Notes by TŌN violinist Nicole Oswald
Andrés Gaos was a violinist, composer, and conductor born into a family of Galician music merchants. He made his debut playing the violin at a young age and was recognized with a scholarship to take private lessons in Brussels with Eugene Yasÿe. In 1893, he traveled internationally to perform in Cuba, settled for a short period in Mexico City a year later, and landed in Buenos Aires in 1895. There, he met his wife, had five children, and worked at the Alberto Williams Conservatory and later the Public Administration of Argentina. Gaos and his wife, America Montenegro, formed the Gaos quartet alongside the string faculty of the Williams Conservatory. After they divorced in 1917, Gaos remarried a student with whom he had three children. He mostly taught music and worked for the government until retirement. His fourth son, Andrés Gaos Montenegro, was a cabaret singer and composer who had success recording several albums in the 1920s. His eighth son, Andrés Gaos Guillochon (1932–2018) published unlikely stories about his father’s life. Notably, Gaos gave the Latin American premiere of Camille Saint-Saëns’ famous Violin Concerto No. 3 under the baton of Saint-Saëns himself in 1904. Even though Gaos never became an internationally recognized violinist, he holds a place in time representing Galician composers through his compositions. His catalog of work includes a myriad of violin pieces written for himself and his first wife, as well as an opera, symphony, symphonic poem, four symphonic paintings, and two works for string orchestra.
Similar to Samuel Barber’s famous Adagio for Strings and Mahler’s Adagietto from the 5th Symphony, Impresión nocturna is not shy by comparison with its lush string orchestration. One would wonder if Gaos was inspired by the rich harmonic texture and endless melodic material in Mahler’s Adagietto, while keeping the sincere sentiment of the Adagio for Strings. By comparison, Gaos’ orchestration has a dense harmonic texture at times with overlapping suspensions almost reminiscent of the old Hollywood sound we expect to hear from Erich Wolfgang Korngold. The sonorous quality of string orchestra coupled with the mild tempo and rich harmony creates a beautiful palate for any listener. The work begins in D major and, to end the 12-minute journey, Gaos concludes in a somber D minor.