I. Introduction: Jungle Jaunt
This introductory scherzo opens in an unabashed tribute to the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story by Leonard Berstein before turning to harmonies and rhythms derived from various pan-Amazonian dance forms. These jungle references are sped through (so as to be largely hidden) while echoing the energy of the Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera who was long fascinated with indigenous latin american cultures.
II. Highland Harawi
This movement is the heart of Three Latin American Dances, and evokes the Andean harawi, a melancholy adagio traditionally sung by a single bamboo quena flute so as to accompany a single dancer. As mountain music, the ambiance of mystery, vastness, and echo is evoked. The fast middle section simulates what I imagine to be the "zumballyu" of Illapa ˜ a great spinning top belonging to Illapa, the Peruvian-Inca weather deity of thunder, lightning, and rain. Illapa spins his great top in the highland valleys of the Andes before allowing a return to the more staid harawi. The music of the Hungarian composer, Bela Bartok, is eluded to.
III. The Mestizo Waltz
As if in relief to the gravity of the previous movement, this final movement is a lighthearted tribute to the "mestizo" or mixed-race music of the South American Pacific coast. In particular, it evokes the "romancero" tradition of popular songs and dances that mix influences from indigenous Indian cultures, African slave cultures, and western brass bands.
Gabriela Lena Frank