Rhythm and flavor through the “Danzón No. 4” of Arturo Márquez


Ivan Lopez

Arturo Márquez is considered a composer who writes for the people, popular music with an orchestra. According to him, the music has already undergone a change with the implementation of the popular roots into a concert hall. At the moment in which he is dedicated to composing his “Danzones”, this composer reaches an important place in the history of Mexican music of the late twentieth and beginning of the twenty-first century. As Marquez said, the very beginning of the Danzón in Mexico is the Nereidas. This Danzón is probably one of his strongest influences as a composer. According to him, the composers of this genre take the “Danzon de los Danzones”1 (Nereidas) in their souls. In my opinion, the success of Márquez lies in bringing people to the orchestra music through popular music, with the dance.

Written in 1996, “Danzón No. 4” in my opinion has one of the more sensual introductions of the Mexican music with a beautiful melody played by the bassoon over a base of string section in pizzicato, piano and “claves” formed by the mix of five and four eight notes bars. This combination of rhythms in four and five gives it a sense of calm. This calm dance seems to be this kind of Danzón that I usually see in the squares of Veracruz danced by old people with slow and delicate movements. Arturo Márquez remembered to listen when he was a child this kind of music. His father was a “Música de Salon“(Dance Hall) musician. The Latin feel driven by the “claves” cleverly organized into groups of nine, to the account of the bars of four and five generally. Once the bassoon develops the first exhibition of the melody, it comes a change of key with the oboe taking the initiative to conclude the dialogue between them.  It is when the flute, the clarinet, and the “maracas” have been incorporated to the movement that has already taken continuity but in another key.

When it seems that this small ensemble has come to stimulate the desire of the body to move with the beat of the music, is the turn of a beauty melody played by the string section and guiro which had changed again the key. It is a patient melody that is rocking on a light muted trumpet texture. Then, changing the key once again, the wind section is responsible for the dance, but this time accompanying the trumpet and leading the attention in the saxophone which is introduced along with the “timbal” in other key. The string section and the percussions always interacting with the soloist manages to keep the feeling of being in a “Salón de Baile” (Dance hall) of the twentieth century first years. The “claves”, “Maracas”, piano and the trumpet, take care of the soul of the dancers in another change of key.

That moment has culminated in a ralentando and diminuendo that is slowly stopping to begin a new section Meno mosso led by the piano which converses with the different sections of the orchestra. “La parte mas rítmica y sabrosa de el Danzón” 2 (the more rhythmic and tasty part of the Danzón) as Márquez called the “Son Montuno”. Probably this part was modified a little by him as a special feature of this piece that instead of a rhythm in four, makes a blending of four and five.

“The son typically had two sections. First, a verse section, called a largo, canto, or motive, laid out the narrative or premise. Next came the montuno, a faster section where a repeated text was sung by the primary singer and the chorus in a call-and-response pattern.” 3

 Then with an accelerando in the Marquez’ style, we arrived at the traditional moment that involves all sections in what may be the climax of the dance: Con Fuoco, accelerando.  These explosion moments are in several of the works of Arturo Marquez.

A solo trombone again proposes a diminuendo until the new Meno mosso, then increase the intensity and the speed in the last of the meetings between the sections of the orchestra. Unlike other compositions of Marquez, another climate section seems it exploded in a final, but the author surprises us with a diminuendo and ralentando ending.

Arturo Marquez always fascinated by the “Salon de baile” (dance hall), printed on his music how Mexico people used to live this beautiful dance. In spite of having Cuban and African roots, the Danzón has been adopted like music of the region of the east of Mexico especially. According to Marquez he used to write his pieces with personal experiences or situations around his life, every Danzón has its story. In the case of Danzón No. 2 (1994) his famous song, the composer born in Sonora wanted pay in tribute to the “Salones de baile” and in another section he shows its support on the issue of indigenous people in the “Zapatista” movement. Although in the score he dedicated the piece to his daughter.  In this piece, the Danzón No. 4, Márquez writes a dedication to his brothers, Beatriz and Sergio. Arturo Márquez considered himself as a sensitive person, whose purpose to what surrounds him is always in search of truth and justice. The Romanticism always appears in his music, especially in the “Danzones”.



1” Danzón Nereidas maestro Arturo Márquez dirige la OFJ Guadalajara 2011”, 09:39. Posted by Fernando Serna, February 11, 2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MuIvr9kbuE8

2 “Danzón No. 8 Maestro Arturo Márquez dirige la OFJ Guadalajara 2011”, 09:50. Posted by Fernando Serna, February 11,2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSDmfhu2NG8

3 Nokiro Manabe, “ Reinterpretations of the Son: Versions of Guillén’s Motivos de Son by Grenet, García Caturla, and Roldán”. Latin American Music Review / Revista de Música Latinoamericana Vol. 30, No. 2 (2009), pp. 119 URL. J-stor

Robbins, James. The Cuban “Son” as Form, Genre, and Symbol. Latin American Music Review / Revista de Música Latinoamericana Vol. 11, No. 2(Autumn-winter, 1990), pp. 182-200

“Sociedad de autores y compositores de México”



Arturo Márquez facebook  artist page. Accessed April 17, 2017


“Entrevista al compositor Arturo Márquez por Alejandra de la Torre” Mayo 2012. Youtube video, 15:39. Posted by Alejandra de la Torre. August 30, 2012.


“COnoce a Arturo Márquez” Youtube video, 06:06. Posted August 30,2013 by Daniela Salgado.


“Sonoros Arturo Márquez, un compositor de talla mundial (4 de Diciembre)Youtube video, 04:09. Posted on January 27,2015 by Imagen UABC.tv


“Mtro. Arturo Márquez sobre el concurso de composición.”. Youtube video, 02:01. Posted on June 14,2016 by Jose Espinoza de los muertos.



“World of Opera”




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