Jorge Morel (1931-2021)
1. Olga - I. Cancion
2. Olga - II. Fughetta
3. Olga - III. Giga
5. Danza Brasileira
6. Danza in E minor
Juan Falu (1948-)
7. Como el aire
Maria Luisa Anido (1907-1996)
8. Aire Norteno
Ariel Ramirez (1921-2010)
9. Balada pera Martin Fiero
Maria Luisa Anido (1907-1996)
10. Cancion de Cuna
11. Cuando se dice adios
(Arrangement: Juan Falu, dedicated to Raphaella Smits)
Jose Luis Merlin
12. Suite del Recuerdo - I. Evocacion
13. Suite del Recuerdo - II. Zamba
14. Suite del Recuerdo - III. Chacarera
15. Suite del Recuerdo - IV. Carnavalito
16. Suite del Recuerdo - V. Evocacion & VI. Joropo
title: CHE ARGENTINA
composers: Jorge Morel, Maria Luiza Anido, Ariel Ramirez, Juan Falu, Eduardo Falu and Jose Luis Merlin
instrument: John Gilbert 8-string guitar, 1980, restored and fine-tuned by luthier Philippe Mottet-Rio
label: Soundset Recordings
catalogue number: SR1138
recording: at the Rockaway Studios, Castellon de la Plana, Spain, November 2022
producer and engineer: Javier Salvador Martin, JSM Guitar Records
cover photo: Raphaella on het way to a perfromance, by Tony Maeckelberghe.
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WHAT OTHER PEOPLE SAY
Jorge Cardoso, composer, Argentina:
"Although I have often written about your extraordinary talent as a performer as well as your magnificent technique, what I admire most is your sensitivity. All this, and particularly this last characteristic, make both your concerts and your recordings be impregnated with an emotion that only you can imprint on any of the genres you have interpreted throughout your career, and which are omnipresent in your latest album.
What a pity that Jorge Morel, Maria Luisa Anido, Eduardo Falu and Ariel Ramirez cannot enjoy it, but if there is life beyond death, they will surely be very happy to listen to you. Thank you for having dedicated this work entirely to Argentine composers.
The word "che", of Valencian origin, means something like "hey" in the Spanish spoken in Spain. On the other hand, in Guarani, a language also spoken in Misiones, it does mean "my".
Chamiga (che/my friend) Raphaela, congratulations for your new album with which I hope and wish that you will have many recognitions and that this beautiful repertoire will give you a lot of pleasure when you play it in your concerts. You deserve it!"
Jose Luis Merlin, composer, Spain:
"Raphaella, your version of my Suite del recuerdo is one of the best I have heard and perhaps the most original. The embellishments you have added to the melodies are wonderful and some of them I will steal from you to incorporate into my performances.
Aesthetically, you have a very wide emotional register, which makes it very pleasant to listen to you as you take the listener through well-realized emotional turns. I'm very happy with what you've brought to my suite. And I am one of those composers who believe that the work only ends with the performance, that the score is only a guide and that we composers are not the absolute owners of the idea (this is especially true in folk music where the compositional building blocks correspond to a shared language in which small elements previously invented by others are integrated and combined). The music should live and not be frozen in the score. And you achieve this with elegance.
I hope one day we will meet in person."
Juan Falu, composer, Argentina:
"Raphaella is an exceptionally talented guitarist, who deeply lives music as a miracle of life. Through music she was able to know and understand the cultures of the world.
As an Argentine, I feel that Raphaella honors our national music. And as a composer, it is very pleasing to listen to one's own music, coming from Raphaella's heart."
Philippe Mottet-Rio, luthier, Switserland:
"What intense poetry, always renewed...
This is another record that requires you to sit still and listen to it, and I think that this inexplicable depth of communication owes a lot to the guitar's tone, for example to its frankness of melodic expression.
It also seems to me that you have chosen today - for example in Danza Brasileira - an even more defined, classicising articulation, which I like very much, as an ennoblement of this music.
This is striking in this Ayre Norteno set on the guitar by the one you call Mimita: the melody, so fine, with a timbre that is also a little silvery, detached from the tumult of the brushed chords, renders a fresco whose colours are not simply vivid, but rich in soft pastels that are a little bitter.
I find this very accurate, and like a universal reading of music born of typical folklore. I believe that this is your unique talent."
Laurent Duroselle, Guitare Classique Magazine, France:
"Raphaella Smits is one of those guitarists whose recordings are always enjoyable. Her new album, "Che Argentina", entirely devoted to the music of Argentina, is no exception. A well-constructed program in which more well-known pieces (Danza Brasilera by Jorge Morel, Aire Norteno by Maria-Luisa Anido) guide us through a repertoire that deserves to be discovered. The disc opens with Jorge Morel's Olga suite, whose interpretation by the Belgian guitarist is a delight, with a warm sound that suits this music perfectly. And what can we say about the beautiful and little known Balada para Martin Fierro by Ariel Ramirez, which Raphaella Smits' playing, all in restraint and delicacy, envelops with its warmth? As for Juan Falu, he clearly perceived this perfect understanding of the music of his country by our guitarist, and dedicated to him a transcription of the beautiful song Cuando se dice adios by his uncle Eduardo. Thus, Morel's music rubs shoulders with that of Falu (Juan and Eduardo), Anido, Ramirez, before Jose Luis Merlin's Suite de Recuerdo closes this marvelous journey."
Jorge Orozco, guitarist, Spain:
"A real marvel, a must for all guitar lovers. It goes straight to the heart from the first note to the end. A gift for the senses.... Recorded at Rockaway Studios in Castellon de la Plana with the indisputable seal of guarantee of the producer and engineer Javier Salvador."
Danielle Ribouillaut, musicologue, France:
"Raphaella Smits enchants us again here: luminous sensibility in an absolute mastery... only happiness! Yes, and it is magnificent!"
Nick Peros, Phoenix Classical, USA:
"It's a great span of works, many of these works I have not heard before, and they are all beautiful - the Morel Suite is superb, and the final Danza in E Minor really stands out, the Merlin is brilliant, esp. the great rhythmic vitality. All the works are great, it's an innovative program and it all has a perfectly natural flow; your performance is excellent, great technique throughout, a poetic sense of phrasing, as well as dynamics & tempo, overall beautifully expressive, and a warm, round tone to the guitar - very well done & great to listen to."
Giancarlo Dipierro, classical guitarist, Italy:
"The cover, with its albiceleste coloring, already is a little gem to the eyes. And like all Pandora's boxes, it hides yet another treasure.
Mrs Smits gives yet another little gem, with an unusual repertoire dedicated to Argentina. From the first note of the beautiful suite by Morel (a composer often neglected in these latitudes), one can feel the performer's sense of gratitude towards a land that those who have known it will remember until the last moment of their lives.
A poignant CD with a recording quality of the sound made by the book. Thank you, Mrs Raphaella Smits, your music is like a World Heritage Site!"
FOR YOUR INFORMATION
Raphaella about Che Argentina:
"Since the 1980s I have been a regular guest in Argentina to play concerts. Twelve tours brought me to all corners of the country, on stages large and small, literally from Buenos Aires - el "Capital Federal Principal" - to Ushuaia on Tierra del Fuego, adjacent to Antarctica. In just about every province of Argentina, people came to know my art and I came to know this beautiful corner of the world.
All aspects of Argentina are fascinating: the nature, the architectural beauty, but above all the people and their exceptional musical culture. It is a country where music is part of everyday life, and where especially the guitar is always and everywhere present.
In this inspiring environment, I met extraordinary artists again and again: poets, musicians, and composers. My new program entitled Che Argentina (My Argentina) is a reflection of that privilege, and is filled with haunting music, both for me and for the listener."
I wish to dedicate this recording in memory to my dear friend Janet D'Addario.
About the composers:
Jorge Morel (1931-2021)
Jorge Morel was an exceptionally talented guitarist from Argentina who played a major role in the development of the repertoire for classical guitar, both as a performer and as a composer. He studied with Pablo Escobar in Buenos Aires and moved to the United States early in his career. When not playing classical recitals, you could find him at a New York jazz club, The Village Gate, sharing the stage with Dizzy Gillespie, Erroll Garner and even country guitarist Chet Atkins. These various collaborations show that Jorge Morel had broad musical tastes, and this is reflected in his compositions.
As Morel says himself: "Yes, of course I want to be considered an Argentinean composer, but what I did unconsciously, was to forget about the formal structure of that Argentinean folklore music and concentrate instead on the rhythmic patterns of a particular dance. And mixed with my heritage from Argentina is my interest in jazz. I have absorbed so much of the music of the great American composers - Gershwin and Ellington, among others - that all of a sudden in the middle of one of my compositions some blues might appear. And it does belong to the piece because that's me, that's the way I feel it."
Suite for Olga consists of three movements and is dedicated to his wife Olga Alvarez. In the opening movement, Cancion, we hear a kind of song without words, simple and melancholic. For the second and third movements, Fughetta and Giga, the composer harks back to typical elements and compositions of Baroque music, such as J.S. Bach's orchestral suites. The fughetta is a serious but concise composition, while the gigue is an all-dancing joie de vivre, a fitting tribute to Olga, who was a dancer.
Raphaella Smits who herself lost her heart in Latin America chooses more works by Morel that embody both Romantic lyricism and dance-like energy, such as his Danza in E Minor.
The Romance was written in 1976 for a Hollywood film, but they never made the movie, and Jorge decided to write it for solo guitar. In Danza Brasilera, the spirited rhythms are particularly striking. Although it is a solo composition, with some imagination you can hear a subtle rhythm section chiming in.
Juan Falu (1948) and Eduardo Falu (1923-2013)
Juan Falu and his uncle, Eduardo Falu, faced social injustices in their own way. During the so-called Guerra Sucia (Dirty War) in which he lost his brother, Juan was even exiled because of his leftist ideology. In 22 June 2007, the newspaper La Gaceta published an article about the Falu family, entitled "Una familia signada por el drama" (A family destined for drama).
Como el aire by Juan Falu is in terms of genre, a zamba, a traditional Argentine folk dance that, to be clear, has nothing to do with the samba. The zamba is a very elegant dance having six beats to the bar, in which a couple moves around each other waving handkerchiefs. Falu's music retains the stately nature of the original dance while being musically enriched with beautiful chords and overtones. Juan also arranged his uncle's song Cuando se dice adios, and did so especially for Raphaella Smits. He made an instrumental version of this song about farewell and loneliness.
Juan Falu is a reference of Argentine music. By reinterpreting and improvising on the repertoire, as well as composing new pieces, Juan Falu makes all the Argentine folklore live, dance, and sing on his guitar!
He received numerous awards for his unparalleled career as a performer, composer, festival organizer and policy maker. In addition, he created at the Universidad Nacional de San Martin, the Bachelor's Degree in Argentine Music and the Folk Music Career.
Eduardo Falu became one of the most popular musicians known far and wide for his poetic texts and his own voice full of color and expression, playing himself the guitar-accompagnement.
Maria Luisa Anido (1907-1996)
Maria Luisa Anido, "Mimita", as we all called her, was an extraordinary pedagogue, an exceptional guitarist - the best, the "Great Lady of the Guitar" - and a prolific composer. She figures in the history of the guitar occupying one of the places reserved only for the great among the great. She was the link between the past of the Spanish school - represented by Tarrega, Llobet and Prat - and the second half of the twentieth century. She developed her career at a time when it was frowned upon for a woman to make the guitar a profession. With a progressive disposition, more by intuition and humanism than by ideology, she should also be taken into account when listing the most outstanding figures among the forerunners of the demand for women's rights in music.
Mimita was humble, noble, supportive, without the slightest hint of envy or rancor, endowed with an enviable humor and a health that was doctor- and apothecary-proof. She reached the blessed age of 89 years.
Anido incorporated various Argentine folk music techniques into her playing and compositions, such as mixed time signatures (3/4 time in the bass and 6/8 time in the melody). This rousing style can be heard in her composition Aire Norteno, inspired by an Argentine festival dance form, the bailecito.
In the 1950s, she published many compositions and suites, including Cancion de Cuna. Each of these compositions contains a variety of rhythmic influences, ornaments for the left hand and demanding techniques for the right hand, such as pizzicato.
Ariel Ramirez (1921-2010)
Arie Ramirez was a compatriot, a decade older than Jorge Morel. Unlike Morel's, his music remained firmly rooted in popular culture, the best-known example being his Misa Criolla, which immediately implemented the use of the vernacular in the liturgy after the Second Vatican Council made this possible.
Much less known is his Balada para Martin Fierro. Martin Fierro was an Argentine 'gaucho', a cattle herder immortalised in Jose Hernandez's epic poem of the same name in 1872, and in several films of the XX century. He worked in the province of La Pampa and was a happily married family man until he was called to war against the Indians in a remote outpost. After his service, Martin was forced to continue working on the camp commander's farm. He escaped and returned home, to find his family gone and his home destroyed. Fierro turned against the regime and would fight social injustices in his country for the rest of his life.
Jose Luis Merlin (1952- )
Jose Luis Merlin is a gifted Argentinian guitarist and composer.
Suite del Recuerdo a Atahualpa Yupanqui is a six-movement musical homage to his native land. A singing Evocacion presents the thematic material, a reminiscence of an estilo, a musical form characteristic of the Pampas (low grasslands), and its welcome reappearance as the fifth movement of the suite is an unusual but effective device. Zamba is a dance from the mountainous north-western region of Argentina, related to both the Chilean cueca and the Peruvian marinera; it is typically danced by a man and a woman in a sort of narrative of courtship. The Chacarera, related to the popular dance "el gato", originated in the province of Santiago del Estero but can be heard in regional variants throughout Argentina. Carnavalito is another dance from the northwest, originating (as its name indicates) in the pre-Lenten festival of Carnival. Merlin's Joropo (a characteristic dance from Venezuela which somewhat resembles the marinera) begins with a mournful introduction evocative of the wooden flutes of the Andes, in striking contrast to the vivacious dance that follows.
With special thanks to Jorge Cardoso, Richard Long and Klaas Coulembier for their valuable input.