Silencio en Juárez

Orchestration: vln, cl, vc, pno

Year composed: 2011

Duration: 22’

Premiere: May 18, 2011. Wild Beast, California Institute of the Arts; Valencia, California, United States. Inauthentica Quartet.

Awards: 2013 Brian M. Israel Prize

 Recording: Albany Records TROY 1561. Tema Watstein, violin; Camila Barrientos, clarinet; Benjamin Larsen; violoncello; Erika Dohi, piano.

Score

Program Note

On November 23, 2010, fifteen teenagers were brutally murdered at a birthday party in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. The inspiration for Silencio en Juárez (Silence in Juárez) came from this tragic event. The first movement, “Madre Dolorosa” (“Sorrowful Mother”), is written from the perspective of one of the mothers who lost her child in the massacre. The movement is a musical portrait of the Stabat Mater Dolorosa Catholic hymn that meditates on the suffering of Mary during Jesus Christ’s crucifixion.

The second movement is a sarcastic setting of a corrido, a traditional genre from northern Mexico that is driven by an accordion-based polka and praises local drug criminals. “Corrido” musically portrays a recollection of memories from one of the witnesses to the killings. A folk tune is interlaced among flashbacks of gunshots and desperate cries for help.

“Liturgia” (“Liturgy”), the third movement, evokes a Catholic mass. The introductory church bells in the piano lead to the priest’s recitation of the Eucharistic Prayer, heard in the opening violoncello line. Afterward, the clarinet, violin, and violoncello each offer eulogies to the victims of the tragedy.

The finale, “La Injusticia” (“The Injustice”), is a crude reflection of the reality that Mexico is facing. Acts of violence are regular occurrences throughout the country, while citizens pray for a season of peace. Toward the end of the movement, the victims are lovingly remembered in a lyrical and nostalgic passage. This music eventually transports us back to reality, a reality assuring us that if murders continue at this rate, there will be nothing left but an eternal Silence in Juárez.

—Juan Pablo Contreras

Performances

October 22, 2018. Alfred Newman Hall; Los Angeles, California, United States. Misha Vayman, violin; Yasmina Spiegelberg, clarinet; Taeguk Mun, cello; Zachary Deak, piano.

 May 13, 2018. Sala Carlos Chávez; Mexico City, Mexico. Ensamble Tamayo.

 March 5, 2018. The Old Church; Portland, Oregon, United States. Fear No Music.

 August 15, 2017. Teatro Ángela Peralta; San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico. Ensamble Tamayo.

 May 28, 2017. Centro Nacional de las Artes; Mexico City, Mexico. Ensamble Tamayo.

 September 15, 2016. Millenium Stage, The Kennedy Center; Washington, D.C., United States. Onix Ensamble.

 September 9, 2016. Americas Society; New York, United States. Onix Ensamble.

 September 19, 2015. Teatro Degollado; Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. Tema Watstein, violin; Adrián Sandí, clarinet; Benjamin Larsen, cello; Sergio Sandí, piano.

 August 27 & 28 & 29, 2015. La Castela & Centro Sinfónico Nacional & Teatro Raúl Salmón de la Barra; La Paz, Bolivia. Sociedad Boliviana de Música de Cámara.

 August 18 & 22, 2015. Centro Simón Patiño & La Muela del Diablo; Cochabamba, Bolivia. Sociedad Boliviana de Música de Cámara.

 April 30, 2015. Turtle Bay Music School; New York, United States. Tema Watstein, violin; Adrián Sandí, clarinet; Valeriya Sholokhova, cello; Sergio Sandí, piano.

 September 19, 2014. Onondaga Community College; Syracuse, New York, United States. Society for New Music.

 January 26, 2014. Everson Museum; Syracuse, New York, United States. Society for New Music.

 October 27, 2013. St. John’s Episcopal Church; Brooklyn, New York, United States. Tema Watstein, violin; Anton Rist, clarinet; Benjamin Larsen, cello; Daniel Epstein, piano.

 June 15, 2013. Teatro Ocampo; Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico. Onix Ensamble.

 May 11, 2013. Bolívar Hall; London, England. Onix Ensamble.

 May 10, 2013. Holy Cross Church; Cowbridge, Wales, United Kingdom. Onix Ensamble.

 January 17, 2013. Centro Cultural Olimpo; Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico. SequenzaSUR.

 November 25, 2012. Sala Ponce, Palacio de Bellas Artes; Mexico City, Mexico. Ensamble Tamayo.

September 20, 2012. Teatro Obrero; Zamora, Michoacán, Mexico. Onix Ensamble.

August 12, 2012. Teatro Ángela Peralta; San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico. Onix Ensamble.

 August 2, 2012. Kimball Recital Hall; Lincoln, Nebraska, United States. Mark Menzies, violin; William Powell, clarinet; Derek Stein, cello; Dzovig Markarian, piano.

 June 21, 2012. Museo Nacional de Arte; Mexico City, Mexico. Onix Ensamble.

 May 26, 2011. Paraninfo Enrique Díaz de León; Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. Chrisotpher Wilshere, violin; Xochitl García, clarinet; Laila Kanniña, cello; Andrew Rosenblum, piano.

May 18, 2011. Wild Beast, California Institute of the Arts; Valencia, California, United States. Inauthentica Quartet.

Reviews

“Silencio en Juárez is masterfully written chamber music – it won the 2013 Brian M. Israel Prize – but more than that it is an honest attempt by the composer to deal with deeply troubling issues in contemporary society.”
Paul Muller
Sequenza 21
“Silencio en Juárez by Juan Pablo Contreras was a very powerful and moving composition. This poignant work was inspired by the 2010 tragedy wherein 15 teenagers were murdered in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. The horror of the event and the pain that followed was captured with a lilting folk tune abruptly interrupted by gunshots and desperate cries for help and families mourning their lost loved ones.”
The Clarinet Journal
“From its sorrowful opening with echoes of Messiaen, to the rhythmically punchy finale, “Silencio en Juárez” pays homage to an event no one wants to remember—but needs to.”
Bruce Hodges
Seek and Heard
“Cast in four movements, “Silencio en Juárez” is emotionally charged and filled with catholic references such as the sorrowful mother and the liturgy. Inspired by the 2010 massacre where 15 teenagers lost their lives in Ciudad Juárez, the work represents Contreras’ introspective vision of a dark subject matter, like Messiaen’s in his Quartet for the End of Time.”
Iván Martínez
L’Orfeo
“Juan Pablo Contreras is a Mexican composer who has revolutionized classical music. One of his most important works is “Silencio en Juárez,” which pays homage to 15 teenagers that were murdered during a party in this violent city.”
Ricardo Ramírez
Página Siete
“In Silencio en Juárez, Contreras blends classical contemporary music with Mexican popular music, using clear ideas and extremely defined emotions.”
Patricia Garma
Diario de Yucatán
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