Polo Romanesco (2022)
(2,2,2,2 4,2,2,0 Timp. 2 Perc. Harp, Piano and strings)
Commissioned by the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra for a March 2022 premiere.
Performed by the Oberlin College Orchestra, February 24th, 2023. Conducted by Raphael Jiménez.
The Romanesca is a melodic-harmonic formula popular from the mid–16th to early–17th centuries that was used as an aria formula for singing poetry and as a subject for instrumental variation. The formula was not to be viewed as a fixed tune, but as a framework over which elaborate ornamentation can occur. Documentation of the term is seen for the first time in Alonso Mudarra's Tres libros de musico en cifra para vihuela (Romanesca, o Guárdame las vacas) ("O let us put the cows to pasture" or, "look after the cows for me") in 1546 and in Carminum pro testudines liber IV by Pierre Phalèse.
This Romanesca must have made its way to the shores of the New World where after several centuries, it became the basis for one of the most popular songs from Western Venezuela. The Polo Margariteño is a folk song of unknown authorship that became widely known in the latter part of the twentieth century.
Polo Romanesco is a kind of postmodern send up of the Romanesca progression as it weaves its way through bits and piece of the Polo Margariteño. The piece is full of surprises and juxtapositions and is an attempt to go on a similar journey from that one that these humble chords went on many centuries ago across unthinkable distances. It is a piece that attempts to bridge the gap between European and Venezuelan music and in turns it points to a way forward in which music can be both old and new.