Legaspi, Joseph: Songs of Nicanor Abelardo

Legaspi, Joseph: Songs of Nicanor Abelardo
Title: Songs of Nicanor Abelardo
Artist: Legaspi, Joseph
Label: CD Baby
UPC: 884501895705
Genre: Classical Composers

The contributions of Nicanor Sta. Ana Abelardo (1893-1934) to Philippine music history go beyond his prolific output spanning over 140 works. He was an innovator, a man of his times, whose efforts became instrumental in paving the way for the legacy of modern composition in his country. Music was definitely alive in the Philippines before the 1900s, but prior to this era, the music of the Filipinos thrived only within the people themselves. Only a handful of examples were put on paper the way music in the West had already been for a great part of history. Formalized musical composition did not become part of Philippine culture until the latter part of the nineteenth century. Pioneer composers in this period of infancy were barely able to catch up with the evolution of music in the Western world, yet they produced masterpieces that would herald the heritage of Filipino musicality. The early generation of composers, which included the likes of Marcelo Adonay, Rosalio Silos, and Julian Felipe, quickly rose to show how homegrown talents were more than capable in crafting works adhering to the rudiments of the Western common practice or classical music, as most would call this style. The generation that followed would then bring forward the development of Philippine composition by taking indigenous musical styles and transforming them into more structurally sophisticated art forms. Nicanor Abelardo belonged to this generation that updated Filipino music in a milieu of a Philippine society undergoing modernization. The weight of the contributions of Nicanor Abelardo to Philippine music goes beyond sheer quantity. Along with his compatriots, he took the next step in the evolution of Filipino composition by taking native idioms and molding them into more complex styles not unlike the way Schubert and his fellow masters borrowed elements from their native folk songs and cultivated them in Lieder. Most popular among the genres Abelardo helped develop was the kundiman, a folk song type originating from the cundiman, the local serenade of Tagalog-speaking people. From a simple tune recognizable through the sentiment of it's words, the kundiman was elevated into specific compositional form first developed by colleague Francisco Santiago. Abelardo and Bonifacio Abdon, another contemporary, followed suit in further defining and proliferating the genre's new incarnation as a sophisticated art song form. While there are many variations on the form, a kundiman can easily be identified by the following salient features: it has a triple time signature; it is in moderate speed (sometimes referred to as tempo de kundiman); it's first half, which could be divided into two smaller sections, is in a minor key; and, it's second half is in the parallel major. The contrast between minor and major tonalities flow in accord with the emotions of the text, which usually begins in a somber mood of a pleading wooer then turns into a hopeful yearning for the beloved's response. What distinguishes Abelardo's kundimans from that of his compatriots is the use of words that depict personas with lingering and unresolved despair. Compared to Santiago's, which often portray a pursuer's optimism, those of Abelardo are often wrought with melancholy from beginning to end. This turns the device of modulating from minor to major into an ironic intensification of pain, rather than the usual relief from tension. Perhaps this distinction is why Abelardo is hailed as one of the major kundiman composers, even though he only composed about ten. One can easily observe this hallmark in the examples included in this album. The well-known (4)Nasaan Ka, Irog? (Where Are You, Love?) features the heart-wrenching image of a broken vow caused by class differences - a story based on the real-life experience of Abelardo's friend, Dr. Francisco Tecson, to whom the song is dedicated. Like many of the composer's kundimans, this, as well as it's Spanish version (5)¿Dónde estás, mi vida? begins and ends in yearning for the lost lover. This theme of constant longing for lost love is very common among Abelardo's kundimans. (9)Magbalik Ka Hirang (Return to Me, Chosen One) reminisces a past love, with a vow to wait endlessly. (13)Nasaan ang Aking Puso (Where is My Heart?) tells of a love abruptly lost and a desperate plea for the lover's return. (3)Pahimakas (Testament) is a tormented farewell to yet another missing lover. Such examples show the image of an abandoned feminine figure invoking an absent lover as she pledges her fidelity in an archetypal act of martyrdom, which traditional Filipino mores sanctifies. Abelardo, of course, did not avoid the quintessential image of a masculine figure serenading his beloved below her window or balcony. However, the masculine personas in his kundimans take a more lugubrious, instead of charming, approach to their courtship. For instance, his first documented kundiman, the iconic (1)Kung Hindi Man (If Not), shows the inconsolable dejection of a quasi-suicidal devoted lover -a romantically lauded image in Filipino melodrama. (10)Himutok! (Song of Distress) and (14)Sa 'Yong Kandungan (On Your Lap) are yet two examples that morbidly describe the wooer's pain as he pleads for relief from the pursued. Meanwhile, (6)Kundiman ng Luha (Love Song of Tears) depicts the suitor's persistent yearning not only in the title, but more so in the persona's overt emotional outpouring. This may be seen as intensely counter-culture, considering that Philippine society inherited Spanish machismo and would normally ridicule a man willing to shed tears out in the open. However, the use of such a scenario further exemplifies the persona's ultimate devotion. Not all of Abelardo's kundimans are drenched in gloom, however. One very notable exception to his somber-themed works is (7)Bituing Marikit (Beautiful Star), which is perhaps the most popular of Abelardo's kundimans, if not the most popular kundiman in the entire repertoire. This one takes a lighter theme of a more typical serenade wherein the persona likens the beloved to a guiding star. What is different, however, is that unlike most of the noted examples, the words of this kundiman were neither written nor chosen by Abelardo himself, since it is part of Dakilang Punglo (Noble Bullet), a sarswela with libretto by Servando de los Angeles. Thus, the choice of doleful themes in all his other kundimans very well have been a deliberate one for Abelardo. The kundiman was not the only native idiom Abelardo explored and modernized. Another native song form that he adopted was the kumintang, a pantomime dance song that usually involves a male and a female perspective in a context of courtship. While this genre is not as widely composed as the kundiman, it's foremost example, (8)Mutya ng Pasig (Pearl of Pasig), outshines many songs in the Filipino repertory. Abelardo saw the kumintang as the appropriate vehicle to pay homage to the bygone splendor of the Pasig River, an important geographical feature of Manila. The piece also involves two perspectives, but instead of a man courting a woman, the voices of a storyteller and a water nymph would be depicted. Interestingly, Abelardo also ingeniously molded the kumintang into the kundiman form. The song opens in a minor configuration patterned after a native chant known as tagulaylay, a declamatory style in which the narrator describes the nymph that once reigned in the river. The nymph's perspective then comes forth in the parallel major with the more dance-like, pantomimic tune, worthy of a graceful water deity. Such complex use of different devices shows Abelardo's mastery of his people's music and his proficiency in compositional conventions from the West. Abelardo belonged to a unique generation that thrived at the cusp of the two major colonial eras in the Philippines, and so it is not surprising for him to take advantage of influences from Spain and America. Many of his songs have Spanish versions. He also u

1.1 Kung Hindi Man - Joseph Legaspi
1.2 Amorosa - Joseph Legaspi
1.3 Pahimakas - Katrina Saporsantos
1.4 Nasaan Ka, Irog? - William Lim
1.5 ¿ Donde Estas, Mi Vida? - Katrina Saporsantos
1.6 Kundiman NG Luha - Joseph Legaspi
1.7 Bituing Marikit - Joseph Legaspi
1.8 Magbalik Ka, Hirang - Katrina Saporsantos
1.9 Mutya NG Pasig - Katrina Saporsantos
1.10 Himutok! - William Lim
1.11 Pahiwatig - William Lim
1.12 Ikaw Rin - Joseph Legaspi
1.13 Nasaan Ang Aking Puso? - Katrina Saporsantos
1.14 Sa' Yong Kandungan - William Lim
1.15 Naku... Kenkoy! - Joseph Legaspi

Audio Sample:
All soundclips are provided by Tidal and are for illustrative purposes only. For some releases, the tracks listed may not accurately represent the tracks on the physical release.

Legaspi, Joseph: Songs of Nicanor Abelardo


Regular price $24.80
Taxes are calculated at checkout

Recently viewed