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Spanish Brass | Concert


Caroline H. Hume Concert Hall
50 Oak Street, San Francisco, CA 94102
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Free, no tickets or reservations required


Johann Sebastian Bach
Prelude and Fugue in C Minor, BWV 549

Giuseppe Verdi     
Overture to La Forza del Destino 

Albert Guinovart  

Tomas Bretón 
Seguidillas (La Verba de la Paloma)

Enrique Granados 

Isaac Albeniz

Gerónimo Giménez
Intermedio from La Boda de Luis Alonso 

Manuel de Falla
Nana from Siete canciones populares Españolas 

 Xavier Montsalvatge
Questions and Answers 

Mariano Mores 
El cafetín de Buenos Aires

Carlos Gardel  
El día que me quieras

Osmar Maderna
Lluvia de estrellas

Ramon Cardo  

Pascual Piqueras    
De Cai

Lee Morgan 
The Sidewinder                                                                                                                                                                                                          

Artist Profile

SPANISH BRASS was created in 1989 by five Spanish Musicians as an innovative project that quickly gained world renown for its performances, educational activities and creative collaborations. After they won the First Prize in the 1996 Narbonne (France) International Brass Quintet Competition, the most prestigious event of its kind in the world, trumpeter Bernard Soustrot said, “Of all the First Prize winners of the Narbonne Competition, the Spanish Brass is the best since the competition was founded in 1986.”

Spanish Brass has given hundreds of concerts across the globe, in such prestigious events and venues as the Great American Brass Band Festival; the New York Brass Conference; the Juilliard School of Music, the National Gallery in Washington, DC; Festival de Musique de Radio-France; Granada International Festival; Lucerne Festival; Cheju Summer Festival (Korea); Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival (Germany); National Auditorium (Madrid); Palau de la Música (Barcelona); Kalavrita Festival (Greece); International Horn Society, Merano Brass Festival and Trento Philharmonic (Italy); Barcelona Auditorium; Festival de Inverno de Brasília, and countless others.        

Spanish Brass has been in the forefront of international music education, giving courses and master-classes with the Spanish National Youth Orchestra. the Youth Orchestras of Catalonia, Valencia, Andalucía and Madrid, the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, Trumpet Lounge (Japan), the Showa School for Performing Arts (Japan), Lieksa Brass Week (Finland), the Eastman School of Music, University of Georgia, Venezuelan Youth Orchestra, Dartington International Summer School(England), International Winter Music Festival of Brasilia (Brazil), Ibero-American Cultural Festival (Puerto Rico), etc.

Spanish Brass also runs two major brass festivals in Spain: SBALZ Festival in Alzira (www.sbalz.com) and Brassurround (www.brassurround.com). They currently teach at the Berklee College of Music campus in Valencia.        

A sampling of their international accolades includes: “They are one of the world´s finest brass quintets ranking up there with Empire Brass, Canadian Brass and American Brass” (Greg Alley); “One of the most exciting and artistic brass quintets to come on the scene in recent years … a gloriously brilliant performance” (International Trumpet Guild Journal); “They play with amazing cohesion, and set the highest standard for brass chamber music” (Maurice André, trumpeter); and “I cannot think of a better brass quintet in the whole world” (Christian Lindberg, trombonist).

They have recorded 21 CDs, including the double CD "The Best of Spanish Brass." Their latest releases are a CD of Christmas music and the children's show, Brass Brass Brass on CD and DVD.

Spanish Brass gratefully acknowledges the Valencia Institute of Culture and
the Buffet Group for supporting their tour. Spanish Brass appears by arrangement with Lisa Sapinkopf Artists, www.chambermuse.com

Program Notes

Bach: One of the towering geniuses in the history of the arts, Bach produced a phenomenal amount of great music throughout his life. Wagner called him “nothing less than the most stupendous miracle in all music." Bach can evoke the full range of emotions, and crystallize them in structural forms as intricate as their spiritual content is profound. The Prelude and Fugue in C minor, BWV 549, was originally composed for organ, and is noted for its remarkable difficulty and brilliant contrapuntal writing. The Prelude begins in a rather austere mood, its contour tilting mostly downward. The music here foreshadows the opening of the famous Toccata and Fugue in D minor, with a similar three-note idea permeating the first measures. The mood brightens a bit when the writing enters higher ranges. The Fugue begins modestly, and builds from skeletal, unassuming textures at the outset to meatier but still lean sonorities in the latter portions. The mood here does not substantially break from the darkness and seriousness of the opening, though the mixture of brilliance and busyness, of rhythmic and persevering drive in the writing, imparts a resolute, triumphant sense, especially in the glorious ending.                                                                                                                               

Verdi: Giuseppe Verdi, born 200 years ago, was an Italian Romantic composer known primarily for his operas. Along with Wagner, Verdi is considered the most important composer of operas of the nineteenth century. The libretto to La Forza del Destino (The Force of Destiny) was based on the Spanish drama Don Álvaro o la fuerza del sino, and the opera was premiered in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1862. The overture has become part of the standard repertoire for symphony orchestras.

Guinovart: Barcelona native Albert Guinovart is one of the most active musicians of his generation. A professor of orchestration and composition at the ESMUC of Barcelona, his dedication to music has brought him success in diverse fields: performances of classical piano repertoire around the world; numerous compositions of symphonic, choral and chamber music, as well as television and film scores; and orchestrations and arrangements. Guinovart arranged Arrebato especially for his friends, Spanish Brass. It is a tango-fantasy that he originally composed, for viola and piano, as the encore to his chamber musical, “Flor de nit” (Night Flower).           

BRETON: One of the great figures of the Spanish musical establishment during the last two decades of the 19th century, Bretón was a violinist, pianist, composer and music director of an equestrian circus. In 1872 he won the Madrid Conservatory's first prize for composition, jointly awarded to him and his future great rival Ruperto Chapí. Zarzuela is a form of Spanish opera, and La Verbena de la Paloma is perhaps the greatest zarzuela of them all. Paloma is a street in Madrid famous for a statuette of the Virgin which performed popularly attested miracles in the late 18th century. This was celebrated by the annual verbena, or local religious festival, spilling over into dancing and street carnival revelry. The music presents a slice of life on such a night; the characters are drawn from the working people he’d have observed including chulapas, young working-class girls smartly dressed for a night on the town; lecherous, well-to-do tradesmen; and Julián, a model of the educated working-class young man whose honesty and intelligence set him apart from the mob. Perhaps the most vivid creation of all is seña (Señora) Rita, the sympathetic older woman more concerned for the happiness of her young, former lover—if that’s what Julián is—than for her own. On the opening night of La Verbena de la Paloma, as the composer reached his place in the orchestra pit and took up the baton, he is said to have leaned down towards the concertmaster and whispered: "I think this time I've made a mistake."                                                                                                                                                                       

GRANADOS: One of the most colorful turn-of-the-century Spanish musicians, Granados was one of the great pianists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Virtually all his music relies heavily on the Catalan and Spanish folk idiom, which, along with fellow Spaniard Albéniz, Granados was instrumental in bringing to the attention of the contemporary European musical establishment. In 1916, while returning from the USA (where the opera Goyescas had received its New York premiere, and where Granados had performed in the White House for President Wilson), the liner Sussex was torpedoed by a German U-boat. Among the casualties were Granados and his wife of 24 years. Andaluza (also known as Playera), is the fifth and most famous of the twelve Spanish Dances that Granados composed for piano between 1882 and 1900. The exact dates of composition of the dances are unknown, but the composer said that most of them were written in 1883, when he was 16 years old.

ALBENIZ: Born in Camprodon, Catalunya, Albéniz was a child prodigy who first performed at the age of four. At age seven he passed the entrance examination for piano at the Paris Conservatoire, but was refused admission because he took out a ball from his pocket and broke a glass window with it. At twelve, he stowed away on a ship to South America and began a life of touring and performing in Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and eventually the United States, where he appeared in a vaudeville act playing piano behind his back. He finally settled in Paris, where he became close friends with the major impressionist composers. Asturias is the 5th movement of Suite Española. Originally composed for piano, it is most famous these days as a classical guitar piece.                                                


Gerónimo Giménez was a child prodigy violinist who went on to become a leading composer and conductor. He took a special interest in the zarzuela, a form of Spanish opera, and as such his music is noticeably influenced by Spanish folk songs and dances. Giménez wrote La Boda de Luis Alonso (Luis Alonso's Wedding) as a sequel to his previous zarzuela, El baile de Luis Alonso. Both are about the celebrated Spanish dancer and teacher, Luis Alonso. They are among Gimenez's most famous compositions (and among Spain’s most popular zarzuelas).

FALLA: Manuel de Falla was the most distinguished Spanish composer of the early 20th century. His music achieved a fusion of poetry, asceticism, and ardor that represents the spirit of Spain at its purest. Nana is a lullaby from the Siete canciones populares españolas ("Seven Spanish Folksongs"), a set of traditional Spanish songs originally composed in 1914 for soprano and piano. It is Falla's most-arranged composition, and one of his most popular.

MONTSALVATGE: Spanish composer and music critic Xavier Montsalvatge was one of the most influential figures in Spanish music during the latter half of the 20th century. He explored virtually all musical forms, from operas to orchestral works to chamber music to film scores. Many of his piano works became signature pieces for the renowned Spanish pianist Alicia de Larrocha, whose career was boosted by her performances of Montsalvatge's early Concierto Breve. Questions and Answers was written in 1979, and is based on a ricercare by Andrea Gabrieli, a late Renaissance Italian composer and organist. A ricercare is a type of early instrumental composition. The term means "to search out," and many ricercares serve as preludes to "search out" the key or mode of the piece that follows. A ricercare may explore also the permutations of a given motif, or can refer to an etude (study) that explores a specific instrumental technique.                                

THREE MILONGAS: A milonga is a faster-paced and less complex form of tango that originated in the Río de la Plata areas of Argentina and Uruguay. Mariano Mores was an Argentine tango composer, pianist and conductor. He created the modern tango sextet (organ, piano, bandoneon, electric guitar, keyboard, drums and bass), and in the year 2000 was honored as the greatest tango composer of the 20th century. He gave his last public performance at the age of 94, and passed away in 2016 at the age of 98. El cafetín de Buenos Aires was one of his most popular tangos. "El Cafetin" means "The little café," and the lyrics are a bittersweet reminiscence of the place and its customers ("You gave me a handful of friends who were worth gold.")

Carlos Gardel was a French Argentine singer, songwriter, composer and actor, and after Piazzolla the most prominent figure in the history of tango. El día que me quieras (The day that you love me) is a tango with music by Gardel and lyrics by Alfredo Le Pera. Originally featured in the 1935 film of the same name, it became a highly recorded tango standard, even by artists outside of the realm of tango.                                                             

Osmar Maderna, described as "the Chopin of the tango," assembled his first orchestra at the age of eleven. While not a musician for the masses, he was highly respected by his colleagues and music critics. Maderna titles often referred to the stars, the moon, the sky and its different shades of blue. He lost his life in a plane crash at the age of 33 (Carlos Gardel also died in a plane accident). "Lluvia de Estrellas (Rain of Stars), one of Maderna's most popular instrumental tangos, has been used in several films, including one by Disney.

PIQUERAS: Born in Valencia, Spain, Piqueras has composed works for various lineups including band, band and chorus, orchestra and brass quinte. He holds degrees in trumpet, music theory, and conducting, and is an active jazz performer as well as conductor. “De Cai” is the Andalusian pronunciation of “de Cadiz” (“from Cadiz”, a city and port in southwestern Spain.) The composer writes: "Inspired chiefly by flamenco-tango rhythms, this piece aims to bring together one of the most versatile chamber ensembles, the brass quintet, and the most essential and universally appreciated genre of Spanish music, flamenco. I've been asked to arrange this piece for various other kinds of ensembles, perhaps because of its catchy melody, perhaps because of the fusion of diverse rhythms that thrive in today’s popular music. To use a gastronomic metaphor, 'De Cai' leaves a good taste in the mouth, and that was all I wanted—for people to enjoy it."    

MORGAN: The Philadelphia-born trumpeter and superb bop stylist Lee Morgan apprenticed with Dizzy Gillespie and Art Blakey before emerging as a leader in his own right in the early '60s for Blue Note Records. Although Morgan owed a stylistic debt to both Gillespie and Clifford Brown, he quickly developed a voice of his own that combined half-valve effects, Latin inflections, and full, fluid melodies. The Sidewinder, Lee Morgan's 24-bar blues with an infectious bass line and backbeat, instantly became one of the most popular pieces in modern jazz history.