Recent Professional Activities & News...
Los Angeles, California
Volume 12 - June, 2006 - No. 12

    Special Events

Multimedia Tribute to
Ernest Hemingway at
the Ford Amphitheatre

"A man can be destroyed but not defeated"
Ernest Hemingway

"Cubans in Hollywood: The Old Man and the Sea" ...includes music by two contemporary Cuban composers merging into the stage: Aurelio de la Vega and Francisco Aquabella. Historian Rafael Rojas calls Aurelio de la Vega "the composer who gave us sounds from another world, the thinker of art who opened for us the doors of abstraction."....

Cuban Composer Aurelio de la Vega studied with Ernest Touch in California (1947-1948), toured the US as a lecturer, composed and recorded Leyenda del Ariel Criollo ("Legend of the Dreole Ariel," 1953) and The Elegia ("Elegy," 1954) premiered in London by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

California State University

Department of Music
College of Arts, Media, and Communication

The following concert started various, similar celebrations: New York in January, 2006; Miami in April, 2006; Chicago in June, 2006; Madrid in June, 2006; and Rio de Janeiro in September, 2006.


As a prelude to the celebration of composer Aurelio de la Vega's 80th birthday (born in Habana, Cuba, November 28, 1925), a group of his friends and colleagues, with the cooperation of the Music Department of California State University, Northridge, organized a concert of his works in his honor.

The event took place on Sunday, October 23, at 3 pm., in the Recital Hall of the Music Department of Cal State, Northridge.

The concert featured string works of De la Vega, composed in Cuba and the United States between 1953 and 1998. A 22 piece string orchestra, under the direction of composer Daniel Kessner, played De la Vega's Elegy (1954), premiered in London by the Royal Philharmonic, and Variación del Recuerdo, Version I ("Variation of the Remembrance") (1998), premiered simultaneously by the Culver City Chamber Orchestra and by Camerata Romeu (Havana). Notable soloists included pianist Françoise Régnat and cellist Douglas Davis, first cello of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, who interpreted the composer's Leyenda del Ariel Criollo ("Legend of the Creole Ariel") (1953), and guitarist Anton Machleder, who flew from the East Coast to play De la Vega's Bifloreo (1992). Also in the program was the composer's much played String Quartet in Five Movements, In Memoriam Alban Berg (1957).

The friends and colleagues of Aurelio de la Vega and California State University, Northridge, celebrated with this event more than 60 years of creative work on the part of the composer. The event was celebrated in a beautifully edited, illustrated and printed program of the concert.

Dr. de la Vega, in a letter of August 29, 2005, terms the following review by Carl Byron as "very good, serious, and important...I think it most relevant."

Volume 26:Number 1:Spring/Summer 2005: ISSN 0163-0350
de Música

The Piano Works of Aurelio de la Vega, Martha Marchena, piano. Musicians Showcase 1088 (for inquiries and ordering:; e-mail:; phone: 914-592-9431).

     Charles Darwin once wrote, "music was known and understood before words were spoken." The naturalist's observation comes to mind when listening to Aurelio de la Vega's complete oeuvre for piano, recently recorded by Cuban pianist Martha Marchena. Born in Havana, Cuba, in 1925, de la Vega is currently Distinguished Emeritus Professor of California State University, Northridge, where he taught composition from 1959-1992. His protean output encompasses a vast range of compelling orchestral, chamber, and vocal and electronic scores, yet it is through his ten piano works--composed between 1944 and 1987 and collected for the first time on this recording--that de la Vega has most often marked the shifts in his compositional career.
      As Marchena's definitive account reveals, de la Vega's piano catalog may be compact--the entire recital clocks in at little more than forty-two minutes--but it uniformly consists of milestones. Taken together, as they are here, these pieces serve as a remarkably integrated and cogent summary of the composer's eclectic traversal of twentieth-century classical music, from his earliest idiosyncratic probing of mainstream styles to ever more adventurous and consistently individualistic exploration of serialism, aleatory, graphic notation, chromaticism, pantonality, and Cuban rhythms.
      Yet, notwithstanding the creative crosscurrents flowing through de la Vega's keyboard output, his opus transcends styles and trends. De la Vega's works always sound like him, regardless of the array of devices and influences that have informed his musical development. A unique and distinctive artistic vision is at the core of this recording, with expressiveness of the highest order as the raison d'être of each composition, no matter the genre or period.
      For his part, de la Vega--who is also a noted essayist on Latin American visual arts--described his body of keyboard work in 2001 to Los Angeles Times critic John Henken as a "kind of a canvas of 50 years of music." The multihued artwork that emerges from that half-century of pianistic writing vividly illustrates de la Vega's expertise in creating scores that challenge intellectually, yet also communicate in gripping visceral and sensual terms. To a far greater degree than much other Western contemporary classical music, de la Vega's oeuvre engages the mind and also connects on a primal emotional level. Even though formal analysis of these piano pieces can only deepen appreciation of them, they also resonate simply as sonic experiences, underscoring Darwin's assertion about the fundamental role music has played in our evolution and existence.
      To put it in modern terms, human beings are hard wired for music, and any musical work must primarily be evaluated on how it actually sounds. That is not to devalue notation and the essential role it has played in the development of Western music since the eighth century, nor to disregard the vital ways in which musicology has deepened the understanding of composition. Rather, whatever symbols, instructions, or blueprints composers use for the written transmittal of their musical thoughts to performers, the interpretation of those marks on the page ultimately determines--assuming a modicum of interpretive skill--how the vast majority of listeners assess and react to a musical work.
      In that respect, Marchena's recording of de la Vega's piano works is an amazing achievement, especially given the formidable technical challenges posed by much of de la Vega's keyboard writing. Throughout this recital, Marchena displays a rarely heard blend of interpretive artistry and sheer virtuosity that reveals the singular poetry, passion, wit, and vigorous intellect at play in de la Vega's creations, and makes a convincing case for considering this piano output an essential entry in the canon of Western classical music.
      De la Vega is a pianist himself and throughout these pieces he fully explores, in scores that are a model of instrumental lucidity, the piano's expressive and sonic range. Even the thorniest runs and most complex rhythms are notated expertly so that they are actually playable, although it takes a virtuoso of Marchena's stature to do them full justice....
      Recorded at the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York by producer and engineer Gregory K. Squires, Marchena's sterling performances are documented here with glorious sonic results. This recording is highly recommended for aficionados of piano literature as well as those who value an exceptionally insightful and compelling compositional voice such as de la Vega's
                                                                                                        Carl Byron, Los Angeles

California State University

Department of Music
College of Arts, Media, and Communication


For the third time in the last forty years of his long and fruitful profesional career, composer Aurelio de la Vega--at present Distinguished Emeritus Professor, California State University, Northridge--was present at the premiere of one of his works in the Coolidge Auditorium of the Library ov Congress, Washington, DC. Variation of the Remembrance, Version II, for clarinet, six voices and two percussionists, was finished in February of 2005 and received its first performance at the Library of Congress on March 16, 2005.

Variation of the Remembrance, Version II was commissioned by the Library with funds from the Moldenhauer Foundation. The work is based on a poem by the composer entitled Nostalgia of That Sea. The premiere was entrusted to the Aguavá New Music Studio of Indiana University, Bloomington, under the direction of Carmen Helena Téllez, well known Venezuelan conductor.

The concert, which was dedicated to Aurelio de la Vega as an homage to his creativity, also included a splendid theatrical version of his graphic colored score The Magic Labyrinth (1974), for an aleatoric ensemble of voices and instruments, with participation of guest sopranos Amanda Squitieri and Erin Smith, of the Washington National Opera and members of the Aguavá New Music Studio. The scenic director was Chía patinño (Santa Fe Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, Aspen Music Festival Opera, Washington National Opera, Chile's Teatro Municipal, and Opera Theatre of Lucca, Italy), and the musical director was Carmen Helena Téllez (Director, Latin American Music Center, Indiana University, and Conductor of the Contemporary Vocal Ensemble of the University). The rest of the program consisted of a series of habaneras by Ignacio Cervantes (Cuba) and by Xavier Montsalvatge (Spain), and works by Ricardo Lorenz (Venezuela) and Tania León (Cuba).

Before the start of the concert, Jon Newsom, chief of the Music Division of the Library of Congress, read a message from Mary Moldnhauer (President, Moldenhauer Foundation) which stated that she wanted to honor Aurelio de la Vega for his "exemplary life of service in the academic community, his dedication to the arts, and perhaps most of all, for his love of freedom and liberty. America has been richly blessed to have Aurelio de la Vega as one of her sons."

Two hours before this event, in the Whittall Pavillion of the Library, a panel entitled "At the Crossroads: Latin American Classical Music in the Twenty First Century" took place. The moderator was Norman A. Middleton, Producer of Concerts and Special Events of the Library of Congress, and the panelists included Ignacio Alcover (Spain), Alba Potes (Colombia), Carmen Helena Téllez (Venezuela), Aurelio de la Vega (Cuba/USA), and Ezequiel Viñao (Argentina).

March 22, 2005

The Magic Labyrinth

Aurelio de la Vega

(from Program Notes for the March 16, 2005, Concert from The Library of Congress...)

      We will use El Laberinto Mágico (1975) by Havana-born Aurelio de la Vega as our binding and guiding thread. The manuscript of the work, on account of the beauty of its graphic notation, was included in The Rosleen Moldenhauer Memorial music History from Primary Sources: A Guide to the Moldenhauer Archives (2000) published by the Library of Congress.
      Aurelio de la Vega began his wide-ranging career with nervy explorations of the Cuban salon contradanza. However, he soon embraced the avant-garde, composing serial, electronic, and aleatoric compositions in virtually all music genres except opera, in step with the international contemporary music community. Since he settled in Los Angeles in 1959 and became a professor of composition at the University of California at Northridge, his résumé has boasted performances by prestigious ensembles in all continents, including the commission by the Los Angeles Philharmonic of Adiós, a work for orchestra, as a farewell to the orchestra's conductor, Zubin Mehta.


I come, I am coming
to face my trampled, broken,
twilight nostalgia
with its edges so beautifully tinted,
the old colors sobbing
so they do not turn into forgotten dust.

On the skin surface
past memories are born successively,
obstructed constantly by foul smelling men,
ferocious, self-centered, vociferous,
while indifferent inert masses
analyze pain as if it could be measured in yards
or as if it would have a selling price.

All - imbecile and evil ones,
useful idiots and spiritual pillagers-
want to close the last doors,
destroy the remaining pearls which were still alive.

But the inside light does not go out,
and the landscapes, the fragrances,
the biographies, the aesthetic overflowing temples,
the epochal loves,
the friendly voices,
the oceans full of fruits and dreams,
the mountains of guitars and noble pianos,
the formidable engravings
bathed in envied culture
always return,
and there is the sea perpetually...
always the sea...
a sea that gives faith or exudes darkness,
eternally smelling of the past,
perennially reliving the nostalgia.
Always the sea...

Aurelio de la Vega
Northridge, February of 2005

      De la Vega has sought to project an abstract and philosophical view of music. As he excelled in all the cutting-edge musical languages, he occasionally included rhythmic gestures from Cuban music for their intrinsic musical potential, not necessarily for their evocative or signifying power. El Laberinto Mágico represents an experimental exploration of sound and space. Through the graphic design of the composition--which inspired stage director Chía Patiño's concept--a performer or group of performers enters in an act of co-creation that can last, as the composer states, "two minutes or two years." The work will be performed twice this evening, both as a musical and as a staging composition--performance within a performance.
      The 1990s saw de la Vega responding to new trends in musical post-modernism, and his language revisited the lyrical strains of Cuban music and its emotional atmospheres. As the title implies, Variación del Recuerdo (1994) leads us through variations of Cuban musical gestures in a subtle and ultimately touching manner. Originally for strings, the work in a new version for voices and instruments composed by de la Vega for Aguavá New Music Studio receives its world premiere tonight.

Tulsa World -- Monday, July 19, 2004 -- Arts

Quartet spotlights music of 20th century

By James D. Watts Jr.
World Scene Writer

On Sunday afternoon at the Philbrook Museum of Art, the Prima String Quartet--violinists Marc Gottlieb and Shari Neubauer, violist Jeffery Cowen and cellist Kari Caldwell--presented a concert of American music.

The Prima's program included works by Philip Glass, Quincy Porter and Aurelio de la Vega, composers whose work are more in line with what people think of when they hear the words "20th century music."

The Cuban-born de la Vega, who attended Sunday's concert to hear the 502nd performance of his 1957 composition, String Quartet in Five Movements (In Memoriam Alban Berg), is perhaps the most avant-garde of the bunch and his work the most challenging of the afternoon.

De la Vega, in his remarks before the performance, described this work as a "hybrid"--one that mixed 12-tone music with the more conventional use of musical themes to link the various movements.

The overall impression of the piece was of four individuals each pursuing a private path through the maze that was this music, coming together in unison moments that seemed almost like accidents of fate.

The last time de la Vega was in Tulsa, he displayed some of what he called his "illustrated scores." Musical staffs were redrawn into kaleidoscopic patterns and tangles, crossing back over themselves--linear music exploded into abstract art.

And that's exactly what de la Vega's music sounds like. It is full of bright, almost harsh colors; it possesses an element of playfulness; it contains moments of surprisingly gentle beauty (the second movement, Adagio, had some lyrical, restrained passages). And the Prima quartet played it with energy, determination, and an impressive sense of cohesion.

Los Angeles Times -- Tuesday, August 3, 2004
Music Review

Sharing 'Latin' humor and passion

By Josef Woodard
Special to The Times

In his program note for Sunday's "Living Legends of Latin Music" concert at the Ford Amphitheatre, Opera Nova's artisitc director and conductor, Sean Bradley, offered an interesting notion. He casually suggeted a correlation between the '20s group of avant-garde Parisian composers known as Les Six and five contemporary composers who might be called "Los Cinco," Daniel Catán, Carlos Rodriguez, Enrique Gonsález-Medina, Miguel del Aguila, and Cuban-born composer Aurelio de la Vega.

De la Vega, long a pillar of the Los Angeles scene, offered a compact musical autobiography with his "Variación del Recuerdo." A nostalgic dream of a string orchestra piece, the work somehow manages to combine traditional Cuban sounds and post-Webern serial writing.

American Record Guide -- September/October 2004
Overview: Schumann

Spoleto, May Festival, Bach at Leipzig, Loving Strauss, and more
included a review of De la Vegas's Piano Pieces with Martha Marchena
Musicians Showcase 1088--42 minutes


Cuban composer Aurelio de la Vega blends dance motifs from his native country with modernist form and harmony. This album, celebrating Vega's 40 years as a piano composer, demonstrates his wide emotional and technical range. The early preludes are pensive and poetic, the Danza Lento, a slow-motion dance, the Toccata a viruoso workout, and there's a sardonic minuet. The spikiest piece of modernism is Antimonies; the most lyrical and dreamlike is Epigrama, a melancholy rumination based on a two-note rhythmic cell. Vega regards his 1987 homage to Villa-Lobos as his most personal work, combining modernist, folkloric, and virtuoso piano elements in a grand melange. He writes only for himself now, he says, not for the fad of the moment. All of these pieces have a strong rhythmic personality and clear form. Martha Marchena's performances are poetic and assertive; the recording has lots of presence.

Northridge Annual Report -- fall 2004 -- No. 39
College of Arts, Media, & Communication

William Toutant, dean

De la Vega Career Recognized

Professor emeritus Aurelio de la Vega was honored for his accomplishments as a teacher and a composer of music with the prestigious 2004 Herencia Award.

De la Vega's compositions have been influential whithin the field of music, advancing the sounds and styles of Latin America. Major orchestras, ensembles, prominent soloists and singers throughout the world have performed his works.

Earlier in the year, seven acclaimed Hispanic artists and academics paid tribute to de la Vega in Encuentro, an international magazine that celebrates Cuban culture. De la Vega taught at Cal State Northridge for 34 years before retiring in 1993.

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C O N T A C T             I N F O R M A T I O N

pond photo by the Dow Chemical Company

Dr. Aurelio de la Vega
Music Department
California State University, Northridge
18111 Nordhoff Street
Northridge, CA 91330-8314


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