Perhaps the composer with the most tragic personal story of his generation is Silvestre Revueltas, whose overworked creative genius fed on copious amounts of alcohol in a struggle to live a life of extremes. He was a child prodigy in his native Mexico and moved to Chicago at a young age, where he studied composition and violin. In 1929, Carlos Chávez, who recognized Revueltas’ great talent, invited him to be the assistant conductor to the newly formed Orquesta Sinfónica de México and to teach composition at the Conservatory of Mexico. In 1937, Revueltas traveled to Europe to conduct his music, and he became involved in the Socialist struggle against the Fascists during the Spanish Civil War. And though he was spent at a young age by poor health combined with poverty, overwork, and alcoholism, the last ten years proved to be extraordinarily productive, and he composed over 30 pieces during the 1930s.
The Homage to Federico García Lorca was completed in 1937 as a tribute to the memory of the murdered Spanish poet. Perhaps more than any other Spanish-language poet, Lorca has provided inspiration for numerous composers, and Revueltas, who always kept close to the cultural and political movements of his day, had been in close contact with Lorca’s work for some time.
In this work the solo trumpet acts as a narrator, opening the piece and periodically returning to lead the transitions between the different sections. The first section is a dance of macabre ebullience; the trumpet returns as the dance dies down and we are introduced to the darkness and terror of the night. We then emerge from the nocturnal mist and begin to dance again, this time in an ostinato rhythm spiced with Stravinskyesque metrical hiccups. The juxtaposition of demonic joviality and somber, almost spiritual contemplation is characteristic of much of Revueltas’ music, as are the bright orchestral colors and transparent textures.
– Ryan Dorin