Sunday, October 21, 2018

Christian Baldini in Conversation with Marta Lambertini

While I am getting ready to conduct the world premiere of Marta Lambertini's Angel apasionado II in Sacramento, California, I have the pleasure of asking Marta some important questions about her music. Here is the transcript from our interview (in English first, and then the original, in Spanish.) [para la entrevista original, completa, en castellano, vea más abajo]

Christian Baldini: Your music always has some kind of mystery around it. It is really like poetry painted somewhere in the music. The Angel apasionado II has much of this mystery, with sections seeming to be building into a climax, to suddenly turn a corner and go somewhere else. What can you tell us about that?

Marta Lambertini: I think you are right. In the case of Angel apasionado II I try to represent Mozart's mystery, and that is why these depths that stem from his string quartet "The Hunt" are always latent, but they never quite become evident fully. I try to show them, and to "unbury" these depths from the quartet, which in its surface shows a kind and gentle character. Measure 45 represents the 2nd part of the theme, revealed in all its dramatic strength. That is why this section must be performed in the softest possible way, as if it was coming from a different place, in which more than hearing it, you must guess it! So I wrote ppp (triple pianissimo), and I thought it would be too exaggerated to use more then 3 ppp, but if it was up to me, it could have thousands. I like for music to be guessed more then listened to.

CB: You have written many operas, and one could say you are a composer with a great dramatic streak, but also with a kind of sense of humor very few times seen in the musical environment. How would you describe your relationship with humor in your own works?

ML: Well, this is a difficult question. I consider myself a person with a good sense of humor. It is a feature that all of us in my family share: cousins, uncles, nephews, etc. It is kind of a defensive sensitivity, if you will. I think that it undoubtedly translates into music. But hold on, it is not the kind of humor that makes fun of just anything, sometimes in order to keep your sense of humor you must have a very serious face. I would define it with a more just word: absurdity. That is why I love Lewis Carroll, and my Alicias (Alices). The fact of maintaining a serious discussion on linguistics with an egg that seems to know a lot on the subject, or with a very philosophical caterpillar, completely exceeds every expectation about the absurd. In this place I choose to live.

CB: What is more important to you, opera or symphonic music? It is a difficult question. Perhaps there is no order of preference, but rather possibly priorities, or desires at different times in life.

ML: It is exactly like you say, just a matter of priorities. Or opportunities. There are themes or topics that lend themselves to a lyrical development, to a theatrical representation. There are also steps in-between, like musical theatre, which is very suitable to the chamber music genre. I name my works. There are other composers who are more austere or which have a narrower reach than me, and they call their works sonata, symphony, prelude. Instead, I like to give them an original name: it is a gift that I give the listeners, to give them a slight inkling, an idea about the content of what they are about to listen to. When you don't have a libretto, but just an idea, you write symphonic music. In my case, works like "Galileo descubre las cuatro lunas de Júpiter" (Galileo discovers Jupiter's four moons) or "Antígona", represent more than just an idea about the character. There is no narrative, but just ideas. I don't have preferences, but needs.

CB: Which are your favorite composers? And what would you recommend to people who might say that they don't like contemporary music (and who possibly have not listened to much of it)?

ML: Obviously Mozart. He is at the top of the peak. But he's not the only one. From past centuries I could mention so many composers that they would not fit here. And from this century I am still filtering. Nonetheless, the most contemporary one remains Mozart. With regards to the second question, I would tell people to try to come closer slowly, to assimilate gradually the multiple languages that we are using. I always say that one is what one eats, and if they eat a little bit more contemporary dessert, they will look a bit chubbier and prettier. Obviously, people prefer music that is well known, they always want the same tale, like children that go to sleep and ask their mom or dad to read them for the 11th time "Cinderella", and if daddy says that he would like to read a new tale that he just bought, the child will still want "Cinderella." That is the moment when the father needs to seduce the child to incorporate in their imagination a brand new tale. Old shoes are always more comfortable even if the newer ones are catchier to the eye.

CB: I thank you so very much for your time and for sharing your knowledge and so many experiences with is. I am very excited to present your beautiful music in Sacramento, and to share it with our audiences!

ML: And I am very proud that it will be you who will be conducting it for the first time.

Marta Lambertini
Marta Lambertini was born in San Isidro (Buenos Aires, Argentina). She studied composition in the School of Music of the Catholic University of Argentina with Luis Gianneo, Roberto Caamaño and Gerardo Gandini.She taught at the National University of La Plata, National Conservatory of Argentina, School of Fine Arts in Quilmes, and the School of Music of the Catholic University of Argentina, where she also served as Dean and Full Professor.She is a member of the National Academy of Fine Arts. She has received multiple prizes, including the 1st Prize in the National Music Award, the City of Buenos Aires Music Prize, Career Prize APA in 1972 and 1975, and the Konex Award (1999).She has been a jury member in international composition competitions in Brazil and Argentina.She is the author of the book "Gerardo Gandini, music fiction". She was nominated for Opera Theatres of the World for her opera "Cinderella", and for the Clarín Award as the most important figure in classical music.Her output includes diverse instrumental and vocal genres. Her operas "Alice in Wonderland" (1989), "S.M.R. Bach" (1990), "Hildegard" (2002), "Cinderella" (2006) and multiple symphonic and chamber works are worth mentioning. 

[the original interview in Spanish follows]


Christian Baldini: Tu música siempre tiene algo de misterio. Es realmente como poesía pintada en la música. El Angel apasionado II tiene mucho de este misterio, de secciones que parecen construir un climax y luego van hacia otro lado. Que nos podes decir al respecto? 

Marta Lambertini: Creo que tenés razón. En el caso de Ángel apasionado II  trato de representar el misterio Mozart, por eso surgen esas profundidades que están latentes en el cuarteto La caza, pero que no se manifiestan. Trato de mostrarlas, de desenterrarlas de las profundidades del cuarteto, que en su superficie muestra un carácter amable. El compás 45 representa la 2ª parte del tema, revelada en todo su dramatismo. Por eso debe tocarse todo ese segmento de la forma más piano posible, casi como si fuera algo que viene de otro lugar, remoto, que más que oírse se adivina¡ppppp! ahí puse ppp, me pareció una exageración gráfica ponerle más de tres, pero por mí podría tener miles. Me encanta la idea de que la música se adivine, más que escucharse.

CB: Has escrito varias operas, uno podría decir que sos una compositora con una gran veta dramática, pero también con un sentido del humor poca veces visto en el ambiente musical. Como describirías tu relación con la humorada dentro de tus obras?

ML: Bueno, difícil pregunta. Me considero una persona con sentido del humor. Es un rasgo que tenemos todos sin excepción en mi familia: primos, tíos, sobrinos etc. Es un tipo de sensibilidad defensiva, si se quiere. Creo que inevitablemente se traslada a la música. Pero ojo, no es un humor que se ríe de cualquier cosa, a veces para conservar el sentido del humor hay que poner la cara muy seria. Yo te lo definiría con otra palabra más justa: absurdo. De ahí mi amor por Lewis Carroll, mis Alicias. El hecho de poder mantener una seria discusión sobre lingüística con un huevo que parece saber mucho del tema, o con una muy filosófica oruga, rebasa toda expectativa sobre el absurdo. En ese lugar elijo vivir.

CB: Que te resulta mas importante, la opera o la música sinfónica? Es una pregunta difícil. Tal vez no haya un orden de preferencia, pero posiblemente prioridades, o deseos en distintos momentos de la vida.

ML: Tal como decís, a veces es cuestión de prioridades. O de oportunidades. Hay temas que se prestan a un desarrollo lírico, a una representación teatral. Hay también pasos intermedios, como el teatro musical, que se presta más bien al género de cámara. Yo le pongo nombre a las obras. Hay otros compositores más sobrios y menos desparramados que yo, que llaman a sus obras sonata, sinfonía, preludio. a mí en cambio me gusta ponerles nombre: es un regalo que se le hace al oyente para darle un atisbo mínimo, una orientación sobre el contenido de lo que van a escuchar. Cuando no tenés un libreto, sino solamente una idea, hacés música sinfónica. En mi caso, obras como Galileo Descubre las cuatro lunas de Júpiter o Antígona, representan más que nada una idea sobre el personaje, no hay ningún relato, solo ideas. No tengo preferencias, sino necesidades.

CB: Cuales son tus compositores preferidos? Y que le recomenderías a la gente que dice que no le gusta la música contemporánea (y que posiblemente no ha escuchado mucha)?

ML: Obviamente, Mozart. Está en la cima. Pero no es el único, de los de siglos pasados puedo mencionar tantos que no cabrían aquí. Y de este siglo estoy filtrando todavía. Igual el más contemporáneo sigue siendo Mozart. Con respecto a la segunda pregunta, le diría a la gente que trate de acercarse lentamente para asimilar poco a poco los múltiples lenguajes que estamos usando. Siempre les digo que uno es lo que come, y si comen un poquito más de postre contemporáneo, van a estar más gorditos y más lindos. Claro, la gente prefiere la música más conocida, quiere siempre el mismo cuento, como los chicos que se van a dormir y le piden al papá o a la mamá que le lean por enésima vez La Cenicienta, y si el papá le dice que tiene uno nuevo que le acaba de comprar, el chico sigue prefiriendo La Cenicienta. Ahí es donde papá necesita seducir al chico para que incorpore en su imaginario un cuentito nuevo. Siempre son más cómodos los zapatos viejos aunque los nuevos sean más vistosos.

CB: Te agradezco muchísimo por tu tiempo y por compartir tu sabiduría y tantas experiencias con nosotros. Estoy ansioso por presentar tu hermosa música en Sacramento y compartirla con nuestro publico.

ML: Y yo muy orgullosa de que seas vos quien por primera vez la dirige.

Christian Baldini conducting the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra
Christian Baldini has conducted opera for English National Opera, Teatro Colón (Buenos Aires), Aldeburgh Festival, and as Music Director of the Mondavi Center's Rising Stars of Opera, in collaboration with the San Francisco Opera. He has been a guest conductor of important orchestras such as the San Francisco Symphony, Munich Radio Orchestra, Orchestra Sinfónica do Porto (Casa de Música), Buenos Aires Philharmonic, Chilean Chamber Orchestra, among others. His CD recording "Mozart: Arias and Overtures" conducting the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and soprano Elizabeth Watts gathered multiple accolades such as the BBC Classical Music Magazine Recording of the Month, Classic FM CD of the Week, and 5- and 4-star reviews from the specialized media including Gramophone, Sinfini, The Guardian, etc. He's the Barbara K. Jackson Professor of Orchestral Conducting at the University of California, Davis, and the Music Director of the Camellia Symphony Orchestra. He is also a published composer, and his works have been performed all over the world by the Daegu Chamber Orchestra (South Korea), Memphis Syphony Orchestra, Orchestre National de Lorraine (France), New York New Music Ensemble, Munich Radio Orchestra, etc. He is fortunate to count Marta Lambertini as one of his main composition teachers. 

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