Trying to find unaccompanied cello music by Hispanic and Latino/Latina composers? Look no further. I created my online “just-the-facts-ma’am”-style digital postcards to introduce listeners to new-to-you cello music and to help cellists, orchestra directors, cello teachers, and students seeking new repertoire, contest pieces, and supplemental literature.
This month I’m sending you the fourth installment in this year’s series of postcards on unaccompanied works for cello by Hispanic and Latino/Latina composers. Miss the previous installments? You can find them here.
These monthly postcards give you the information you need to help you choose a piece that’s right for you. I also include links to make it easy for you to locate and purchase the sheet music you want. I hope you enjoy exploring these pieces as much as I did selecting them.
June Postcard #1: Unaccompanied Recercada No. 1 by Diego Ortiz
One of the leading Spanish composers of the Renaissance era, Diego Ortiz served as maestro de cappella for the Spanish Viceroy of Naples. His Trattado di glosas contains studies for bass instruments, treble viol, and keyboard, as well as some madrigals, giving modern musicians and musicologists an invaluable glimpse into contemporary performance styles.
- Title: Unaccompanied Recercada No. 1 from Tratado de Glosas
- Composer: Diego Ortiz (c.1510 – c.1576)
- Year Composed: 1553
- Instrumentation: unaccompanied cello
- Movements: 1
- Duration of Work: 1:53
- Number of Measures: 54
- Number of Pages: 1
- Tempo: none notated
- Difficulty Level: beginner
- Highest Position Reached: 4th (for one measure)
- Technique Employed: bass clef, 4/4 time signature, trills, grace notes, slurs, mostly 1/2 & 1st
- Publisher: Cellofun.eu
- Where to obtain: free PDF with markings; free PDF without markings
- Cost of Sheet Music*: free (digital download)
Diego Ortiz (c. 1510 – c. 1576) was a Spanish composer and music theorist who worked in Naples. Ortiz published the very first manual on ornamentation for bowed string instruments, but the following transcriptions for cello come from his Trattado de Glossas (modern Spanish spelling Tratado de Glosas) published in Rome in 1553. The word “glosas” certainly shares the same root as our english word “glossary” and this “Tratado” can be looked at perhaps as a scientific treatise/compendium. While the first part of the publication is dedicated to compositional techniques, the second part is made up principally of short compositions (that he calls “Recercadas”) for viola da gamba. His use of the word “Recercadas” could be interpreted/translated as “Improvisations”, “Fantasias” or “Variations”.” Ricercare” in Italian means “to look for (again)” and we can be sure that the English word “research” shares the same Latin root. – Cellofun.eu
All but one bar of this ricercar can be played in 1/2 & 1st position, making it ideal for the beginning cellist. Because this piece is in G minor, there is ample opportunity to practice the extension back to Bb on the A string. For those working from the Suzuki books, this pairs nicely with the Moon Over Ruined Castle
from Book 3, where the player can practice the same notes in open 1/2 and closed 3rd positions.
Additionally, the figure of a short note at the balance point followed by a longer note appears frequently in this work, and thus would be a good starting point for learning the Allegro Moderato from J.S. Bach’s 1st viola da gamba sonata.
June Postcard #2: Seven by Andrea Casarrubios
Looking for a beautiful work that is also a tribute to essential workers during the pandemic? Be sure to check out “Seven – Song of Isolation” by Andrea Casarrubios.
- Title: Seven – Song of Isolation
- Composer: Andrea Casarrubios
- Instrumentation: unaccompanied cello
- Year Composed: 2020
- Movements: 1
- Duration of Work: 8:39
- Number of Measures: 174
- Number of Pages: 8
- Tempo: quarter note = 70
- Difficulty Level: advanced
- Highest Position Reached: thumb position
- Technique Employed: 1/4, 2/4, 4/4, 5/4 time signatures; bass, tenor and treble clefs; scordatura; false harmonics; harmonics; left-hand pizzicato; sul ponticello; sul tasto; triplets; quintuplets; sextuplets; double, triple and quadruple stops; glissandos; double sharps
- Where to Purchase: www.andreacasarrubios.com
- Cost of Sheet Music*: $16.99
- Recording by Thomas Mesa:
Seven is a tribute to essential workers during the global COVID-19 pandemic, as well as to those who lost their lives and are still suffering from the crisis.
The piece ends with seven bell-like sounds, alluding to New York’s daily 7 PM tribute during lockdown – the moment when New Yorkers clapped from their windows connecting with each other and expressing appreciation for those on the front lines. – Andrea Casarrubios
This gorgeous and haunting work utilizes scordatura tuning; in this case, with the C string tuned down to a B natural. The score is written in grand staff, with the upper line notating the reading pitch and the lower line indicating the sounding pitch.
Composed by a cellist, this piece lies quite well on the instrument. Seven is not terribly technically demanding but does require the player to be familiar with treble clef, harmonics, and the upper reaches of the G and C strings.
Though this work incorporates notes from Song of the Birds, the fragments are small, and the listener may not recognize the theme until the very end of the piece.
For much of the composition, Fábregas alternates between treble and low bass clef, as if there is a dialogue between the instrument’s high and low registers. Her liberal use of double stops makes “Homenatge” a bit of a challenge to learn but well worth the work. As the piece jumps around the instrument, the player would greatly benefit from a solid knowledge of the fingerboard.
June Postcard #3: Puneña No. 2 by Alberto Ginastera
Argentine native Alberto Ginsastera was one of the leading Latin American composers of the 20th century. Renowned for incorporating local and national musical idioms into his compositions, he frequently experimented with microtones, serial procedures, and aleatory (“chance”) music in addition to the more established classical forms of his teachers.
- Title: Puneña No. 2
- Composer: Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983)
- Instrumentation: unaccompanied cello
- Year Composed: 1976
- Movements: 2
- Duration of Work: 10:40
- Number of Measures: 1st mvmt. is unmeasured / 2nd mvmt. 117 bars
- Number of Pages: 9
- Tempo: 1st mvmt eighth = 48 & 60 / 2nd mvmt. quarter = 92, 112, eighth = 200
- Difficulty Level: advanced/professional
- Highest Position Reached: high thumb
- Technique Employed: bass, tenor & treble clefs; 3/16, 5/16, 6/16, 7/16, 8/16, 9/16, 10/16, 16/16, 2/8, 3/8, 4/8, 5/8, 11/8, 2/4, 3/4, and 5/4 time
signatures; pizzicato & left hand pizzicato; sul ponticello & sul tasto; glissandos, harmonics, & false harmonics; grace notes, trills, quarter tones,
& tremolo; double, triple, & quadruple stops; suono di flageolet (the finger touches the string lightly)
- Publisher: Boosey & Hawkes
- Where to Purchase: Shar Music
- Cost of Sheet Music*: $19.79
The Kecuan word “Puna” refers to the highlands or a plateau of 4,000 meters in the Andes. It also means bare and arid ground, as well as the
feeling of anguish one can have at high altitudes. “Puneña” refers to the Puna.
Puneña No 2, Homage to Paul Sacher, is a re-creation of the sonorous world of this mysterious heart of South America that was the Inca empire,
the influence of which one can still feel in the north of my country, as well as in Bolivia and Peru.
The work consists of two closely related movements. The first one, Harawi, means melancholy love song. It is based on two themes, there first
one being eSACHERe and the second one (the other six notes) the metamorphosis of a pre-Columbian melody of Cuzco. Lyric and ardent but at
the same time deep and magical, it evokes a haunting solitude, sounds of kenas, murmurs of the distant forest with imaginary birds singing
“Sacher…Sacher!…”, and the glittering of moon and stars.
The second movement, Wayno Karnavalito, is a wild and tumultuous Carnival dance on the principal theme “eSACHERe”, full of rhythms of
charangos and Indian drums, coloured costumes, ponchos and masks, as well as of Indian corn alcohol.
I composed this work in Geneva during February 1976 at the request of Mstislav Rostropovich, to celebrate the seventieth anniversary of our
mutual friend, the famous conductor and patron of music, Dr. Paul Sacher. – Alberto Ginastera
Upon first glance, the score looks daunting, partially because most of the piece is written across a double staff. But when you break it down, it
isn’t so bad.
What I find most challenging in the first movement is getting the left-hand double-stop pizzicato to ring while simultaneously playing arco on the C
string, as well as playing the quarter tonal to regular false harmonics on the low strings. The rhythm looks terrifying but is really somewhat loose.
The pulse of the second movement is more straightforward; however, there are frequent time signature changes, so be prepared to work with the
metronome. The trickiest part of this movement is the acrobatic pizzicato quickly alternating with arco double stops in thumb position.
Fortunately, this is a stunning work, well worth the time it will take to master the score.
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*Prices given are accurate at the date of the publication of this article. Please check the given links for the current price. The Cello Museum does not control these prices and cannot take responsibility for price changes.