Rolando Villazón and Xavier de Maistre today released their new album Serenata Latina, a rich and varied programme of Latin American songs. The recording features vocal works heard for the first time with specially arranged harp accompaniments by French harpist Xavier de Maistre. Serenata Latina includes a wide-ranging selection of Latin American art and folk songs including iconic pieces by Alberto Ginastera and Carlos Guastavino.
Watch Rolando Villazón and Xavier de Maistre performing ‘Se equivocó la paloma’ by Argentinian composer Carlos Guastavino, one of the continent’s most prolific art songwriters. Written originally as an art song, it became internationally famous by popular singers, demonstrating the flexibility of the genre of song which can change from art song to folk song and vice versa depending on the space in which it is performed.
Due to its cultural history, where indigenous, European and African influences meet, the Latin American countries possess one of the richest Lied repertoires in the world. An abundance of variety in rhythm, melody and narrative forms come together on Serenata Latina which pays tribute to a repertoire that reflects a two-way exchange between the rural spaces where folk music reigned and the salons and concert halls of urban areas.
“This album is a collection of beautiful traditional folk and art songs from my big homeland”
“This album is a collection of beautiful traditional folk and art songs from my big homeland – when you come from Latin America, all other Latin countries feel like siblings,” explained Rolando Villazón. “Its themes vary from nature to love, from grief for the spirits of the dead to the joy of being alive. Throughout, we can admire the art and sensibility of the Latin American composers who drank from the European tradition to create their music but remained rooted in the soil of our rich, colourful, sometimes melancholic yet always resilient culture.” Watch Rolando Villazón and Xavier de Maistre performing the traditional folk song ‘La Llorana’.
The idea for Serenata Latina began almost eighteen years ago when Xavier de Maistre was performing Ginastera’s Harp Concerto with the Vienna Philharmonic at Vienna’s Musikverein. The composer’s widow spoke to Xavier after the concert and suggested her late husband’s Argentinian folk songs would sound better on harp than piano and encouraged him to transcribe them. From this starting point, the harpist eventually went on to transcribe the piano parts of almost two dozen Latin American songs, as well as four solo pieces originally written for other instruments.
“I really wanted to record Latin songs with a tenor”
“I really wanted to record Latin songs with a tenor,” said Xavier de Maistre. “The first person I thought of was Rolando. He’s familiar with this music and is very innovative, always looking for fresh projects. When I phoned him about it, he immediately said that it was a great idea. We met and after half an hour he said: ‘Let’s do it!’ When he realised what was possible on the harp, he really encouraged me to try new pieces.”
“I am overjoyed to perform the duets on this album with Xavier”
Rolando Villazón described Xavier de Maistre as “one of the finest musicians of our time.” He added, “I am overjoyed to perform the duets on this album with Xavier. I feel that the arc of his interpretation, which goes from the most delicate intimacy to the most refined and exuberant richness, is the perfect kindred spirit for the poetry and melodic universe of these songs.”
Rolando Villazón and Xavier de Maistre’s new album Serenata Latina can be bought here.