Marco Aurélio Yano (1963-1991)
Marco Aurélio Yano wrote Modinha in 1984 as a friendly gift to me. We were both attending college composition classes at the Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP) in São Paulo, Brazil. Marco wrote for this combination as an addendum to the limited repertory for oboe, viola, and piano, after I first discovered the Loeffler Rhapsodies. Modinha is a common term used to describe a traditional melody in Brazil.
Marco generously wrote short works for several of his colleagues, including works for viola, dedicated to our friend João Mauricio Galindo, and the two solo oboe works he wrote for me (Seresta and Improviso). A few years later, it was my recollection of these beautiful works and his labor of love that inspired me to commission a new oboe concerto from Marco. It was to be his first and only large scale work. (I recorded Marco's Concerto for Oboe and Orchestra for Cedille Records in 2003, with Paul Freeman leading the Czech National Symphony Orchestra.)
Yano was a nissei, the name used to describe the first generation of Japanese immigrants born in a foreign land. Brazil received a large influx of Japanese nationals in the last century and boasts the largest Japanese community outside of Japan. Marco Aurélio Yano was a member of this tightly knit community. The influence of Japanese culture is not difficult to hear in his music, as a distant calling in the way he delineates his phrases, in the passing nostalgia of his musical characters, and in the way he treats all climaxes within the work.
What is most striking in Marco's music, both here and in the Concerto, is the depth of his involvement with it even where it relates to music written for friends. Perhaps one would expect such music to express the camaraderie we see in works other composers wrote for their close buddies: an inside joke or two, or a reference to a particular quirk of the dedicatee's personality. We see this in Mozart, Brahms, and Nielsen (for example) when a close friend is the inspiration for a work. Not so with Yano. Music for him was an escape, a closely guarded form of expression in a world which had denied him other means of movement.
It would be improper to mention Yano's physical condition as means to magnify his musical talent, or to give it special value. Doing so would belittle his work, if not insult it. Yet the two — the talent and the condition — need to be addressed to understand the reality from which Marco created his music. Marco was quadriplegic from birth, which gave him a perception of our world the rest of us cannot begin to comprehend. Speech, movement, motor control and the expression of common emotions took on a burden capable of muffling emotional and artistic output — or in the case of Marco, providing an avenue of expression that was all his, arguably the only one freely given to him (other than the constant support and love of his parents and family). Yano's short life is remembered in the few works mentioned here, plus several pieces for electronic media. Alex Klein
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