ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Juan Pablo Contreras’ “Silencio en Juarez”

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Here at Second Inversion, we love it when composers approach us with their music. When Juan Pablo Contreras dropped a line  about his latest album, “Silencio en Juarez,” I thought it would be great to have HIM tell you all a bit about the music (available on Amazon and iTunes).

Q. You say that this CD exemplifies your quest to establish a new synthesis of classical contemporary music and Mexican popular and folk music.  Musically speaking, how would you describe this synthesis?

A. I like to think of it as a musical fusion that allows for these two different sonic worlds to coexist in a unified musical language. As a composer, I find that it’s necessary to embrace all of the musical influences that shape my identity. I’m interested in telling stories about present-day issues that people can relate to. My works draw inspiration from Mexican corridos, sones, and banda music that you can listen to by turning on the radio in Mexico. Folk music embodies the essence of a nation. By alluding to it while using a contemporary music canvas, my music feels alive and relevant in our society.

Q. You get to play the role of composer-performer, doubling as vocalist on “La mas Remota Prehistoria.” Do you enjoy singing your own works?

A.“La más Remota Prehistoria” is a song cycle for tenor and chamber orchestra that was originally commissioned by the North/South Consonance Chamber Orchestra in New York. Max Lifchitz, the orchestra’s artistic director, knew that I am also a tenor and asked me if I could sing for the premiere performance. It was a very enjoyable experience, and when the time came to record the work, it felt natural to perform it myself.

Q. Which Mexican composers inspire you the most?  Who should we be playing on Second Inversion that we might not know about?

A. I really like the music of Enrico Chapela and Javier Álvarez. Chapela has written works for the LA Philharmonic and the Seattle Symphony. I highly recommend his heavy metal/jazz influenced electric cello concerto “Magnetar.” On the other hand, Javier Álvarez is like the Mexican John Adams. His music is richly orchestrated and very energetic.

Q. The harp is such a cool instrument. What was most fun about writing a harp concerto?

A. It was certainly an interesting challenge to write a Harp Concerto. I had previously written a set of harp preludes for Kristi Shade, who performs the Concerto on the album, which won an Honorable Mention at the 2014 Dutch Harp Composition Contest. This experience facilitated the writing of “Ángel Mestizo,” my Harp Concerto. I was privileged to work closely with Kristi during the writing process. This allowed me to discover idiomatic solutions to complex and “flashy” passages. Shortly after we recorded the Concerto, it won the 2014 Arturo Márquez Composition Contest in Mexico.

Q. The Claremont Avenue Chamber Orchestra sounds like a very unique ensemble.  Tell us about how this idea became a reality?

A. I founded the Claremont Avenue Chamber Orchestra in 2012 with the purpose of creating a dynamic ensemble of musicians to perform my music in prestigious venues in New York City. After several performances, we decided to embark on this wonderful recording project. I created a successful Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for the album, and I’m very excited to finally share it with the rest of the world.