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Ezequiel Barrera, Composer-Pianist
October 4, 2022
Ezequiel Barrera, Composer-Pianist

Heitor Villa-Lobos: Impressões Seresteiras (Impressions of a Serenade)

Manuel Ponce-Barrera: Balada Mexicana (Mexican Ballade)

Johannes Brahms: Variations on a Theme by Paganini  Op. 35, Book I

Ezequiel Barrera: Selections from “Nodoka”: Twelve Little Concert Etudes

Ezequiel Barrera: Canción (Song) from Miniatures in B Minor

Ezequiel Barrera:  Presto from Sonata No. 1

Ezequiel Barrera (b. 1981) was born in Mexico City to the Gimeno-Barrera guitar duo who discovered his musical abilities and guided his musical training starting at age 5 (guitar) and age 7 (piano).  His main mentors were the eminent pianist José Antonio Morales (Mexico City) and the famous piano pedagogue Marietta Orlov (Toronto).  In September 2005, Barrera graduated from the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto.  In that same year, he became interested in composition after an encounter with Canadian Composer Alexander Rapoport.  Among his most characteristic compositions are seven notebooks of a collection entitled Miniaturas, Sonata No. 1 “Mexicana”, 32 Variations on a theme by Paganini, and the  Fantasía Mexicana for piano duet.  His Fantasía Irini was a finalist in the  Diabelli International Composition Competition 2014-2015 (Germany). He has performed extensively to critical acclaim in diverse venues around the world including the USA, Canada, Mexico, Central America, Chile, and Germany.  He has also appeared as a soloist with diverse orchestras.

Currently, Mr. Barrera has 5 recordings that can be found on Spotify, Amazon, iTunes, and other sources.  http://www.ezequielbarrera.com/

PROGRAM NOTES

Impressões Seresteiras (Impressions of a Serenade) by Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959)

Villa-Lobos was a composer, cellist, and classical guitarist.  As the cornerstone of Brazilian musical nationalism, he understood the folklore of his country in sentimental terms. By combining Brazilian feeling and Western European compositional techniques, Villa-Lobos manages to create a unique atmosphere in his music. His work Impressões Seresteiras is a good example of this.

Balada Mexicana (Mexican Ballade) by Manuel Ponce (1882-1948)

Manuel Ponce was active in the 20th century as a composer, music educator, and scholar of Mexican music mostly of popular songs and folklore.  Ponce as the greatest representative of Mexican musical nationalism, noted that we had to dress our music in concert costume. His famous Mexican Ballad is the most representative example of this idea. The story, based on the picaresque song “El Durazno” and the lovely song “Acuérdate de mí,” demonstrates how the voice of Mexican folklore can become concert music.

Variations on a Theme of Paganini Op. 35, Book I by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

This work, based on Paganini’s Caprice 24, is well known for its emotional depth and technical challenges.  Each variation has the characteristics of a study (etude) and for many is one of the most difficult works in piano literature. Critic James Huneker said: “These diabolical variations, the last word in the technical literature of the piano, are also vast spiritual problems. To play them you need steel fingers, a heart of burning lava, and the courage of a lion.” Clara Schumann (Brahms’ muse) called it Hexenvariationen (Witch’s Variations) because of its difficulty.

Nodoka: Twelve Little Concert Etudes (selections) by Ezequiel Barrera (1981-     )

This work consists of little pieces designed for the enjoyment and musical edification of children. As etudes, the objective is to explore and strengthen some aspects of piano technique. There are twelve, in homage to the Twelve Etudes op. 10 by Chopin.  The “little” in the title refers to the Little Preludes and Fugues by J. S. Bach (which were probably intended for his children).  This set of etudes was inspired by my student Nodoka: by her mischief, her sweetness,  and the joy she transmitted when playing the piano.

Canción by Ezequiel Barrera (1981-     )

While I was defining the title of this work, I dared to ask my colleagues and friends what name they would give this work. Among the many answers, I got are the following: It’s a song but it’s kind of broken! It’s a French bolero or impressionist! right? It’s like a broken love song!… In the end, I decided to call it simply Canción (Song). This is one of my favorite miniatures, I think it is beautiful but at the same time, it is a work with an intense, anxious, even painful feeling.  There are sections in which the accompaniment and melody seem not to agree, and it is a work that in the end can only end up “sighing and mulching”.

Presto from Sonata No. 1 by Ezequiel Barrera (1981-     )

For the final movement of my first sonata, I wanted to develop one of the best-known themes of Mexican folklore “El son de la negra”. This work is dedicated to a train and the tempo indication is  “echo la mocha” or Presto in Italian.  This movement incorporates elements of Mexican folklore such as the Guitarrón or Tololoche’s characteristic bass and elements from a tap dance. The movement is a toccata or perpetuum mobile due to its driving nature, and, like all locomotives, once it starts moving,  it does not stop.