Latin Americans We’ve Commissioned: Part 1

For Women’s History Month 2019, I had compiled a list of the first women composers commissioned by each Music Division Fund. Now that it’s National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15-October 15, did you know that among the Music Division’s over 450 commissioned composers are composers from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America? Let’s dig in with commission firsts by country! Part 1 of this two-part series includes commissioned composers from North America and the Caribbean.

Portrait of Carlos Chávez by Carl Van Vechten, 1937 Mar 3. Carl Van Vechten Photograph Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.



Mexico is a special country for this blog mini-series because the first Latin American composer commissioned by the Music Division was Mexican – Carlos Chávez (1899-1978). This was a 1944 commission from the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation in the Library of Congress for the ballet score La Hija de Cólquide. This work was for a dance suite choreographed by Martha Graham, Dark Meadow. The holograph score has not survived, but the Music Division holds facsimiles of both the full orchestra and piano reduction versions. You can also view the program from the 1946 world premiere. Chávez’s second LC commission was in 1952 by the Koussevitzky Music Foundation for Sinfonía No. 5 for string orchestra (completed 1953), followed by a 1965 Coolidge commission for the string trio composition II invención.

To date, the Music Division has commissioned four composers from Mexico: Carlos Chávez, Blas Galindo (1947 Koussevitzky, 1960 Coolidge), Laura Elise Schwendinger (2001, 2014 Koussevitzky), and Carlos Sanchez-Gutierrez (2005 Koussevitzky).



Signed title page of Julián Orbón’s Concerto Grosso, dated “La Habana 1957-58.” Ink on transparency. ML30.3c.O73, Koussevitzky Music Foundation collection, Music Division, Library of Congress.

The Music Division has commissioned four Cuban composers. Spanish-born Cuban composer Julián Orbón (1925-1991) was the first, commissioned in 1957 by the Koussevitzky Music Foundation for the composition Concerto Grosso. The Music Division holds the holograph score. The other Cuban composers we’ve commissioned are: Aurelio de la Vega (1962 Coolidge), Tania León (2000 Koussevitzky), and Paquito D’Rivera (2001 McKim).

Puerto Rico

Roberto Sierra (b. 1953) has been commissioned three times by the Library of Congress! His first commission, Concierto para orquesta, was in 1999 by the Koussevitzky Music Foundation. This commission was followed by two McKim Fund commissions in 2000 and 2004.

American-Born Composers of Latin American Heritage

Miguel Chuaqui (b. 1964) received his Koussevitzky commission in 2004 for his composition Desde el Límite. Chuaqui completed this piece for flute, oboe, clarinet, violin, viola, cello, and electronics in 2006. You can read his program notes here. Gabriela Lena Frank (b. 1972) was co-commissioned in 2013 with the Music Division’s Carolyn Royall Just Fund and the Handel and Haydn Society for My angel, his name is Freedom for SATB chorus and string quintet, completed in 2015.


Stay tuned for Part 2 where I will share commissioned composers from South America, Central America, and Spain. In the meantime, start listening to these great works and get going on some score study!

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