sábado, 30 de marzo de 2013


THOUGHTS ON MUSIC & IINTERPRETATION … good performances, bad performances PART I

Long Exchange in NewMusicBox provoked by a post from composer Alexandra Gardner … you can read it all here:

The original post provoked a sizeable outpouring of comments and thoughts, most –but not all— from composers.  It surprised me a bit that there were so few commentaries from performers. 

And also on Gardner’s subsequent posting, a few days later, on "Good Performances… this was definitely in the Department of “Hmmm … you gotta wonder”  because it drew many fewer commentaries.  Dear me, can so few composers think of a good performance or two?  Are we as a community so querulous and complaining?  It cannot be.

Also in the Department of "you gotta wonder" ... the comment –on the “Good Performances” posting no less- from a composer who says, “ …the orchestra where one member stopped playing and started laughing “… agghh.   Words fail me.  Maybe that commentary should have gone in the “Bad performances” blog?
No matter. I want to weigh on this, as an interpreter who’s played and commissioned a good bit of new music, as one who is not based in the US, and as one who increasingly programs that new music with pieces from the repertoire (Part 2 will deal with that).  As I read these comments I found coalescing in my mind a whole bunch of things that I’ve wanted to write about more extensively for some time now.  All of them have to do with that essential composer-interpreter-listener tripod.  Some of them are random: this is not a super-organized essay with stuff like footnotes ;=))

In her original post, Gardner quotes Daniel Felsenfeld, who says about a poor performance, “by this I do not mean a player who is not exactly flawless but rather an unprepared and uncaring performance”. 
Both of those words –unprepared and uncaring— are in a way loaded.  An unprepared performance is almost by definition an uncaring one: the performer didn’t care enough about the piece to prepare it adequately. 
In a way the situation Kyle Gann describes in his comment several days later is also uncaring, although superficially it seems like the opposite.  “The performers are fantastic. The first rehearsal is the day before the performance. Expert sight-readers, they play virtually all the notes, more or less at the right times, but the piece never gels. No time is given to understanding what this particular piece is all about. …  I had a piano concerto played by a top-notch new-music ensemble on the above pattern. The next year, a group of non-music-major students played it after rehearsing it weekly from January to May. The student performance sounded much more purposeful, intelligent, and together.” [Emphases mine.]
Does this really come as a surprise to anyone?  A great chamber-music colleague in a previous life of mine said, Time does something to music that nothing else can do.”  Time, plus, of course, intention and desire.  Ralph Kirkpatrick writes about “preparing an interpretation”.   Such a turn of phrase sounds almost 19th-century in the context of some of these composers’ comments, doesn’t it?  Pretty sad. 
I try in general to avoid pejoratives, and adjectives in general: to be tolerant and open and Buddhist and such.  But here I take a stand: when the way the system works is that the first rehearsal is the day before the performance, in which the players have to be expert sight-readers in order to survive … Well, I say that Entire System is twisted and bad.  Bad for the music, and by that I mean bad for the composer, bad for the performer, bad for the listener, which is everyone involved.  Twisted because it basically says, “Time Is Money, boys and girls, so warm up fast, get those high kicks lined up, and on to the Next Gig.  How you might feel that gesture or that phrase –assuming you might have the glimmer of a nanosecond to even FEEL, in this context—has nothing to do with anything that matters.”
Every molecule of my being rejects this as a way of making music: short-term, long-term, any-term, period.
Nothing wrong with being ace sight-readers: that’s been part of our toolkit for various centuries now, for professional reasons and for our own pleasure.  The problem enters when that gets confused with interpretation, and the preparation and time necessary for the latter.  And that comes about, in large measure as a consequence of that nefarious “Time Is Money” construct. 
So I say: YES, Kyle Gann, you go right ahead, maestro, and demand a minimum of three rehearsals.  And performer colleagues, YOU demand that minimum of three rehearsals and X preparation time.  And for heaven’s sake, ask questions and listen – talk to one another. 
Someone will doubtless say, This is all well and good, Cervantes, but the REALITIES of our world are that this is the way it is right now.  Well, I say:  so CHANGE THAT.  Start right now to do what you can to change it.  Demand that time.  If composers start to demand it and performers do too, pretty soon things will change.  Reality is what we make it, we just need the imagination and the intestinal fortitude, las agallas as we say in Spanish, to make the reality that the art deserves.
Chris Cerrone comments that “Mozart is ritualistically slaughtered every day by aspiring students” and (further up) Pam tells an anecdote from a teacher of hers, quoting Virgil Thomson as saying, “ … Your music should be able to stand up to the most incompetent performances”.   I agree.  Mozart, and various Bachs, and how many others, have survived thousands of performances from the ridiculous to the sublime.  Why should any composer creating right now set her sights any lower?
Who knows how much of the music that’s being created right now, with dedication and sincerity, talent and skill, will stand the test of time, stay for posterity, blah blah?  Well, we don’t know, so we interpreters have to give the very best service we can to the music we believe in.   That’s the only answer I can think of.
Yes, I said that: “The music we believe in”. The music I believe in may not be the same music that my colleague in Paris or Madrid or New York or Mexico City believes in, and that is all to the good.  That way lots of different music gets played, by interpreters who believe in it. 
I will go further and say: If you don’t believe in it, don’t play it.  It’s not fair to the composer, to the listener, or to you as an interpreter.  Assuming an interpreter is what you are and aspire to be, as opposed to some kind of living, breathing MIDI reproduction machine. 
Of course when we are studying we work on all kinds of music: that is how we form judgement, context, and taste.  I’m talking about later on, when you’re out there in the Big Bad World, as a Professional.
This only goes for soloist and chamber colleagues:  If after giving it some time you don’t have convictions about the piece, or aren’t excited about it, you shouldn’t be playing it.  Just that simple.  Maybe you keep it on your music shelf for later examination, but you have no business playing it right now: chances are good it will result in one of those lacklustre realizations to which we have all snoozed off at one time or another. It’s not fair to you, to the composer, to the listener.  If you feel your group pressured you into playing it then you need to all sit down and work out a better consensus process for selecting rep.  Maybe it wasn’t written for you, or even for your instrument (this has been known to happen). 
What is written is the score, whether it looks like George Crumb or Johannes Brahms.  It is that basic document from which we depart and to which we must always return. 
This is assuming that the piece interests you, that it engages you, that you feel you will have something to say with it: If the score is ambiguous after you’ve studied it thoroughly, ASK.  If there is idiotic accidental-enharmonic notation because of Finale or Sibelius, propose a change.  If you sense what the composer is trying to do but the writing for your instrument is badly conceived –or even if it doesn’t work for your hands, jiminy-- propose a change or an Ossia.  Liszt proposed some of his own, in consideration of pianists who hadn’t his genius at the instrument.  Musicologist colleagues, please correct me …
I was glad to read Andrew H’s comment, “If you’ve written something so weird that nobody notices when you get a bad performance, the joke’s on you, so to speak. Certainly you’re not doing yourself any favors by blaming it on the performers; and if you can accept some responsibility, you’re a step closer to fixing the problem. … Honest question: If you’re not writing for real performers and a real audience, with understanding of the shortcomings of each, then what business do you have seeking a performance of your work?”  He goes on to remark, “There’s no shame in writing for yourself, but you can’t expect someone else to understand foreign concepts unless you take the time to teach them. And yes, that means audience education for anything which isn’t closely related to standard rep for that audience.” 
And  by the way, why can’t performers share that audience education with composers?  When we are really inside the skin of a piece, when we have really prepared an interpretation, in Kirkpatrick’s beautiful phrase, we are uniquely capable of doing that.
Andrew H starts by observing, “isn’t it in some sense the composer’s fault for writing a piece that’s not followable, such that even the performers can’t get it right? Should we ever allow ourselves to be absolved of that responsibility?”  I have to say, dear Andrew H, that I think it’s not anyone’s FAULT in particular.  I like better your word responsibility.
This put me in mind of a favourite quote from (yes, again) Kirkpatrick’s Preface to his edition of the Scarlatti Sonatas:
“As every composer and writer knows, there is no better way of finding out what one really feels than having to set it down on paper, or having to communicate it through an artificial and restricted medium.  A composer cannot write down an orchestral score without having eliminated every element of the haphazard and non-organic: he has to do much more than merely float on the seas of his own emotions.  He must adopt definite concrete means of conveying those emotions through a medium over which he no longer has any direct control, nor any control at all other than the manner in which he has set his notes down on paper.”
Kirkpatrick goes on to describe a parallel process for the interpreter …
“The performer’s problem is less formidable, but similar.  He must be able to marshal the spontaneity of his sensations into a coherent, ordered performance which he can produce at any time and under any circumstances.  To this end, he must sense what elements of a piece are fixed and unchangeable in their relationship to each other, what is basic syntax and structure, and what is mere rhetorical inflection, what can be improvised and altered from performance to performance.  Only by this security in relation to basic musical elements can he achieve true freedom and spontaneity in performance.  The ability to make departures depends on a thorough knowledge of what one is departing from.”
The last sentence in that memorable paragraph, I feel, applies equally to the composer.
In the “Good performances” post, Gardner writes:
“While the ‘us vs. them’ dichotomy between composers and performers is apparently alive and well, it seems highly unproductive. The last time I checked, we are all musicians. Maybe we are approaching the language of music from different standpoints, but we are all in the same field. I may not be a performer, but when I’m working with a musician or ensemble, I enter into that relationship with the expectation that we are all striving to reach the same goal. It doesn’t always work out, but even if it doesn’t, the world keeps turning. Both good performances and bad performances are a two-way street—it’s up to both composer and performer to work together to determine how things are going to shake out.”
I can’t believe there is still some sort of “us-vs.-them” dichotomy between composers and performers.  Didn't that die a a well-deserved death a decade or so ago?   How can this be?  It’s not only “highly unproductive”, as Gardner says: it’s absurd.  To begin with, it makes hard labour out of something that should, in the end, be FUN.  A major factor must surely be the above-mentioned “Time is Money” fake world which we must all set to work and change. 
So how do we make it better –at least in the short term?  I say: Think, listen, talk. 
David Wolfson comments, “ … I’ve found that musicians rarely want to tell you if you’ve written something unidiomatic for their instrument; they seem to feel it’s their responsibility to somehow make it work.”  Yes. In my experience this is too often true.  For reasons with which I won’t bore the assembled e-multitudes, it took me a long, long time to learn how to do this.  I think musicians have a kind of basic reverence for composers, for the act of creation.  This is really wonderful, we should indeed have that reverence; but it shouldn’t make us deaf and dumb.  If anything, it should heighten our curiosity and daring. 
Looking back, I think it was working with student composers here in México during and after my Fulbright-García Robles year which did that for me.  In reality, all I learned was to ask the same question I ask the score of a composer whom I can’t call up on the telephone: “What’s going on here?  What are you trying to say?”  
You simply can’t dive in saying stuff like, “This doesn’t work”: to begin with it’s just not kind. (Plus, would you do that with Brahms?)  You have to ask; and then be prepared to reciprocate by speaking honestly about things that you just don’t get, that don’t work for you (and be sure you yourself  know why that is) or that –in your opinion— don’t meet the goals the composer has stated; and then propose solutions based on your own convictions about the piece as an interpreter. 
If there is a composer out there who says that I as an interpreter have no business having convictions about the piece, I say, Go home and play with your inflatable MIDI doll, honey, I fear we have nothing to talk about.
To the composer who says that he shouldn’t have to explain things verbally to the interpreter, I say, Wake up and smell the coffee my dear!  You will have to talk with audiences in an approachable and non-condescending way; figure out how to do it with performers as well. Not only will it help your musical life, it will help your personal one as well.
To the performer who finds it difficult to talk with the composer about instrumental or other issues, I say, Find a way, dear.  Ask questions of the composer and also of yourself: What’s going on here (in this passage, in this section, in this piece)?  What is my story about this piece?  What would I say to a non-specialized audience to introduce it?  The very best question to ask the composer, always --for me at least-- is What are you trying to do here? 
Sometimes the instrumental difficulties can be resolved SO easily it’s almost laughable.  But to find that out you have to ask, and, as I mention above, sometimes based on your own hands and your own convictions about the piece –and with the score always present— you propose an Ossia.  That same thing about musical life and personal life goes for interpreters as well, some more people skills never hurt anyone!
I agree with Kirkpatrick when he says that the score must be as clear as the composer can possibly make it.  Once you write down what’s in your inner ear, it’s not exclusively yours any more.  Involving a good, thoughtful interpreter in the process, once you have a close-to-final version of the score, can help you get the distance you need in order to understand what you might have omitted.  But once you finish that process, you have no control: you’ve given the piece to the universe. 
I remember when I was working on John Corigliano’s Fantasy on an Ostinato.  At a certain point in the piece he puts the indication “unhurried”. It’s in a place where I suppose one might be tempted to move briskly along.  That one word Unhurried, as I thought about it, completely changed my perspective.  It also made me think twice about every meno mosso I ever saw afterwards.  Or Debussy’s tempo indication at the beginning of his 2nd Étude Pour les tierces (for Thirds): Moderato ma non troppo.  Now that is one to think about!  This is all part of the work that each of us, composer and interpreter, must undertake.
You have to be mindful of your words and have your brain in gear before you move your mouth.  This sounds like more basic “people skills” but I have to say that a good percentage of the reasons behind the composer-performer dichotomy to which Alexandra refers would be helped along mightily by a good dose of those.  A recent example: I asked a Symphony colleague here about a commissioned piece which the orchestra was preparing.  He made a regretful face and said, It’s just not a good piece.  Knowing and respecting the composer and her music I asked, Good heavens, why? Oh Jeez, he said, the harmonics for the ‘cellos aren’t properly written.  Such a pain!  OK sweetie, It’s a pain; but that’s a deficiency in how the score was prepared, not poor architecture or conception or inadequate through-composing or fundamental stuff like that.

martes, 19 de marzo de 2013


recital in Torreón 9 March 2013

I wrote this on Sunday 10 but then got busy; so it’s only now that I translate and post my notes about this amazing, lightning trip to play in Torreón …
One week after playing –and recording (watch this space!)— the lovely Divertimento for Piano and Orchestra of Joaquín Gutiérrez Heras (RIP) with the OSUG, I was to give a solo recital in Torreón (Coahuila), Mexico: a mixed program of Monarca women composers together with pieces from the repertoire.  (You can see the program below.)  The concert was in observance of International Women’s Day and was presented jointly by a Torreón NGO, Mujeres Salvando Mujeres (Women Saving Women) –more info below—and the Patronato (Trustees) of the Teatro Nazas.
A***  and I went with up to Torreón on Thursday night.  Bus leaves León (an hour from Guanajuato) at 21:00h and arrives Torreón 06:00.  When we arrived, I knew I'd slept but had no actual memory of having done so, if that makes sense.  We had a couple of hours for breakfast and R&R before a quite intensive round of interviews started at 10am, mostly radio but also TV (remember to brush that hair and check that lipstick, Cervantes). 
that first, amazing interview in the park ...
Another radio interview, this one a bit more conventional, but no less fun!
And yes, the TV interview, actually the first of two
Somewhere around 2:30pm we had a fast comida and that was when I put my foot down and said, "I really MUST have a couple of hours with the piano".  A noble instrument indeed: a 9-ft Steinway at least 100 years old, still with the original ivory keys but with new innards, from what I could see and hear.  The hall was originally an abandoned movie theatre which, about 8 years ago, was getting ready to be torn down.  The artistic and business communities of Torreón joined forces and formed a Board of Trustees, and abracadabra, it became the really gorgeous venue that it now is.  It has an acoustic nothing short of divine and a very cozy, welcoming vibe: lots of wood, lots of red.  Capacity ca. 1200 but they can draw a curtain about halfway which brings it down to ca. 600. 
At the entrance to the beautiful Teatro Nazas
Adriana next to the big board with the monthly events: There I am: March 9!

And that warm and beautiful interior ...
I think there were about 150 people at my concert, which is really quite remarkable for an event of that kind – especially considering the local football (soccer in the US) team was playing that night.  A lovely audience, just radiating attention and good energy back to me. 
This concert was presented by Mujeres Salvando Mujeres (Women Saving Women), a Torreón NGO whose members are some eight doctors, a couple of chemists, a businesswoman and I forget the other one or two.  All of the Drs are connected in some way with breast cancer diagnosis and treatment; at least two of the members are breast cancer survivors. 
What an amazing, dynamic, bunch of mover-and-shaker women!! It turns out that one of the reasons they formed is that Coahuila has MORE THAN TWICE the national rate of breast cancer.  Not clear what combination of environmental-societal-public health issues makes this the case; added to the fact that these factors, both individually and in combination, are very much in flux these days.  Amazingly for a city its size (population 608,000 in 2010), Torreón has only two gynecological oncologists and one of them is a member of this group. 

Torreón has been hit terribly hard by the random violence of the narco business.  Barely ten metres from the stage door of the Teatro Nazas where I performed was a group of soldiers with sandbags and machine guns at the ready.  On practically every corner at night, at least in that area which is only a block from the Plaza de Armas (the central square), there are similar groups of soldiers or Policía Federal.  People were, for a while, retreating into their homes, and some still are.  When this happens, it weakens society: each person locked up in his house-citadel, isolated from neighbours and other people in the community.
The creative and artistic community of Torreón recently got fed up with this situation and decided to reclaim the public life of the city, its streets and parks.  Thus, my first interview on Friday morning was with Joel de Santiago, who now does all the interviews for his radio program in public places: parks, restaurants, streets, etc.  This is just one tiny showing of what apparently is a vast effort, practically one artist at a time, to take back the city's public life.  Really beautiful, really moving. 
On Friday night we were able to go to the concert of the Camerata Coahuila, in that same Teatro Nazas, and it was a great concert:  a Haydn Symphony (#85) and the Pergolesi Stabat Mater.  Haydn was light as air but solid where it needed to be, with what I felt was really well-conceived architecture.  Pergolesi featured two really impressive young singers –soprano Sandra López and mezzo Araceli Pérez— together with the Children’s Choir of the Colegio (like a lycée) Cervantes; all girls as it happened,  just adorable, AND they sang really well!  The Camerata sounds just great and I felt Ramón Shade did a lovely job of conducting: such good taste and sensibility.
The atmosphere was palpably full of excitement and pride and enjoyment.  Apparently audience numbers sank a bit for a while but are now climbing up again.  Yet another demonstration of how art is an essential glue that holds society together because it shows people where some common ground can be; it gives us a strength we wouldn't have otherwise.  In fact, after this first visit to Torreón I will dare to say that when the physical, “real” world becomes most perilous is when art is most apt to come out into the streets: remember that ‘cellist in Sarajevo?
So, my concert: it was good and I was pretty happy.  It's a monster program but it works; although I think I may cut the second Debussy Étude from future versions.  Some of you may ask, Jeez, Ana, might you consider slightly less monster programs?  I have asked myself the same question.  But in this case it really worked: no one seemed tired from too much concentrating, or burned-out in the ears.  I think beginning the program with that gorgeous CPE Bach Sonata (the 5th of the “Prussian” series), and starting the second half with that exuberant first Debussy Étude so totally sets the stage for the splendid music that comes afterwards that the listener is simply consumed with curiosity and doesn’t get tired.
I was going to do a pre-concert talk at 7pm before an 8pm curtain, but for whatever set of reasons it got lost in the shuffle.  So when I walked on stage at about 8:15 I asked the assembled multitudes if they wanted a talk, per se; or for me just to talk briefly before each piece as I always do.  The latter, they made clear.  So that was what I did: what I always do!  Just as well: I prefer a smaller space for a pre-concert conversation, or at least to invite everyone up close to the piano.  

Talking a bit before each piece as is my custom ...

I have to say a word about the management of the Teatro Nazas, which was totally, gratifyingly professional.  So many venues where no one has even thought to leave me a bottle of water! None of that nonsense here.  Everything from their press to the dressing-room was exemplary.
There were some problems with the octaves being in tune in the bottom register of the piano. In my note I'd asked the piano technician to fix these; either he tried and couldn't or didn't even try. Note to self: INSIST on meeting with technician to check his/her work.  I got spoiled in the DF with the Yamaha super-técnico, and here too, now that local super-técnico Ramón Sanabria is only a hour away. SO distracting to have to remember to play only ONE note of an octave in some of these passages in Pilar Jurado and Gaby Ortiz, not to mention Debussy, for Christ's sake.  But the concert went really well; I was pleased, the audience was really REALLY pleased, the theatre's Director was pleased, A*** was pleased. 

Just enough time for a warp-speed supper afterwards (delicious paella) and some toasts right there in another room of that capacious theatre; and we dashed to the bus station.  The theatre director's secretary had found an Omnibus de México (OdM) departure at midnight and we grabbed it: the next two options were 4am on OdM and 10pm the following night (Sunday) on ETN (the super-luxurious line).  Both A*** and I had lots to do on Monday and thus needed Sunday to rest; so that midnight bus was just the ticket.  I was home by 10:30am Sunday.  A long trip and I am now edging up to catatonia, but very happy to have played a good concert for such a wonderful audience, and happy to be home with my pets and my piano!
Here's the program:
Vuelos y visionarios …
Canto de la Monarca: Mujeres en México
Ana Cervantes, pianista

Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach            Sonata en do mayor, W.48/5,
(Alemania, 1714-1788)                             Prusiana #5
            1. Poco Allegro 2. Andante 3. Allegro Assai
Silvia Berg                                             El sueño … el vuelo (2010)
(Brasil, 1958)                                           [Musa: Frida Kahlo y su Casa Azul]
Alba Potes                                             Desde el aire: seis instantes (2010)
(Colombia, 1954)                                     [Carlota de Habsburgo]           
                                                                        1. Pensativo con Premoniciones
                            2. Certidumbre: incertidumbre  3. Los juegos se desvanecen
                                               4. Detalles distantes 5. Aprisa  6. Introspectivo
Pilar Jurado                                           Primero sueño  (2010)
(España, 1968)                                           [Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz]
Joelle Wallach                                      Lágrimas y locuras: Mapping the Mind of
(EUA, 1960)                       a Madwoman (cartografiando la mente de una loca) (2011)
Claude Debussy                                  Deux Études (Dos Estudios):
(Francia, 1862-1918)                              Pour les Cinq Doigts (para los cinco dedos)
                                                                Pour les Tierces (para las terceras)
Georgina Derbez                                 Un Vuelo para Ana (2011)
(México, 1968)                                         [Ana Cervantes]
Anne LeBaron                                      Creación de las aves (2011)
(EUA, 1953)                                              [Remedios Varo]
Gabriela Ortiz                                      Preludio y Estudio (2011)
 (México, 1964)                                       [Jesusa Palancares]
Toda la música excepto Bach y Debussy encargada por Cervantes para Canto de la Monarca 
Estreno en Torreón de toda la música de Canto de la Monarca
MONDAY …  And there is a review!  Karla found it while looking for the link to another press clipping.  I asked her to feed it into Google Translator, thinking to save myself a little work, and the results ranged from ghastly to incoherent; oh well.  Still it was marginally easier to correct than to start from scratch.  It is still a mystery to me where that bit about “electronic music” came from: the only thing that occurs to me is when I play inside the piano in Pilar Jurado’s piece?  Whatever, here it is …

Her interpretative elegance at the piano is matched only by the carefully chosen repertoire played at the concert organized by "Women Saving Women" and the Trustees of the Teatro Nazas.

Ana Cervantes is a curious example of a woman at once firm and gentle.  Her interpretive elegance is matched only by the carefully chosen repertoire she played at the concert presented by the Torreón association "Women Saving Women" and the Trustees of the Nazas Theatre on Saturday night.

The project might seem titanic at first glance, because really, the US-Mexican artist might easily spend the rest of her life performing this music which over the course of two years she commissioned: a series of compositions based on Mexican women and women who lived in Mexico –like Charlotte of Hapsburg— and who served as "muses" for 17 authors from five countries.

A fortunate combination of music classical, contemporary and newly made in a recital unexpected on a football night in Santos [the name of the local team] territory, which delighted both audience and performer with nine compositions covering a balance of sounds that ranged from baroque to modern, New Age and electronic music compositions [not sure where this came from –perhaps playing inside the piano in Jurado?], all pieces created for Ana Cervantes for Canto de la Monarca: Mujeres en México; except those of CPE Bach and Debussy of course.

She spoke about this project which embodies a paradox: women who are  --according to certain paradigms— fragile; but the paradigms are suddenly broken on stage and then begin to fall apart in real life.

Sponsored by Conaculta, INBA and SEP, this program consisted of the responses to Cervantes’ commission by Silvia Berg (Brazil), Alba Potes (Colombia), Pilar Jurado (Spain), Joelle Wallach and Anne LeBaron (USA), and Georgina Derbez and Gabriela Ortiz (Mexico), among other compositional accomplices of the pianist.

Delicacy which is detained in time to not lose the forcefulness necessary for this or any other kind of music and which demonstrates the thousand musical metaphors of the female image.

After a slight confusion in the schedule, Cervantes cut short her pre-concert talk  and began the concert, making brief remarks before each piece, from the “Prussian” Sonata in C Major by Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach to the Prelude and Étude of Mexican composer Gabriela Ortiz.  The public was thrilled, attentive even with the pieces which were less easy to digest musically, such as First I Dream of Pilar Jurado.

Cervantes is a former Fulbright-Garcia Robles Scholar (1999-2000); and the beneficiary of a Conaculta-INBA EPROMUSICA grant specifically to support this project, Song of the Monarch: Women in Mexico inspired in historical figures such as La Malinche and in literary characters like Jesusa Palancares, the protagonist of the Elena Poniatowska book.  She has also received grants from other Mexican government agencies.

The result is this première in Torreón that gave Ana Cervantes the opportunity to make her first visit here and to work with "Women Saving Women" and the Teatro Nazas.

The 17 composers from Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Spain, the United States and Great Britain responded to Cervantes’ commission with the enthusiasm of the artist invited to participate in a commissioning project.


Escribí esto el domingo 10 pero luego me puse muy ocupada, así que es hasta ahora que traduzco y subo mis apuntes sobre este asombroso viaje relámpago a Torreón …
Una semana después de tocar –y grabar (sigan atentos)—el hermoso Divertimento para Piano y Orquesta de Joaquín Gutiérrez Heras, QEPD, con la OSUG, iba a dar un recital solo en Torreón (Coahuila), México: un programa mixto de siete compositoras Monarca junto con piezas del repertorio.  (Pueden ver el programa abajo.)  El concierto fue el sábado 9, en el marco de las celebraciones del Día Internacional de la Mujer y fue presentado conjuntamente por la ONG de Torreón Mujeres Salvando Mujeres –más info abajo—y el Patronato del Teatro Nazas.
Así que A*** y yo viajamos al norte la noche del jueves 7.  El autobús sale de León (una hora de Guanajuato) a las 21:00h y llega a Torreón a las 06:00h.  Cuando llegamos sabía que había dormido durante el viaje pero no tenía ninguna memoria de haberlo hecho; no sé si tiene caso.  Tuvimos un tiempecito para desayunar y recargar pilas un poco antes de que una agenda bastante intensiva de entrevistas inició a las 10h, principalmente radio pero también en la tele (Cervantes, acuérdate de cepillarte el pelo y pintar los labios … ).  

Esa impactante primera entrevista, en el parque ...
Otra el el radio con Coca, tantito más convencional ¡pero no por eso menos disfrutable!

Y sí, la de la tele ... ;=))
Alrededor de las 14:30 comimos algo rápido y fue cuando dije, URGE que yo tenga un par de horas con el piano del foro.  Y un muy noble instrumento que es: un Steinway de gran cola, mínimo de cien años de edad, con su teclado original de marfil pero –de lo que pude ver y escuchar- con sus entrañas todas nuevas.  El foro era un cine que hace unos ocho años se alistaron a demoler, hasta que la comunidad artística de la ciudad juntó cabezas con la empresarial, se formó un patronato y el inmueble se convirtió en el espacio que ahora es.  Tiene una acústica nada menos que divina, y una atmósfera cálida y acogedora: mucha madera, mucho rojo. 
En la entrada del bello Teatro Nazas
Adriana al lado de la mampara en la entrada al Nazas.  Allí estoy yo, ¡el 9 de marzo!
Y el interior ... ¡bello y acogedor!
Cupo unas 1200 personas; aunque pueden correr una cortina que divide el foro para cortarlo a unas 600.  Creo que hubo unas 150 gentes en mi concierto, lo cual es impresionante para un concierto de este tipo – sobre todo considerando que fue una noche de futbol en que el equipo local jugaba.  Un público hermoso que irradiaba atención y buena energía.
El concierto se presentó por Mujeres Salvando Mujeres, una ONG lagunense (así se denominan los ciudadanos de Torreón), cuyos integrantes son unas ocho doctoras, un par de químicas, una empresaria y en este momento no recuerdo a qué se dedican las otras dos o tres.  Todas las doctoras están conectadas de alguna manera con el diagnóstico y tratamiento del cáncer de mama; por lo menos dos de las integrantes son supervivientes de ese cáncer. 
¡Qué asombroso grupo de mujeres!  Dinámicas, enérgicas, entusiastas, de las que una vez que decidan actuar, OJO, son arrolladoras.  Resulta que una de las principales razones que formaron este grupo es que la tasa de cáncer de mama en Coahuila es más del doble de la tasa promedia nacional: 26% en lugar de 11%.  No es claro qué combinación de factores medioambientales, socioeconómicos y de salud pública lo causa; además que todos estos factores, tanto a nivel individual como en su conjunto, están en un estado de mucho flujo actualmente.  Asombrosamente para una ciudad del tamaño de Torreón (unas 608,000 personas en el 2010) hay sólo dos oncólogos ginecológicos; una de ellos es integrante de este grupo.
Torreón ha sido terriblemente golpeada por la violencia -que parece casi aleatorica- del narco.  A escasos diez metros de la entrada artística del Teatro Nazas hubo una verdadera trinchera de militares, con todo y ametralladoras y costales de arena.  De noche, por lo menos en esa área a dos o tres cuadras de la Plaza de Armas, en cada esquina hay grupos de militares o de la Policía Federal.  Durante un tiempo, nos contaron, las personas en efecto replegaron a sus casas, y algunas todavía lo hacen.  Cuando sucede esto, la sociedad se debilita, porque no hay solidaridad: cada quien a su casa-ciudadela y aislado de sus vecinos y su comunidad. 
La comunidad creativa y artística de la ciudad, hace poco, se hartó de esta situación. Decidieron retomar la vida pública de la ciudad, sus calles, parques y jardines.  De manera que la primera entrevista esa mañana del viernes fue con Joel de Santiago, quien ahora para su programa de radio casi no hace entrevistas en el estudio: las hace todas en parques, jardines, restaurantes.  Es una pequeña muestra de lo que según nos dicen es un vasto esfuerzo, prácticamente un artista a la vez, de retomar la vida pública de la ciudad.  Muy bello, muy conmovedor.
Esa noche del viernes pudimos presenciar el concierto de la Camerata Coahuila, en ese mismo Teatro Nazas, y fue un gran concierto: la Sinfoníaa #85 de Joseph Haydn y el Stabat Mater de Pergolesi.  Haydn fue tan ligero como el aire pero sólido cuando se lo pedía; y para el Stabat Mater hubo dos impresionantes jóvenes cantantes –la soprano Sandra López y la mezzo Araceli Pérez- junto con el Coro de Niños (en efecto puras niñas) del Colegio Cervantes.  ¡Adorables, y además cantaron MUY bien!  La Camerata suena excelente, están tocando requetebién; y sentí que el Maestro Ramón Shade hizo un maravilloso trabajo, de muy buen gusto y de mucha sensibilidad.
La vibra en el teatro fue palpablemente llena de emoción, orgullo y goce.  Según nos dijeron, la asistencia del público cayó durante un rato pero ahora ha empezado a subir de nuevo.  Aún otra muestra de cómo el arte es un esencial pegamento que une a la sociedad, porque enseña a la gente donde se puede encontrar algún terreno en común: nos proporciona una fortaleza que de otra manera no tenemos.  De hecho, después de esta primera visita mía a Torreón, me atrevo a decir que es cuando el mundo físico y “real” se pone más peligroso que el arte brota y sale a las calles: ¿se acuerdan del chelista de Sarajevo?
Mi concierto, pues: fue bien y yo contenta.  Fue un programa monstruoso pero funciona: aunque creo que cortaré el segundo Étude de Debussy en futuras versiones.  Algunos de uds me preguntarán, ¿Chin, Anita, podrías considerar programas un tantito menos monstruos?  Me he preguntado lo mismo.  Pero en este caso de veras funcionó: nadie me pareció cansado de la concentración, o quemado de los oídos.  Creo que el iniciar el programa con esa hermosísima Sonata de CPE Bach (la 5ª de la serie prusiana) y la segunda mitad con el exuberante primer Étude de Debussy hace tan buena cimentación para la espléndida música que sigue que simplemente el escucha está consumido por la curiosidad y no se cansa.
Iba a hacer una interactiva charla pre-concierto a las 19h antes de empezar el concierto a las 20h; pero por razones que desconozco esa idea se descarriló.  Así que cuando salí al escenario tipo 20:15 pregunté a las multitudes si quisieran la charla como tal o que simplemente yo hablara brevemente antes de cada pieza como siempre hago.  Adelante con el concierto, respondieron.  Así que así lo hice: lo que siempre hago.  Menos mal: prefiero un espacio más íntimo para una charla de esas, o al menos la posibilidad de invitar a todos muy cerca al piano.
Hablando, como es mi costumbre ...


Debo dedicar un par de palabras a la gerencia del Teatro Nazas, de un profesionalismo total y gratificante.  ¡Tantos foros donde ni siquiera se le ha ocurrido a alguien dejarme una botella de agua!  Nada de eso aquí.  Todo desde la difusión hasta el camerino fue ejemplar.
Hubo, eso sí, un par de problemas con la afinación de las octavas del registro grave.  En mi nota al maestro técnico había rogado que los arreglara: ya sea que lo intentó y no pudo, o ni siquiera lo intentó, estaban mal.  Nota a mí misma: Hay que INSISTIR en una reunión con el técnico para revisar como quedó el piano.  Volví algo consentida en el DF con el súper-técnico de Yamaha; y aquí también, ahora que el súper-técnico local Ramón Sanabria está a una hora de distancia.  Estorba TANTO tener que recordarme de tocar una sola nota en lugar de la octava en esos pasajes de Pilar Jurado y Gabriela Ortiz, por no mencionar Debussy, rediós.  Pero en fin.  El concierto fue muy bien, yo contenta, el público requetecontento, la Directora del Teatro muy contenta, A*** contenta.

El tiempo justo, después, para una cena casi a velocidad luz (una paella sabrosísima) y unos brindis, allá mero en otro cuarto del espacioso Teatro; y llegamos corriendo a la Central de autobuses.  La secre de la Directora nos había encontrado una salida en Ómnibus de México (OdM) a la medianoche y lo agarramos. Las dos teníamos cosas que hacer aquí el lunes para que necesitábamos estar descansadas. Fueron diez horas y media de viaje: pero el domingo a las 10:30 estuve en casa.  Un largo viaje y estoy orillando a la catatonia ¡pero muy feliz de haber tocado un buen concierto para tan maravilloso público y feliz de estar en casa con mi piano y mis mascotas!
LUNES … Y ¡hay una reseña!  Karla lo encontró mientras buscaba la liga para otro recorte de prensa.  Me sigue siendo un misterio total de dónde el autor cosechó lo de música electrónica: lo único que se me ocurre es ¿cuándo toco dentro del piano en la pieza de Pilar Jurado?  Bueno, como sea, va el texto.  La liga es http://laguna.milenio.com/cdb/doc/noticias2011/c48d6d197085e209d71fc7eb1555bbc0

Su elegancia interpretativa al piano, sólo se iguala a la cuidada selección del repertorio que tocó en el recital organizado por “Mujeres salvando Mujeres” y el Patronato del teatro Nazas.

Torreón • Ana Cervantes es una extraña muestra de mujer firme y suave a la vez: su elegancia
interpretativa sólo se iguala a la cuidada selección del repertorio que tocó en el recital organizado por la asociación lagunera “Mujeres salvando Mujeres” y el Patronato del Teatro Nazas este sábado por la noche. Un proyecto que de entrada pareciera titánico, porque en realidad puede no terminar en el resto de la vida de la artista Méxiconorteamericana que recopiló en dos años una serie de composiciones que parten de mujeres mexicanas, o que vivieron en México –como Carlota de de Habsburgo- y que sirvieron como “musas” para 15 autoras de cinco países.
Una afortunada combinación de música clásica, contemporánea y recién hecha en un recital inesperado para una noche de futbol en territorio Santos y que deleitó a la intérprete y al auditorio con nueve composiciones en un extraño equilibrio que abarcó sonidos barrocos, modernos, de la Nueva Era y música electrónica en composiciones, salvo las de Bach y Debussy por supuesto, realizadas por encargo de Ana Cervantes para su proyecto “Monarca”.
Ella platicó sobre este proyecto que es una paradoja, el mundo femenino a través de la aparente fragilidad que supone conforme a paradigmas que se rompen de pronto en el escenario y que comienzan a romperse en la vida real.
Auspiciado por el Conaculta, el INBA y la SEP, el programa se integra con la respuesta que dieron a Cervantes las compositoras Silvia Berg, de Brasil, Alba Potes, de Colombia, Pilar Jurado, de España, Joelle Wallach, y Anne LeBaron, de la Unión Americana, y Georgina Derbez y Gabriela Ortíz, de México, entre otras cómplices de la pianista.
Una delicadeza que se detiene a tiempo para no perder la fuerza necesaria que se requiere para esta y cualquier otro tipo de música y que muestra las mil formas musicales de la imagen femenina.
Luego de salvar una confusión en el horario, Cervantes abrevió su charla y comenzó el recital con breves comentarios previos a cada una de las piezas, desde la Sonata en do mayor de Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach, hasta el Preludio y Estudio de la mexicana Gabriela Ortiz, donde el público puso atención y se emocionó incluso con las piezas que no resultaron tan fáciles de digerir musicalmente hablando, como “Primero Sueño”, de Pilar Jurado.
Cervantes es ex becaria de la Fulbright-García Robles en 1999-2000 y de la EPROMUSICA del Conaculta-INBA y de otras instancias gubernamentales mexicanas que han apostado con ella por este proyecto “Canto de la Monarca-Mujeres en México” que atienden a remembranzas de figuras históricas como La Malintzin y literarias como Jesusa [Palancares], el personaje de Elena Poniatowska.  El resultado es este estreno que dio a Ana Cervantes la oportunidad de visitar por primera vez Torreón y de trabajar con “Mujeres Salvando Mujeres” y el teatro Nazas.
Las 17 compositoras de México, Brasil, Colombia, España, Estados Unidos y la Gran Bretaña, respondieron a Cervantes con el entusiasmo del artista que atiende un encargo.