South America: My Personal and Musical Journey

posted on   by  Loi Heldt

by Victoria Wolff

I am so thrilled to have been invited back for second round of performances with Chamber Music Amici! The music of this upcoming program has afforded me a unique opportunity to reflect on some aspects of my personal life as they connect to my musical life.  I am particularly excited to be playing the music of Alberto Ginastera, whose music offers a rich brocade of colors and textures as we sample and savor the sultry rich tones of Argentina. Ginastera was born in 1916 and is considered one of the most important 20th century composers of the Americas. Although he was born in Buenos Aires, his father was Catalan and his mother Italian. This brings up an interesting and little known fact (which Jessica Lambert so deftly pointed out to me in rehearsal today) that Ginastera increasingly throughout his life preferred for his name to be pronounced not “Hinastera”  (as I smugly insisted upon) but Jinastera  as in “George”.  Although he identified strongly with his father’s Catalan roots, his music was highly inspired Argentina, and is preeminent among the inspirations for Ginastera’s music. That being said, as I have gotten to know the piece we are performing, “Impresiones de la Puna” I am struck by how South American it is in a broader context.

20 years ago I met my husband in a salsa club and we danced Cumbia, Salsa, and Merengue until the wee hours of the night. My husband, whose name happens to be Victor, (and yes I made him watch the 1982 Julie Andrews film Victor, Victoria!) is from Peru. Getting to study Ginastera’s music has reminded me not only of my initial attraction to Victor’s person but also his culture. South America is such a rich melting pot of cultural influences; from the Indian and Spanish mix Criollo, Huayno music of the people of the Andes (Incas), to the African roots of Negroide music. I fell in love with it all. Then there was the food (cooked not only by him but his sister and mother) Ceviche, Aji Amarillo, Arros con Pollo, Papa ala Huancaina, Anticuchos and Aji de Gallina.

Impresiones de la Puna has afforded me a trip down memory lane, and I am remembering key moments in my life with Victor. I found out I was pregnant with our second child, my boy, in the high altitude of Cuzco, and climbed Machu Picchu feeling so much better than I did at sea level in Lima. “Puna” means altitude, and when I hear this piece I think of relief from morning sickness! Actually the refreshing air of the Andes made me feel related to my husband’s Incan heritage, as if somehow my northern European blood and his shared common genetic traits.  The flute in the first movement of the piece is “Quena”: a pan-flute. This instrument is so indicative of the mountains of South America, and I can’t even hear one measure of the third movement “Danza” without envisioning my Suegra (mother-in-law) dancing in traditional dress waving her white handkerchief. “Cancion” allows nostalgia to fully envelope my heart and I am wistfully grateful for all my relationships in this life: with Music, my husband, and the lovely musicians of Chamber Music Amici that I get to play with!