Music in the Making

Music In The Making: South American Sojourn

Take a musical vacation and travel through Central and South America on this week’s episode!


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On this week’s episode of Music in the Making, we head down to Central and South America, exploring the music of Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil.

Sojourn through Central and South America
Sojourn through Central and South America

Silvestre Revueltas: Sensemaya
Moores School Symphonic Winds
Moores Opera House

We’ll begin our journey South in Mexico, with a short tone poem by Revueltas. “Sensemaya” was inspired by a poem by Cuban writer Guillen, which describes the ritualistic killing of a snake. Throughout, several obsessive rhythms act as motifs, and serve to drive the piece forward. One of them, in fact, is drawn from the rhythmic structure of the poetic refrain: “¡Mayombe—bombe—mayombé!” The score calls for a massive percussion section, incorporating not only the traditional orchestral instruments, but also more exotic ones, such as maracas, gourd, and raspador.

Silvestre Revueltas
Silvestre Revueltas

Alberto Ginastera: Pampeana No. 2, Op. 21
Brinton Averil Smith (cello), Evelyn Chen (piano)
Duncan Recital Hall

Next, we’ll head to Argentina with a work by Ginastera. He wrote three compositions called Pampeanas, a title derived from the word “Pampas,” the Quechua word for the vast Argentine plains. The second in this series, written for cello and piano, evokes the folk music of the region through its dance-like rhythms and in the cello’s rhapsodic opening, which is an imitation of the gaucho singing tradition.

Heitor Villa-Lobos: Trio
Martin Schuring (oboe), Robert Spring (clarinet), Jeffrey Lyman (bassoon)
Moores Opera House

Now, we’ll head slightly North, up to Brazil, with music by Villa-Lobos. Born in Rio de Janeiro, Villa-Lobos was endlessly fascinated by the folk music of his country, marrying European compositional techniques with nationalistic styles. His modernist leanings are apparent in his woodwind trio, composed in 1921. At the time, it was considered one of the most important chamber works by Villa-Lobos.

Heitor Villa-Lobos
Heitor Villa-Lobos

Astor Piazzolla: Le Grand Tango
Rita Porfiris (viola) and Timothy Hester (piano)
Moores Opera House

We’ll head back down to Argentina for music by Astor Piazzolla, a composer known for redefining the Argentine tango. His contributions to the genre, a style now known as the “Nuevo Tango,” may have infuriated tango purists, but it gained Piazzolla a vast following. Le Grand Tango is a single movement work composed in 1982 for cellist Rostropovich, built on the rhythms of tango and infused with elements of jazz.

Astor Piazzolla and his orchestra
Astor Piazzolla and his orchestra

This episode originally aired Sunday, August 6th, 2017. Catch Music in the Making every Sunday at 7:06 PM on Classical.