American classical music lovers seem to be a little myopic. European composers are well-represented on the concert stage, and there's a few Americans as well. But that's about it. And that's too bad -- because there are many outstanding composers living and working both north and south of our borders.
Mexican composer Arturo Marquez is our selection this time for the Consonant Classical Challenge. Marquez incorporates the traditional music of his native land into his musical language, and the results have been very successful. His series of danzóns for orchestra successfully translate the essence of this popular Latin American dance, similar to what Brahms did with the Viennese popular dance, the waltz.
Marquez uses very simply chordal harmonies, coupled with exciting, syncopated rhythms. Those two characteristics of Mexican folk music make Marquez' compositions accessible and appealing to a wide audience -- both classical and non-classical
One of his most recent works, the Conga del fuego nuevo, is a perfect summation of Marquez' style.
Marquez has written extensively for both orchestral and chamber ensembles. His Cello Concerto No. 2 is one of his larger works. Yet even with its more sophisticated construction, Marquez' musical language remains consistent.
The series of danzóns have proved Marquez' most popular compositions -- especially with the championing of conductor Gustavo Dudamel (whose popularity also extends beyond the traditional classical audiences). Danzón No. 2 not only captures the excitement of this Latin American dance, but also demonstrates Marquez' skill at orchestration.
Marquez has achieved a high degree of popularity -- abroad. His music can be challenging to perform. It takes a high-energy ensemble to really bring this compositions to life. But what life! I've enjoyed his shorter works immensely. I would love to hear some of Arturo Marquez' major compositions performed, too.