Friday, August 01, 2014

CCC 111 - Arturo Márquez

This week Mexican composer Arturo Márquez is the focus of the Consonant Classical Challenge. Márquez incorporates the traditional and popular music of Mexico and Central America into his works. He uses tonality in much the same way as his sources, supporting his melodies with simple triads. His harmonies don't move in textbook fashion, but they do conform to popular usage, which makes his music immediately understandable to just about anyone.

That's not to say Márquez writes pop tunes for orchestra. His melodies are often quite intricate, and carefully orchestrated to give a variety of expressions and texture to the music. Márquez's use of the folk and pop traditions of his country might be compared to the ways Brahms and Dvorak used similar materials for their shorter works.

Márquez has composed a series of eight Danzons using the traditional form for this genre. Danzon No. 2 is the most-performed of the set. It begins with a soft, gentle bossa nova rhythm. Márquez's imaginative orchestration and solid motivic development make this more than just light background music, though.

Another popular work by Márquez is the Conga del fuego. This work has all the fire and excitement of a dance hall conga, though with far more sophisticated musical development.

Zarabandeo is a work for clarinet and piano. Folk elements are farther in the background in this work, which feature odd-meter rhythms. In this stripped-down setting of just two instruments, it's easier to hear the complexity of Marquez's melodies.

The Homenaje a Gismonti is an interesting work for string quartet. Egberto Gismonti is a Brazilian composer and multi-instrumentalist. In this composition, Márquez uses idioms and rhythms from Brazilian music to pay tribute to Gismonti's style.

Arturo Márquez is a major figure in Mexican classical music, and thanks to champions like Gustavo Dudamel, he's becoming better known in America, too. Since most of his works are quite short, Marquez's music is often recorded for compilations. The Recommended Recordings listings reflect that. I, for one, would be interested in hearing all eight Danzons performed as a group, and would really like to hear some of his more cerebral compositions.

Recommended recordings

Four, For Tango


Conga Line in Hell: Modern Class Latin America

Mi Alma Mexicana (My Mexican Soul)

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