Program note: Hidden Gems

Saturday, August 6, 2022 , 6:30 PM

Falla: Suite No. 2 from El Sombrero de tres picos [The Three-Cornered Hat]

John Estacio: Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra

Moncayo: Huapango

Suite No. 2 from El Sombrero de tres picos [The Three-Cornered Hat]

Manuel de Falla (1876-1946)

Composed: 1919
Length: c. 12 minutes

Instrumentation: 2 flutes (2nd doubling piccolo) and piccolo, 2 oboes and English horn, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion (bass drum, castanets, cymbals, snare drum, tam-tam, triangle, xylophone), harp, piano doubling celesta, and strings

The Three-Cornered Hat is a ballet Falla wrote for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, choreographed by Léonide Massine and with set design by Pablo Picasso—an artistic dream team if there ever was one. The name comes from the characteristic headgear of the magistrate in the story, who finds himself embarrassed after his advances on the miller’s wife are rebuffed. He tries to take vengeance by having the miller arrested, but a series of events involving mistaken identities thwart him yet again. By the end, the magistrate’s ill-will proves no match for force of joyous festivity in the miller’s village.

Falla’s music is wonderfully evocative, setting the mood of the ballet perfectly. The Andalusian flavor of the score comes from a deep understanding of the folk traditions of Spain, but the music itself is mostly original to Falla. The one folk quote Falla uses comes from a melody that he and Massine heard during a trip they made to Andalusia for inspiration, where they encountered a blind beggar strumming a broken guitar and singing an intriguing tune. Falla quickly wrote it down and incorporated it into the music for The Neighbor’s Dance. The Suite on tonight’s program extracts music verbatim from the second half of the ballet.

What to listen for

  • In The Neighbor’s Dance, the miller’s neighbors have come to celebrate St. John’s Eve, making merry with a lively seguidilla, a quick dance in triple time that features swirling, fancy footwork.
  • The miller then performs his own dance for the company, an intense farruca, a form of the traditional Andalusian flamenco. You’ll hear rhythmic Spanish guitar strums following the opening call to the dance.
  • The triumphant and joyous Final Dance is a wild jota (folk dance), interspersed with frantic chases involving the miller and the magistrate. At the very end of the Suite, a raucous celebration complete with percussive effects vividly depicts the villagers bouncing the magistrate up and down on a blanket

Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra

John Estacio (b. 1966)

Composed: 2017
Length: c. 24 minutes

Instrumentation: 2 flutes and piccolo, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion (triangle, suspended cymbal, China cymbal, crash cymbals, tam-tam, glockenspiel, xylophone, snare drum, tom-tom, bass drum, tubular bells), strings, and solo trumpet

John Estacio is among the most well-known Canadian composers of his generation, having served as composer-in-residence for multiple Canadian orchestras and having received commissions and performances from every major orchestra in Canada. While his childhood training was on piano, organ, accordion, and trumpet, Estacio was drawn to composition at an early age. In December 2021, Estacio was appointed to The Order of Canada, honoring individuals whose service shapes Canadian society, one of the country’s highest honors.

Estacio wrote his Trumpet Concerto in celebration of Canada’s Sesquicentennial in 2017. Commissioned by Larry Larson, trumpeter with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, in conjunction with 18 other Canadian orchestras, the piece is the result of an unprecedented collaboration that resulted in 19 premiere performances. Tonight’s soloist, Andrew McCandless, performed the Toronto Symphony premiere of the piece in 2018. Estacio describes the musical progression of his piece in his note for its premiere:

The first of the three movements is titled Triton’s Trumpet and takes its inspiration from the Greek myth about Poseidon’s son Triton, who used his conch shell as a trumpet to calm or raise the ocean waters. The middle movement is titled Ballad and features extended lyrical phrases for the solo trumpet. After the rather portentous first two movements, the third movement, Rondo, is a much-needed balm. It is written in a quick 6/8 meter and begins with a quixotic melody that will return several times throughout this mercurial kaleidoscope of energy and color and fanfare.

What to listen for

  • First movement: note the interplay between the orchestra and soloist as Triton’s trumpet is nearly overcome by the storm (look for Mr. McCandless’s use of the mute) before the tempest eventually succumbs to his calming powers.
  • Second movement: Mr. McCandless describes his experience with this movement, explaining that when he plays it, he “always thinks of a planetarium. Its beautiful long lines remind me of music that might be playing as you sit in a planetarium, on your back, gazing up at the ceiling to see the stars.”
  • Third movement: the finale has been described as a tarantella, an Italian-sourced dance form that’s a favorite of Estacio’s, and it ends, as McCandless remarks, “in spectacular fashion.”


José Pablo Moncayo (1912-1958)

Composed: 1941
Length: c. 7 minutes

Instrumentation: 2 flutes and piccolo, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets and e-flat clarinet, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion (xylophone, claves, guiro, bass drum, metal rattle, Native American drum), harp, and strings

Moncayo is among the most important Mexican composers from the early to mid-20th century. He led the re-establishment of the nationalistic Mexican spirit in the classical music of the country, forming the so-called Group of Four compositional consortium in 1934. Moncayo began his musical career as a percussionist, and then became the conductor of the Mexican Symphony Orchestra in 1949. His small but forward-looking compositional output was helped along by his studies with the legendary Carlos Chávez at the Mexico City Conservatory, and later with Aaron Copland.

Moncayo’s Huapango incorporates a traditional style of music and dance—son jarocho—from the Gulf Coast region of Mexico, and the word huapango refers to the raised wooden platform on which the lively dance is traditionally performed. Moncayo expands the typical huapango instrumentation—trumpet, violin, jarana, and huapanguera (the last two instruments resembling guitars)—to the full orchestral palette. He visited Veracruz to collect musical material and wrote that “the transcription of it was very difficult because the huapangueros (musicians) never sang the same melody twice in the same way.” The infectious melodies and rhythms are endlessly enticing and have made the piece a beloved classic.

What to listen for

Listen for the strumming of the violins, which evoke the guitar in this style, and the rhythmic percussion, conjuring the pulsing, stomping footwork on the wooden huapango platform.

Program notes by Jon Kochavi