By Ted AYALA
The music of composer Arturo Márquez has, over the 40 years spanning his career, earned the distinction conferred to his forebears – Silvestre Revueltas, Carlos Chávez, José Pablo Moncayo – of being the most often performed outside of his homeland of Mexico.
Though saying “homeland” may be putting things too simply.
Márquez was born near the Gulf of California shoreline in Álamos, Sonora. But he also followed his family when they immigrated to the United States, coming to maturity in the city of La Puente in the heart of the San Gabriel Valley and just skirting the periphery of Los Angeles. As a young man, he earned a scholarship to study composition in France and, later still, was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship that allowed him to study at CalArts with such iconoclastic musical thinkers as Mel Powell and Morton Subotnick.
Perhaps that is why Márquez’s music has made such deep inroads into the concert hall and recording studio. It is music that is at once cosmopolitan, sure of itself, yet grounded in Mexican soil. Dig a little deeper and one finds churning beneath its surface an undercurrent of wistfulness, of nostalgia in Márquez’s music; a longing for a chimerical, celluloid Mexico illuminated by the likes of Jorge Negrete, Libertad Lamarque and María Félix, now dissolved into nebulous phantasms that could be an aural counterpart to a Manuel Puig novel.
Two of orchestral his works – the “Danzón No. 8” and “Mascaras: La pasión según San Juan de Letrán” – will be performed by the Santa Cecilia Orchestra on Sunday, Feb. 9 at Occidental College’s Thorne Hall. Both works will be premieres. The first performance in California for the former; the U.S. premiere for the latter. The orchestra and its music director Sonia Marie de León de Vega have long championed Márquez’s music and have collaborated closely with the composer.
“I love Maestro Márquez’s music,” said the de León de Vega. “It’s very sensual, rhythmic and melodic. [His] music always surprises the listener and these two are no exception.”
The “Danzón No. 8,” she pointed out, is a tribute to Ravel’s “Boléro,” with a similar build-up in volume and instrumental color.
The concert, which begins at 4 p.m., will also begin with the “Carnival Overture” of Dvořák and conclude with the “Symphony No. 4” of Tchaikovsky.
“While we feature numerous composers with all-Latino programs, I am always very pleased to feature a program that puts our great Latino composers like Márquez with the greats – in this case Tchaikovsky and Dvořák,” she said. “Our Latino composers deserve that recognition and I am very pleased to present this program.”
Tickets range from $7 for children to $26 for adults. To obtain tickets and more information, visit www.scorchestra.org or call (323) 259-3011.