Mario Lavista, one of the most acclaimed Mexican composers of his generation, passed away last Thursday at the age of 78.
Born in Mexico City, Lavista studied with Carlos Chávez, Héctor Quintanar, and Rodolfo Halffter at the Conservatorio Nacional de Música. In the 1960s, he went on to study in Paris with Henri Pousseur, Nadia Boulanger, Christoph Caskel, and Karlheinz Stockhausen. In 1970, he founded Quanta improvisation, an ensemble dedicated to spontaneous and experimental music. Lavista’s early work involved electronic music. His later output included chamber and orchestral works, the choral piece Missa ad Consolationis Dominam Nostram (inspired by early polyphony), and the opera, Aura. Beyond his music, Lavista will be remembered as a teacher, writer, and intellectual.
Mario Lavista’s single-movement String Quartet No. 2, composed in 1984, bears the evocative title, Reflejos de la Noche (“Reflections of the Night”). Throughout the piece, spectral harmonics swirl, ushering us into an ethereal nocturnal adventure. (Harmonics are produced when string players use the lightest finger weight, creating a magical new sound world). Lavista explained,
Using harmonics is, in some way, to work with reflected sounds; each of them is produced, or generated by a fundamental sound that we never get to hear: we only perceive its harmonics, its sound-reflection.
The score includes a brief poem entitled Eco by the Mexican poet, Xavier Villaurrutia (1903-1950):
La noche juega con los ruidos
copiándolos en sus espejos.
The night plays with the noises
copying them in its mirrors
Reflejos de la Noche was Mario Lavista’s first collaboration with El Cuarteto Latinoamericano. Here is the Brodsky Quartet’s recording:
Latin American dance rhythms abound in Mario Lavista’s Natarayah for solo guitar:
Featured Image: Mario Lavista