top of page

Event Program

Música de Salón

Suite, Op. 18




Ricardo Castro (1864-1907)

Four Mazurkas

No. 4 in f# minor (ca. 1900)

No. 5 in c# minor (1903)

No. 6 in d minor (1911)

No. 7 in f# minor (ca. 1900)

Manuel M. Ponce (1882-1948)

Tres danzas indígenas mexicanas (Jaliscienses)

Three Indigenous Mexican Dances


Allegro moderato


Jose Rolón (1876-1945)

John Noel, piano

Balada mexicana Mexican Ballade

Four Mazurkas

No. 2 in c# minor

In F major

No.1 in F minor

In d minor

Two Character Pieces

Intermezzo No.1

Gavota Gavotte

Two Etudes

No. 7 Juventud Youth

No. 3 Hacia la cima Towards the Top

M. M. Ponce

Omar Herrera Arizmendi, piano

Program Notes

Suite, Op. 18

Ricardo Castro Herrera (Rafael de la Santísima Trinidad Castro Herrera) was born on February 7, 1864, in Durango. His first teacher was Pedro Censiseros, followed by Juan Salvatierra and Julio Ituarte at the National Conservatory in Mexico City, where Castro graduated in 1883. Castro composed the first Latin American piano concerto, and the first Mexican cello concerto. Castro died of pneumonia on November 27, 1907, in Mexico City, at the age of 43.

The Suite, Op. 18, contains one of the customary movements found in a traditional Baroque Suite, namely the Sarabande (Sarabanda), serving as the slow movement. The Prelude (Preludio) is an optional opening movement, as also can be seen in many instrumental suites from the Baroque. The use of a Capriccio (Capricho) is rare in a suite, but it is historically one of the optional movements that can be inserted.

While the the instrumental suite was a common composition type during the Baroque period, the Suite, Op. 18, by Castro is romantic in style. Castro puts the full width of the keyboard on display using the low, middle, and high registers of the instrument, as well as combining an equal demand of finger dexterity with big, chordal passages. The Preludio and Sarabanda are smaller in scale, and the final Capricho can be played on its own, due to its length and virtuosity.



Manuel Ponce (Manuel María Ponce Cuéllar) was born in Zacatecas on December 8, 1882. His family moved to Aguascalientes shortly after his birth, where Ponce sang in the choir at the Iglesia San Diego and later became principal organist for the church in 1898. Ponce moved to Mexico City in 1900 to study piano with Vicente Mañas and harmony with Eduardo Gabrielli. Gabrielli sent Ponce to Bologna in 1904, where he studied composition briefly with Puccini’s former teacher, Cesare Dall’olio. Ponce then traveled to Berlin in 1905 to study with former Liszt pupil Martin Krause. Ponce returned to Aguascalientes in 1907 and soon after joined the piano faculty at the National Conservatory in Mexico City. During the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), Ponce and other artists were forced to leave the country, at which point Ponce spent several years in Cuba.

Ponce composed twenty-six mazurkas between the years 1900-1917 (a twenty-fifth mazurka, the Mazurca española, was composed in 1937). The mazurka is a folk dance from the Mazovia region of Poland. Chopin spent his childhood in Mazovia and later composed several collections of mazurkas in homage to his homeland. The mazurka, like the waltz, is in triple meter; however, the accents in the mazurka fluctuate, often appearing on the second or third beat of the measure. The result is a more assertive and unpredictable quality, as opposed to the more elegant, smooth flow of the waltz. Characteristic of the mazurkas of Ponce is the frequent return of the opening theme, following each contrasting section. The contrasting sections in the mazurkas of Ponce are often faster and/or more lyrical than the opening themes.


Tres danzas indigenas mexicanas (Jaliscienses)

José Rolón Alcaraz was born in Jalisco on June 22, 1876. His first teacher was Francisco Godinez in Guadalajara. Rolón made his first of two trips to Paris in 1903, where he studied piano with Moritz Moszkowski, and counterpoint and harmony with André Gedalge. Rolón returned to Guadalajara in 1907 and became founder of a symphony orchestra and a music academy. He returned to Paris in 1927, where he studied with Nadia Boulanger and Paul Dukas. The Tres danzas indigenas mexicanas, composed in Paris in 1928, take simple folk melodies and set them to modern harmonies. These dances were performed by Rolón’s wife in Paris in 1929, the year both returned to Mexico. Rolón was appointed director of the National Conservatory in Mexico City in 1938, where he taught harmony, counterpoint, and composition. He died in Mexico City on February 3, 1945, at the age of 68.


Balada Mexicana

The Balada Mexicana (Mexican Ballade) was one of several piano pieces composed in Mexico City, where Ponce had been hired to teach at the National Conservatory. The title Balada mexicana represents one of many pieces by Ponce referring to the use of the Mexican vernacular. While the Ballade as a solo piano composition had been a staple of European classical music, the word “mexicana” projects the use of the Mexican canción (song), also mentioned in the notes to the Tres romanzas sin palabras (below).

The Ballade originated from English poetry. Topics of the early English ballades were medieval tales, real or imaginary. The nineteenth-century romantic ballades portrayed subject matter from that period, some ballades being composed for solo voice with instrumental accompaniment (the art song genre). Famous Balladen ohne Worte (Ballades Without Words) for solo piano were composed by Frederic Chopin, Franz Liszt, and Johannes Brahms. The structure of those works comprises two contrasting themes (A and B) in ternary (three-part) form (ABA), one theme lyrical in nature, the other dramatic, in either order. In the case of the Balada mexicana by Ponce, each of the two themes was derived from a Mexican folk song: El durazno (A), and Acuérdate de mi (B).


Three Etudes

Juventud (Youth), in B major, is a study in playing octaves and double-notes inside octaves, as well as rapidly moving chromatic triads and double thirds. Preludio trágico (Tragic Prelude), in c# minor, is a study in repeated single and double notes. Simple intervals (intervals within the octave) are played throughout, making it an exercise in executing one of the most difficult piano techniques to control (repeated notes, often at soft dynamic levels). Hacia la cima (Towards the Summit), in e minor, is the most varied study in this group of four etudes. There are hand crossings from high to low, repetitive hand alternations sounding as tremolos, ascending and descending melodic intervals (sometimes with double notes), descending intervals octaves, double thirds, and double fourths), and arpeggios. The piece begins with a lengthy and frantic introduction, followed by a passionate and demonstrative main theme in the center.


Program notes by Dr. John Noel

bottom of page