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José Rolón Alcaraz

José Rolón Alcaraz was born in the city of Zapotlán, state of Jalisco, México in 1876 and died in Mexico City in 1945. Rolón is undoubtedly one of the most important Mexican composers of the XX century but unfortunately, his music is not as well known as that of Chávez, Revueltas, and Ponce. From 1903 to 1907, he studied the piano in Paris with the Polish pianist Moritz Moszkowski. He also studied counterpoint and harmony with André Gedalge, whose pupils included Ravel, Ibert, Honegger, and Milhaud. Between 1907 and 1927. Rolón lived in Guadalajara, the capital of Jalisco, and founded the municipal symphony orchestra in 1915. During these years, Rolón took every possible opportunity to perform the works of French composers, such as Darius Milhaud and Edgar Varèse, in Mexico. In the years 1927 to 1929 Rolón lived in Paris and studied with Nadia Boulanger and Paul Dukas. Back in Mexico, where he worked intensively to improve the Mexican music scene and musical education (he taught harmony, counterpoint, and composition at the ‘Conservatorio Nacional de Música’ in Mexico City and was appointed director in 1938), he began to integrate Mexican elements in his works, which had become dominated by his European way of thinking. His musical vision was to blend formal, harmonic, and melodic elements of European music with the idioms of Mexican folklore, so as to enrich both styles. In contrast to many of his contemporaries. Rolón avoided an all too trivial use of folklore, in the sense of character pieces from the Romantic era or as the facade of an ostentatious pseudo ‘Mexican’ style. However, this was precisely what the Mexican government approved of: after the chaos of the revolutionary years, it demanded identity-establishing works of nationalistic music, based on the cultural tradition of the indigenous people. It was thus unavoidable that Rolón’s aesthetic point of view should be in opposition to the prevailing cultural politics after 1920.

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