Merengue and Danza Lenta

Merengue and Danza Lenta (four hands)

These are arrangements for piano four-hands of my first symphonic work, the Merengue for Orchestra (2004), and my Danza Cubana no. 4 (2004), which was originally for solo guitar. The merengue (pronounced “me-RAIN-gay”) is a dance that originates in the Dominican Republic. It is typically a fast duple-meter dance for couples with an incessant, pounding pulse and a generally high dynamic level. Its characteristic rhythms are played on two instruments, the tambora (a double-headed drum) and the metal g├╝iro (a scraper instrument).

The Danza Lenta is based on the rhythms of the Cuban son, a genre of Cuban popular music dating back to the 1920s. Cuban popular music of this era often has strong African influences, and in the son one can hear the African influence as a layering of several distinct rhythmic ostinati with the clave rhythm at the foundation. The most prominent feature of Danza Lenta is the use of an ostinato figure against which there are melodies in the bass and upper voices. The melodies themselves have a rhythmic profile based primarily on the clave rhythmic pattern. This is meant to be one of the slower types of son, with an easy laid-back groove.


Danza Lenta

The practice of arranging orchestral works for piano four-hands is an old one, dating back at least to the 18th century, when it was done as a matter of course. In the 18th and 19th centuries, four-hand arrangements were often the primary means of learning the orchestral repertoire, since there were no recordings and it was difficult for many people to attend orchestral concerts regularly. I made these arrangements for the Nyaho-Garcia Duo, for whom I had already composed the Montuno and Fugue on a Popular Cuban Melody (2003) for two pianos. Susanna Garcia asked if I would consider writing something that they could play as a four-hands piece, because in some of the venues they play there is only one piano available. The Montuno and Fugue was utterly impossible to transcribe for one keyboard, so I decided to arrange these two pieces.

I have to say that the piano four-hands medium is one of the most satisfying that I have ever used. It opens up the instrument in the most wonderful way, and the interplay between the two performers is enchanting to see. Many thanks to Susie Garcia for suggesting that I try this. After seeing how much fun Susie and Jared had playing these pieces, I was inspired to write another bunch of four-hands pieces that someone like me could play (I’m terrible on the piano).

Danza Lenta pdf score

Merengue pdf score