by Mary Lathem
Traditionally known as Hispanic Heritage Month, the period between September 15 and October 15 is a time to celebrate the rich historical and cultural contributions of the Hispanic and Latinx communities. We picked 5 of the countless Hispanic and Latinx artists who have made their mark on the classical music world to add to your listening queue, but don’t stop here! Listen to Concierto – WDAV’s weekly program spotlighting music by Latin American and Spanish composers and musicians – to learn about more influential artists, Sundays at 6 PM. Concierto is presented in both Spanish and English.
Are “Hispanic,” “Latino,” and “Latinx” synonymous? Not quite – though they’re sometimes used interchangeably in the United States, there are important differences between the three terms. “Hispanic” refers to those who descend from primarily Spanish-speaking countries (including Spain), and “Latino” refers to those who descend from Latin American countries, regardless of Spanish-speaking heritage. “Latinx” was introduced around 2004 as a gender-inclusive term for people of Latin American cultural or ethnic identity. At the end of the day, identity is personal to each individual!
1. Martina Arroyo
American soprano Martina Arroyo’s remarkable talent was discovered when she began to study voice as a hobby in college. Martina continued her voice training after graduation while working as an English teacher and a social worker, embarking on a legendary career after winning the Metropolitan Opera’s Audition of the Air competition in 1957. Though she built a significant following in Europe, Martina held especially close ties to the Metropolitan Opera, where she was a principal soprano for over a decade. Particularly well known for her portrayal of Verdi heroines, Martina is considered a pioneer for performers of African and Puerto Rican descent and continues to pass on her legacy through teaching and masterclasses.
2. Alondra de la Parra
Award-winning Mexican American conductor Alondra de la Parra, known for her “spellbinding and vibrant” conducting style, shows a particular commitment to the work of Latin American conductors. She was named Music Director of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra in 2017, making her the first female principal conductor of an Australian symphony orchestra, and left the post earlier this year. Alondra currently serves as an official Cultural Ambassador of Mexico.
3. Ricardo Kanji
Brazilian recorder player, flutist, conductor, and luthier Ricardo Kanji, a founding member of both the Orchestra of the 18th Century and the choir and orchestra Vox Brasiliensis, has specialized in Baroque and Classical interpretation for the majority of his career. Recently, his work reflects a special interest in preserving the music of Brazil’s colonial period.
4. Gabriela Lena Frank
Listed as one of the 35 most significant women composers in history by the Washington Post, composer Gabriela Lena Frank’s music “often reflects not only her own personal experience as a multi-racial Latina, but also refract her studies of Latin American cultures, incorporating poetry, mythology, and native musical styles into a western classical framework that is uniquely her own” (from Gabriela’s personal bio). Among numerous achievements and awards, Gabriela is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a USA Artist Fellowship, and a Latin Grammy award. Outside of composition, Gabriela is a virtuosic pianist who specializes in contemporary repertoire.
5. Ricardo Iznaola
Cuban American guitarist, composer, teacher, and author Ricardo Iznaola is one of the preeminent classical guitarists of his generation. Over a career spanning four decades, Ricardo has won 9 international prizes, published over 50 musical scores and 4 books, and served as Professor of Guitar at the University of Denver for 32 years. Ricardo was inducted into the Guitar Foundation of America’s Hall of Fame in 2016 and received the foundation’s Lifetime Artistic Achievement Award.
- Ganymed (Ganymede), Op. 19, No. 3, D544 (Franz Schubert) – Martina Arroyo
- Aida: Act III, “Qui Ramadès verrà… O cieli azzurri…” (Giuseppe Verdi) – Martina Arroyo
- “Sobre las Olas” – Juventino Rosas, Alondra de la Parra
- Concerto para Violão e Orquestra: II. Ibéria – Francis Hime, Alondra de la Parra
- “Landum” (Anonymous) – Ricardo Kanji
- “Matais de Incêndios” (Anonymous) – Ricardo Kanji
- Danza de los Muñecos – Gabriela Lena Frank
- Sonata Andina: IV. Finale Saqsampillo – Gabriela Lena Frank
- Ten Etudes-Homages: 8. Homage to Rachmaninoff – Ricardo Iznaola
- Valse Op. 64, No. 1 – Ricardo Iznaola