Latin Americans We’ve Commissioned: Part 2

For Women’s History Month 2019, I had compiled a list of the first women composers commissioned by each Music Division Fund. For National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15-October 15, let’s dig in with commission firsts by country. Part 2 of this two-part series includes commissioned composers from Spain, Central America, and South America.


Although Spain is not a Latin American country, Spanish heritage is celebrated during Hispanic Heritage Month. Catalan composer Roberto Gerhard (1896-1970) received a Koussevitzky commission in 1959 for Collages (Symphony No. 3) for orchestra and electronics. The Music Division received the holograph score in 1961. To date, Gerhard is our only commissioned composer from Spain.


Panama is the only country in Central America represented by the Music Division’s commissioned composers. Roque Cordero (1917-2008) is the one composer from Panama commissioned to date, albeit with two Library of Congress commissions. His first commission was in 1960 from the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation for Cuarteto de cuerdas no. 1 (String Quartet No. 1). His second commission was from the Koussevitzky Music Foundation in 1961 for his Concierto para violin y orquesta (Concerto for Violin and Orchestra), completed in 1962. The Music Division holds holograph scores for both works.

Alberto Evaristo Ginastera, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing right. Photograph by Anatole Saderman, 1950s. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.


The Music Division has commissioned six Argentinian composers to date, the highest number of any Latin American country. The first commissioned Argentinian composer was Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983) in 1958 by the Koussevitzky Music Foundation for his Concierto para piano y orquesta. This work was the first of Ginastera’s three piano concertos. Ginastera’s second and third commissions were from the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation: String Quartet No. 2 (1958) and the cantata Bomarzo (1964). The other composers from Argentina are: Roberto Caamaño (1962 Coolidge), Mario Davidovsky (1964, 1981 Koussevitzky; 2009 Koston-Shapiro), Julio Martín Viera (1998 Koussevitzky), Pablo Furman (1999 Koussevitzky), and Pablo Ortiz (1999 Koussevitzky).


In 2011, Agustín Fernández (b. 1958) became the first – and so far, only – Bolivian composer commissioned by the Library of Congress. This commission was from the Koussevitzky Music Foundation for the composition String Quartet No. 2, “Sin tiempo,” which was completed in 2013. If you visit his website, you’ll see his announcement on the homepage that I had contacted him to include his website in the forthcoming LC Commissioned Composers Web Archive – and yes, that gets archived, too!

Heitor Villa Lobos, half-length portrait, facing left. Photograph by Harcourt, Paris, undated. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress


The first Brazilian composer commissioned by the Library of Congress was Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) in 1945. Interestingly, he is also the only Latin American composer commissioned twice in one year! In 1945, he received commissions from both the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation and the Koussevitzky Music Foundation. Villa-Lobos completed the manuscript for his Coolidge commission (Trio for violin, viola, and cello) on September 30, 1945, and his Koussevitzky commission manuscript (Madona: poema sinfônico) got a signed double-bar on December 29, 1945. His third Library of Congress commission in 1954 was also from the Koussevitzky Music Foundation for his Symphony No. 11, completed in 1955. The three other Brazilian composers we’ve commissioned are Camargo Guarnieri (1950 Koussevitzky, 1962 Coolidge), Arthur Kampela (2008 Koussevitzky), and Felipe Lara (2016 Koussevitzky).


Determining the first Chilean composer commissioned by the Library of Congress comes down to a technicality. Juan Orrego-Salas (b. 1919) was commissioned by the Kindler Foundation in 1955. However, that was before it became administered by the Library of Congress in 1983 as the Hans Kindler Foundation Trust. The composition was Dúos concertantes, Op. 41 for cello and piano. A facsimile score of this work is available in the Hans Kindler Foundation collection. Gustavo Becerra-Schmidt (1925-2010), however, was commissioned in 1962 by the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation, which has been in the Library of Congress since 1925. The 1962 commissioned work was Quinteto, para el Festival Panamericano de 1963. Becerra-Schmidt’s second LC commission was in 1965 from the Koussevitzky Music Foundation for Macchu Picchu for narrator, soprano soloist, chorus, and orchestra, a setting of text by the great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. Regardless of which of these two great composers was “first,” they are the only Chilean composers commissioned to date with three commissions between them.


Héctor Tosar Errecart (1923-2002) is so far the only commissioned composer from Uruguay. In 1958, he was commissioned by the Koussevitzky Music Foundation for Te Deum for chorus, bass and orchestra. The Music Division received the completed holograph score in 1961.


In 1962, Celso Garrido-Lecca (b. 1926) became the first Peruvian composer commissioned by the Library of Congress. His Koussevitzky Music Foundation commission was for his Cuarteto de cuerdas (String Quartet). This work, completed in 1963, was the first of his four string quartets. The Music Division received Garrido-Lecca’s holograph score in 1964.

Celso Garrido-Lecca, Cuarteto de Cuerdas, 1963. Holograph title page and dedication page. ML30.3c.G37 CASE, Music Division, Library of Congress

I hope that through this two-part series you’ve discovered more great music to study and perform both during and long after Hispanic Heritage Month!

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