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Latin-American Orchestral Works

"I've been searching for these all my career!" The conductor from Argentina gazed at the more than 100 Latin-American scores on the desks around him at the Fleisher Collection - just a fraction of the works found by Nicolas Slonimsky in Central and South America. Gabriel Castagna had flown to Philadelphia to study these, and he couldn't believe his eyes.

Guillermo Uribe Holguin (1880-1971). Tres Danzas (1926/40). Wurttembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen, Gabriel Castagna. Conductor

Theodoro Valcarcel Caballero (1896-1942). Concierto indio (1940). Nora Chastain, violin, Wurttembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen, Gabriel Castagna. Conductor

Manuel Gomez Carrillo (1883-1968). Rapsodia santiaguena (1922). Wurttembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen, Gabriel Castagna. Conductor

Francisco Mignone (1897-1986). Congada (1921). Wurttembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen, Gabriel Castagna. Conductor

Edwin Fleisher had scoured the United States and Europe for every orchestral work available beginning in 1909; in 1941 he turned to Latin America. He funded Slonimsky with $10,000 of his own money to acquire whatever he could find. The Collection then hand copied or microfilmed the scores, extracted the parts for many of them, and returned the originals to their owners. Much of the music remained unpublished, and manuscripts sometimes disappeared in Latin America over the years, so it was often the case that the music existed only here, in Philadelphia.

Castagna was thrilled to discover music he thought was gone forever. From the scores he looked at come most of the music on this new CD. It's called Fiesta Criolla, and on our program we'll hear works by four of the composers on it.

Guillermo Uribe Holguin was the leading mid-century composer in Colombia. He studied with d'Indy in Paris, alongside Erik Satie. He became director of the National Conservatory in Colombia until retiring to his coffee plantation. He conducted the premiere of Tres Danzas in 1927, and then reworked the orchestration in 1940.

An Indian from both sides of the family, the Peruvian Theodoro Valcarcel Caballero was a talented child who at age 15 studied music in Spain. He had no other formal training and loved to use Incan melodies he knew in his compositions. Some of his works were orchestrated by the German-born Rudolph Holzmann, who resided in Lima, but the charming Concierto indio is fully Valcarcel's. He entered it into the Latin American Violin Concerto Competition funded by the Philadelphia industrialist Samuel Fels, losing out to a concerto by the Brazilian Camargo Guarnieri.

Manuel Gomez Carrillo's works are also often inspired by native music. His Rapsodia santiaguena is an example of his "accumulating folkloric material, and integrating it in established musical forms," as he explained to Slonimsky. Based on tunes from his province of Santiago in Argentina, the Rapsodia premiered in Paris in 1924.

Francisco Mignone's Congada is more of a Brazilian-Congolese-Catholic celebration than a mere dance. It's his most successful orchestral piece, taken from the opera Contractador dos Diamantes. After studying in Italy, Mignone returned to Brazil to become a successful composer of concert music. He also wrote pop songs under the name Chico-Bororo, after the Bororo Indian tribe.

"The Collection saved...our repertory," says Gabriel Castagna. He's recording and performing as many of these as possible, to open the ears of the world to the richness and variety of this music. He comments on the good fortune of finding this safe in the Fleisher Collection; its the start of what we hope are many such CDs. "You are doing a great service to the Latin American cultural heritage," Castagna insists. We think the same of him. --Kile Smith