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Postcards from Erica August 2023

Trying to find unaccompanied cello music by Hispanic and Latino/Latina composers? Look no further. I created my online “just-the-facts-ma’am”-style digital postcards to introduce listeners to new-to-you cello music and to help cellists, orchestra directors, cello teachers, and students seeking new repertoire, contest pieces, and supplemental literature.

August 2023 Postcards from Erica

This month I’m sending you the sixth installment in this year’s series of postcards on unaccompanied works for cello by Hispanic and Latino/Latina composers. Reread the previous installments.

These monthly postcards give you the information you need to help you choose a piece that’s right for you. I also include links to make it easy for you to locate and purchase the sheet music you want. I hope you enjoy exploring these pieces as much as I did selecting them.

You can also read a quick round-up of my postcards featuring works by Black composers, my series featuring women composers, or revisit all of my postcards.

August Postcard #1: Recercadas Sobre El Canto Llano “La Spagna” by Diego Ortiz

Greatness knows no temporal boundaries, so, once again, we turn back the clock to the Renaissance era for another composition by Diego Ortiz—the original Napoletano Dynamite. For a look at another Ortiz composition for cello (originally for viola da gamba), revisit Postcard #1 from June 2023.

  • Title: Recercadas Sobre El Canto Llano “La Spagna”
  • Composer: Diego Ortiz
  • Year Composed: 1553
  • Instrumentation: unaccompanied cello
  • Movements: 6
  • Duration of Work: at the discretion of the player
  • Number of Measures: 37, 37, 37, 37, 19, 19
  • Number of Pages: 8
  • Tempo: none indicated
  • Difficulty Level: late beginner
  • Highest Position Reached: 4th position for Recercada 1, 5th position for Recercadas 2-6
  • Technique Employed: bass clef, 4/2 time signature, accidentals, dottle quarter notes, dotted half notes and double whole notes, written mostly on the A and D strings
  • Publisher: Thomas Gettys
  • Where to Acquire: IMSLP
  • Cost of Sheet Music: free
  • Recording: Here is a recording of the third on viola da gamba and organ by Ernst Stolz. If you have recorded these on the cello, please let us know.

Program Notes

The Trattado de Glosas (modern Spanish spelling Tratado de Glosas) is considered a masterpiece of literature for the viola da gamba. The work was published on 10 December 1553, in Rome under the Spanish title Trattado de glossas sobre clausulas y otros generos de puntos en la musica de violones nuevamente puestos en luz. The Italian edition was published at the same time, with the title Glose sopra le cadenze et altre sorte de punti in la musica del violone. The Italian edition is full of Hispanicisms, which suggests that Ortiz made this version himself. – Wikipedia

Cellist’s Guide

Though this collection was written for viola da gamba, the transcription works well on the cello. It is not uncommon to play viola da gamba literature, such as the three Bach gamba sonatas on the cello.

These six Ricercar can be played as unaccompanied pieces, or as duets with a drone accompaniment. Additionally, they can be performed individually or as a set.

If you would like to play with a friend,  pair a novice player (on the drone) with a late beginner or intermediate cellist. Conversely, a teacher could play the drone while a student performed the “melody.”

If the 4/2 time signature seems daunting, try counting in 8, with the quarter note getting the beat.

August Postcard #2: Ezpata Dantza (Sword Dance) by Javier Jacinto

Versatility is the name of the game for Spanish composer Javier Jacinto. A graduate of the Royal Conservatory of Music in Madrid with a specialty in conducting, his studies have also included piano, txistu (Basque flute), cello, and even electroacoustic and computer music. This particular composition premiered in November 2012, performed by cellist Arto Alikoski in Oulu, Finland.

  • Title: Ezpata Dantza (Sword Dance)
  • Composer: Javier Jacinto
  • Year Composed: 2010
  • Instrumentation: unaccompanied cello
  • Movements: 1
  • Duration of Work: 2:33
  • Number of Measures: 94
  • Number of Pages: 3
  • Tempo: dotted quarter = 69, eighth = 207, dotted quarter = 80
  • Difficulty Level: advanced
  • Highest Position Reached: high thumb
  • Technique Employed: bass, tenor, and treble clef; 5/8 and 6/8 time signatures; trills, glissando, many accidentals, septuplets, lots of double stops of many varieties (including octaves);  quick scalar passages
  • Publisher: Javier Jacinto
  • Where to Acquire: IMSLP
  • Cost of Sheet Music: free
  • Recording and Program Notes by cellist Diane Chaplin: 

Cellist’s Guide

This is a fun piece that would work really well as an encore. Diane Chaplin makes it look effortless, but it is not. While most of the piece is not too difficult, there are a few treacherous spots, so make sure you have a good fingering!

August Postcard #3: Four Pieces for Violoncello by Tania León

(Originally published February 2022)

Award-winning composer Tania León draws on her Cuban roots to give musical voice to a broad range of works, including collaborations with renowned poets, authors, and directors. Several of her works have received Grammy and Latin Grammy nominations in the category of Best Classical Contemporary Composition. León was the first Music Director of the Dance Theater of Harlem and founded the New York-based nonprofit and festival Composers Now, empowering living composers by “celebrating the diversity of their voices and honoring the significance of their artistic contributions to the cultural fabric of society.”

  • Title: Four Pieces for Violoncello
  • Composer: Tania León
  • Instrumentation: unaccompanied cello
  • Year Composed: 1981
  • Movements: I, II, III, IV
  • Duration of Work: 11′
  • Number of Measures: 35, 42, 32, 30
  • Number of Pages: 6
  • Tempo: quarter note = 96; Lento doloroso; quarter note = 72; Vivo
  • Difficulty Level: Late Advanced/Professional
  • Highest Position Reached: thumb
  • Techniques Employed: bass, tenor, treble clefs;  4/8, 5/8, 6/8, 9/8, 2/4, 3/4, 4/4, 5/4, and 6/4 time signatures; triplets, quintuplets, sextuplets, and septuplets; double, triple, and quadruple stops; grace notes, trills, harmonics, and false harmonics; pizzicato and left-hand pizzicato; glissandos, foot stamping, knocking on soundboard, playing between the bridge and tailpiece, and sul ponticello
  • Publisher: Peermusic Classical
  • Where to Purchase Score: 
Product Cover
look inside
4 Pieces
Cello Solo. Composed by Tania Leon (1943-). Peermusic Classical. Classical. Softcover. 8 pages. Peermusic #61892-623. Published by Peermusic (HL.228846).
  • Cost of Score: $14.95*



In 1979, León returned to Cuba to spend time with family. The following year, her father died.

“Upon her return to New York she began work on a new composition, Four Pieces for Violoncello (1981), which reflected the distress of losing her father. The second movement is ‘a eulogy, but it [was] filled with great pain. I called the third movement Jumbao (groove) […] As the cello begins to express el tumbao [the basic rhythm played on the bass in Afro-Cuban music], that’s where I first introduced the elements of Cuban music that would appear in my later work.’ – from Tania León’s Stride: A Polyrhythmic Life by Alejandro L. Madrid.


I must confess that when I first received the score several years ago, I took a quick look at it and shelved it. At the time, I wasn’t able to find a video or recording and couldn’t fully make sense of the piece. I am so glad that Angelique Montes recorded the complete work and I was able to give “Four Pieces for Violoncello” a second chance.

Despite the wide pitch range, “Four Pieces for Violoncello” falls surprisingly well in the hand. It does take time to come up with good fingerings, but it is well worth the effort.

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