Schoenberg’s Cachaca (2004)

for string orchestra
ca 5:30
commissioned by  Dr. Janet Jensen, for the All-University String Orchestra

Premiere: May 1st, 2004 by All-University String Orchestra, conducted by Dr. Janet Jensen; Madison WI

Imagine Schoenberg having a good time in Brazil, and composing over a few too many bottles of cachaca!

Cachaca (ka-SHA-sa), also known as Aguardente, is a spirit distilled from sugarcane. It is the second most consumed drink in Brazil where it originates. Annually 1 billion liters of Cachaca is produced. The process of distillation began in 1532, when one of the Portuguese colonizers brought the first cuttings of sugar cane from Madeira.

The process is similar to rum distillation, but rather than utilizing molasses (the unrefined treacly-like syrup from sugar cane), Cachaca is directly distilled from the fermented juice of the cane. After distillation, various techniques are employed to “finish off” the product. The most commonly encountered form of Cachaca is clear, which indicates no ageing, just filtration before bottling.

The result is a clean, strong flavor, somewhat reminiscent of white rum, but with an edge that is noticeably different. Although oak casks are used occasionally, most producers prefer local woods, which produce a remarkable range of colors, flavors and aromas in the product. Aged Cachaca would be wasted on cocktails; a good slug over ice is the preferred way to enjoy this unique drink.

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