Melodies and Rhythms of Latin America
Danzón No. 2 and Conga del fuego nuevo
Arturo Márquez’s music, which will be played at the beginning and the end of today’s concert, is praised for its infectious rhythms and expressive lyricism. The son and grandson of folk musicians, Márquez was born in Sonora, Mexico in 1950. In his late childhood, he immigrated with his family to La Puente in the Los Angeles area, where he undertook piano, trombone, and violin studies. Later, he moved to Mexico City to study composition at the National Conservatory of Mexico, to Paris for further compositional studies, and to Los Angeles to complete graduate studies at CalArts. He currently resides in Mexico City, where he works as a professor and sought-after composer.
The Conga del fuego nuevo (Conga of the New Fire) is inspired in the Afro-Cuban conga. Márquez’s take on the popular style is characterized by memorable tunes and exciting build-ups.
Márquez’s fascination with Caribbean music goes beyond the Conga. He has written over eight danzóns, the second of which is doubtlessly the most popular among them. His exploration of the danzón genre was originally instigated by friends who were passionate connoisseurs of Mexican salon dance music and after several trips to the Veracruz area, where music influenced by Caribbean rhythms has for decades been the centerpiece of the dance repertoire in private homes and public festivities. For Márquez, “the apparent lightness of the danzón is only an introduction to music full of sensuality and qualitative rigor, which Mexicans still experience with joy and nostalgia, and as a escape to an emotional world.”
Fuga con pajarillo
Venezuelan musician Aldemaro Romero (1927-2008) was not only an accomplished pianist and conductor but also a versatile composer who could easily navigate between jazz, classical, and popular genres. Romero originally created Fuga con pajarillo as the first movement of a suite for string orchestra in 1970. Almost since its conception, the piece embarked on a journey of its own, being performed as a stand-alone work by many orchestras around Latin American and beyond. The piece effectively combines a fugue––a complex contrapuntal process associated with 17th- and 18th-century European composers––with a pajarillo––a popular genre from the agricultural region of Venezuela based on repeated patterns over which musicians and singers skillfully improvise. The symphonic version performed today was arranged in 2003 from the original string piece by American flutist and arranger Glenn Michael Egner, who has lived in Venezuela since the 1970’s.
Homenaje a Federico García Lorca
Silvestre Revueltas (1899-1940) is now considered one of the greatest figures of Mexico’s musical landscape in the 20th century. Ironically, he died neglected and afflicted by alcoholism at the age of 41 in Mexico City. Homenaje, written only three years before the composer’s death, commemorates the tragic execution of Spanish poet and playwright Federico García Lorca, a social democrat targeted by fascist forces during the Spanish Civil War.
In Homenaje, Revueltas seamlessly combined elements from the Mexican folk tradition with a progressive language and an imaginative arrangement for small orchestra (piccolo flute, piccolo clarinet, trumpet, trombone, tuba, piano, percussion, violins, and contrabass). The first movement, “Baile,” opens and closes with a trumpet solo that evokes burial honors. The dance-like spirit of the movement proper is reminiscent of cheerful Mexican village music. The second movement, “Duelo,” expresses with dissonant harmonies and arid orchestral colors the grief felt after Lorca’s execution. The third movement, “Son,” mixes jagged and unpredictable rhythms (which remind us of Igor Stravinsky’s music) with a Mexican son, another dance form from the Veracruz region.
Dances from the Ballet Estancia
The ballet Estancia by Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983) was written in 1941 to celebrate the lives of the Argentinean workers in rural areas. The concert suite performed today consists of four dances excerpted by Ginastera from the original ballet:
1. Los trabajadores agricolas (The land workers)
2. Danza del trigo (Wheat dance)
3. Los peones de la hacienda (The cattle men)
4. Danza final (Malambo)
The first, third, and fourth dances are characterized by incisive rhythms, dissonant harmonies, and powerful instrumentation. In contrast, the second dance is nostalgic and peaceful, evoking the vastness of the Argentinian countryside. The dances from Estancia are directly based on elements from Argentina’s folk musical tradition seen through Ginastera’s modernist lens.
Notes by David Cubek