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Southwest Chamber Music continues its vibrant association with the musical life of Mexico with its
newest album, Aroma Foliado. A musical portrait of composer Gabriela Ortiz, five important works are represented from her colorful and diverse output ranging from 1991 to 2010. Funded by Mexico's FONCA, Aroma Foliado is a unique and rare collaboration between a Mexican composer and an
American ensemble.

The disc includes vocal soloists baritone Evan Hughes singing Rio Bravo and four sopranos in Ortiz's deeply moving Elegia: Elissa Johnston, Sharon Harms, Laura Mercado-Wright and Ayana Haviv. Inspired by a string quartet by Mozart, the title track of the album is Aroma Foliado which alternates from dream seqeunces to pounding Mexican rhythms. Two works celebrate the rivers flowing through Mexican culture. Río Bravo for baritone is accompanied by 6 carefully tuned cystal wine goblets and solo violinist Lorenz Gamma. The legendary Mexican river Papaloapan inspires the magical sonorities of two harps and steel drum in Río de las Mariposas. The disc concludes with the aerobic athleticism of Atlas Pumas, a recreation of a major soccer match for violin and marimba, excitingly performed by Shalini Vijayan and Lynn Vartan.

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I have admired the music of Gabriela Ortiz for many years. When she approached me with the idea that she would like Southwest Chamber Music to record a CD of her music, it was a very easy question to answer. And she added the practical step that she would do the work securing the funds from FONCA in Mexico City. With fingers crossed we waited until the good news came in October of 2011 that we could proceed from dream to reality. Here was the perfect project to move our musical relationship with Mexico forward into the contemporary music world of the country after Southwest’s considerable success performing, recording and touring in Mexico with the complete chamber music of Carlos Chávez and our long term association with its fantastic percussion ensemble, Tambuco.

Working with Gabriela has been a performer’s dream of cooperation. She sent me a treasure trove of scores for me to consider, with each piece worthy of recording. I have to thank her for accepting my artistic recommendations that shape this CD. When I stretched her own concept away from one piece she had planned towards her Elegía I struck a nerve. It was a dream of hers that this work in honor of the premature death of her mother would be part of an eventual recording and she easily changed her mind to accept my suggestion. From my perspective the disc needed a capstone dramatic statement which Elegía provides. Honoring the shared human sadness for lost mothers everywhere, it is a masterwork that had an immediate physical impact when I first read the score. Southwest had Aroma Foliado and Atlas Pumas in its repertory so those two works were catalysts to the project. When I suggested baritone Evan Hughes for Rio Bravo she accepted the change of voice timbre from her original idea of a contralto, and the results are stunning in intensity. The dreamlike otherworldly sonorities of two harps and steel drum in the Rio de las Mariposas round out for me an extremely satisfying portrait of one of finest composers of our time.

Jeff von der Schmidt, Artistic Director

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