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  • Writer's pictureLIGHT PIERRE

The Art of Creating a Program: Behind Alberto’s Vision for Classical Music

Updated: Oct 19, 2023

As Alberto prepares for his second concert of the year, I am curious, as his student, to know what will be different about this concert. What pieces will he choose to play? What are the emotions he desires to evoke? What is the theme? Creating a program and a space for an audience to experience your music takes countless hours of thought, preparation, and intention. After an hour-long conversation with Alberto, I have a clear understanding of Alberto’s vision for the night of October 13th, 2023, and why this program has the potential to be at the forefront of one of the very finest programs the classical guitar world has seen in recent years.

Program print cover for concert with lead musician Alberto Puerto holding a guitar in front of a mosaic filter of a  work by Rene Portocarrero
Program Cover for October 13th

The Art of Curating

"Curating" is a word that has been popularized in the last ten years. The overuse of the word has removed the essence of its meaning. The word "curate" derives from Latin "curatus", which means to carefully prepare and to take care and attention. With precision, Alberto has done just that, choosing Cernuda Arte Gallery, a "respected and notable gallery that has been recognized as a leading authority on Cuban art in Miami" for over twenty years. Alberto also selected three seasoned and accomplished artists to accompany him and bring the sounds of the program to life, namely Otto Santana as percussion and voice, Yina Hurtado as singer, and Yamilé Pedro on cello.

Santana has performed in more than 30 countries in iconic venues and is a graduate of the University of the Arts in Havana. He has recorded over 40 albums, such as Vizualízate by Gente de Zona. Hurtado is an artist, singer, and performer with works published online and performed in various venues, such as the Smithsonian Museum. Pedro has been a member of some of the most relevant symphony and chamber orchestras in Cuba and is also a graduate of the University of Arts of Cuba.

Alberto’s audience will be able to take in artwork from a variety of Cuban artists around the world and experience sounds with different rhythms and contrast from different instruments that aren’t typically heard in a classical program, thanks to the performers and venue selection. This is the manner in which curating should be approached.

Cellist, guitarist, and percussionist seated with instruments at a bookshop. Bookshelves are lining the walls behind the players.
From left: Yamile Pedro, Alberto Puerto, Otto Santana. Photo by Aleli Egues

The Art of Selecting Pieces

Having attended two separate classical guitar concerts this year with Alberto and watched countless programs online, the recurring pattern I discovered was guitarists playing the same repertoire. Alberto explains that it has been this way for a long time, but he continues, "As a guitarist, it is important to find your own way. This will take years, but playing the same masterworks or repertoire as the other players, but at a higher level, makes no difference; you have to show your uniqueness, show something different." Alberto shares, “After studying the guitar for over fifteen years, I initially took the same route; I didn’t create anything; I just wanted to play really well, but eventually I started to create my own music, create arrangements, and compose.”

After years of creating and experimenting, Alberto has a more defined direction. Alberto intends to create 12 distinct rhythms for the program, which will have Hispanic music as its theme. These rhythms will transport the audience to locations in Spain, South America, Central America, and the Caribbean, including places like Bolivia, Peru, Cuba, and Nicaragua. Alberto further explains, “When creating the program, you have to create some sort of climax. If you put the highest-climaxed piece at the end of the program, the audience will fall asleep. You’re playing for almost 90 minutes, so an engaging musical journey is important. It’s not Baroque, nineteenth-century, seventeenth-century, eighteenth-century, and then the music you composed last week. As a guitarist, you must dig deeper than that”. This is the level of intention that is necessary when selecting pieces and sequencing a program.

5 in-depth pieces from the program

A program's arrangement can be compared to an album's sequencing. Alberto is aware of the significance of creating an artistic statement due to his prior experience curating his debut record, The Great Cuban Suite, and his current role as host of his second concert. The three most important elements of sequencing can be summed up as conveying a story, ensuring that songs flow, and making the music memorable. What story will Alberto be telling?

Canción del Emperador (Song of the Emperor): Alberto opens the program with a slow, melancholy piece that includes warm and colorful tones. The audience is transported to Spain in the fifteenth century. The song originated in the fifteenth century; Luis De Narváez didn't create this composition until the sixteenth century. This piece is significant since it was written as an homage to the emperor and because Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, loved it. This work was first performed in the sixteenth century on a vihuela, a primitive guitar-like instrument. Alberto will be playing this piece on a clásico-romantic guitar, specifically a "terz" romantic guitar.

Saya San Andrés: In the second piece of the program, Alberto takes his audience to Bolivia and into the Afro-Bolivian culture. Drums, shakers, and gourds are among the prominent African percussion instruments used here. Otto Santana, percussionist, assists Alberto in bringing this piece’s soul to life. Cellist Yamilé Pedro brings the cello's very versatile personality to this performance, and singer Yina Hurtado brings her vocal component. This piece is essential because it includes instruments that were passed down by African ancestors.

Silencio: Alberto takes the listener to Puerto Rico through afro-cuban rhythm and creates a Latin jazz arrangement with cellist Yamilé Pedro, Otto Santana, and Yina Hurtado's vocals. Alberto will be playing this piece with the aesthetic of Jazz improvisation on the classical guitar.

La Catedral: This well-known composition by Augustín Barrios Mangoré was inspired by a visit to Montevideo's Cathedral of San José. This is one of my favorite compositions for a variety of reasons, as well as a favorite in the repertoire of modern classical music. Alberto carries the audience to a time in Paraguay through a three-movement South American rhythm composition. The first movement being ‘Preludio Saudade’, it is said that the first movement was created years later, during a time when Augustín's health was declining. The second movement, ‘Andante Religioso’, represents impressions of the cathedral organist performing Bach chorales. The third movement, ‘Allegro Solemne’, represents Augustín’s transition from the quiet, contemplative ambiance of the cathedral to the hectic, fast-paced outer world.

Yamabambó: Alberto brings the audience back to his country of Cuba and ends the program with an Afro-Cuban poem by Cuban writer Nicolás Guillén, and musicalized by composer Emilio Grenet, aided vocally by Otto Santana's projecting voice.

Alberto's Vision

Alberto's vision for the evening of October 13th, 2023, and for the classical music world as a whole is transcendence, academics, and innovation. That presents challenges and excitement. I have no doubt that Alberto is part of the correct community, which will continue to propel him in the right direction. Alberto's approach to expressing all the facets of his ideas rather than confining and limiting himself inspires me. I look forward to observing the audience's reactions to the program. Will they request another performance? I welcome everyone—artists, musicians, and people from all backgrounds—to join us on this memorable evening with Alberto and his friends. We welcome your feedback regarding your experience.


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