Upcoming Concert Commemorates 25th Tour

From Adagio to Allegro: Ralph Votapek marks 50 years in Argentina.

Ralph Votapek plays piano during the Joanne and Bill Church West Circles Series concert, “The Magic of Mendelssohn.” Votapek celebrates his 25th tour of Argentina with a preview concert at MSU’s Fairchild Theatre April 18, 2016.

Why does Ralph Votapek, professor emeritus of piano, get out of bed to practice four hours each morning?

“I do it for Argentina and MSU,” he says.

Ralph Votapek began his love affair with Argentina 50 years ago. Along with his teaching and performing at MSU, his performances in Argentina have comprised a large part of his career. In May, he will return to Buenos Aires for his 25th concert tour. 

Back in the 1950s and 1960s, not many performers would make the trek to Buenos Aires. Thanks to his manager’s connections in Argentina, Votapek at the age of 27, played for more than 3,000 people in Buenos Aires. His concert was very well received, and he was invited back for two consecutive years followed by every other year after that.

Votapek quickly became enamored with the culture and people of the country, and began learning Spanish so he could better operate and socialize while on tour. He traveled in June and July after his concert season in the U.S., enabling him to better prepare and explore selected repertoire. 

Ralph Votapek's tour in 1997 included a stop at the 4,000 seat capacity Teatro Colón concert hall in Buenos Aires.
Centro Cultural Kirchner, the largest cultural center in Latin America holds numerous concert halls and stages.
Votapek’s concert celebrating his 25th tour of Argentina will be held in Centro Cultural Kirchner’s largest hall, La Ballena Azul, “the Blue Whale.”
Composers Astor Piazzolla and Alberto Ginastera had a profound influence on music in Latin America.

Votapek has performed throughout Latin America, but his warmest receptions were always in Argentina and Uruguay. He recalls classical music was very popular among Argentines, many of whom were European and Jewish immigrants. 

One of Votapek’s Argentine-Uruguayan tours included 22 concerts in just 45 days. In the provincial areas, he would perform in small but beautifully acoustic theatres that accommodated a few hundred or more, then make the leap to stages in Buenos Aires, like the Teatro Colón which hosted audiences of 4,000.

Votapek's concert commemorating his 25th tour of Argentina will be held at the Centro Cultural Kirchner in downtown Buenos Aires. He will perform in the main hall named La Ballena Azul, or “Blue Whale,” which accommodates nearly 2,000.

Over time, his performing in Argentina has overlapped many political changes of the country. Votapek said he never encountered any issues personally, but suspects that some Argentine composers may have left Argentina at one time or another because of the politically charged environment.

Works by well-known Latin American composers Astor Piazzolla and Alberto Ginastera created controversy. Piazzolla’s works advanced the tango, says Votapek.

“However, at the time Piazzolla was also incorporating classical and jazz elements into his tango works, which was met with great resistance from the traditional tango establishment,” he says, then reflects that Ginastera’s compositions were very popular in the U.S.

Votapek recalls meeting Ginastera after his first concert in 1966. Ginastera, an established and prestigious composer, came to meet him back stage. He introduced himself and gave Votapek a score he composed and signed.

In 2013, the Association of Argentine Music Critics awarded Mr. Votapek the best foreign artist in recital. 

In light of Argentina’s recent elections, “I wish the country well,” Votapek says gratefully, “It’s been so good to me.”

Votapek will preview his Argentine concert at MSU on Monday, April 18, in the Fairchild Theatre. The concert will feature three short pieces by Alberto Ginastera from his early period exhibiting local folk traditions, including popular works by Mozart, Chopin, and Gershwin. This concert is generously sponsored by Greg and Pam Zbasnik.

Article Source: MSU Center for Latin and Caribbean Studies, Jan. 20, 2016. “From Adagio to Allegro: Ralph Votapek Marks 50 Years in Argentina” 

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