Folk Inspirations with a Mexican Flair
for Clarinet and Piano
PIANO TRIO (ROMANTICO)
Miguel de la Cerna
20th Season Orion Comission
PIANO QUARTET in G MINOR Op. 25
Review of this concert by Wynne Delacoma, Chicago Classical Review
Following his triumphant first work for Orion during the 2011–12 season, Miguel de la Cerna returns to contribute a 20th anniversary commission. Almas Perdidas (Lost Souls) is based on the experience of the indigenous people of the Americas—according to the composer, “those, in particular, who lost their lives mostly due to exposure to germs carried by European explorers. It is a one-movement piece based on a 12-tone row, but not limited to serial rules. I like to call it romantic serialism with jazz elements.”
Two delightful, though very different, works by Mexican composers provide a hint of the breadth of music coming from the U.S.’s neighbor to the south.
Mexican composer Manuel Ponce wrote his Piano Trio (Romantico) in 1912, the same year he composed his well-known song Estrella. He is responsible for musically bringing the world to Mexico and Mexican music to the world through his compositions, performances and lectures. He had a long association with guitarist Andreas Segovia, and his music employs a range of styles, including romantic, nationalistic, impressionist and avant-garde.
Several generations after Ponce, Arturo Márquez’s Zarabandeo for Clarinet and Piano reflects his interest in dance music from Cuba, as well as his family background in mariachi and Mexican folk music. Its rhythmic play gives a feel of improvisation and a sense of joy and freedom. In addition to works for orchestra, he wrote ballet and film music, and he continued to use Mexican, Cuban and Latin American musical resources, combined with rhythms and melodic ideas from 20th century popular urban music.
Johannes Brahms’ Quartet in G Minor for Violin, Viola, Cello and Piano, Op. 25, one of two referred to as the Hamburg Quartets, shows characteristics of the young composer, along with hints of the more mature Brahms. For example, like many of his early works, the movements are large and have many themes. Although the textures are thick, with the piano and strings often doubling or contrasting each other, there are hints, especially in the second movement, of the more mysterious and somber colors that became characteristic in his later oeuvre. The third movement combines lyricism with grandeur, and the final “Gypsy” movement is among the most exciting in the repertoire.
Miguel de la Cerna
Miguel de la Cerna, a Hyde Park native, is a multifaceted pianist, conductor and music director. He is most known for his jazz arrangements for singers, including Oscar Brown, Jr. and Dee Alexander, and Bobby Wilsyn, but he is also accomplished in classical music and musical theatre. He has performed at the Chicago Jazz Festival, and he received critical acclaim for his arrangements and direction of Dee Alexander’s Tribute to Nina Simone and Dinah Washington at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. He was also a featured pianist and arranger for the Eldee Young Quartet, which made extensive tours of Europe, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Increasingly, de la Cerna is making a name for himself as a distinctive artist, equally comfortable playing Latin-tinged jazz, in the updated mainstream style of Michel Camilo and Hilton Ruiz, and pushing boundaries to embrace free improvisation and serial technique. He is a third-generation Chicago pianist. His grandfather, General Morgan, accompanied such major artists as trumpeter Henry “Red” Allen and Billie Holiday during the ’40s. His aunt, Gloria Morgan, was a popular jazz performer known for her silky vocals and aggressive sound on piano.