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Postcards from Erica October 2023

Trying to find unaccompanied cello music by Hispanic and Latino/Latina composers? Look no further. 

Postcards from Erica October 2023

This month, I’m sending you the eighth installment in this year’s series of postcards on unaccompanied works for cello by Hispanic and Latino/Latina composers. You can find my previous installments here.

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.

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.

You can also read a quick round-up of my postcards featuring works by Black composers, my series featuring women composers, or revisit all of my postcards.

October Postcard #1: HCAB by Sergio Roberto De Oliveira

Sergio Roberto de Oliveira studied with composer Guerra-Peixe and got his degree at UNIRIO. His commissioned pieces were performed worldwide in concerts promoted by Prelúdio 21, the Handel and Haydn Society, The British Academy of Composers and Songwriters, and Composer’s Voice, among others. He lectured in dozens of institutions in the US, Netherlands, England, and Brazil and was an Artist-in-Residence at Duke University in 2009. In 2011, he became a nominee for the 12th Latin Grammy in the category of “Best Classical Contemporary Composition.” In 2012, he released four new CDs and presented a series celebrating his 15th anniversary as a composer, including 13 concerts in Rio de Janeiro.  He died from pancreatic cancer in 2017.

  • Title:  HCAB
  • Composer: Sergio Roberto De Oliveria
  • Year Composed: 2014
  • Instrumentation: unaccompanied cello
  • Movements: 1
  • Duration of Work: 1:54
  • Number of Measures: 15
  • Number of Pages: 1
  • Tempo: quarter = 60
  • Difficulty Level: low intermediate
  • Highest Position Reached: 6th
  • Technique Employed: bass clef, 4/4 time signature, triplets & sextuplets, accidentals double stops
  • Publisher: composer
  • Where to Aquire: Sheet Music Plus
  • Cost of Sheet Music*: $1.99

Recording

Cellist’s Guide

HCAB is a good piece for introducing easy double stops to the late beginning/early intermediate cellist, as the composer uses double stops involving the open C string as well as finger major 7ths. For players who have recently developed a lush vibrato, the slow, lyrical passages provide an opportunity to showcase this new skill.  Cross-instrument sextuplets in 4th and 7th position lie nicely on the cello.

October Postcard #2: Zuhuy Kak by Hilda Paredes

From her online biography: “Firmly established as one of the leading Mexican composers of her generation, Hilda Paredes has been based in London for almost 40 years. Musicians, singers and conductors frequently praise the perfect balance she achieves between brilliant compositional technique and a keen sensibility for the particular instruments and individuals for whom she writes.” A native of Tehuacan, Puebla, her primary instruments as a musician were piano and flute; as a composer, she has written music for ensembles, orchestras and soloists.

  • Title: Zuhuy Kak
  • Composer: Hilda Paredes
  • Year Composed: 1997
  • Instrumentation: unaccompanied cello
  • Movements: 1
  • Duration of Work: 12:52
  • Number of Measures: sections of the piece are unmetered
  • Number of Pages: 10
  • Tempo: quarter = 50, 58, 61
  • Difficulty Level: high advanced
  • Highest Position Reached: high thumb position
  • Technique Employed: bass, tenor & trebles clefs; unmetered opening, 5/16, 7/16, 11/16, 13/16, 15/16, 3/8, 5/8, 6/8, 7/8, 9/8, 12/8, 2/4, 3/4, 4/4 time signatures; pizzicato & left-hand pizzicato; glissandos & quarter tonal pitches; harmonics, false harmonics, & trills; col legno batutto, col legno, sul ponticello, & saltato; double, triple and quadruple stops; quintuplets, sextuplets & septuplets
  • Publisher: University of York Music Press
  • Where to Aquire: Sheet Music Plus
  • Cost of Sheet Music*: $2.99

Recording

Programs Notes

“In the Mayan language spoken in the southeastern part of Mexico, ‘Zuhuy Kak’ means ‘new fire.’  It refers to those fires that were lit by the Toltecas during the religious ceremonies to prevent the end of the world and to mark the new time cycle every fifty-two years.

“In the context of this work for solo cello, it refers to a new approach of rhythmic material taken from Kandyan drumming from Sri Lanka, where its dedicatee has his roots. This piece incorporates the Gajaga Vannam or Elephant Vannam of Sri Lanka.” – Hilda Paredes

Cellist’s Guide

Upon first glance, the score seems quite daunting, as this is a rhythmically complex piece. But with careful study and a pencil to mark beats,  Zuhuy Kak quickly begins to make sense. Save for some particularly nasty double stops and left-hand pizzicato while trilling, this work is not as technically demanding as it might seem. With that said, even the experienced cellist will have to stop and find some of the notes and will become more familiar with the upper reaches of the lower strings. If you are enamored of unusual textures, this is the piece for you.

October Postcard #3: Sonata for cello solo by Leo Brouwer

Juan Leovigildo Brouwer Mezquida is a native of Havana, Cuba, who studied composition at the Julliard School as well as the Hartt College of Music. From Classical Guitar Magazine: “Brouwer has earned near-legendary status as a contemporary composer for the body of well-loved composition work he has created for the guitar. He has imprinted his own voice and musical style upon the guitar with his fusion of traditional Cuban music, Afro-Cuban strains, and an avant-garde sensibility, all while conveying a thorough understanding of the instrument’s idiosyncrasies, idioms, and tonal beauty.”

  • Title: Sonata for cello solo
  • Composer: Leo Brouwer
  • Year Composed: 1960, revised 1994
  • Instrumentation: unaccompanied cello
  • Movements: 4
  • Duration of Work: 25 minutes
  • Number of Measures: not including repeats, 109, 101, 58, 112
  • Number of Pages: 17
  • Tempo: quarter = 72, dotted quarter = 96, 100-104, quarter = 44, half = 86
  • Difficulty Level: advanced
  • Highest Position Reached: high thumb position
  • Technique Employed: bass, tenor treble clefs; 5/8, 6/8, 9/8, 1/4, 2/4, 3/4 , 4/4, 5/4, 2/2, 3/2 time signatures; pizzicato & left-hand pizzicato; quintuplets & sextuplets; grace notes, glissandos, harmonics, double & triple stops; sul ponticello, saltato, & tremolo
  • Publisher: Chester Music
  • Where to Aquire: Presto Music
  • Cost of Sheet Music*: $19.25

Recording

II. Scherzo – Allegro Vivace

III. Lento

IV. Allegro

Program Notes

“The Sonata for Solo Cello was written in 1960 and revised in 1994. The sonata brings together distinctive Cuban musical elements with Western form and motivic development. Brouwer creatively utilizes many techniques common to works for solo cello, including those heard in the Cassado Solo Suite: doublestops, harmonics, left-hand pizzicato, and ponticello.

“In structure, the sonata is very classical: there are four movements, each composed in a traditional form. The first movement is a declamation using sonata-allegro form: broad and confident themes are intermixed with jovial, syncopated rhythmic motives and thoughtful pauses. The second movement is a Scherzo. The first section playfully mixes six-eight and three-four meters; its pizzicato theme clearly points to Brouwer’s background as a guitarist. The middle section comprises of a brief fugue, followed by a light and energetic passage which transitions back to the Scherzo theme. The third movement of the sonata is a lament. It begins with a yearning motive, which becomes more desperate as the theme develops. In the middle section, Brouwer uses left-hand pizzicato to create a throbbing but unyielding presence of despair. After an agitated climax, the lament returns, interspersed with ponticello whisperings of unrest. The final movement is a triumphant rondo, incorporating the Cuban cinquillo rhythm and sparkling virtuosic passages.” – Adriana La Rosa Ransom

Cellist’s Guide

This is a handwritten manuscript in small print, and I hope that publishers will see fit to eventually change the format. That being said, it is a lovely work and well worth learning.

For players not used to going back and forth from 2/4 or 3/4 to 5/8 time signature or 2/2 to 3/4 time signature, this piece may prove a bit tricky. Also, there are a fair number of double stops, some left-hand plucking while playing arco, and frequent clef changes. Additionally, notes are frequently written high in the clef, so if you are not a good reader, learning this piece will dramatically improve your note recognition skills!



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