Petite suite dans le style ancien

Manuel Ponce was one of the 20th century’s most distinguished and influential luminaries of Mexican music. As a young man, he went to study where the action was: Europe. For five years he honed his skills in Italy and Germany. When he returned, he became the Music Director and Conductor of The National Symphony Orchestra of Mexico. In 1925, he took a six-month leave to travel to Paris to study with Paul Dukas (Sorcerer’s Apprentice). He overstayed his visa for eight years. When he finally returned to Mexico City in 1933, he became the Director of The Conservatorio Nacional de Música, the alma mater of Plácido Domingo.

Much of Ponce’s music derives its inspiration from Mexican folklore and folk music. He also wrote significant classical guitar pieces for his friend Andrés Segovia. The Petite Suite’s roots, however, come from his time in Paris where he fell under the sway of Igor Stravinsky – but not the revolutionary pre-WWI Rite of Spring Stravinsky, the post-war neoclassical Stravinsky who returned in 1920 to traditional forms from earlier styles, especially baroque forms from the 18th century. Ponce’s engaging Petite Suite for string trio “in the old style” harkens back to the contrapuntal and rhythmic practices of Johann Sebastian Bach. It begins with a fantasia-like sunny prelude. The second movement is a canon with all voices imitating each other. The third is a lyrical air; and the fourth a zestful fughetta, or “little fugue”. Fascinating. All roads seem to lead to Bach, even from Mexico.