A Melody to Transport You into Twentieth Century Latin America
This is the third article in my “Sweet Escape” epicuration series which features artwork that encourages our minds to wander despite our bodies being confined inside our homes.
I have gone back and forth many times on deciding which soundtrack to feature in this epicuration piece. I definitely wanted something that could lift spirits, but I also didn’t want to fall into the trap of picking some sort of triumphant air that would feel out of place… Funny enough, I ended up going with my original gut feeling, which is a piece that I have had in my personal playlists for over a decade now.
Danzon No.2 by Arturo Marquez is grand and yet it is also admirably accessible, which explains why this is one of the most famous of the Latin-American classic contemporary repertoire. Can you listen to it without feeling like you suddenly traveled in time and place and landed on the corner of a street of Mexico City in the middle of the 20th century?
My most recent favorite live interpretation was by the Orchestre National des Lycées Francais du Monde in 2018, which was presented at the famous Comedia theater in Paris (click on the link to watch). This prestigious youth orchestra features a selection of the most talented students from the French High Schools around the world and is led by conductor Adriana Tanus. Unfortunately, I do not have a high quality recording of this concert to share here.
In lieu of that, you can watch the above video recording of the ultra famous performance by the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela (now know as the Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar) led by Gustavo Dudamel. One day in music theory class at the conservatory of music, back when I was just a teenager, my professor found out that none of the students in the classroom knew of this orchestra and made it her mission of the day to pitch us on its greatness. Considering I am now writing this article over ten years later, I do not blame her. She introduced us to conductor Dudamel and his orchestra composed of Venezuelian kids, most of whom originated from poor backgrounds.
All of these musicians were teenagers like me who had music as their passion, but unlike me, might have only had music as an outlet and option to make a career for themselves into the world.
Listening to Danzon No.2 never fails to take my mind out for a spin. Time slows down around me as the lonely clarinet starts her hopeful solo, guiding me through a musical dream. I hope you can feel transported by the experience as well. Please feel free to reach out to me with your personal take on the piece! I always like to hear about the way different people receive and interpret music.