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Carabobo. When he was 23, he became teacher at the Conservatorio de Música de Carabobo and at age 25, principal flute of the Orquesta Municipal de Valencia (Venezuela). Oscher formed a popular-music chamber group called “Nuestro Ensamble” in 1998, where he composed and arranged folkloric Venezuelan music mixed with jazz and classical music. This dichotomy of both a classical-trained musician/teacher and a pop composer/arranger/performer eventually gave way to compositions such as The Journeys of Humboldt.
In the summer of 1999, Oscher visited Europe for the first time and was enamored with his grandparents’ continent. He received classes with William Bennett in London and visited France, Holland, and Germany. He was accepted and was given a scholarship to study flute in the Royal Academy of Music in London with William Bennett, which he described as any “flutists dream”. While in London, he won the Benjamin Dale prize, founded the tango group “Flautango,” and received a postgraduate diploma in 2003. Also in London, he formed another folkloric chamber group called “Bolívar Soloists,” which stills performs Venezuelan music around the globe. His involvement with the Bolívar Soloists has been integral in his development as an arranger and composer, and Oscher recorded a CD with this group titled “¡México!” for Deutsche Grammophon, which was released in 2011; on this CD, the group collaborated with Rolando Villazón, a renowned Mexican tenor. This record also won the ECHO klassik award in the category of “classics without borders.” Oscher has lived in Bremen, Germany since 2006, and is an important figure in the flute world, especially within the Boehm System; in this technique of flute-playing, the g# key must be pressed down to play the lower register which, according to many flutists, makes flute technique easier. He teaches flute and performs music of all genres. He describes his experiences
the honesty, and the calm nature of the people of Germany. Contrastingly, he misses a myriad of Venezuelan aspects, among them the sun, the beaches, and the parties with Venezuelan music.
Oscher stated that the German people never acted in a cold manner, a trait he had understood from Venezuelan hearsay. He has felt welcomed and accepted in Germany as an immigrant. His significant involvement in the Latin and Hispanic communities greatly facilitated his European transition, and he feels that his connection to the German culture and people is equally pleasant. He indicated that he has always felt like an immigrant everywhere he’s lived, whether Venezuela, London, or Germany. He also thinks, however, that his experiences with different genres of music through his travels have helped his versatility as a musician.
Oscher has also recorded numerous CDs during his career, his first the Nuestro Ensamble in 1998. In 2005, Oscher recorded a flute CD titled “Opera Fantasies,” which included fantasies and arrangements of famous operas such as Bizet Carmen, Verdi La Traviata, Thomase Mignon, and others. In 2009, he recorded “Flamenco” where he teamed with a double bass, guitar, and drums to create a modern take on flamenco with jazz, Latin, and oriental elements.
Oscher has performed as soloist with the University of Carabobo Chamber Orchestra, the Caribbean Philharmonic, and the Fransisco de Miranda Orchestra. He has performed in significant venues across Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, England, Venezuela, Mexico, and in prestigious festivals like Bath International Music Festival and English Chamber Orchestra Young Artist Series.
Oscher has regained acclamation as a composer and his compositions have been performed by many notable groups. Oscher began his compositional career as a member of
mixed classical traits with jazz and Venezuelan folk. While in Europe, Oscher arranged Venezuelan music for classical instruments, which gave rise to his acclaimed group “Bolívar Soloists.” From 2006 – 2010, Oscher composed for the “Begabden Förderung” of Bremen, a program for talented music students. The Simón Bolívar Orchestra has performed many of his works; his overture “Obertura para Orquesta Sinfónica” was performed at the International Music and Tourism Festival of Venezuela in 2009. Oscher has created compositions for Edicson Ruiz, a Berlin Philharmonic double bass player, including a double bass concerto composed in
2011. He has also written piano pieces for Venezuelan-Argentinian pianist Sergio Tiempo who resides in Belgium. The Nuevo Mundo Chamber Orchestra has also performed his works and the Sinfonisches Orchester Mainz has performed his “Green Concerto” for flute, percussion, and orchestra. The Deutsche Oper Orchestra performed his “Miranda” concerto for flute in 2011, a piece which was a commissioned by the Venezuelan embassy. He has also composed for The Junge Simfonie Berlin for their Stars von Morgen program, and for the Theater am Goetheplatz for their youth-theatre program. The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie premiered his piece Fipps in Bremen. Moreover, acclaimed trumpet player Pacho Flores has performed Oscher’s trumpet concerto Mestizo around the world since its conception in 2010. Oscher has also arranged pieces for the Deutsche Grammophon for tenor Rolando Villazón, trumpeter Pacho Flores, and mandolinist Avi Avitel.
A portion of my research included an email interview on 21st of January, 2015, in which Oscher answered the following questions about composing in general and about this piece in particular. His answers are translated; however, they are unedited.
Question: Which method do you use to compose? There are composers who write with an orchestration in mind, others write with a clear programmatic vision, and there are many others ways. How do you prefer writing music?
I actually don’t have only one method of composing. I almost always compose for
commission, for my group [Bolívar Soloists] or to play them myself. In every situation there are different motivations, which induce in me a work method. Many of my compositions are based on real events of politic, historic, or religious nature. This has allowed me to develop a compositional method in which the dramaturgy of the piece is governed by the story it recounts.
I imagine a series of scenes, like from a movie, to which I give music. Although I have the instrumentation in mind and I sometimes use idiomatic elements, the story provides a leading thread and a series of images help the interpreter find the suitable character for each phrase.
Question: What was your inspiration for composing The Journeys of Humboldt? What kind of investigation did you do before or while composing the piece?
Answer: For the anniversary of the birth of Alexander von Humboldt, the Venezuelan Embassy organized a concert of my ensemble, Bolívar Soloists, and commissioned a piece that would musicalize the journeys of this illustrious scientists through the Venezuelan lands. As a point of reference, there was an exhibition of the paintings of Ferdinand Bellermann, who travelled through Venezuela sponsored by Humboldt to paint the landscapes that so fascinated
various texts that narrated the journeys of Humboldt through Venezuela, as well as a selection of texts from Humboldt’s time and Humboldt himself. The cultural sector from the Venezuelan embassy in Germany provided me with a selection of paintings of Bellermann in digital form as well as a copy of the documentary ‘Fiebre en el Trópico’ [Fever in the Tropic], filmed in the amazon jungle of Venezuela, which I watched with much attention. All this material helped me enter the story and create the musical atmosphere to retell it.
Answer: I made the orchestration for a Latin American program prepared in Berlin by the Nuevo Mundo Chamber Orchestra. My colleagues from the Bolívar Soloists suggested that I orchestrate the piece because it lends itself for expansion of the color-palette from what I used on the original version. That instrumentation only included a woodwind quintet and strings on that occasion, but my idea was to orchestrate it for a standard orchestral body, which I accomplished later in order to make it more attractive for orchestras around the world.
You titled the smaller version “Humboldt and the Sounds of Venezuela” and the
orchestral version “The Journeys of Humboldt”. Is there a specific reason for the change of name?
Answer: First, the name seemed too long. On the other hand, I have a vision of expanding the work into a series of pieces called “The Journeys of Humboldt”. Then, this piece would be subtitled ‘Venezuela’, while the new sections will have subtitles for each Latin-American country or region visited by Humboldt on his expeditions.” Question: What do you imagine through the seven movements?
on his journey, to which I used elements of Venezuelan folklore.
Question: What is your mental/visual story of this piece?
To answer that question, I give you the text I sent to my editorial ‘Compofactur’,
which describes each of the movements: “The piece describes several destinations of the travels of Alexander von Humboldt and Aimé Bonpland around Venezuela. These places were painted a few years later by German landscape painter Ferdinand Bellermann. ‘A bordo de la Fragata Pizarro’ describes the adventurous sailing of the scientists across the rough Atlantic Ocean and their arrival to the calm waters of the Caribbean Sea. The distinctive three-note motive appears throughout the piece whenever they travel over water. In their first Venezuela port, Cumana, they witnessed a colossal display of shooting stars that Bellermann pictured in one of his paintings. A harmonic-glissando effect on the strings gives this movement a very magical sound.
Mérida is a city beautifully set in the Venezuelan Andes; high in the mountains the vegetation is very peculiar, a fact that captured the attention of the researchers. In this movement appears the Venezuelan Merengue, a musical style in 5/8 that is unique among all the Latin American folkloric music. The researchers also visited Maracaibo, which is an important city at the shore of a great lake, the capital of the County Zulia. This county is partially inhabited by aborigines of the tribes Añú (Paraujano), Barí, Wayúu (Guajiro), Yukpa y Japreria. I used the rhythm of ‘Gaita de Tambora’, which belongs to the folklore of this county and the sound of the piccolo flute, to imitate the ‘Pífan’, an ethnic flute used in the area. In Caracas Humboldt was surprised by the strong European influence on the life of Venezuelan capital. This movement begins with a touch of European Waltz but then turns into a Joropo, Venezuela music style of the plain lands. The longest part of the expedition took place in the south of the country where the scientists were
of all the plants and animals they found on their way across the Amazonic Jungle. In this section the musical language is less traditional, improvisation and extended techniques are required on the woodwinds. In ‘Angostura’, the final stop on their expedition to Venezuela, Humboldt and Bonpland wrote the report of their travels. In this final movement all the main melodies are played again with slight modifications.” Question: Is there any other detail about this piece that you would like to share?
I’m sending you the Powerpoint presentation with images from Bellermann’s
paintings [http://bit.ly/15gJVMD – Also appended at the end of this document]. During the premiere of the camera version, these images were projected. Unexpectedly, the image of the meteor shower appeared just as the strings were playing the harmonic effects, to which the audience reacted with an “Ohhhh!” The premiere of the small-orchestral version was performed by the Nuevo Mundo Chamber Orchestra and conducted by Carlos Izcaray, who was named this year as musical director of the Alabama Symphony Orchestra.
Alexander von Humboldt’s experience in Venezuela Image 1. Painting of Humboldt by Friedrich Georg Weitsch from 1806.
Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859), an explorer and naturalist, travelled extensively through Central and South America studying their ecology and geography. He was the first scientist to propose that Africa and South America may have been connected at one point. While studying at the University of Frankfurt, Humboldt became fascinated with botany and was eager to explore places where he could study rare plants up close. During his year at the University of
opportunities to participate in scientific expeditions, but he was unable to join them. He received permission from the Spanish government to travel to the Spanish colonies, which were only accessible to Spanish officials and Roman Catholic missions; his social status helped him when requesting permission for his travel. He financed the entirety of the journey from the inheritance he received upon his mother’s death. Departing Marseille in 1799, Humboldt spent five years away from his homeland on foot, in canoes, and on horseback on his 6000-mile expedition.
It is important to note that the country of Venezuela was not established at this time. The Spanish Empire claimed its territory in 1522 and it became independent merely 10 years after Humboldt’s passing through Caracas. Moreover, by the time Humboldt arrived in Caracas, the notions of freedom had been brewing in Caracas’ underground scene because of the United States’ success in dethroning British rule. Copies of Paine’s The Rights of Man and Rousseau’s writings were secretly imported from France and were printed and hidden in private houses.
Despite an unsuccessful revolution attempt in 1797, Venezuela claimed its independence in 1811 and secured it completely in 1821, becoming the first Spanish-American country to do so.
Humboldt’s expedition started with a stop at Tenerife and a climb to the Teide volcano.