Celebrate the work of hispanic composers and musicians with this curated playlist

This Hispanic Heritage Month, School of Music clarinet professor Oskar Espina Ruiz curates a playlist to celebrate living Hispanic musicians who are making significant contributions to music in our time. Read on and listen in for his selections:

We start with Cuban-American saxophonist, clarinetist and composer Paquito D'Rivera, and his "fresh new look" at Mozart's Clarinet Concerto. This version is performed with Paquito's jazz quintet from the Millennium Stage at The Kennedy Center:

D'Rivera's "Alborada y Son" is included on the Aires Tropicales album. Composed by D'Rivera, it is performed with Quinteto Cimarrón. The Cuban Son is a dance that blends elements of Spanish and African origin.

Miguel del Aguila's "In Heaven," from Wind Quintet No. 2, stays rooted in the Caribbean, but with a unique approach that brought him the Kennedy Center Friedheim Award. Originally from Uruguay and based in the United States since 1978, Miguel del Aguila's music is "elegant and affectionate... a delicious send-up of Minimalism." (The New York Times)

In his official biography, Carlos Sánchez-Gutiérrez writes that he likes "machines with hiccups and spiders with missing legs, looks at Paul Klee's Notebooks every day, and tries to use the same set of ears to listen to Bach, Radiohead, or Ligeti." In his “De Kooning Movements” for marimba and clarinet, Sánchez-Gutiérrez tries to recreate an experience similar to that of observing De Kooning's paintings. The composer wrote: "I have always been impressed by the brutality, the energy, the dynamic forms, and the synthetic energy of Willem de Kooning's work."

Felipe Lara's "Injust Intonations (#BlackLivesMatter)" for solo piano was performed by Conrad Tao at the 2017 Aspen Music Festival. Felipe Lara's music is "brilliantly realized, technically formidable, wildly varied" and possess "voluptuous, elemental lyricism." (The New York Times)

We conclude the playlist with Isabel Urrutia, a Spanish-Basque composer based in Paris. I performed her Clarinet Quintet with the Verona Quartet in UNCSA's Watson Hall in February 2020. Due to the warm reception this Clarinet Quintet received, Urrutia adapted it for clarinet and strings, winning first prize at the Grazyna Bacewicz International Composers Competition. Each iteration of the work has a different title: "Lilurak" (Fascination) for clarinet and string quartet, "Haizearen Nahiak" (The Wind’s Desire) for clarinet and strings and "Biga" (Two) for clarinet and piano. The music is haunting and colorful, starting with textures that recreate the wind's soft whistle, and building up to a climactic rhythmic section where one can imagine the battering of windows popped open by strong winds.

The titles of the variations are in Basque, the native language from the region in northern Spain and southern France. This is the region of Spain where I am from. My education took place at the first clandestine Basque Schools of the late Franco dictatorship, and I was introduced to music through Basque folk instrumental performance. I am fluent in both Spanish and Basque and, despite having grown up surrounded by violence and terrorism, I consider myself a peaceful clarinetist.

by Oskar Espina Ruiz

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October 01, 2020