Latin American Classics Volume I
José Pablo Moncayo (1912 - 1958)
Born as the composer was in Guadalajara, Jalisco, in 1912, the most important work of José Pablo Moncayo and the Mexican orchestral composition most widely known internationally is dedicated to the state of Veracruz. In a journey that Moncayo and Blas Galindo undertook to Alvarado to collect the folk-music of the region they met with serious difficulties in the transcription of the very varied rhythms of the people of Huapango. In doubt as to how to proceed, Moncayo had recourse to another composer, Candelario Hufzar, who advised him to publish the material as he had heard it and then to develop it in accordance with his own ideas. From this comes this score that may be regarded as a second national anthem. The clever use of the trumpet and the trombone in popular themes such as El Gavilán, Siqui Siri and Balahú gives the work a national character not found in any other Mexican composition.
Silvestre Revueltas (1899 - 1940)
Born on the last day of 1899, the last day of the century, in the state of Durango, Silvestre Revueltas studied at the National Conservatory of Music in Mexico City and, with his notable aptitude for composition and conducting, completed his musical education with the greatest distinction at the Chicago College of Music. With Carlos Chávez he organized the first concerts of contemporary music in Mexico in 1924 and 1925, events that had a great impact with music then completely unknown to audiences in the capital. He occupied various positions of importance in the musical life of the country and wrote music for films. It was the celebration of the success of La Noche de los Mayas that precipitated his final illness and death on 5th October 1940. On 15th December 1938 Revueltas himself conducted the Symphony Orchestra of Mexico in the Palacio de Bellas Artes in a programme that included Sensemayá, inspired by the poem of the same name by the famous Cuban poet Nicolás Guillén, a work dealing with the negro ritual of the death of a snake. A work of marked rhythms, it strangely brings to mind at times the music of the North American composer Aaron Copland in his compositions based on North American folk-music.
Manuel M. Ponce (1882 - 1948)
Born in the state of Zacatecas in 1882, Ponce earned international fame with a simple song that has won popularity throughout the world, Estrellita. Sung in many languages and scored in a diversity of orchestral forms, Estrellita is internationally the best known Mexican song. Like Moncayo, Ponce had the patience to collect elements of popular music and then to make faithful use of them. Many of his songs and themes have deep roots in popular repertoire. While they may be arrangements or re-creations, they serve perfectly the diffusion of this music throughout the world. The catalogue of his songs is still incomplete, since there is still music by Ponce that remains unpublished. His classical side must not be forgotten, with his Piano Concerto, his Piano Trios and his splendid Violin Concerto, major contributions to national culture.
Felipe Villanueva (1862 - 1893)
An important Mexican composer, Felipe Villanueva was born on 5th February, an important date, in 1862, and died young on 2nd June 1893. At the age of six he played the violin and when he was ten wrote a cantata dedicated to the Cura Hidalgo. He was founder of the Musical Institute and belonged to the Group of Six that brought together the best known musicians of the time, Acevedo, Gustavo E. Campa, Ricardo Castro, Carlos J. Meneses, Quezada and Villanueva himself. In spite of the shortness of his life, he left important orchestral compositions and operas. Unfortunately his music has been almost totally forgotten, with the exception of his beautiful Vals Poético, which remains in the repertoire. An enchanting work, with a fluent and evocative melody, it is a central element in the repertoire of pianists and a frequent encore piece in orchestral concerts.
Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887 - 1959)
(Bachiana brasileira No. 2)
The most important Brazilian composer, Heitor Villa-Lobos, brought together perfectly the native music of his country with that of Bach. Between 1930 and 1945 he wrote a series of Bachianas brasileiras, nine suites, in which the composer's own instrument, the cello has an important part. Bachianas brasileiras No. 2, written in 1930, is in four sections, the last of which bears the title O trenzhino do Caipira (The Little Country Train), taking us on a short musical journey by steam-train through the Amazon forests.
Alberto Ginastera (1916 - 1983)
Born in 1916, Alberto Ginastera had his musical training in a climate of full musical nationalism. Panambi, written in 1936, was inspired by an Indian legend and may be considered his first work of importance, but it was his ballet Estancia, based on various scenes-of rural life in the pampas of Argentina that assured him a leading position among the nationalist composers of his country and the music known as música criolla. In a number of works Ginastera evokes the mysterious magic of the pampas and a rhythm, the Malambo, in which the physical strength, energy, agility and manliness of the gaucho is clearly expressed, thanks to the genius of the composer.
Juventino Rosas (1868 - 1894)
Sobre los olas (On the Waves)
Juventino Rosas, the least musically trained of the composers included here, with no study abroad, remains the definitive Mexican waltz king, with an enviable command of melody and perfect understanding of harmony and rhythm, and above all of the way to give his works an ending of brilliance. The best tribute to his talent is the fact that his most famous waltz, Sobre los olas (On the Waves), has often been attributed to Johann Strauss, confirmed by the European mistake of including this work in concerts of Viennese music in the Old World. Nevertheless Strauss himself would certainly have been happy to own this waltz.
Rodolfo Halffter (1900 - 1987)
Obertura Festiva (Festive Overture)
Although self-taught as a composer, Rodolfo Halffier had the benefit of advice from Manuel de Falla and Arnold Schoenberg. His music is characterized by impeccable technique and careful attention to dynamics and accents, with a modernism that never ceases to be infectiously Spanish. He has spent the greater part of his life in Mexico, as musician, conductor, writer and musical administrator, while still considered in his native Madrid as an important figure in Spanish cultural life. He has received the highest honours from both Mexico and Spain.
Halffter's Obeftura Festiva (Festive Overture) is carefully orchestrated for a relatively small group of instruments, used to great effect. The rhythmic flow of the music never flags and interest is maintained through the diversity of instrumental colouring and the turns of melody, with variations in rhythm that open up always new expressive possibilities.
Carlos Chavez (1899 - 1978)
Sarabanda para cuerdas
(from La hija de Cólquide)
(Sarabande for strings, from The Daughter of Cólquide)
In 1943 Carlos Chavez received a commission that again brought him into contact with themes of classical Greece, after having composed his Sinfonia de Antigona (Antigone Symphony). The Coolidge Foundation of the Library of Congress of the United States asked Chavez for music for the ballet La hija de Cólquide, to be performed by the company of Martha Graham, a figure of the greatest importance in the development of modern dance, who provided the outline of the ballet. The work is in nine parts and was not performed until 1946, when it was staged at the Plymouth Theatre in New York.
The Sarabanda of the suite from La hija de Cólquide was written by Chavez, in the context of the ballet, as a tribute to the musicologist Carl B. Engel, director of The Musical Quarterly and President of the publishers Schirmer's. For this reason the first three notes of the theme of the Sarabande, C - B - E, correspond to Engel's initials.
Bias Galindo (1910 -)
Sones de Mariachi
An example of the musical talent of Mexican people, Bias Galindo was born in a remote village in Jalisco in the Huichola region, and, with the Revolution, came relatively late to music, at the age of twenty, but his talent and dedication, and the help given by Carlos Chávez, soon allowed him to make up for lost time and to familiarise himself with traditional and modern techniques of composition, eventually to become director of the National Conservatory of Music and a member of the Academy of Arts, among other distinctions. His Sones de Mariachi remains the most often performed of all his works, in spite of the success of many other compositions in an abundant catalogue of works. It was written at the suggestion of Carlos Chávez as part of a musical programme for the New York Museum of Modern Art. This brilliant synthesis of popular Mexican music enjoyed such success that the composer was invited by Columbia to record the work. Galindo had earlier written a fuller orchestration of the piece, using all the resources of the modern orchestra, and it is this version that is here recorded. Any Mexican will recognise at once the themes used and it is the vigour of the treatment and the brightness of orchestral colour that constitutes the novelty of the piece, assuring its success.
Enrique Bátiz (English translation by Keith Anderson)
Festival Orchestra of Mexico
The Festival Orchestra of Mexico was founded in 1986, drawing on members of the best Mexican orchestras. Its primary purpose has been to provide concerts during the summer months, with a repertoire that includes music of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, particularly by composers from South and North America. Summer tours throughout Mexico remain a principal feature of the orchestra's activity, with an increasing number of recordings.
The distinguished Mexican conductor Enrique Bátiz has enjoyed considerable international success, with performances throughout the world, in particular in Europe and the Americas. From 1983 to 1989 he was Musical Director of the Mexico City Philharmonic Orchestra, preceded by a period from 1971 to 1983 as director of the Mexican State Symphony Orchestra, a position he resumed in 1990. Since 1984 he has been Principal Guest Conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London. Of some hundred digital recordings, some 32 have been made with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, nine with the London Symphony Orchestra and twelve with the London Philharmonic, in addition to recordings with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and with his own orchestras in Mexico. He remains one of the leading conductors of Latin America.