MÁRQUEZ, FLUTE, & FRANCK
ARTURO MÁRQUEZ | Danzón No.2
Arturo Márquez (born December 20, 1950) is a Mexican composer of orchestral music who uses musical forms and styles of his native Mexico and incorporates them into his compositions.
Born to musical parents in Álamos, a colonial town hugging the western foothills of the Sierra Madre of Sonora, the boy soon migrated with his family to Los Angeles where Márquez spent his teen years and began his musical education in earnest. Eventually, his studies took him to Mexico City, Paris (under a scholarship) and, with a Fulbright now to his credit, he collected an MFA from the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia.
The range and variety of Márquez’ music have elevated his stature as one of the most important Mexican composers of his generation. Márquez’ most popular works have played off his use of familiar and traditional idioms, as attested by the many awards he has accumulated. Purists may prefer the edgy avant-garde, yet all over the Americas, especially today, serious composers who acknowledge their populist cultural roots have won increasing acknowledgement. Marquez’ pieces Danzón No. 2 and Pablo Moncayo’s Huapango have been embraced as unofficial national anthems of Mexico.
Márquez received his first inspiration for Danzón No. 2 while traveling to Malinalco in 1993, with painter Andrés Fonseca and dancer Irene Martinez, who both loved to dance. The pair later brought Márquez to dance halls in Veracruz and the popular Salón Colonia in Mexico City. Like Aaron Copland, who traveled to the dance halls of Mexico City and produced El Salón Mexico, Márquez found himself entranced and inspired by the music. But unlike Copland, who was a visitor from the outside finding his way into the music, Márquez was a native who discovered the music from the inside out, connecting with the musical traditions of his parents and grandparents.
Danzón No. 2 was commissioned by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico in 1994, and Márquez dedicated the piece to his daughter, Lily. The piece opens with a clarinet solo over rhythmic claves, piano, and pizzicato strings. The clarinet is soon answered by oboe, while brass pulse underneath, and the entire ensemble is pulled into the dance. The work becomes increasingly frenetic, and sections featuring solo or groups of instruments with the ever-present claves are contrasted with all-out dance mania. A lyric central section, introduced by piano, features beautifully lush strings and a duet for clarinet and flute. Then brass assert the main dance theme again and the work builds to a dramatic, foot-stomping close.
JACQUES IBERT | Flute Concerto
Jacques François Antoine Ibert (August 15, 1890 – February 5, 1962) was a French composer. Having studied music from an early age, he attended the Paris Conservatoire and won its top prize, the Prix de Rome, on his first attempt, despite the interruption posed by his service in World War I.
Ibert pursued a successful composing career, writing seven operas, five ballets, incidental music for plays and films, songs, choral works, and chamber music. As a composer, Ibert did not attach himself to any of the prevalent genres of music of his time, and has been described as an eclectic. He is probably best remembered for his orchestral works including Divertissement and Escales.
In tandem with his creative work, Ibert was the director of the Académie de France at the Villa Medici in Rome. During World War II he was proscribed by the pro-Nazi government in Paris, and for a time he went into exile in Switzerland. Restored to his former eminence in French musical life after the war, his final musical appointment was charge of the Paris Opera and the Opéra-Comique.
Ibert has been described by some as musically conservative on account of his continued dedication to elements of the classic French tradition of Saint-Saëns and Fauré, but he was also profoundly influenced by the abundance of artistic philosophies circulating around Paris during his formative years—popular, serious, or otherwise. Indeed, creative minds from all over the world, including figures like Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall, Igor Stravinsky, and many others, were converging upon the city as Ibert was at work on his first series of successful works. Rather than affiliating with one of the myriad limiting compositional ideologies circulating at the time, the young composer experimented with harmonic vocabularies in his music for ballets, various opera genres, film scores, solo pieces, symphonies, and an assortment of chamber ensembles. Perhaps it is this wide range of compositional styles and genres that renders Ibertʼs music difficult to categorize, and partially excludes it from the contemporary canon of oft-performed pieces from the era.
The Flute Concerto has remained one of the most popular works for the instrument, regardless of the composerʼs overall canonical status. Ibert began work on the piece in 1932, after Paris Conservatoire professor and accomplished flutist Marcel Moyse asked him to write a piece for the instrument, which Moyse premiered 1934, to widespread acclaim. Indeed, the piece was so popular and technically challenging that the Paris Conservatoire began that year to use the final movement as a test piece for student auditions.
The first Allegro movement opens with a storm of sixteenth notes answered by a lyrical and slightly foreboding second theme. The sixteenths return again with a vengeance as they dart breathlessly from the soloist to various sections of the orchestra. The second movement, a dreamy Andante accompanied by gentle strings, is reminiscent of one of Ibertʼs other enduring works, the orchestral suite Escales that was inspired by the composerʼs travels around Italy. The concertoʼs Finale (Allegro scherzando) provides clear evidence that Ibert was not simply a musically conservative, steadfastly French composer. The complex rhythmic fabric of the movement, alternating between sections of four and three beats, is obviously influenced by American jazz, and is likewise evocative of some of Ibertʼs film scores based on popular music. The final movement makes a range of technical demands of the soloist, from swift leaps to even swifter scale passages and tongue-twisting melodic material, which are combined in the final cadenza and punctuated by the movementʼs energetic orchestral conclusion.
CÉSAR FRANCK | Symphony in D minor
César-Auguste-Jean-Guillaume-Hubert Franck (December 10, 1822 – November 8, 1890) was a composer, pianist, organist, and music teacher who worked in Paris during his adult life. He was born at Liège, in what is now Belgium. He gave his first concerts there in 1834, and studied privately in Paris from 1835, where his teachers included Anton Reicha. After a brief return to Belgium, and a disastrous reception to an early oratorio “Ruth,” he moved to Paris, where he married and embarked on a career as teacher and organist. He gained a reputation as a formidable improviser, and travelled widely in France to demonstrate new instruments built by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll.
In 1858, he became organist at Sainte-Clotilde, a position he retained for the rest of his life. He became professor at the Paris Conservatoire in 1872, taking French nationality, a requirement of the appointment. His pupils included Vincent d’Indy, Ernest Chausson, Louis Vierne, Charles Tournemire, Guillaume Lekeu and Henri Duparc. After acquiring the professorship Franck wrote several pieces that have entered the standard classical repertoire, including symphonic, chamber, and keyboard works.
César Franck begins his Symphony in D-Minor with a single germinal motif out of which the entire composition seems to grow. The three-note motif, with its mysterious, unresolved character, is the same melodic phrase which had intrigued composers before him. Beethoven used it in one of his late string quartets (Op. 135), and wrote into the score above it the question, “Must it be?” Wagner incorporated it in his Ring cycle as the questioning theme of fate, and Liszt made it the central theme of his tone poem, Les Préludes. Each of these composers, in his own way, was fascinated by the unresolved, enigmatic character of the motif.
Franck’s first movement alternates between a slow, brooding treatment of this motif and a faster, more agitated development of it. The mood of the movement combines an almost religious sense of mystery with fervor and even joyous good humor.
The second movement unconventionally combines into one tempos of second and third movements of a conventional symphony. Franck’s second movement is both a slow songful movement, opening with harp and pizzicato strings joined by a melancholy English horn, and it is a playful scherzo, as we soon hear in the middle section string melody.
The third movement, the finale, recalls the English horn melody from the second movement and both the passionate and questioning treatment of the motif from the first movement, and the symphony climaxes with a sense of joyous triumph.