TANGLEWOOD (8-4-06) 

By Lawrence Budmen 

Recently feted with a week long series of concerts at New York’s Lincoln Center, composer Osvaldo Golijov’s unique creative voice is about to resonate in South Florida, with several orchestral scores and a large scale choral work on tap next season. 

Golijov’s music is a panoramic soundtrack of the diverse cultural influences that encompass South Florida. Born in Argentina of Eastern European parentage, Golijov received his training in Jerusalem and Europe. (He now lives and teaches in Boston and is Composer-In-Residence with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.) His distinctive musical palette mixes Latin American, Judaic, French impressionist, and Eastern European gypsy musical genres. Stylistic echoes of Stravinsky and Messiaen can be found in his sense of fractured rhythm and dissonance. 

On August 4 Golijov’s latest score debuted in the luminous ambience of Tanglewood, surrounded by the awesome mountains and hills of the Berkshires in northwestern Massachusetts. Commissioned to create a work for superstar cellist Yo-Yo Ma, Golijov chose to eschew the bravura display of the traditional concerto in favor of a New Age meditation in which silences are as important as the notes themselves. The composer’s earlier Tenebrae for soprano and string quartet, the harpsichord music of Francois Couperin, and the Baroque adagios of Bach, Handel, and Albinoni were compositional models for Azul, a haunting rumination for cello and orchestra. 

According to Golijov, Azul (blue) was inspired by the color of night and the beauty of nature. To create a sense of eternal serenity, the composer opts for a spatial arrangement of the orchestra with individual string, brass, and wind instruments divided into two groups on each side of the conductor. An accordionist and percussionist share center stage with the cello soloist and act as a modern day continuo. Yet the cellos and basses remain a potent mirror of the solo line (as in a Baroque piece). The ringing sounds of harp, celeste, and pitched percussion imitate indigenous South American folk instruments and rhythmic patterns.

Often Golijov has conceived the cello line in the instrument’s upper register which results in the cello sounding more like a violin. Middle Eastern melismas (long, florid melodic lines) followed by extended pauses constitute the initial adagio.

High, piercing flutes double the accordion to produce the cry of the natural world. This is succeeded by a wild Gypsy dance in which cello and solo percussion recreate the sound of the tabla, a Northern Indian percussive instrument highlighted in Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble. A final percussion barrage fades into silence – a vision of the great beyond. The entire score is moving and darkly evocative.

Yo-Yo Ma essayed the fiendishly difficult cello part brilliantly. His ability to telegraph the music of diverse cultures remains awesome. Donald Runnicles, music director of the San Francisco Opera and a frequent New World Symphony podium guest, directed the Boston Symphony in a highly charged, visceral performance. This score is a natural for the New World’s Sounds of the Times series. 


January 6, 2007 – La Passion Segun San Marcos – Schola Cantorum de Venezuela -Carnival Center for the Performing Arts, Miami

January 26 - 27, 2007 – Last Round for Strings - Cleveland Orchestra, Franz Welser-Most, Conductor – Carnival Center

February 12, 2007 – Last Round for Strings – Chicago Symphony Orchestra, David Zinman, Conductor – Broward Center for the Performing Arts, Ft. Lauderdale

February 13, 2007 – Golijov Work TBA – Chicago Symphony Orchestra, David Zinman, Conductor – Carnival Center


February 24, 2007 – Shostakovich: Cello Concerto No.2 – New World Symphony, Michael Tilson Thomas, Conductor – Carnival Center, Miami 

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