Arturo Márquez: Conga del Fuego
Arturo Márquez was born in Sonora, Mexico in 1950. Surrounded by a musical family, Márquez studied composition with the likes of Federico Ibarra, Hector Quintanar, and Joaquín Gutierrez Heras. His use of Latin American styles in his music makes Márquez a highly popular composer among the Latin American public. He is often regarded as one of the most important Mexican composers of his generation.
Composed in 2005, Conga del Fuego is a short work for orchestra that is absolutely bursting with colour. Translated as ‘Conga of Fire’, the atmosphere created by Márquez’s clever orchestration and keen use of conga rhythms makes this work a fiery adventure.
Opening with a pulsating rhythm from the lower strings, the upper strings begin to build to the main theme of the work. The exciting percussion accentuates the style, whilst also adding to the drama of the music.
An exchange between the wind and strings cuts the rhythm off momentarily before everything revs up once more. A clavé rhythm begins in time with the strings as a trumpet solo shines through. There is always a sense of this driving rhythm throughout the whole piece, which is what keeps it on edge.
The atmosphere Márquez cleverly makes are both tense and joyful all at the same time.The cascading waterfall of scales throughout the strings and winds against the fanfare-like brass highlights the intensity between the instruments. Although high in intensity and drama throughout, the music is also a huge expression of joy.
A climax is heard before everything quickly comes away for a much calmer section. Again a trumpet leads on the solo line. The luscious string line sings out and adds to the lavishness of this section. A welcome break from the pulsating rhythm is quickly disrupted by the opening content.
A quick reprise of the opening melody is heard, this time with even more gusto! The furious conga at the end here surely represents the fire that Márquez had in mind when composing the work. The orchestra unites to pack a punch towards the end of the music. As the dynamic grows, so does the texture until a final chord is struck and the piece is over.
Conga del Fuego might be short in duration, but it’s big in character and drive. The pulsating core rhythm keeps the music moving along, whilst also creating a dramatic atmosphere. Another gem in Márquez’s archives!
Ⓒ Alex Burns