Ráfagas de baile (Concerto for Orchestra)
3 trumpets (in C)
2 tenor trombones
Glockenspiel, vibraphone, marimba, xylophone, crotales (low octave), chimes, 3 roto-toms, 3 tomtoms
(high-med.-low), snare drum, kick drum, 2 log drums (high-low), large bass drum, brake drum,
triangle, crash cymbal, suspended cymbal, tam-tam, sleigh bells, güiro.
summer of 2015 in Murphysboro, Illinois.
Commissioned by the Festival Interamericano de las Artes and the Corporación de
las Artes Escénico-Musicales, San Juan, Puerto Rico for the Puerto Rico Symphony
Orchestra, Maximiano Valdés, Artistic Director.
In 2012, Maximiano Valdés, Artistic Director and Conductor of the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra, approached me to ask me
to write a piece in honor of his fifth anniversary as conductor of the PRSO, which would take place during the 2013-14 season.
I had the option to propose any type of piece I wanted to write, and, after some consideration, I decided a concerto for orchestra-
-a work unabashedly luxuriating in displays of orchestral virtuosity–would be the most appropriate for such a momentous
occasion in the life of the first orchestra I ever heard in concert; my “hometown band,” if you will.
Ráfagas de baile, indeed, luxuriates in displays of orchestral virtuosity, giving each section and several individuals within the
ensemble plenty of chances to display their instrumental prowess. It also, as the title suggests (in Spanish it means Bursts of
Dancing), concerns itself with the dance. Although no specific dance types are quoted, there are several allusions to a number
of folk idioms throughout the piece.
The first movement, “Fanfárria preliminaria” (“Preliminary Fanfare”) showcases the brass in an introductory fanfare that sets out
the joyful, ecstatic mood that will dominate the bulk of the concerto. Movement two, “Cucubanos,” (named after the species of
firefly indigenous to Puerto Rico) showcases the strings and percussion. The first “bursts of dance” are heard in this movement
as a jaunty dance, reminiscent of Andean folk music, emerges from the initial string canon and comes to dominate the
movement. The third movement, “Alguna que otra rapsodia…” (“Some Rhapsody or Another…”) is the central pillar on which
the entire structure of the concerto is built. It showcases a lyricism inherent to woodwind writing and to the viola, which has a
significant solo statement at the end of the movement. A brief “Cavatina” follows. Its mood is playful, although it gradually
becomes undone and collapses in a cacophonous shriek that leaves matters for the finale to resolve.
As the title suggest, “Final interrumpido” (“Interrupted Finale”) is the spiritual climax of the concerto. It serves as a showcase
for the entire orchestra and as a commentary on “Cucubanos,” whose melodic material it varies. It is interrupted, however, by
insistent and stubborn strikes of the bass drum, which bring the work to a dramatic (and sudden) conclusion.