Andrew and I have been talking for years about writing a flute and guitar concerto and we finally did it!
Folias Duo Debuts Flute and Guitar Concerto Garita on October 4, 2018 at the GRCC International Guitar Series.
Read the full program and notes right here:
Naturaleza Suite (2016) Carmen Maret
I. Octopus Fantasma (chacarera) II. Zamba de los Toros
III. Rio sin Tiempo (chaconne) IV. Mantis Religiosa (tango)
V. Snake Dreams (chamamé) for flute/piccolo and guitar
Concerto Garita (2018) – World Premiere Bergeron/Maret
I. Storm King
II. Penitente Canyon
III. Danza del Carnero
for flute/alto flute, two guitars, and bassoon
Quixote (2018) Bergeron
I. Penance II. Chivalry
for solo guitar
Parliament of the Birds (2018)
Burrowing Owl – the watcher – eminence of darkness Scarlet Macaw – the captivator – cage of narcissism Rook – the shapeshifter – illusion of ownership Whiskey Jack – the trickster – promise of things
for two guitars
I. Silver Jack II. Cimarron III. Courthouse
for flute/alto flute/piccolo and guitar
Carmen Maret Flute, Alto Flute, Piccolo
Andrew Bergeron Guitar
Kyle Thompson Guitar
Marissa Peak Bassoon
by Folias Duo, Carmen Maret and Andrew Bergeron
All of the music on this program was written in rustic cabins in Canada and Colorado respectively during our winter and summer breaks from teaching and touring. For us, retreating to a rustic cabin is both physically practical and musically effectual; it allows us uninterrupted space and time to work, and at the same time imparts a specific and unique quality to the music. Of course the idea of a “composing cabin” is nothing new. Many composers such as Bela Bartok with his cabin on Saranac Lake in upstate New York and Gustav Mahler’s cottage in the Austrian alps have sought out this kind of solitude amid the wonders of the natural world to aid in their creative endeavors. For us too this close physical connection to the landscape naturally brings out concepts we are interested in as composers: nature, time, existence.
The music and dance of Argentina is the inspiration for Carmen’s Naturaleza Suite which includes some lesser known folkloric dance forms: zamba, chamamé, and chacarera, as well as the more universally known tango. The chaconne, though not specifically from Argentina, originated in South America and was eventually incorporated into western classical music. Carmen’s chaconne, Rio sin tiempo, is in an unconventional 5/4 meter and flows through the middle of the suite symbolizing eternity and the unmanifested.
We’ve wanted to write a concerto for many years well aware of the considerable obstacles to the logistics of getting such a work performed. The 18th century concept of the concerto is rooted in the idea of featuring a soloist in front of an orchestra—an expensive proposition! So we decided to write a flute and guitar “concerto” with a sort of economical “orchestra;” a chordal part which we’ve given to a second guitar, and a bass line, here assigned to the bassoon. Garita, the Spanish word for lookout post, was written in a rustic guard station cabin in the Rio Grande National Forest at an elevation of 10,000 feet outside of the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado. We stayed there for two weeks last July to write music, deciding that we would write a concerto together, agreeing in advance only upon the scale we would use (lydian dominant, the 4th degree of melodic minor for those that care) and the form. Andrew would write an introduction and Carmen some kind of dance.
For the first movement of the concerto, Andrew spun out an elaborate melody in 7/8 meter that evokes the sight of a mysterious mountain named Storm King, the top purple dome of which we could see only from certain vantage points from the road around our cabin. The music evokes the name. Carmen crafted the Danza del Carnero(Dance of the Ram) in the manner of an Allegro movement of an Antonio Vivaldi concerto alternating tutti (whole group) sections with episodes where the flute and guitar get to develop their ideas and show off their technique in the spotlight. Carmen mixes and matches the ram’s melodic motives throughout, a compositional technique that keeps the melodies appearing in new contexts. After ten days at the cabin, we decided to take a listen to what we wrote and agreed the concerto needed a slow middle movement. We went to work quickly. Andrew wrote the guitar parts and chords and Carmen wrote the melodies and bass parts, a fun collaboration that seemed to work well from having warmed up our compositional chops. We named this simple, direct, and quite romantic sounding middle movement after the nearby Penitente Canyon, a beautiful lush refuge overlooking the 14,000 foot peaks in the San Luis Valley.
Andrew’s solo guitar piece is based on the iconic character Don Quixote from Spanish writer Miguel Cervantes’ 1605 novel of the same name. The adventures of this fantastical knight and his squire Sancho Panza appear on the surface to be imaginary, but 400 years year later we’re still wondering, were they actually real? Considered the first novel in western literature as well as one of the greatest stories of all time, this story has been the inspiration for many pieces of music, most famously Richard Strauss’1897 tone poem for solo cello, viola and orchestra. Andrew’s solo guitar version here presents the psychological “dual reality” of Quixote. In one scene from the story, Quixote fights windmills that he imagines to be giants. It seems funny because there are no giants, only windmills, but the more we read, the more we sympathize with Quixote’s point of view. For Quixote there are only giants.
Andrew’s musical themes in Penance are subjected to reharmonizations and melodic alterations, including inversions. Andrew depicts what it is like for Quixote to be alone in the mountains as he subjects himself to his own punishment (penance) as a serious knight. Does the scene evoke pathos or is this reality? Similarly, we are not sure which harmonization is the “correct” version. In Chivalry, the music exists in two key centers at the same time—f minor and B major depicting the conflict between Quixote’s actions and the world’s perception of them. As the musical “story” develops, the duality between fantasy and reality disappears and a new reality emerges where there is no distinction between the two.
Carmen’s guitar duo piece Parliament of the Birds takes its title from Geoffrey Chaucer’s 13th century poem where birds act as a symbol for human faults and fate. In Chaucer’s poem, eagles are at the center of the action where there is a kind of parliamentary trial in the sky. In Carmen’s piece, she presents four birds (the owl, the parrot, the crow and the jay) with a similar “parliamentary” mythology that runs through the subtitles: casting aside dogma, finding love, detaching from the world, and seeing through the uselessness of knowledge in the pursuit of finding awe. Musically, each bird is assigned its own identifying dance music drawn from Carmen’s study of Argentine zamba, chacarera, and canción. The connection to Argentine folkloric guitar playing style is obvious here, especially to the great musicians Eduardo Falú and Atahualpa Yupanqui. The piece shifts from one section to the next like one long dream sequence as the two guitars play in conversation.
Andrew’s composition, Uncompahgre, comes from the Ute word for “red water spring,” and is inspired by an area in the San Juan mountains of Colorado northeast of Ouray and Telluride. The work’s three movements are a snapshot of the breathtaking scenery that surround another composing cabin where we worked in 2017. Silver Jack references the slate, cobalt blue reservoir next to our cabin that was studded with cattle and clusters of sheep that were being driven through the valley. Out of the Silver Jack Reservoir flows the Cimarron River, the headwaters for the Gunnison River which eventually flow into the mighty Colorado River. Here in Cimarron, Andrew writes a challenging double tremolo piece for alto flute and guitar. Courthouse is the name for one of the mountains nearby that became an iconic piece of Americana as the backdrop for the 1969 John Wayne movie True Grit. The music here is obviously not “western” sounding. Andrew instead devotes his musical efforts to capturing the feelings we shared as we hiked to the top of Courthouse’s 12,000 foot dome.
Photo: Philippe Assaf/Philo Photography