Maestro Nicholas Carthy Conducts The Reno Chamber Orchestra

By Norm Robins

Maestro Carthy will conduct the Reno Chamber Orchestra on Saturday and Sunday, January 25th and 26th. He was born in England in 1957 and studied music there. In 1981 he won an Austrian government scholarship to study at the Mozarteum University in Salzburg. After he finished his studies he was appointed Kapellmeister at the Landestheater in Salzburg. He has worked with such famous conductors as Daniel Barenboim and Sir George Solti. He has been a music director of the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana in Switzerland and is currently a professor of music and opera at the University of Colorado and is a visiting tutor at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, England.

The first piece at the concert will be Robert Schumann’s “Introduction, Scherzo & Finale”. It is an upbeat, happy work that breaks with tradition in that it has no slow movement. It is invigorating.

The next piece is Beethoven’s “Ah, Perfido”, “Ah, Faithless One”. This is a concert aria to be sung by Hope Briggs. “Ah, faithless one,” she sings. “The wrath of the Gods you shall not escape…Ah no, ah no, stop, Gods of vengeance! Spare that heart, strike mine!” She can’t seem to make up her mind. Does she want vengeance, or does she want mercy. Apparently she wants both. That’s confusing but okay because the music is beautiful and typically Beethoven.

The third piece the Orchestra will perform is “Leyendas (Legends):An Andian Walkabout” by composer Gabriela Lena Frank. She is a highly regarded young composer with an interesting ethnicity. Her father is a Lithuanian Jew. Her mother is Chinese-Pervian. Frank is to an extent a musical anthropologist. She has traveled extensively throughout South America and her music often reflect Latin American folklore, poetry, mythology, and native musical styles. She puts them into a western classical framework that is her own. “Leyendas” is based on Peruvian melodies. It is divided into 6 parts, three based on Peruvian woodwind instruments and 3 on Peruvian characters. She tells us in her own words in the nearby sidebar what these instruments and who these characters are.

Maestro Carthy’s last piece is Kodaly’s “Dances of Galanta”. We are perhaps more familiar with Kodaly’s “Hary Janos”. “Dances from Glanta” as Maestro Carthy tells us in the nearby sidebar was used as an underhanded army recruiting technique, something akin to Shanghaiing. It is melodic, spirited, and full of gypsy influences.

The Reno Chamber Orchestra will perform at the Nightingale Concert Hall in the Church Fine Arts Building on the University of Nevada Reno campus. For tickets and more information please visit https://renochamberorchestra.org/

Gabriela Lena Frank Discusses Leyendas

Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout for string quartet draws inspiration from the idea of mestizaje as envisioned by the Peruvian writer José María Arguedas, where cultures can coexist without the subjugation of one by the other. As such, this piece mixes elements from the western classical and Andean folk music traditions.

“Toyos” depicts one of the most recognizable instruments of the Andes, the panpipe. One of the largest kinds is the breathy toyo which requires great stamina and lung power, and is often played in parallel fourths or fifths.

“Tarqueada” is a forceful and fast number featuring the tarka, a heavy wooden duct flute that is blown harshly in order to split the tone. Tarka ensembles typically also play in fourths and fifths.

“Himno de Zampoñas” features a particular type of panpipe ensemble that divides up melodies through a technique known as hocketing. The characteristic sound of the zampoña panpipe is that of a fundamental tone blown flatly so that overtones ring out on top, hence the unusual scoring of double stops in this movement.

“Chasqui” depicts a legendary figure from the Inca period, the chasqui runner, who sprinted great distances to deliver messages between towns separated from one another by the Andean peaks. The chasqui needed to travel light. Hence, I take artistic license to imagine his choice of instruments to be the charango, a high-pitched cousin of the guitar, and the lightweight bamboo quena flute, both of which are featured in this movement.

“Canto de Velorio” portrays another well-known Andean personality, a professional crying woman known as the llorona. Hired to render funeral rituals even sadder, the llorona is accompanied here by a second llorona and an additional chorus of mourning women (coro de mujeres). The chant Dies Irae is quoted as a reflection of the comfortable mix of Quechua Indian religious rites with those from Catholicism.

“Coqueteos” is a flirtatious love song sung by gallant men known as romanceros. As such, it is direct in its harmonic expression, bold, and festive. The romanceros sing in harmony with one another against a backdrop of guitars which I think of as a vendaval de guitarras (“storm of guitars”).

— Gabriela Lena Frank

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