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Postcards from Erica December 2023

Trying to find unaccompanied cello music by Hispanic and Latino/Latina composers? Look no further. 

Postcards from Erica Dec 2023

This month, I’m sending you the ninth installment in this year’s series of postcards on unaccompanied works for cello by Hispanic and Latino/Latina composers. You can find my previous installments here.

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.

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.

December Postcard #1: “Feliz Navidad” by José Feliciano

José Feliciano may be one of the most well-known Latino singer-songwriters in the world. His bilingual holiday ballad, “Feliz Navidad,” was first recorded in 1970 and remains a staple of seasonal music playlists. In a 2020 interview with NPR, he revealed that part of his motivation for writing the song was missing his family and enjoying their Christmas traditions together, which may be why he wrote the music for both guitar as well as the cuatro, a 10-stringed instrument his uncle taught him back in Puerto Rico.

  • Title: “Feliz Navidad”
  • Composer: José Feliciano
  • Arranger: Camila Honores
  • Year Composed: 1970
  • Instrumentation: unaccompanied cello
  • Movements: 1
  • Duration: 1:50
  • Number of Pages: 1
  • Number of Measures: 48
  • Tempo: none indicated
  • Difficulty Level: beginning
  • Highest Position Reached: 2nd
  • Technique Employed: 4/4 time signature, bass clef, triplets, syncopation, dotted notes, slurs, 1st & 2nd position
  • Where to Aquire: YouTube
  • Cost of Sheet Music: watch the video for free or download the sheet music by supporting KamiCellist on Patreon


Cellist’s Guide

This arrangement lies nicely on the cello. If you are just beginning 2nd position or you are looking to increase your proficiency, this is the piece for you.  The rhythm is a little tricky, but fortunately, most of us know it by ear. You can also try playing along with the video.

December Postcard #2: Suite No. 2 by Cesar Augusto Zambrano

Colombian composer Cesar Augusto Zambrano has arranged over 40 pieces of Colombian popular music for chamber choirs, soloists, and orchestra. He believes there is a space between “cultured” music and popular or folkloric music that has been insufficiently explored by composers as well as performers. Many of his compositions make use of rhythms and melodies that pay tribute to both indigenous as well as Spanish (and, by extension, Arab) influences.

  • Title: Suite No. 2
  • Composer: Cesar Augusto Zambrano
  • Year Composed: 2003
  • Instrumentation: unaccompanied cello
  • Movements: 4
  • Duration of Work: 10:30
  • Number of Pages: 7
  • Number of Measures: 76 w/o repeats, 37 w/o repeats, 29 w/o repeats, 177 w/o repeats
  • Tempo: not indicated
  • Difficulty Level: intermediate
  • Highest Position Reached: 6th
  • Technique Employed: 6/8, 3/4, 4/4 time signatures; bass clef, double, triple, and quadruple stops; triplets, col legno, left-hand pizzicato, tapping the top of the cello
  • Publisher: composer
  • Where to Aquire: I downloaded the music from a link that no longer exists, so if you are interested, you could send him a message on X (Twitter) requesting the score.
  • Cost of Sheet Music: ask the composer


Cellist’s Guide

Like the Bach Suites, this work is based on dance forms. Unlike the Bach suites, which incorporate French dances, this suite employs Latin idioms.

The composer is a cellist, and that is evident in how well this piece lies in the hand. Zambrano knows his instrument well and makes use of many arpeggios and double, triple, and quadruple stops throughout the work.

I think that this suite will gain popularity with intermediate and advanced cellists alike. I highly recommend that you give it a try.

December Postcard #3: Cuaderno de Viaje by Mario Lavista

Mexican composer Mario Lavista was a composer, writer and intellectual who composed incidental music for plays, film scores (mostly in conjunction with Nicolás Echevarría), and also wrote pieces for orchestra and vocalists. He taught music analysis and composition at the National Conservatory in Mexico City. In 2013, Lavista won the Tomás Luis de Victoria Composition Prize, an award which recognizes a living composer “for his contribution to the enrichment of the musical life of the Ibero-American community throughout his professional career and through his work.”

  • Title: Cuaderno de Viaje
  • Composer: Mario Lavista
  • Year Composed: 1989, revised 2002
  • Instrumentation: unaccompanied cello
  • Movements: 2
  • Duration of Work: 10:18
  • Number of Measures: unmeasured
  • Number of Pages: 4
  • Tempo: eighth = 48, 54, 60, 80-84
  • Difficulty Level: advanced
  • Highest Position Reached: thumb
  • Technique Employed: bass clef, false harmonics, sextuplets, trills, tremolo, grace notes, left-hand pizzicato, glissandos, grace notes, sul ponticello
  • Publisher:  Ediciones Mexicanas De Musica, A.C. / PeerMusic
  • Where to Aquire:
  • Cost of Sheet Music*: $9.95


Program Notes

“Cuaderno de viaje (1989), the work that gives title to this album, was written for the Italian violist Maurizio Barbetti. In the year of 1988, with part of the resources obtained by the Scholarship Guggenheim, Mario Lavista makes an extensive trip through Italy in the company of his daughter Claudia. In the small town of Pollenza, where the notable double bass player Stefano Scodanibbio lives, he meets Maurizio Barbetti, who suggests the possibility of composing a work for solo viola.

It is in Pollenza where Lavista begins to make the first notes for the work, which are read right there by Barbetti. Thus arises the first of the two pieces of the Cuaderno de Viaje (Travel Notebook); the other is written during the rest of the journey through Italy. The work is, then, a couple of studies in harmonics for solo viola, and it is the second work written by Lavista for a stringed instrument; the first is Ousk (1980) for solo double bass, dedicated to Bertram Turetzky. Despite the title, Cuaderno de Viaje is not a description of the journey through Italy; it is an in-depth exploration of the possibilities of the viola in the field of harmonics, written in the light of experience preview of Reflections of the Night (1984), string quartet written by Lavista entirely in harmonics. After finishing the original version of Cuaderno de Viaje, the composer wrote a version for cello solo, which was premiered by Bozena Slawinska.

In its original version for viola, Cuaderno de viaje was premiered by Maurizio Barbetti at the Gaudeamus Festival in Holland, in 1990. The score was dedicated by the composer to his daughter and is published in Italy.” – Pedro Gómez

Cellist’s Guide

This lovely work is a study in natural and false harmonics. The harmonics occur in slurred, tenuto, trilled, and tremolo form, and also accompanied by left-hand pizzicato. Rhythm is fairly free, with the main focus being the production of tone colors.

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