Orchestration: piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 2 trombones, bass trombone, tuba, timpani, percussion (glockenspiel, tam-tam, suspended cymbal, metal wind chimes, maracas, bass drum, rain stick, cuica, waterphone, vibraphone,5 tom-toms, vibraslap, claves, tubular bells, marimba, 2 congas, 5 wood blocks, güiro, bamboo wind chimes, water gong), harp, celesta, and strings
First Los Angeles Philharmonic performance: October 10, 2019, Gustavo Dudamel conducting with pianist Sergio Tiempo
About this Piece
Composed during Autumn 2011, this concerto has a title that has to do with humans and their connections with their internal and external universes, in a world before our civilization, where times were governed by planetary and agricultural cycles. I do not pretend to make something ethnomusicological, but if not, to take roots, rhythms, melodies, and mythology of indigenous America as a fount of inspiration to develop in my own style, nourished by those roots and by contemporary Western music, thus creating a language full of imaginary folklore where the presence of nature also predominates through sounds where mineral, vegetable, aquatic, and aerial elements are perceived, as an ecological painted mural.
The first movement, “Un mundo interior” (An Interior World), attempts to describe the perception of those ancestral universes, both the cosmic and the interior, without resorting to description, trying to create evocative atmospheres of the distinct stages of a person.
This movement begins with a fanfare whose theme is four notes that will be developed throughout and constitute a sort of “declaration” of the piano personifying the inner universe, a universe never linear and eternally subjected to cosmic, atmospheric, agricultural, etc. avatars, with its eternal flux and alternation of situations happy and unhappy.
Then, a second theme appears with a calmer and more pleasant character, with a character somewhat dubious or timid, perhaps as in every human lies the contrast or balance of the Apollonian and the Dionysian, the feminine and the masculine, etc., expressing the eternal pendulum that is human life, composed of infinite universes that coexist at each juncture.
The second movement is titled “Ñuke Kuyen,” meaning the Mother Moon who directs the flow of waters and the feminine spirit, protector of dreams and witness to the constant struggle of the Mapuche people. The Mapuches are an Amerindian people who lived in southern Chile and Argentina. They see themselves as descending from stardust.
This movement beings with a quotation of a three-tone Mapuche melody, which little by little immerses us in a nocturnal ambience, full of star twinkling, with the sneakiness of wandering stars, while the piano sings variations on the Mapuche theme, within a dreamlike orchestration where through the use of harmonics, multi-phonics, and different types of wind blowing the sonorities of native wind instruments such as the quena, the sikus, the Mapuche erke, etc., are simulated. In its central section, the rhythm of the Baguala (a song of lamentation characteristic of Andean countries) predominates, where at times the piano is converted into a percussion instrument as if it were a caja or indigenous drum.
The third movement, entitled Toccata “Willka Kuti,” alludes to the New Year festival, and the new agricultural cycle, coinciding with the winter solstice in the southern hemisphere, June 21, symbolizing the return of the sun, which is precisely the translation of “Willka Kuti.” This festival gathers Aymará and Guaraní ethnic groups, which geographically cover areas of Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, and Peru.
The music evokes a radiant and unbridled celebration through a toccata, where the fanfare with its initial theme of four notes reappears at the beginning and towards the end of this movement, with an orchestration in which a dancing and percussive sense dominates, by using clusters and stacked chords, without leaving aside traditional contrapuntal procedures, such as canon and fugato. The piano has virtuoso writing bristling with difficulties and conveys the ancestral joy of a farming population grateful to their gods for the gifts they have been given. This concerto is dedicated to Sergio Tiempo.
— Esteban Benzecry (trans. John Henken)