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.

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