooke Sutherland, Concertmaster Chair

In his career as a soloist, chamber musician, orchestral leader, recording artist and pedagogue, Vahn Armstrong has established himself as a leading violinist of his generation. He is now in his nineteenth season as Concertmaster of the Virginia Symphony, an orchestra which has garnered national praise for its performances and recordings. Mr. Armstrong is also Concertmaster of the Virginia Opera, and during the summer he serves as Concertmaster for Chautauqua Opera and Associate Concertmaster of the Chautauqua Symphony in Chautauqua, New York.
Mr. Armstrong has appeared as soloist on many occasions with the Virginia and Chautauqua symphonies, as well as many other orchestras throughout the U.S. He is a member of Apollo, an ensemble whose premiere recording of John Luther Adams’ Clouds of forgetting, clouds of unknowing was recently released by New World Records. He is also a charter member of the Virginia Waterfront International Arts Festival Chamber Music Series, and leader of the Chautauqua String Quartet. For ten years, Mr. Armstrong performed with the award-winning New World String Quartet, concertising throughout the U.S. and Europe. The New World Quartet made several recordings; one of these, Ainsi la nuit by Henri Dutilleux, was awarded a Prix du disc.

Mr. Armstrong gave the world premiere of Larry Bell’s Book of moonlight for violin and piano in Boston in 1989. In fact, throughout his career he has been committed to performing music of this century. He includes in his repertoire not only works of Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Berg, Prokofieff, Bartok, and Barber, but also those of Ligeti, Dutilleux, Arvo Part, Elliot Carter, Richard Danielpour, Gwyneth Walker, and many others.Mr. Armstrong has recorded for MCA Classics, New World Records, Musical Heritage Society, and others. He has been a frequent guest on NPR’s Performance Today, WGBH’s Morning Pro Musica, WNED’s Music from Chautauqua, and BBC London. He was also Artist-in-Residence at Harvard University, University of Michigan, Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, California and MusicWest at Utah State University.

A native of Michigan, Mr. Armstrong holds BM and MM degrees from the Juilliard School, where he was a scholarship student of Dorothy DeLay. He now resides in Norfolk, Virginia, and enjoys sailing on the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

Enrique Soro was born on July 15, 1884 in Concepción, Chile. His parents were the composer and instrumentalist José Soro and Pilar Barriga, who was a descendant of a noble family of Concepcion, among whose ancestors was the founder of the city. Enrique was a child prodigy who gave recitals pensioner already at five years of age, skills that did not pass unnoticed to the Government which, as soon as the little Enrique the age of fourteen, sent him to Italy to study under the tutelage of Giuseppe Verdi at the Royal Conservatory in Milan. There he spent several years in those who followed courses in composition, piano, organ, cello, physiology of voice and music history, studies culminating in 1904 work Quartet in a minor, which was awarded the Grand Prize of high composition.

Fame award enabled him to begin a tour of Italy and France, which garnered applause and praise from the most prestigious musicians of the time, as Saint-Saëns, Mascagni, who did not hesitate to describe him as "the most inspired American composer.” Soro spent some time as a professor of composition, piano, and orchestra at the Conservatorio Nacional de Música.

During its first stage as a composer, Soro Barriga worked mainly works for piano, alone or with violin, string quartets and sonatas. These first compositions include some as a sad song or Symphony Suites 1 and 2, whose quality was to be subject to recording. Other subsequent, much more instrumental works are Grand Concerto in d major for piano and Orchestra, released in 1919 played by himself in a memorable representation, success which was repeated later in Berlin with the Philharmonic Orchestra and in Barcelona during the international exhibition of 1929. His most prominent work is, without doubt, the great concert or in a major romantic Symphony, composed between the years 1920 and 1921, which was until 1948 the only Symphony by the Chilean author. Special mention also the Sonata No. 2, released during a concert at the Carnegie Hall in New York, and the Quintet in if minor for piano and strings.

Enrique Soro died on December 2, 1954. Among his life accomplishments, he passed away as the first musician of his country that composed a Symphony.

VSO Performances
The Virginia Symphony will perform Soro’s Three Chilean Aires in the Williamsburg and Regent University Classics season during performances of Latin Flair.

Astor Piazzolla was born March 11, 1921 in Mar Del Plata, Argentina. His family moved to New York in 1925, when Astor was a young boy. There, he received his first bandoneón (a square-built button accordion) at eight years old.

After a spending most of his life composing, Astor won a composing contest with his symphonic piece Buenos Aires  in 1951, later he went to study in Paris with Nadia Boulanger. She urged him to remain true to himself and to continue his experiments with the tango. Henceforth he combined his two musical passions, despite much criticism from tango traditionalists. He spent much of his life moving between his home country and the United States. When he returned again to Argentina, he formed the influential Quinteto Nuevo Tango in 1960, featuring a violin, electric guitar, piano, double bass, and bandoneón. He left traditional Latin American tango bands in 1955 to create a new tango that blended elements of jazz and classical music.

When the family returned to Mar del Plata in 1936, Piazzolla began playing with a variety of tango orchestras. At age 17 he moved to Buenos Aires. He formed his own orchestra in 1946, composing new works and experimenting with the sound and structure of the tango. About the same time he began to compose music for film. In 1949 he disbanded the orchestra, unsatisfied with his own efforts and still interested in classical composition.

Piazzolla died July 4, 1992 in Buenos Aires. Though many of his 750 compositions were written for that quintet, he also composed pieces for orchestra, big band, bandoneón, and cello. His innovations, including counterpoint and new rhythms and harmonies, were initially not well received in his country, but they were greatly admired in the United States and Europe.

VSO Performances
The Virginia Symphony will perform Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires in the Williamsburg and Regent University Classics season during performances of Latin Flair.

Manuel de Falla was born November 23, 1876 in Cadiz, Spain. He took piano lessons from his mother. De Falla went to Madrid to continue the piano and to study composition with Felipe Pedrell, who inspired him with his own enthusiasm for 16th-century Spanish church music, folk music, and native opera, or zarzuela. In 1905 Falla won two prizes, one for piano playing and the other for a national opera, La vida breve (first performed in Nice, France, 1913).

In 1907 he moved to Paris, where he met Claude Debussy, Paul Dukas, and Maurice Ravel (whose orchestration influenced his own) and published his first piano pieces and songs. The Retablo shows Falla was much influenced by Igor Stravinsky. Falla’s style was then Neoclassical instead of Romantic, still essentially Spanish, but Castilian rather than Andalusian.

In 1914 he returned to Madrid, where he wrote the music for a ballet, El amor brujo (Love, the Magician; Madrid, 1915), remarkable for its distillation of Andalusian folk music. Falla followed this with El corregidor y la molinera (Madrid, 1917), which Diaghilev persuaded him to rescore for a ballet by Léonide Massine called El sombrero de tres picos (The Three-Cornered Hat; London, 1919). Noches en los jardines de España (Nights in the Gardens of Spain; Madrid, 1916), a suite of three impressions for piano and orchestra, evoked the Andalusian atmosphere through erotic and suggestive orchestration. All these works established Falla internationally as the leading Spanish composer.

Manuel de Falla died November 14, 1946 in Alta Gracia, Argentina, as the most distinguished Spanish composer of the early 20th century. In his music he achieved a fusion of poetry, asceticism, and ardour that represents the spirit of Spain at its purest.

VSO Performances
The Virginia Symphony will perform de Falla’s Three Cornered Hat, Suite No. 1 in the Williamsburg and Regent University Classics season during performances of Latin Flair.

Alberto Ginastera was born April 11, 1916 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Ginastera was musically talented as a child and took private lessons. He studied in Buenos Aires at the Conservatorio Williams and the National Conservatory, where he studied composition with José Gil, Athos Palina, and José André; also took piano lessons with Argenziani. He began composing in his early youth; in 1934 he won 1st prize of the musical society El Únisono for his Piezas Infantiles for piano.

Ginastera’s music marks him as a traditionalist, despite his advanced musical vocabulary, which owes much to the great musical figures of the early 20th century. His synthesis of techniques is unique and eclectic, and he makes use of microtones (smaller than half tones), serial procedures (basing works on selected series of pitches, rhythms, etc.), and aleatory, or chance, music as well as older established forms.

Ginastera’s Piano Concerto and Cantata para América mágica won great acclaim at the 1961 Interamerican Music Festival. His first opera, Don Rodrigo (1964), unsuccessful in its premiere in Buenos Aires, was hailed as a triumph in New York City in 1966. Ginastera’s masterpiece is the chamber opera Bomarzo (1967), which established him as one of the leading opera composers of the 20th century. Ginastera made use of novel and complex compositional techniques but preserved the traditional opera format of arias and recitatives in its 15 scenes. He further developed this style in his final opera, Beatrix Cenci, which had its debut in 1971 in Washington, D.C. He received a Guggenheim award and lived in the United States in 1946–47.

Alberto Ginastera died June 25, 1983 in Geneva Switzerland, as a leading 20th-century Latin-American composer, known for his use of local and national musical idioms in his compositions.

VSO Performances
The Virginia Symphony will perform Ginastera’s Concert Variations in the Williamsburg and Regent University Classics season during performances of Latin Flair.