Southwest Chamber Music
2013 Summer Festival at The Huntington
by Gabriela Ortiz, the Foremost Mexican Composer of our Time
July 27 & 28
Los Angeles, CA - Grammy Award-winning Southwest Chamber Music's Summer Festival at The Huntington, now in its 20th season, presents Baalkah, an excursion into the Mayan cosmos, composed by Gabriela Ortiz. Beginning with Mozart's much beloved Eine kleine Nachtmusik and ending with Schoenberg's ultra-romantic sextet, Verklärte Nacht, the concert takes a round trip from Vienna to the Yucatan Peninsula and the cosmos of the Mayans in Gabriela Ortiz' Baalkah.
Baalkah is based on texts from a 17th century Mayan book, the Chilam Balam of Chumayel. The text describes how the sky is held up in East, North, West and South by a gigantic Ceiba tree in each of these directions. The center is the world where mankind lives. Representing the "center," the soprano soloist is Ayana Haviv, and the Lyris Quartet (Alyssa Park and Shalini Vijayan, violins; Luke Maurer, viola; Timothy Loo, cello) represents each direction of the cosmos.
Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht, inspired by Richard Dehmel's poem of the same name, is one of Schoenberg's few illustrative compositions, but rather than action or drama, it portrays nature and human feelings. Schoenberg/Dehmel tell the story of a young woman, pregnant by an abusive lover, who finds love in the compassion of a man who determines they will raise the child as their own---as the music moves us from the darkness of certain rejection into the bliss of returned love and affection. The Lyris Quartet is augmented by violist Zach Dellinger and cellist Peter Jacobson.
Southwest Chamber Music and Gabriela Ortiz
Southwest Chamber Music gave the US premiere of her Elegia on its second LA International New Music Festival last February, and has recently released a CD of five of her works on Cambria Records. Gabriela Ortiz' opera, Unicamente la verdad, was presented by the Long Beach Opera last March to great acclaim. The multimedia work was inspired by Los Tigres del Norte's renowned 1970 narcocorrido "Contrabando y Traición", which describes the legend of Camelia, a legendary drug smuggler and femme fatale.
Gabriela Ortiz is one of the foremost composers in Mexico today, and one of the most vibrant musicians emerging in the international scene. Her musical language achieves an extraordinary and expressive synthesis of tradition and the avant-garde; combining high art, folk music and jazz in novel, frequently refined and always personal ways. Her compositions are credited for being both entertaining and immediate as well as profound and sophisticated; she achieves a balance between highly organized structure and improvisatory spontaneity. Although based in Mexico, her music is commissioned and performed all over the world.
Recent commissions and premieres include her new videopera Unicamente la Verdad with The Indiana University Contemporary Vocal Ensemble under Carmen Helena Téllez, Altar de Piedra for three percussion players, timpani and orchestra for Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra with Esa- Pekka Salonen and Kroumata percussion ensemble; Zócalo-Bastilla, for violin, percussion and orchestra premiered by violinist Pierre Amoyal, percussionist Ricardo Gallardo and OFUNAM Philharmonic; Altar de Muertos, a string quartet commissioned by Kronos Quartet; Zócalo Tropical for flute, percussion and orchestra premiered by flutist Luis Julio Toro, and percussionist Ricardo Gallardo and Orquesta Simon Bolivar; 100 Watts commissioned by Trio Neos; Seis piezas a Violeta for string quartet and piano premiered by The Cuarteto Latinoamericano and pianist Arturo Nieto.
The Summer Festival continues August 10 and 11, 24 and 25. Pre-concert, three-course, gourmet dinners in the Huntington Tea Room are available to concert ticket buyers by prior reservation. Picnics on the lawn before the concert are encouraged. Sections of the Huntington Art Gallery are open to ticket holders prior to the concert and at intermission.
For photos and interviews, please contact Heidi Lesemann, (626)685-4455 or (562)743-9749
Program notes for Baalkah by Federico Navarette
Baalkah, which means "world" or "cosmos" in Maya, was inspired by the cosmological beliefs of the Maya of the Yucatan Peninsula and of other Mexican and Central American Native peoples.
For over 5,000 years, these Indian peoples have conceived of the world as being divided into four cardinal directions: East, North, West and South. In each one of these directions stands a gigantic Ceiba tree that supports the sky, and each one has its particular cosmological characteristics, such as its own ruling deity, its own color, a set of related plants and animals, and more generally, its own mood or personality.
This quadripartite division of the world is closely related to time: each year is associated to a specific cardinal direction, and thus time rotates around the world every four years, from East to North to West to South, bringing with itself the influences pertaining to each direction. These forces are both positive and negative, since in Indian thought there is no pure good and no pure evil. In the Center of the World, where mankind lives, all the characteristics of the four directions mingle.
The task of humankind is to assimilate and channel the influences that flow from each direction to ensure harmony and stability in the center. At the beginning of each year, the Mayas arrange a four legged table, symbolizing the Cosmos, with offerings to the deities of each of the four directions, thus guaranteeing that their world will remain firmly anchored and in harmony.
The lyrics of the first four songs of Baalkah are taken from a 17th century Maya book, the Chilam Balam of Chumayel, a priceless depository of centuries of historical and religious wisdom inherited by Maya priests and kept hidden from the prosecution of the Catholic Church.
Each member of the string quartet represents one of the four cardinal directions, and the center is represented by the soprano.
The songs, in turn, express the moods and characteristics of their corresponding cardinal point. Chac and Ek, related to dawn and masculinity, and to dusk and femininity, respectively, are static and serene. Sac and Kan, related to death and war, and to fertility and life, are dramatic and powerful. Finally Ak', the center, gives pride of place to the voice of the soprano, representing humankind, in an expressive, melismatic chant.