Revueltas – La Noche de los Mayas – “The Night of the Mayas” (Chamber version

by Max Derrickson

Silvestre Revueltas     (b December 31, 1899 in Santiago Papasquiaro, Durango, Mexico; d October 5, 1940 in Mexico City)

La Noche de los Mayas – “The Night of the Mayas”
(Chamber version – arranged by Paul Hindemith)
1. Lento – Andantino – Allegretto – Andant
2. Lento – Moderato – Lento – Allegro

Revueltas was born just beforeMexico’s neo-Renaissance in culture into a family of exceeding talent (his brother was a famous muralist and his sister a gifted actor).  Following the Revolution of 1910-1920, theMexicoof his youth was abounding in new and ingenious cultural ideas, and the voice of a remarkable people was sounding anew.   Revueltas’ formal music studies in violin and composition took place inMexicoand then inChicago, and upon his return toMexico, he took his place as one of its most gifted national composers.  He composed successfully for stage, film, orchestra and chamber ensembles, and his music was championed by many around the world, notably Aaron Copland, Edgar Varese and Erich Kleiber.  His early death because of chronic alcoholism, however, was a tragic loss in the musical world and clearly sabotaged the fame he could have built.

La Noche de los Mayas
[. . .]
In the film, a tribe of Mayans still living in their traditional ways clash with cultural modernity by way of an adventurer-scientist (an Indiana Jones-type character), and everything ends in tragedy.
[. . .]

Though Revueltas never had the chance to create a performance suite from the film score, two posthumous versions have been adapted from it.  Mexican conductor Jose Yves Limantour produced an impressive four-movement suite for full orchestra, and the German composer Paul Hindemith arranged the somewhat more intimate two-movement chamber version that is played tonight.

[. . .]
Revueltas’ unique voice uncannily captures rawness and rhythm.  Like his most popular work, Sensamayá (Chant for the Killing of the Snake) 1938, La Noche de los Mayas exploits odd meter patterns and fierce rhythmic ostinatos.  The results are spatial, visual and spine tingling.  Of that, Revueltas explained “There is in me a very peculiar understanding of nature: Everything is rhythm.  The poet’s language is everyday language.  Everyone understands it or feels it.  Music alone has to perfect its own language.  All of that together is what music is to me.  My rhythms are booming, dynamic, tactile, visual.  I think in images that are melodic strains, that move dynamically.”