Program notes

Turns and Returns, Violin and Piano, op. 121 (2001)

Born 18 January 1919, Santiago, Chile.

Turns and Returns is a sort of rhapsody or fantasy in which the composer plays with periodic returns of an easily identifiable thematic element, never presented exactly the same, which alternates with material of differing character and speed.  The imagination takes precedence here over any conventional form.  The violin shares with the piano in the unfolding of musical continuity, but at times departs from it, in extended lyrical and virtuoso gestures.

Stylistically, Turns and Returns remains attached to Orrego-Salas’s new tonalism enriched by the use of free chordal solutions and unresolved dissonances.  The composition derives basically from melody, which, as the musicologist Dr. Luis Merino has noted, is combined “with a sense of order and method, which has brought about a slow and cumulative stylistic development in his output,” clearly noticeable since his early Sonata for violin and piano, premiered in New York in 1945, and in this new composition, commissioned by Janet Packer and the Pro Violino Foundation, and completed in June 2001.

Orrego-Salas has always maintained that the disciplines and principles of architecture have been a very important part of his development as a composer.  In his essay, “The Presence of Architecture in My Music,” he describes the possibility of relating the logical courses of verticality and horizontality in architecture to those of melodic order and their supporting harmonies in music, of a balanced visual structure with that of the use of form in music; and he has written about the appropriate handling of color, light and shadow, as tantamount to both arts.  The concurrence of all these resources in the creative process is basic to an in-depth perception of our subconscious musical experience. 

“A neo-classical craftsmanship, tempered by free invention, is characteristic of Orrego-Salas’s music.  Formal procedures taken from all periods after the Middle Ages are used without strictness,” writes Gerald Benjamin in The New Grove Dictionary of Music.  “I never felt limited by them,” the composer has expressed; “on the contrary, they have helped me to direct my creation through new paths.”

Juan Orrego-Salas

Juan Orrego-Salas is an important figure in the history of contemporary Latin American music.  Born in Santiago, Chile, 18 January 1919, Juan Orrego-Salas’s general education and basic music studies, as well as his training as an architect, were completed in his native country.  Shortly after graduating from the School of Architecture in 1943, he decided to abandon this profession and dedicate himself full-time to music.  By that time he had already joined the music faculty of the University of Chile as Professor of Music History and Composition.

In 1944 he began a two-year residency in the United States, studying composition with Randall Thompson and Aaron Copland, and musicology with Paul Henry Lang.  Upon his return to Chile he continued teaching and was successively music critic of “El Mercurio,” the main morning newspaper in his country, editor of “Revista Musical Chilena,” and chairman of the music department of the Catholic University of Santiago.  During this period, his dedication to composition was continuous, as he enjoyed a growing number of performances in the Americas and Europe, and received an uninterrupted stream of commissions.

In 1949 he toured England, France, and Italy, where he conducted the European premiere of his Canciones Castellanas at the ISCM Festival in Sicily.  In 1954 his Sextet for clarinet, piano and string quartet was premiered at Tanglewood, and his Serenata Concertante performed by the Louisville Symphony.

In 1961 Juan Orrego-Salas was appointed by the School of Music of Indiana University to join the composition faculty and establish the Latin American Music Center.  He retired in 1987 after twenty-seven years in these positions, also having served as chairman of the composition department from 1975 to 1980.

Among his numerous awards and prizes, he is a four-time winner of the Festivals of Chilean Music, and twice won the Olga Cohen Prize.  In 1988 he received the Inter-American Cultural Prize from the Organization of American States, and in 1992 the highest distinction bestowed by the Chilean Government on artists, the National Prize for the Arts.
As a composer, Orrego-Salas has received commissions from the Koussevitzky, Coolidge, Kindler, Wechsler, Riley, Frei, and Stieren foundations; from the Louisville Orchestra and the National Symphony of Washington D.C.; from Cornell, Miami, Trinity, and Santa María Universities; from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Inter-American Music Council, the Colegio de Arquitectos in Chile; and from a number of chamber music ensembles and soloists.

His catalog of over one hundred and twenty compositions includes six symphonies, seven concertos, two operas, two oratorios, cantatas and other solo and vocal compositions, numerous works for chamber music ensembles and solo instruments, music for the movies, and incidental scores for the theater.

As a teacher and lecturer he has appeared at many universities, colleges and cultural institutes in Chile, United States, Argentina, Peru, Uruguay, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico, Great Britain, Spain, France, Italy, Russia, and Yugoslavia, and has been an active participant in international meetings and conferences.