Arturo Márquez has become one of Mexico’s leading composers in the late 20th and early 21st century. Born on December 20, 1950 in Alamos, Sonora, Márquez grew up studying piano, violin, trombone and later, composition at the Conservatorio Nacional from 1970-1975. He has three major periods of composition, the first of which occurred in the 1980s as his Avant-Garde style. His second period, and probably his most popular, is centered around urban popular and classical music. In these compositions, Marquez uses musical forms and styles of native Mexico and incorporates them into his compositions, categorizing him as a nationalistic composer. However, it’s a different form of nationalism than that of composers in the 1920s and 1930s (Chavez and Revueltas!).
Márquez has explored many different mediums and languages through his compositions, having written for theatre, dance, cinema, orchestra, and even photography. His inspiration for many of his works, mostly the works of the 1990s, were from songs and melodies he heard as a child. Both his father and grandfather were musicians, his father a mariachi musician and his grandfather a folk musician in northern Mexico. His most significant works from the 90s are his series of Danzónes, based on the music of the Cuba and Veracruz region in Mexico. I was actually fortunate enough to perform one of these, Danzón no. 2, in the UTEP Wind Symphony last semester. This Danzón opened many doors for him which led to the discovery of his other works, being one of the most popular Latin American works to emerge since the 1950s.
Danzón no. 2 is full of Mexican flare that really just wants to make you get up and dance. Beginning with an opening duet between solo clarinet and piano, Marquez sets the mood for the remainder of the piece by immediately employing idioms of 20th– century popular urban music. Throughout this opening section, the clacking clavés gives the piece its Latin groove. The clarinet melody is taken up by the oboe, and the two voices entwine in a melodious duet, as if performing the dance itself. A solo piano interlude leads into a transition of a new section and a change of mood, set by staccato and accented notes in the strings and brass. A new theme is presented by the winds and brass, interrupted by a sweet-sounding piccolo statement, until the piano transitions the piece back into a lyrical section. Before everyone settles into this beautiful lyrical section, the listeners are swept back into a loud and rambunctious section of percussive strings and winds. The piece begins to gain momentum as fragments of each theme are heard amidst the wild cacophony. Finally, at the height of the frenzy, the entire ensemble plays a repeated rhythm on a single note that grows in dynamic and energy, bringing the piece to a grand close.
The rhythms and melodic phrases in Danzón no. 2 are reminiscent of popular urban music that is heard by the everyday person. This music is heard by them on a regular basis and they often dance to it. In program notes written by Pamela Feo for the Chamber Orchestra of Boston, she indicates that Marquez believed the “danzón was a symbol of his heritage and his composition was a very personal declaration of love for his country”. In an interview that I found on YouTube, Marquez explains how he doesn’t like the title of “nationalistic composer” because he believes his music is very different from the composers of the 1920s and 1930s. Unlike Chavez and Revueltas who mostly wrote their music in order to gain an identity for their country, Marquez composes his music because he wants to; to him, it is natural music and a great example of writing how and what we feel.
Although Marquez’s definition of nationalism is different from the style we see in the early 20th-century, he has been able to incorporate rhythms and melodies, typical of Mexican music, in conventional musical ways to establish himself as a prominent Mexican composer. His Danzón no. 2 has become known as the second “national anthem” of Mexico and I think he will continue to write music that people enjoy listening to and are able to connect with on a deeper level. Most important of all, his music is so much fun to play and in all the videos I’ve watched of performances of his music, the musicians take on a whole new character and seem to be dancing to the music.
Feo, Pamela. “Danzón No. 2.” Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra of Boston. Accessed April 18, 2017. http://www.proarte.org/danzon-no-2/.
Ricardo Miranda Pérez. “Márquez, Arturo.” Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, accessed April 18, 2017, http://0-www.oxfordmusiconline.com.lib.utep.edu/subscriber/article/grove/music/44202.
“Biography of Arturo Marquez.” Peermusic Classical. Accessed April 16, 2017. http://www.peermusic-classical.de/en/composers/arturo_marquez/biography/.
Interview with Arturo Marquez. Recorded at the Institute for Mexican Art Music in Santa Ana, CA, April 2011.