III. Mexican Rhapsody No. 1
   by Manuel M. Ponce

The Rapsodia Mexicana No. 1, created in 1911, demonstrates a range of Ponce’s compositional skill. This piece, written in the salon style of composition, shares Ponce’s musical thumbprint in his mixture of Mexican lyricism with Western music form. In this stage Ponce demonstrated increased comfort writing in European structured music with Mexican themes to be performed on the concert stage. The two Rapsodias mexicanas (1911, 1914), and the Balada mexicana (1915) represent piano showpieces that portrayed Mexican traits through rhythms, works that depict Mexican folklore in a serious manner. In the compositional process of this piece Ponce incorporated traditional Mexican elements he had collected although his audience was mainly composed of elitist Mexican groups that still favored European tendencies and generally disfavored the use of traditional Mexican music. Nonetheless, Ponce successfully held true to his favorable nationalist inclinations while gaining the audience’s approval by incorporating European models.

As Ponce became more openly nationalistic, he described the unusual reaction that his works generated in the Mexican public: “When in those now distant days I took on the challenge of preserving and dignifying popular songs, I was accused of making music that smelled like huaraches. Almost all the composers gave their works names in French. The day that I played my Rapsodia Mexicana in my concerts, there was at first, perhaps, even a hostile environment. As the work progressed, the listeners were disoriented, but at the conclusion, opinion was unanimous and the triumph was a fact. The popular music had conquered a place in the salons. And since then, the china poblana and the mariachi touch elbows and smile with the grand dames and the gentlemen who wear tuxedos and speak in French.”

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