It’s easy to see why — Mariachitlán stole the show. The composer is a native of the Mexican state of Jalisco, the birthplace of mariachi music. His homage to that form is unabashedly exuberant, persuasively riffing on folk-like themes without resorting to pandering on the one hand or cold deconstruction on the other.
Think Bartok or Mahler downing shots of Red Bull and mezcal while partying with Vicente Fernández, and you’re approaching the right ballpark.
“In his own words Mariachitlán “recounts my experience visiting the Plaza de los Mariachis in Guadalajara, the capital of Jalisco, a place where mariachis play their songs in every corner and interrupt each other to win over the crowd.” My observant spouse also likened it to hearing your car radio keep losing the signal and drifting between stations—in this case from a canción ranchera to a vals romántico to a son jalisciense, and back—beguiling, ear-tickling, fun.”
“Juan Pablo Contreras’s chamber arrangement of his orchestral work, Mariachitlán, roused the hall with an energetic juxtaposition of musical textures that drop the listener into the vibrant intersection of traditions, styles, and sounds of Guadalajara. An unmistakable tribute to mariachi overlaps with passages evoking the guitar, soloistic moments for the brass, strings, and harp, and a startling whistle which initiates a chant for which the piece is titled. There is a romanticism and a grit to Mariachitlán that both performers and audience responded to: Contreras’s writing feels fun and serious, fractured and coherent, modern and traditional.”
“The rest was all happy music. The young Mexican composer Juan Pablo Contreras made a new chamber orchestra version of his best-known piece, “Mariachitlán” (Mariachi Land), written in 2016, while he was a student at USC. A 10-minute mariachi mix, tunes broken up and played together, begins as a kind of Guadalajara take on Ives’ evocation of colliding marching bands but remains more conventional, even slightly Hollywood at the end. A bland two-piano arrangement was streamed in January in LACO’s Close Quarters video series. The new orchestration brings the score to splendid life.”
The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra will be the first ensemble to take the stage at Walt Disney Concert Hall since the venue closed its doors more than a year ago, playing a free June 26 concert for invited guests as well as 200 winners of a public tickets giveaway — eligible to those who are fully vaccinated.
At Disney Hall, the orchestra will perform Alberto Ginastera’s “Variaciones concertantes” as well as Juan Pablo Contreras’ “Mariachitlán” and Felix Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4 in A major, “Italian.”
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra continues its all-digital 2020-21 Season, CLOSE QUARTERS, with two varied visual episodes curated musically by Latin GRAMMY®-nominated composer Juan Pablo Contreras, premiering Fridays, January 1 and January 15, 2021, 6:30 pm (PT). The broadcasts, celebrating the diversity of composers from around the Americas, feature the World Premiere of Contreras’ 2020 Mariachitlán for Piano Four-Hands, works by Jimmy López, Jessie Montgomery, Miguel Del Águila and J.P. Jofre, and visual elements directed by James Darrah. Thanks to the generosity of individual donors, both programs are available to the public at no cost and can be streamed on demand following their premieres at laco.org/laco-at-home, LACO’s YouTube channel and LACO’s Facebook live.
Amplifying Voices fosters collaboration and collective action toward equitable representation of composers in classical music. LVP will lead a collective of esteemed orchestras joined by California Symphony, Richmond Symphony Orchestra and one other TBD in the co-commission of a new musical work by Mexican composer, Juan Pablo Contreras. Contreras will immerse himself in the Las Vegas community, as he joins patrons and musicians on a journey of discovery three times throughout the coming year and engage deeply with our broader community in meaningful ways that both demonstrate the program’s efficacy and speak to our community’s unique spirit and vibrant potential. His resulting composition will be an inspired 12-minute orchestra work, which LVP will debut at its world premiere during the 2021-2022 season, under the baton of Music Director, Donato Cabrera.
Juan Pablo Contreras, a doctoral candidate in Composition and Latin GRAMMY nominee, has been named one of six composers in New Music USA’s 2020 Amplifying Voices program. With support from Sphinx Venture Fund, the program partners with six lead orchestras to co-commission new orchestral works by composers whose voices are not often represented in orchestral programming.
As one of this year’s composers, Contreras is co-commissioned by the Las Vegas Philharmonic to create a new orchestral work to be premiered in the 2021-2022 season and performed by a minimum of four orchestras.
USC Thornton doctoral student Juan Pablo Contreras received a Latin GRAMMY nomination in Best Arrangement for the title track of his debut orchestral album Mariachitlán.
Contreras, a native of Mexico, created the piece as a tribute to his home country. The work depicts a day at Guadalajara’s famed Mariachi Plaza, where different mariachis can be heard on every corner competing for the crowd’s attention.
Performed by the Jalisco Philharmonic and conducted by Marco Parisotto, “Mariachitlán” won the Jalisco Orchestral Composition Prize in 2016. The Jalisco Philharmonic first premiered the piece in Mexico and performed at Bovard Auditorium in July 2017 during their California tour.
Juan Pablo Contreras is a shining example of why BMI bestows its Student Composer Awards to promising classical composers. It was not that long ago that Contreras won BMI’s William Schuman Prize for his piece, ”El Laberinto de la Soledad.” True to the intent of the accolade, he has continually demonstrated that the esteemed judges who reviewed the hundreds of anonymous submissions to the competition made the right choice.
Contreras has since received commissions from the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, The Riverside Choir, Carlos Prieto, and the Onix Ensamble. He has also won several other awards including the Presser Music Award, the Jalisco Orchestral Composition Prize, the Brian Israel Prize, the Arturo Márquez Composition Contest, the Dutch Harp Composition Contest, the Nicolas Flagello Award, and the Young Artist Fellowship of Mexico’s National Fund for Culture and the Arts. Now he’s Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra’s “Sound Investment” composer for 2019-20. And as the first Mexican composer to sign to Universal Music Mexico, he has an exciting new album out, Mariachitlán, which you can learn about in this trailer.
This year has been of the utmost importance for Juan Pablo Contreras’ career: not only did he launch his album “Mariachitlán”, which is now available in all streaming platforms, he also undertook a tour that will allow him to spread his compositions in seven cities of Mexico during the months of September and October.
“ Proudly Mexican, Juan Pablo Contreras is a young composer who has revolutionized classical music. At 32, he is already is considered one of the most prominent composers in Mexico and the world. His new album “Mariachitlán” (released this month with Universal Music Mexico), the listener can travel through Mexican history. Juan Pablo created a bridge between traditional Mexican sounds, and orchestral music.”
“ The Jalisco Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Jesus Medina, will premiere a new piece by renowned, Mexican composer Juan Pablo Contreras this Thursday.”
“ Tonight, the Jalisco Philharmonic Orchestra will premiere another orchestral piece by Juan Pablo Contreras , “Corazón azul”. This orchestral piece that was commissioned to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Mexican company CONTPAQi.”
—Alejandra Carrillo, Diario NTR
“Juan Pablo Contreras, will be the next Sound Investment Composer of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra during the 2019-2020 season. He is the first Mexican to receive this honorable distinction. Contreras will have the privilege to share his creative progress with investors, audience, and the 50 musicians of the chamber orchestra.”
—Rebeca Pérez Vega, Mural
“Los Angeles based composer Juan Pablo Contreras, progressively consolidates himself as one of the most outstanding Mexican composers. Prestigious ensemble’s, do not hesitate to play his creations, applauded by renowned Classical Musicians such as the Spanish tenor and conductor, Plácido Domingo. “
“The debut of a new work for piano quintet by Los Angeles-based Mexican composer Juan Pablo Contreras was the concert’s pivot point. Titled Musas Mexicanas (Mexican Muses), the work purports to briefly sketch out musical portraits of three women who have defined the Mexican nation — namely, La Malinche, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz and Frida Kahlo — as well as offer a thumbnail synopsis of Mexican musical history. Without consideration of its programmatic elements, the music stood on its own elegantly, making clever use of the strings and piano to imitate percussion, and engaging the listener with its quirky panoply of pastiches, which unfold before the listener like a cinematic montage. This piece kept the LACO players on their toes.”
—Néstor Castiglione, Culture Spot LA
“Batjer presents the world premiere of Mexican-American composer Juan Pablo Contreras’ Musas Mexicanas. Contreras’ work, such as 2015’s Silencio en Juárez, mixes classical ideas with an almost cinematic collage of sounds infused with festive strains of Mexican folk music.”
— James Falling, LAWEEKLY
“The piece was commissioned by LACO’s In Focus series. He titled it Musas Mexicanas. Each of three movements offers a musical portrait of an influential and iconic Mexican woman in the country’s history. Contreras explores both the tensions and commonalities between his native land’s folk and indigenous musical traditions — including the all-important mariachi — and the more traditional Western musical canon.”
— Donald Munro, Sound Investment Blog
“On October 12, the Mexican composer will premiere his piece inspired in the ritual dance Voladores de Papantla. Contreras is also working on musical portraits for iconic women of Mexico, such as La Malinche, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, and Frida Kahlo.”
— Juan Carlos Talavera, Excelsior
“The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra will premiere(US) Contreras’ Ángel Mestizo, a concert written for chamber orchestra and harp. This concert makes the musical allegory to the journey the instrument made (from Spain to Mexico), and that in 2014 won Contreras the Arturo Marquez Composition prize.”
— Rebeca Pérez Vega, Mural
“A well crafted concert that invited the audience to experience new places and cultures through contemporary music. A long standing ovation followed.”
— Paul Muller, Sequenza 21
“The pyramid of the Sun stands out in Teotihuacán, as an unmistakeable symbol of the power of the Aztec empire. This famous structure is also the inspirational landscape for Mexican composer Juan Pablo Contreras, who’s piece, Pidamide del Sol, of pre-Hispanic architecture received an honorable mention in the Morton Gould Young Composer Award by the ASCAP foundation.”
— Rebeca Vega, Mural
“Juan Pablo Contreras is writing a five movement piece for cello and piano, as soon as he is done with it we will premiere it. The piece will be about my trips around the world and the tentative title is Souvenirs. He will be describing my trips to Moscu, NY, and Mexico City.”
— Carlos Prieto, Música en México
“Mariachitlán is a vibrant and original work that is at times poignantly chaotic. It combines beautiful folk-like melodies with traffic and city sounds. Near the end, a police whistle tries to end the mariachi party, but is unsuccessful.”
— Sergio Burstein, Hoy Los Angeles
“The centerpiece was the U.S. premiere of Juan Pablo Contreras’ Mariachitlán, and 11-minute send-up of the mariachi band tradition. That piece was expertly colored, intricately layered and sometimes delightfully raucous.”
— Mike Greenberg, Classical Voice America
“Mexican composer Juan Pablo Contreras received the prestigious Presser Music Award in the United States. “The program is designed to encourage and support those students who have the potential to make a distinguished contribution to the field of music states the awards website. The prize will be destined to a CD with the recording of the composers music.”
— El Universal
“Mexican composer Juan Pablo Contreras (Guadalajara, 1987) has won the 2017 Presser Music Award from the University of Southern California, which will allow him to record an orchestral album with the Jalisco Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Marco Parisotto.”
— Juan Carlos Talavera, Excelsior
“Juan Pablo Contreras was awarded the Jalisco Orchestral Composition Prize with his new piece Mariachitlán. The Jalisco Philharmonic Orchestra, directed by Miguel Salmon del Real played the 4 previously selected works at the Teatro Degollado in Jalisco, Mexico. Two renowned Mexican Composers.” —
“Mariachitlán is enlightening and colorful” — Javier Alvarez, Composer
“Mariachitlán is Luxurious, expertly crafted, and funny” — Arturo Marquez, Composer
“Juan Pablo Contreras, a doctoral candidate of the USC Thorton Composition program, recently won the Jalisco Orchestral Composition Price with his work Mariachitlán. Written under the guidance of Composition chair Donald Crockett.”
— USC Thorton School of Music
“Renowned composer Juan Pablo Contreras returns to his native Guadalajara, with new works that reflect the richness of his Mexican identity. The Jalisco Philharmonic will perform his music in three concerts at the Teatro Degollado. Pirámide del Sol and Mariachitlán are the two new works that Contreras will premiere this season.”
— Alfonso Gutiérrez, Milenio
“The Boca del Rio Philharmonic (Veracruz) will perform Contreras’ Angel Mestizo. The piece tells the story of the journey the harp made from Spain to Mexico during the Spanish conquest. The Concert will be at the Teatro Fernando Gutierrez Barrios on Friday December Second at 8:00 PM.”
— Imagen de Veracruz
“El Laberinto de la Soledad was The first piece of this program by the OFUNAM, under the direction of Massimo Cuarta. Contreras writes with amazing clarity, changing rhythms and nuances that help you understand each texture, his writing eases the craft of directing this piece.”
— Iván Martínez, El Universal
“Juan Pablo Contreras wins the the Jalisco Orchestral Composition Prize with my new work Mariachitlán. On December 9 and 11, the Jalisco Philharmonic will perform this work, which will compete with 3 other works for the grand National Orchestral Composition Prize.”
“The Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, conducted by José Luis Hernandez, with Abdiel Vázquez as soloist, performed Juan Pablo Contreras’ Pirámide del Sol in Caracas.
That same night, Contreras is also had his Carnegie Hall debut with Cuatro Nocturnos, performed by the Rebow Ensemble. Both experiences confirm that Contreras is one of the most influentia Mexicanl musicians of his generation.”
“The young composer, had his CD release concert in Guadalajara. “Silencio en Juarez” was received with a standing ovation from more than a thousand people at the Teatro Degollado.”
— Oliver Zazueta, Mural
“The Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, conducted by José Luis Hernández, with Abdiel Vázquez as soloist, performs my piano concerto “Piramide del Sol” in Caracas.”
— El Universal
“The National Symphony Orchestra of Mexico conducted by Carlos Miguel Prieto, with Abdiel Vazquez as soloist, premiered Contreras Piano Concerto “Pirámide del Sol” at El Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City.”
— Alida Piñon, El Universal
“After increasing his prestige internationally , the young composer presented a handful of pieces of his latest compositions at the Teatro Degollado in his native Guadalajara.”
“With his most recent CD release Silencio en Juarez, Mexican composer Juan Pablo Contreras is now one of the most promising classical musicians of Latin America.”
— Carolina Valenti, El Diaro de NY
About the release of Silencio en Juarez: “Contreras became the youngest Mexican composer to release an album with an internationally renowned record label”.
— Rebeca Pérez Vega, El Diario