Length: c. 7 minutes
Orchestration: piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion (bass drum, bongos, claves, congas, cymbals, güiro, snare drum, suspended cymbal, tam-tam, timbales), harp, and strings
First Los Angeles Philharmonic performance: October 15, 2017
About this Piece
Born in Mexico, Arturo Márquez spent his middle school and high school years in La Puente, California, where he began his musical training. After he returned to Mexico, Márquez studied at the Conservatory of Music and the Institute of Fine Arts in Mexico, followed by private study in Paris with Jacques Castérède, and then at the California Institute of the Arts with Morton Subotnick, Stephen Mosko, Mel Powell, and James Newton.
At that time Márquez was much interested in avant-garde techniques and processes, although his time at Cal Arts gave him ideas about how jazz and world music elements could be added to the mix. His first Danzón, composed in 1992, shows how that was beginning to play out. It was essentially an electronic piece for tape and optional saxophone, but including Minimalist aspects and references to the traditional danzón, an old salon dance from Cuba that became very popular in Veracruz and then in Mexico City, where it still holds sway.
This initial elaboration on the danzón proved crucial for Márquez, renewing his own musical language in a turn away from Modernist impulses. His Danzón No. 2, one of the most popular pieces of “classical” music of the last quarter-century, confirmed this new direction.
The Danzón No. 8 (2004) has a subtitle, Homage à Maurice, and it seems clear that it must be Maurice Ravel, as the piece is an affectionately cheeky re-imagining of Bolero. It is, of course, in a different meter, a 4/4 marked “Danza Afro,” but the obstinate rhythm, the insinuating and sinuous melodies passed around the orchestra, and the gradual crescendo – with some rising and falling – all call Ravel’s famous work to mind and ear, and then tug at it mischievously. –John Henken