Odisea: Concerto for Venezuelan Cuatro and Orchestra (world premiere, LA Phil commission with generous support from the Esa-Pekka Salonen Commissions Fund)
About this Piece
Program notes by composer Gonzalo Grau
I have always been fascinated by folkloric roots. In any culture and through centuries, composers of all eras have been influenced by their own folklore. From baroque suites to entire works by romantic and modern composers, the connection to traditional sounds has always been one of the greatest sources for inspiration. This “Odisea” (odyssey) for Venezuelan cuatro and orchestra is a direct connection to my Venezuelan roots and sounds.
It is a one-movement concerto that portraits an imaginary travel from the eastern coasts of Venezuela to western-central traditions. I personally imagined our soloist “Jorge Glem” leaving his born-place of Cumaná to encounter our conductor “Gustavo Dudamel” in his home-town of Barquisimeto. Throughout the entire concerto, you will hear the “golpe drum” on a distance getting closer and closer as the odyssey progresses.
Of course, any trip needs “stops”. In Venezuela we have famous “encrucijadas” (cross-road-points), where street sounds, vendors, arepas and perhaps a bit of chaos and uncertainty become also part of our adventure. As this journey happens, you will feel the nostalgic of the one who leaves, the emotions of “the novelty”, the warmth of the arrival, the welcoming and celebration, and the merging and embracing of new traditions. The sounds of the Malagueña, the Jota and Polo from the east, encounter African roots of the coasts of Barlovento, and the odd and uniqueness of the Merengue from Caracas (inspired by Ravel’s Bolero) travel to the richness of the Golpe Larense.
In all Latin-American culture, it is common to travel short distances and find complete different traditions. I grew up wondering what makes “the cuatro” Venezuela’s “national musical-instrument”, and as I was composing this concerto, I also got the answer to this question. Our cuatro travels from coast to coast, from tradition to tradition; it changes accents, it blends and accompanies every single song. It proudly represents us from coast to coast.
Last but not least, after I finished writing it, I felt I wanted to dedicate it to “my house”. In Venezuela, we give actual “names” to our houses. Mine is named “Pepelito”, which was also my mother’s nick name when she was little. To my house, to the place that saw me grow and to my dear mom “Pepelito”… Odisea.