Latin Classical Essentials
European classical forms made a huge splash in Latin America in the 20th century, inspiring composers from Mexico to Brazil and Venezuela to study paths as varied as Robert Schumann or Aaron Copland’s. Carlos Chávez celebrated melodies from the indigenous tribes of Mexico—like the Huicholes of Nayarit and the Yaquis of Sonora—in his Second Symphony. Self-taught composer Heitor Villa-Lobos looked to the folktales, archetypal characters, and even the geography of his native Brazil for thematic ideas, and his lush orchestrations also found inspiration in Russian ballet and French modernism. Neo-Romantic works by Manuel Maria Ponce Cuéllar and Alberto Ginastera harnessed the rhapsodic nature of Brahms, but also found a distinctly contemporary spirit, heard especially in Ginastera’s rhythmic ingenuity and use of Argentine folk themes. Unlike American and European modernists who sought to push music forward toward the avant-garde, many of these composers looked instead toward their own histories and cultures to find their voices.