Origins of Argentine Music
In fact, there are two general tendencies in the development of musical creation in Argentina. There is the "Universalist" and the "Nationalist" trends. Most of the Argentine population comes from Italian and Spanish descent, but in musical creativity it is very common also to find French and German influence too.
The first expressions of Argentine music can be seen in the "payadores", singers that improvised lyrics accompanied by the guitar especially after working activities of the "gauchos" in the countryside, and in the houses of the new higher classes. The harpsichord was the most common instrument that young maidens of well-known families used to play in-home celebrations.
This ongoing essay has been supplied by Argetinean pianist Valentin Surif. Visit him online here.
Read a review of Valentin Surif's December 2006 Concert in London Here.
There are several periods in its development.
The Hispanic Period (from the late 16th century up to the beginning of the 19th century)
The Period of Precursors(from 1810, National Revolution, to 1880)
The First teachers
The generation of the 80's (the exultation of local folklore)
The generation of the 90's(search for universalist tendencies)
The latest generations or contemporary composers (very heterogeneous tendencies)
In the 16th century most of the musical creativity was due to the work and influence of Spanish priests, who used music as a means to convert the aborigines to Catholicism.
San Francisco Solano used to teach religion to the natives mainly with his violin. Among the priests that took this mission there were also Italians, French Swiss, Germans and Austrians, apart from the Spanish.
In the north east of Argentina there are ruins of San Ignacio, evidence of the presence of the Jesuits 'work to convert the "guaranties" to the Catholic faith. There are also other places that bear evidence of this Jesuit activity in Asunción, Tucumán, Córdoba and Buenos Aires.
The most outstanding musician from this period is the Neapolitan Jesuit Priest and composer Domenico Zipoli, who composed a Mass in F Major among other works, mainly chamber music.
On the eve of the May Revolution (1810), the revolution for national independence of Argentina with the old name of United Provinces of the River Plate, and which comprised what today is Paraguay, Bolivia and Uruguay apart from our own territory. Buenos Aires was becoming the cultural center, and surely the musical center too.
The Spanish aristocracy had parties in houses (the "salon"), and it was there that popular Spanish dances of the time and some from "the aborigines" were performed and used for dancing by the young. These dances were the huella, malambo, cielito, pericón, media caña, triste, yaraví etc.
By 1825, once the Wars of Independence were over, the country started to become organized and the first musical and opera seasons started.
Then, the generation of the 80's produced between 30 and 40 composers, who gathered around the National Society of Composers (today Argentine Association of Composers), There was a general tendency toward Romanticism and those composers were greatly influenced by "Franckism" (nurtured and trained at the Schola Cantorum from Paris), as well as from Germanic Formalism, French Impressionism and Italian Verism, mainly under the influence from Puccini, in an attempt to mix all those elements with American sonorous elements.
So, for a long time local musical production was based on Incaic -Italian and Creole-Italian operas and Symphonic Poems.
As regards chamber music, it was mainly based on strings and piano, and also with solo singers.
The first Argentine composers of this period were not only "amateur" , but also had important development in Argentine politics. To this period correspond the following names:Juan Crisóstomo Lafinur( one of the poets of the Revolution), Fernando Guzmán( founder of a musical dynasty in Mendoza,a province in the West of the country), Amancio Alcorta, Juan Pedro Esnaola, and Juan Bautista Alberdi( the famous author of "The Basis", and who was also outstanding as a statesman, critic and musical theorist).
Some decades later, the first musical production with a strong Italian influence and the inclusion of some folkloric elements come to life.The result is seen in "Airs "and "Creole Dances" for piano , but without trascendent value.
By the middle of the XIXth century, Francisco Hargreaves was born. He composes the first Argentine Opera - "La gatta bianca".
Hargreaves's production also includes" Creole Dances" for piano, which open the trend of nationalistic tendency in music. The first Argentine composers to take musical production as a priority , and who show a more profound nationalistic orientation are Alberto Williams and Julián Aguirre. Alberto Williams composed "The Abandoned Hut"( 1890) for piano, which is considered the first important work of the period of Nationalism.
In the last article, I commented that together with the emergence of the first Argentine "amateur" composers (Lafinur. Alcorta, Esnaola, and Alberdi), there was a tendency to musical Italianization and a development of folkloric elements through classical structures.
The first Argentine opera was composed by Francisco Hargreaves:"La gatta bianca", and Hargreaves' other works for piano open the path to the creation of musical nationalism.
Here, we can see that the best example is the work of Alberto Williams and Julián Aguirre.
The Beruti Brothers:
Arturo and Pablo Beruti were inspired by Argentine historical characters like
The "gaucho" Juan Moreira, the Peruvian Inca environment, the saga of General
Josè de San Martìn and some events during Juan Manuel de Rosas's rule.
There is also a development of the creole "sainete", which is derived from the Spanish "Zarzuela" that show the first stage in the evolution of the Argentine musical drama.
Generation of the 80's:
This group of composers is the biggest of the 1880s.There were between 30 and 40 of them, which had a great influence for almost a quarter of a century.
This is the generation that created the National Society of Music (which today is the Argentine Association of Composers), and those that created the National Conservatory of Music, which today is the National University of Arts.
In general trends, this generation had a romantic influence in their composition.
There was also some inclination to "rapsodism" and art of "poematic" tone and "colored" development.
Its members were influenced by "Franckism" (there was an abundance of members who had contacts with the Schola Cantorum from Paris), Germanic formalism, French Impressionism and Italian Verism, mainly from Puccini, in an attempt to fuse European artistic forms with sonorous elements from Latin America.
So, for a long time, Argentine opera production became the result of Inca-Italian, or Creole-Italian elements. There is also Chamber music based on this characteristics.
Composers of the Generation of the 90's:
The composers of the 90's dedicated their work to music called "universalist" but with their own individualism. Most of them were disciples of the Italian musician Eduardo Fornarini. This group started in 1929, and called themselves "Renewal Group"
They were all good interpreters, and some of them even good orchestra conductors.
Their production ranges between neoclassicism and dodecaphonism, while some also included elements of folklore.
In these cases, different musical genders were produced, from operas to chamber songs, from symphonies or ballets to piano pieces.
Ballets predominated over operas, and Symphonic Poems and descriptive music gradually give way to formal works, such as Symphonies, Concerts and Overtures.
The Beginnings of National Music:
There were two fundamental events in Argentine history: one was the May Revolution (May 25, 1810), and the other was the declaration of Argentine Independence from Spain (July 9, 1816).
The musical beginnings in Argentina were very plain and elementary.
In those times, musical activity was considered a sort of a hobby, and there were two tendencies:
1) the European influence -Spanish and French
2) the aboriginal influence- mainly from the North of the country
The development and fusion of both tendencies gives way to the folkloric element per se. Dances and songs of the Nationalist type start to open their way through the country.
Some of these aspects were spread by the regional troubadours, or "payadores", among which we can mention Santos Vega, and Jerónimo Trillo.
Simultaneously, the "salon music encounters" were also beginning to start, mainly among the well -to-do families from Buenos Aires. In these encounters, European dances and new local ones became very popular. i.e. the menuet, the gavotte, the waltz, and the creole ones: "The Cuando", "The Condición" are the most common or those times.
Thus, there are three factors which co-exist: the popular, the gaucho from the Pampas, and the salon. To these three, we must add the patriotic element.