Arturo Marquez

Twentieth-century Mexican composer Arturo Márquez is most famous for his Danzones, a set of eight Cuban-influenced dances for different ensembles. Márquez also composes for films and is an active teacher. He has been the recipient of numerous awards and honours from multiple countries.

Arturo Márquez was born in the colonial desert town of Alamos, Sonora, Mexico in 1950. He was named after his father, a man of Mexican descent from Arizona. Arturo Márquez Sr. was a truly impressive man, excelling at the violin and the mariachi. When the family needed extra income, he also worked as a carpenter. Márquez Sr. passed his love of music down to his eldest son, introducing him to the traditional music of his quartet, which consisted mostly of waltzes and polkas.

In 1962, the Márquez family moved to Le Puente, California, a town in Los Angeles County. It was here, beginning in 1966, that young Arturo began to study the violin, piano and trombone at school. His teachers at this time included Thomas Rosseti and Eva McGowen.

In addition to learning various instruments, Márquez pursued composition and listened to a diverse selection of music. According to Márquez, ‘My adolescence was spent listening to Javier Solis, sounds of mariachi, the Beatles, the Doors, Carlos Santana and Chopin’.

At the age of 17, Márquez returned to Sonora, and was soon appointed Municipal Band Director in Navojoa. In the early 1970s, Márquez studied piano and theory at the Conservatorio Nacional (Mexican  Music Conservatory) and composition at the Taller de Composición of the Institute of Fine Arts of Mexico with such composers as Joaquín Gutiérrez Heras, Hector Quintanar, Federico Ibarra and Raúl Pavón until 1979.

After receiving a scholarship from the French government in 1980, Márquez moved to France to study composition privately with Jacques Castérède until 1982.

His Danzón No. 2 is among the most popular Latin American orchestral works to emerge since the 1950s.

Following his studies in Paris, Márquez was awarded the coveted Fulbright Fellowship, allowing him to pursue a Master of Fine Arts degree in composition at the California Institute of the Arts. There he studied with notable figures such as Morton Subotnick, Stephen Mosko, Mel Powell, James Newton and Lucky Mosko.

Márquez was appointed to the faculty at the Escuela Nacional de Música to teach composition, which he did from 1986–88 and 1990–96. He has worked at the National University of Mexico, Superior School of Music and the National Center of Research, Documentation and Information of Mexican Music (CENIDIM).

Until the early 1990s, Márquez’ music was only known in Mexico. Before this time, his music involved more mixed-media and interdisciplinary works, in addition to a search for a new sound. His Danzones are responsible for bringing his name to the world in the 1990s, with their seductive Latin ballroom dancing rhythms, combining the music from Cuba which had come to Mexico with music from the Mexican region of Veracruz. These works, along with Homenaje a Gismonti mark his newfound interest in accessible music, focused on rhythms and melodies derived from popular urban music. This new style is also present in his film scores.

There are eight Danzones for various ensembles. His Danzón No.2, commissioned by the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), is, by far, his most popular Danzón in Mexico and is often referred to as the unofficial national anthem of Mexico. This work is not only popular in Mexico, but it one of the most popular Latin American works since the 1950s.

Márquez’ most important works to date include the multidisciplinary works Son a Tamayo for harp, percussion, tape and video (performed at the World Harp Congress in 1996) and La Nao for dance and tape. He has also composed for more traditional settings; for string quartet, he composed Homenaje a Gismonti while the Paisajes Balo el Signo de Cosmos is for a full orchestra. For soloist and orchestra, Márquez’ works include Mascaras for harp and orchestra and Espejos en la Arena for cello and orchestra (also available for viola). Other important compositions include the Zarabandeo for clarinet and piano and En Clave for piano. Dance music comes to life in the arrangement of the catchy toe-tapping Conga del Fuego Nuevo for wind ensemble by O. Nickel, a popular choice among college ensembles. This arrangement has been recorded by several university wind ensembles/symphonic bands and the Saxon Wind Philharmonic.

The Danzón according to Márquez.

Many commissions have been requested for Márquez’ works from institutions such as the OAS, the Universidad Metropolitana de Mexico, the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico, Festival Cervantino, Festival del Caribe, Festival de la Ciudad de Mexico and the Rockefeller Foundation. His Flute Concerto was commissioned by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Consejo Nacional para las Artes and was given its premiere by James Newton. The Relâche Ensemble from Philadelphia commissioned the Octeto Malandro (‘Misbehaving Octet’) in 1996, which they later recorded for Monroe St. Records.

In 2005, Márquez’ Cantata Sueños®(Dreams) was premiered at the Festival Cervantino. The cantata features the texts of many prominent public figures including Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Guillermo Velázquez, Eduardo Langagne and Cristof Buarque. For this project, he collaborated with numerous people such as Eduardo García Barrios, Eduardo Langagne, Gabriel Castorena, José Luis Cruz, Gilberto Aceves Navarro and Rossana Peñalosa.

Several other notable events occurred in 2005 for Márquez including the first Festival Internacional “Arturo Márquez” in Venezuela and the release of his CD El Danzón Según Márquez® (‘The Danzón according to Márquez®’).

The following year, Márquez received the highest honour for an artist by the Bellas Artes, the Medalla de Oro de Bellas Artes" (Gold Medal of Fine Arts). At the Palacio de Bellas Artes, six of his danzones were performed.

In addition to the aforementioned awards and honours, Márquez has also received a grant from the Institute of Fine Arts of Mexico and a composition scholarship of Mexico’s Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes (1994) and scholarships totaling nine years from the Sistema Nacional de Creadores.

Arturo Márquez resides in Mexico City with his family.

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