Length: c. 8 minutes
Orchestration: piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion (bass drum, claves, cymbals, güiro, tam-tam, timbales, vibraphone), harp, piano, and strings
First Los Angeles Philharmonic performance: October 15, 2017, Gustavo Dudamel conducting
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. (The composer later arranged it for ensemble, but still featuring the alto saxophone.)
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.
From the great success of the Danzón No. 2, Márquez has gone on to create a series of earthy works exploring the seductive danzón, most of which exist in multiple instrumentations.
Dedicated to Gustavo Dudamel, Márquez’ Danzón No. 9 explodes con furia, in a massive main theme built over a prominent tritone/diminished chord, contrasted with a trumpet motif of rising fourths. This fades into a slower doloroso section of quiet woodwind polyphony, with an accompaniment calling to mind the street harps of Veracruz, before the strings take over with a big tune.
The initial furies return, only to slip into another distant dance, swaying elusively but insistently in a 3+3+2 meter. A whispered ghost of the main section presages its thundering return this time, giving way to a fresh variation featuring the strings. A concluding “Festivo” brings together elements from all the previous sections, with a final galvanic rush through the main theme to its ultimate, smiling resolution in G major.