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Almost A Question...almost An Answer...
Latin American Piano Music in the 21st Century

Germán Cáceres, Roque Cordero, Aurelio De La Vega, Juan Piñera, Marcela Rodríguez, Carlos Vázquez




"2010 WANT LIST"
Robert Schulslaper, Fanfare - November/December 2010
"Martha Marchena, a Cuban-American pianist, offers a recital of Latin American works by seven living composers... The music reflects the usual differences of style found in contemporary music, but all are very listenable, especially in her fine performances."
Turok's Choice, No.223 - July 2010
"There's no question that this music deserves more attention. Consistent in every track is the confident and musical playing of Marchena. She is not afraid to insert herself into this music even as she seeks to celebrate others, and her technique is formidable. A better introduction to this wide body of work is not easily found"
Andrew Druckenbrod, Gramophone - April 2010
"There’s power and passion aplenty in Martha Marchena’s recital of Latin American piano music, but that’s only part of what makes her artistry so satisfying. In the end, I’d say it’s her deep involvement with each work and her knack for finding and re-creating its essence that establish her as the formidable pianist she is. Her dynamic subtleties, rhythmic drive, and fluid transitions between contrasting episodes, along with her wide variety of touch and color, all components of pianistic mastery, can be summed up in one word: musicianship. Her program ranges from music that bears a slight resemblance to Ginastera to pieces written under the 12-tone banner, and Marchena brings them all vividly to life... All told, the composers of this fascinatingly varied program have an ideal interpreter in Marchena, and I’d like very much to hear more of her persuasive pianism. Recommended to anyone interested in hearing superlatively played contemporary Latin American piano music".
Robert Schulslaper, Fanfare - May/June 2010
"This is piano music from all over Latin America written in this new century... Every work here is in a post-modern vein with very few romantic flourishes. One gets a glimpse of regional dance motifs in Carlos Alberto Vazquez’s Rapsodia Acquamarina (1999), but these soon change into a lyricism that one might recognize as particularly Puerto Rican—or Caribbean. That holds true for every work here: they are modern but not particularly cranky or academically oblique... Some of it, indeed, is quite meditative, as in Book Before Breakfast by German Caceres (b 1954). This would be a fine addition to anyone’s library of early 21st Century piano works from Latin America.
American Record Guide - January / February 2010
MARTHA MARCHENA, internationally acclaimed Cuban-American pianist, once again gives the world at large the present of her artistry at the service of Latin American art music composers. When others make their mark interpreting and recording works by the European master composers of the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries—with some excursions into the first four decades of the twentieth—, Marchena has almost exclusively devoted her life to interpreting and recording on discs dozen after dozen of piano works from Mexico, Central America, the Caríbbean and South America. Such a task has become by now a noble crusade to preserve and bring to the attention of the world music long neglected, belonging to a part of Western Culture mostly ignored by the axis USA-Europe. This powerful and peculiar axis—which knows how many bells hang in a given Cambodian temple, how many types of Buddhist chants exist, or how many elephants were kept in the preserves of the Maharajah of Kaipur in 1752—rarely has paid attention to the splendidly varied and rich arts from “South of the Rio Grande”, except in their folkloric, commercial or popular culture aspects. So, when Martha Marchena plays art music works from Cuban Juan Piñera, Panamanian Roque Cordero, Salvadorian Germán Cáceres, Mexican Mario Lavista or Puerto Rican Carlos Vázquez, she brings to life compositions by masters of the New World who do not have to apologize for their musical creativity.

In this, her most recent recording of Latin American piano works, Marchena brings forth, once more, her impeccable technique, her deep commitment to the works she interprets, her exquisite sound—so close to many of the demands of this music—, her vigorous and thorough understanding of the rhythmic vitality of these compositions, and her never erring delivery of the structure and inner workings of this invigorating music.

Marchena has selected for this recording a series of works which go in time from the Toccata of Aurelio de la Vega, written in 1957, to the Rapsodia Acquamarina of Carlos Alberto Vázquez, of 1999, or the two short pieces of Juan Piñera (from his Book before Breakfast), also written in this same year. These compositions reflect many of the styles, procedures and gestures that informed the music of the Twentieth Century, underlined here and there by melo-rhythmic figures derived from the diverse and opulent panoply of Latin American folk and popular music. Nationalistic touches are evident in certain of the works; in others they are very subtle and diluted or not present at all. In general, all the compositions reveal a vigorous, motoric discourse, which makes the music communicative, direct and appealing.

Throughout the history of music some individual composers (Beethoven, Wagner, Debussy, Schoenberg, as examples) realized single-handedly the incredible feat of totally changing the stylistic direction of music. At other moments, a group of composers redefines a vocabulary somewhat in use (the German Baroque composers, the early European romantics, the trinity have made their presence felt by simply refining a given lexicon (Bach, Handel, Mozart, Schubert, Tchaikovsky, Ravel, Hindemith, Prokofiev). None of the works played by Marchena in this recording breaks new ground or changes the course of music. Rather, they represent different aspects of how a given music language can be enriched by the personal expressions of each of the composers represented in this disc. With different idiosyncrasies, these composers offer solid works which go from rigidly structured ones to rhapsodic free-form examples. In many cases, the exploration of timbric elements form the core of the piece. Always, however, this collection of compositions represents a fresh approach to older formulas. Some of the works are utterly pianistic, adding brilliance to the conceptual elements; others weigh heavily in the direction of a fascinating treatment of the harmonic process. The listener will travel many roads and be rewarded by the variety of the musical tapestry, thus expanding his or her musical journey with short side trips to Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and the Northern part of South America, courtesy of Martha Marchena. As a passing thought, it is important to know that many Latin American composers have expressed, privately and publicly, their admiration for her playing and for her role as constant crusader for their music. Two, in fact (Puerto Rican Carlos Vázquez and Cuban Juan Piñera), have written for her the respective works which appear in this recording, and a third, Santo Domingo’s Licinio Mancebo, has also composed a work for Marchena. Two more (Puerto Rican Rafael Aponte Ledée and Salvadorian Germán Cáceres) are in the process of writing works for Ms. Marchena.

As the great Cuban poet José Martí once said: “To honor, honors”.

*     *     *

MARTHA MARCHENA gained recognition early in her career for her command of the instrument and artistic insight. Before immigrating to the United States in 1979, Marchena was one of Cuba’s most promising pianists, with appearances scheduled in Moscow and Berlin. She graduated with honors from the University of Miami’s doctoral program, where she wrote her dissertation on the piano works of Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos.

A versatile artist, she has performed as a soloist with orchestras and chamber music ensembles all over Europe and North and South America, including prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall and the Teresa Carreño Theater in Venezuela. Noted for the originality of her programming, critics have praised the intensity of her interpretations as well as the emotional impact she brings to audiences. David M. Greene, historian and critic, has hailed her playing as “exquisite and breathtaking,” remarking on her impressive capability to understand the pieces and bring to life their great emotional range.

She has gained recognition for her ambitious and refreshing repertoire in contemporary music and her expertise in Latin American music. She brings to the forefront many of the lost and underrepresented composers of her heritage, and her recent repertoire uniquely incorporates the music of many contemporary Latin and South American female composers. In addition, Marchena has kept a high academic profile as a Professor in the Music Department of Kean University, Union, NJ. She has participated in many residencies, giving master classes, lecturing and performing recitals internationally, bridging Latin and South American music and women studies. A recipient of numerous awards, Marchena twice received grants by the Funds for US Art for the International Festivals and Exhibitions funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. In addition to maintaining a rigorous performing schedule, Marchena judges major international piano competitions and currently serves as a judge on the Fulbright National Piano Committee.

In 2001, she was the recipient of the Hispanic Caucus Latino Cultural Arts Award from the American Association for Higher Education. In may 2002 she was invited by the (SGAE) General Society of Authors, Composers and Publishers of Spain to offer a recital of contemporary Spanish and Latin-American composers at the prestigious Artistic Culture Society of São Paulo (Brazil), as a prelude to the presentation of the international jury of the IV “Tomã¡s Luis de Victoria” prize of the SAGE, created to celebrate the creative trajectory of the classical contemporary composers of Spain, Portugal and Latin-America. This competition is sponsored by the King of Spain. Marchena’s recording debut, “Sonoric Rituals, Twentieth-Century Latin American Piano Music,” has been highly acclaimed worldwide, received a special honor in the Vienna Modern Masters Recording Competition in Austria, and was recommended for a Grammy Award in 1998. Marchena followed up with a recording of traditional Latin American piano music entitled “Cancion sin Palabras” (Song Without Words), and, most recently, with “The  Complete Piano Works of Aurelio de la Vega,” both released by MSR. The present recording ?Casi una Pregunta?Casi una Respuesta? (Almost a Question?Almost an Answer) resulted from an invitation to record piano music for the Spanish National Radio by Carlos Cruz de Castro, Programming Director of Radio Clasica for Radio Nacional de Espan.


Aurelio DE LA VEGA (b.1925) Cuba
Toccata (1957)

Marcela RODRÍGUEZ (b.1951) Mexico
Como el agua en el agua (“Like the water in the water”) (1985)

Carlos VÁZQUEZ (b.1952) Puerto Rico
Rapsodia Acquamarina (1999)
Alba POTES Colombia
Tres Piezas Breves para Piano (“Three Short Pieces for Piano”) (1991-1997)
I. Breve
II. Calmato; Agitato
III. Enérgico

Germán CÁCERES (b.1954) El Salvador
Lacónicas (“Laconics”) (1993)
I. Moderato
II. Lento
III. Presto
IV. Grave
V. Andante
VI. Majestuoso
VII. Misterioso
VIII. Allegro

Juan PIÑERA (b.1949) Cuba
Del Libro Antes del Desayuno (“Book Before Breakfast”) (1999)
Casi una Pregunta (for the Left Hand)
Casi una Respuesta (for the Right Hand)

Mario LAVISTA (b.1943) Mexico
Simurg (1980)

Roque CORDERO (1917-2008) Panamá
Cinco Preludios Nuevos (“Five New Preludes”) (1982-1983)
I. Libero – Largo – Allegro
II. Lento
III. Allegro scherzando
IV. Molto lento
V. Presto

MSR Classics
A Tribute to the Piano Music of Heitor MARTHA MARCHENA

Traditional Latin American MARTHA MARCHENA