Latin history inspires music

Erum Jaffrey
Arts Editor

Latin American history and harmonies of string instruments echoed the halls of Balch Auditorium at noon on Friday at Scripps College.

The departments of music at Pomona and Scripps College presented “Music of Latin America,” a concert of mid-nineteenth century to late twentieth century pieces by famous Latin American composers.

Performers included Rachel V. Huang (Scripps) on violin, Roger Lebow (Pomona) on cello, Hao Huang (Scripps) and Tatiana Thibodeaux on piano. Rachel Huang and Thibodeaux wore traditional Mexican tunics and skirts during the performance.

Historical backgrounds of the composers were given prior to the performance of each piece.

“There was a national awakening of music that had been lost in the urban areas,” Hao Huang said.

The first piece was “Sonatina” by Carlos Chávez, a self-taught and accomplished Mexican composer, conductor and educator in the early 1900s.

“Sonatina” was composed in 1924 and accompanied by the violin and piano. The movement of the piece transformed from a measured pace to a jittery pace, then to a slow pace, where the violin played a long-lined melody.

Chávez took inspiration from indigenous Aztec cultures and native folk elements and brought them to twentieth-century Mexican music.

“Chavez’s music does not follow stylistic patterns of music,” Hao Huang said.

“At this early period there was a transition from European models to Mexican in flavor,” Hao he said.

“Three Pieces” by composer, violinist and conductor Silvestre Revueltas began with a fast tempo “Allegro,” a slower “Lentamente” and a strong finish with “Allegro.”

“Revueltas was dubbed the great free spirit of Mexican music,” Hao Huang said.

“He took a more circuitous route to being a composer.”

“Le chant du cygne noir,” or “Song of the Black Swan” by Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos is the Brazilian version of “Le Cygne,” or “The Swan” by the famous French composer Camille Saint-Saëns.

The harmonies of the piano and cello in the piece fluctuated and held a dream-like tone.

“Malagueña” (from “Suite Andalucia”) by Cuban composer and pianist Ernesto Lecuona was an audience favorite.

“My favorite piece was ‘Malagueña because you couldn’t tell where it was going,” said Tony Sandoval, a fourth year computer science major at Chaffey College.

It consisted of a piano solo by Thibodeaux with an emphatic Spanish rhythm and an extremely fast tempo, resulting in loud claps and cheers from the audience at the end. Thibodeaux’s fingers glossed over the piano, playing the piece effortlessly.

“The second piano piece sounded like a mariachi song in the piano. I could hear the trumpet playing in her one hand so I thought that was pretty cool composition,” said Greg Jackson, concert manager for Scripps College.

This concert was part of the Friday Noon Concert series, which holds free concerts for the community every week.

“This (concert) was put together a little bit later because of a change of program,” Jackson said.

“The original cellist from Mexico wasn’t able to be here and so in the end they had to improvise and change the program around a little bit, but they always put on a great program,” he said.

The Friday Noon Concert series includes music from all over the world, bringing coverage to international array of composers and artists.

“You really get a sense of many different styles and the people that like to come on a weekly basis then get that full range of style, and it’s just a very nice mix,” Jackson said.

Erum Jaffrey can be reached at

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