A Yucatecan composer’s tribute to frogs debuts in the U.S.

Students from La Escuela de Artes Visuales de Yucatán are heading to Pittsburgh. Photo: Courtesy
The work of historic Yucatecan composer Gustavo Río Escalante, left, is being revived by conductor Alejandro Pinzón, right. Photos: Courtesy

Mérida, Yucatán — A late Yucatecan composer’s whimsical, but soothing score is finally getting its U.S. debut 69 years after it was written.

The Pittsburgh Civic Orchestra, under the baton of Mérida-born guest conductor Alejandro Pinzón, will introduce “Sinfonía de las Ranas” (“Symphony of the Frogs)” by the Yucatecan composer Gustavo Río Escalante (1880-1963), to the United States.

Pinzón was previously on the Pittsburgh orchestra’s staff as assistant conductor and is an alum of ESAY, the Visual Arts School of Yucatán.

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“This is a bridge between the United States and Yucatán, which acquires a special meaning at this time,” said Enrique Martín Briceño, headmaster of the school.

The concert, “Water,” follows earlier performances named “Earth,” “Air” and “Fire.”

Through a video call from Pittsburg, Pinzón commented that the program also includes the famous “Blue Danube” by Strauss, Smetana’s “Moldau” and Mendelssohn’s “Hebrides Overture.”

First published in 1949, the “Symphony of the Frogs” is a whimsical fantasy based on the composer’s childhood memories.

The first movement, andante quasi lento, begins with a lyrical theme that later becomes more serious. After a pause a section begins in which the orchestra imitates the croaking of the frogs. The second movement, moderato, begins with the croaking of the frogs in the woods. After a few more serious measures, the croaking of the frogs closes the piece.

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The frog in Mayan culture symbolizes happiness.

The Yucatán Symphony Orchestra, then directed by Daniel Ayala Pérez, first performed the work in 2007.

A trip to Pittsburgh for some ESAY students who will participate in the concert was financially supported by the Opera Maya Foundation.

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