Unlike his contemporary and countryman Silvestre Revueltas, who eschewed literal quotation of folk material, José Pablo Moncayo (1912-1958) reveled in folk songs. He belonged to a group of Mexican composers known as the "Grupo de los Quatro." Modeled after the 19th-century Russian Five, these four Mexican composers were dedicated to establishing a Mexican School of composition.
Moncayo's Huapango combines three of the best-known folk songs from the Veracruz region on the Gulf Coast of Mexico. The huapango is a close relative to the Spanish son, an exuberant and improvisatory dance that combines 2/4, 3/4, and 6/8, creating cross-rhythms of great complexity. (For an inkling of these rhythms, think of Bernstein's "I Want to Live in America," from West Side Story.)
Moncayo sprinkles his composition liberally with the Veracruz style, emphasizing harp, trumpets, and violins. By adding percussion and through his use of "call-and-response" between soloists and sections of the orchestra, Moncayo creates a colorful, rhythmically vital, and exciting score which is one of the most frequently performed works of any 20th-century Mexican composer.
-- Composer and writer Dave Kopplin is Assistant Professor of Music at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.