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Postcards from Erica July 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.

Postcards from Erica July 2023

This month I’m sending you the fifth 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.

July Postcard #1: Estudio bop núm. 7 Bachriation by Eugenio Toussaint

The self-taught musician Eugenio Toussaint Umhoff was one of the founders of Sacbé, an influential Mexican jazz group named for the white roads in Mayan culture that connected ceremonial centers through the jungle. Over the course of his life, Toussaint composed for many ensembles while actively performing with his piano trio.

  • Title: Estudio bop núm. 7 Bachriation
  • Composer: Eugenio Toussaint
  • Year Composed: 2005
  • Instrumentation: unaccompanied cell0
  • Movements: 1
  • Duration of Work: 3:00
  • Number of Measures: 45
  • Number of Pages: 2
  • Tempo: quarter = 76
  • Difficulty Level: late beginner
  • Highest Position Reached: 4th
  • Technique Employed: bass clef, 4/4 time signature, numerous accidentals, double stops, 16th notes throughout
  • Publisher: composer
  • Where to Aquire Score: Gustavo Martín
  • Cost of Sheet Music*: free
  • Recording

Program Notes

“Estudio bop No. 7 was written for violoncello in 2005, commissioned by Carlos Prieto, who premiered it in 2006, and to whom it was dedicated.

Originally, the work takes the Prelude from J.S. Bach’s Suite No. 1 for solo cello BWV 1007 as a model.  This variation (or Bachriation as the author jokingly puts it) coincides in a very precise manner with the number of measures in Bach’s original work.  From this perspective, the piece can be understood as an improvised search that draws from the sounds of the German composer. Toussaint takes the structure of the original piece, reconfigures the original notes, and redraws the violoncello’s line, thus creating new sequences and adding references to jazz, blues, and, in some way, to Bach himself.” – Gustavo Martin

Cellist’s Guide 

Just as in the Bach Suites, there are no dynamics or bowing indicated in the score. This is intentional so that the performer is free to offer his/her/their interpretation of the piece. Like the Prelude from the 1st Suite, Bachriation is open to many interpretations, so feel free to experiment.

The vast majority of the work can be played in half and 1st positions, so this is an excellent choice for those looking to practice shifting between the two. Additionally, all but five notes are written as 16th notes. making it a good selection for cellists working on the Scherzo in Suzuki Book 3.

July Postcard #2: Devaneos by Lucía Álvarez

Also hailing from Mexico, composer Lucía Álvarez Vázquez completed degrees in piano and music composition from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. A six-time winner of the Ariel Award (an award that recognizes the best of Mexican cinema) she has been commissioned for works spanning theater, television, and film as well as the concert stage.

  • Title: Devaneos
  • Composer: Lucía Álvarez
  • Instrumentation: unaccompanied cello
  • Year Composed: 1995
  • Movements: 4
  • Duration of Work: 12:00
  • Number of Measures: 45, 41, 42, 89
  • Number of Pages: 7
  • Tempo: quarter note = 55, Lento, Moderato, Capriccioso
  • Difficulty Level: advanced
  • Highest Position Reached: thumb position
  • Technique Employed: 2/4, 3/4, 4/4, 5/4 time signatures; bass, tenor, and treble clefs; false harmonics, glissandos, pizzicato, sul tasto, double and quadruple stops
  • Publisher: composer
  • Where to Aquire Score: Gustavo Martín
  • Cost of Sheet Music*: free



Program Notes

“Devaneos is a programmatic suite for cello solo that, with humor and music, attempts to portray the different feelings that concern a romantic relationship.

The first part, Enamor, is the falling-in-love stage; followed by Ruptura, the breaking-up, the end of the relationship; the third part is Capriccio or the desire of staying in that relationship; and lastly, there is Olvido, which will allow us to venture into a new relationship.  Devaneos is a plastic game with certain irony in its musical construction.” – Gustavo Martin

Cellist’s Guide

Common to all four movements is the use of double stops, which appear 1) in their regular format, 2) with one note sliding as the other remains static, and 3) where one note is held, while the other changes pitch.

Equally important is the alternation between a duple and triple beat. This is achieved by using both the 3/4 and 4/4 time signatures in the first movement and triplets versus duplets in the remaining movement. Triplets appear as pizzicato and arco, missing the first note of the triplet, and as double stops.

This work is definitely more difficult than it appears, but who doesn’t like a challenge? There are seven measures missing from the score but are fortunately in the recording. An advanced cellist will be able to transcribe the measures without great difficulty.

July Postcard #3: Danzas Latinoamericanas by José L. Elizondo

There is nothing like returning to a great composer. Mexican American composer and scientist José L. Elizondo is an alumnus of MIT, where he studied music and electrical engineering. He also studied musical analysis, orchestration and conducting at Harvard. When he is not composing, Elizondo pursues multiple scientific and engineering interests, including projects focused on language-related technology that combine his interests in linguistics, computer science and artificial intelligence.

  • Title: Danzas Latinoamericanas
  • Composer: José L. Elizondo
  • Instrumentation: unaccompanied cello
  • Year Composed: 2017
  • Movements: 3
  • Duration of Work: 10:00
  • Number of Measures: 96, 76, 97
  • Number of Pages: 10
  • Tempo: quarter = 60, 90, 120; 120-130; dotted quarter = 96
  • Difficulty Level: late intermediate & advanced
  • Highest Position Reached:  thumb
  • Technique Employed: bass, tenor & treble clefs; 6/8 & 4/4 time signatures, pizzicato, grace notes, trills, double, triple, & quadruple stops
  • Publisher: Jose Elizondo
  • Where to Aquire Score:
  • Cost of Sheet Music*: free


1. Otoño en Buenos Aires

2. Pan de Azúcar

3. Atardecer Tapatío

Program Notes

Danzas Latinoamericanasis a suite inspired by dances from Argentina (tango), Brazil (bossa nova), and Mexico (jarabe).

  1. Otoño en Buenos Aires is a passionate tango that pays homage to the music of Astor Piazzolla and Carlos Gardel.
  2. Pan de Azúcar is named after the famous mountain in Rio de Janeiro. It is inspired by Brazilian bossa nova. It echoes the sensuous music of Antonio Carlos Jobim and Heitor Villa-Lobos. The melodies in this piece are expressive, melancholic, and peaceful, with a general mood of “joyful serenity”.
  3. Atardecer Tapatío is inspired by Mexican jarabe folk-dance music and the sound of “mariachi” bands. The music is worry-free, festive, and full of life. It is a tribute to the composer’s homeland.

Cellist’s Guide

This work varies in difficulty by movement.

I would rate the first movement as advanced because it is in c minor (making the thumb position a bit more challenging), sometimes notated in low tenor clef, and written in double staff.

The second movement is in g minor, and the absence of the A-flat makes all the difference. Also, it is written slightly lower on the instrument. I would rate this as high intermediate because of the use of left and pizzicato of the open strings while playing arco.

I would also consider the final movement to be late intermediate (Suzuki Book 6) because some thumb position is necessary. Additionally, the mastery of bow distribution is quite important to carry off this dance.

All of the movements would work independently, so if you are not yet at an advanced level,  just chose the 2nd or 3rd movement. The work is sufficiently interesting and still technically challenging, to make it enjoyable for the advanced player.

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*Prices given are accurate at the date of the publication of this article. Please check the given links for the current price. The Cello Museum does not control these prices and cannot take responsibility for price changes.