Length: c. 20 minutes
Orchestration: 2 flutes (2nd=piccolo), 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion (1=snare drum, claves, congas; 2=suspended cymbal, tambourine, guiro, cymbals; 3=chimes, maracas, xylophone), strings, and solo trumpet
First Los Angeles Philharmonic performance: July 18, 2023, Gustavo Dudamel conducting, with Pacho Flores, soloist
About this Piece
Arturo Márquez was born in Mexico, but he spent his middle school and high school years in La Puente, CA, where he began his musical training. After he returned to Mexico, Márquez studied at the Conservatory of Music and the Institute of Fine Arts there, followed by private study in Paris with Jacques Castérède, and then at the California Institute of the Arts here in Valencia with Morton Subotnick, Stephen Mosko, Mel Powell, and James Newton.
Márquez is most widely known for his series of danzones, orchestral interpretations of an old salon dance from Cuba that became popular in Veracruz and then in Mexico City, where it still holds sway. But he also has a distinguished body of works for solo instruments and orchestra: two each for harp, flute, and clarinet, as well as others (two of his danzones feature solo instruments). Since a broad range of Mexican vernacular music features trumpet as a leading voice, it was probably inevitable that Márquez would write a concerto for the instrument.
“The trumpet is the queen in the heart of Mexico,” Márquez says. “We find it in practically every form of popular musical expression; it is the Mexican cry of joy and of sorrow. It is also foundational in Latin American concert music, and my Concierto de Otoño is a compilation of all those feelings, colors, and consolations.”
The Concierto de Otoño (Autumn Concerto) was written expressly for the great Venezuelan trumpeter Pacho Flores, who gave the premiere performance in September 2018 with the National Symphony Orchestra of Mexico, conducted by Carlos Prieto.
Márquez cast this distillation of trumpet inspirations in the three fast-slow-fast movements of concerto tradition, and those movements also suggest neoclassical forms. “Son de luz” (Son of Light; the son is an Afro-Cuban dance genre) is a darkly dramatic dialogue for trumpet (in C) and orchestra in classic sonata form, exploring and resolving the encounter with “new horizons of peace and reconciliation.”
The middle movement, “Balada de floripondios” (floripondio is literally a type of Latin American plant with a flared flower looking somewhat like a trumpet, but it is also figuratively an over-the-top “flowery” gesture) is a song without words in tribute to “el amor brujo” (“love, the magician,” as the phrase is often translated in reference to the famous dramatic work by Manuel de Falla, but also “enchanting love”). It develops as a set of continuous variations, like a chaconne, crooned by the soloist first on flugelhorn, then soprano cornet (in F).
The finale is another Cuban dance, “Conga de flores,” with the soloist back on trumpet (in D). It is an absurdly difficult, blazingly brilliant monothematic rondo, with a place for an improvised cadenza. It evokes the spirits of Haydn, Chopin, and Rafael Méndez, the legendary Mexican American musician known as “the Heifetz of the trumpet,” in homage to Pacho Flores’ own dazzling breath control and double-tonguing technique. —John Henken