Isla del Encanto (Three Pictures of Puerto Rico)

Composer: 

Year Authored (or revised): 

2016

Scoring: 

solo piano

Duration (min): 

18

I. Fortress of the Trade Winds
II. Ancestral Sands
III. El Coqui
IV. La Danza de Allegra

Albert Glinsky’s Isla del Encanto (Four Pictures of Puerto Rico) is a suite of descriptive pieces inspired by several visits to the Caribbean Island by the composer and his family. Glinsky offers the following on the work:

Between 2008 and 2011 our family made three extended trips to Puerto Rico. My mother-in-law was born and raised there, and my wife and I wanted to introduce our son and daughter to the Island, their relatives, and their heritage. Because we were based in the San Juan area, our daughter, Allegra, was able to study dance regularly at the Ballet Concierto de Puerto Rico, in Santurce. The movements of Isla del Encanto (Island of Enchantment) arose from a desire to evoke the stunning natural beauty of the terrain, and to serve as a diary in sound reflecting our family time together on the Island. All the musical ideas, and much of the work itself, were composed in Puerto Rico. Isla del Encanto is dedicated to Allegra, and honors the spirit of her grandmother (Abuela), Leonor Arroyo Kobler.

The first movement, “Fortress of the Trade Winds,” is a sonic portrait of El Morro, the great 16th century fort built by Spanish settlers to defend the entrance to San Juan Bay from seafaring enemies. A tourist site today—situated on the northwestern tip of Old San Juan—El Morro embodies the spirit of the Conquistadors, and the musical treatment here is meant to recall the pomp and splendor of the early equestrian conquerors defending their newfound island colony from the vantage point of this monumental citadel.

“Ancestral Sands” is a reference to Yabucoa Playa, the beach town on the Island’s southeastern shore where Abuela was born. When we explored the shoreline with its leaning windswept palm trees, the seeds of this movement began to take root. The outer meditative sections of the piece suggest an afternoon reverie in which Allegra ponders her Hispanic roots. The central section—a sequence of note patterns climbing up the keyboard, only to fall and climb up again—represents the waves continuously rolling to shore at Yabucoa Playa, carrying with them the soul of the legendary 19th century Puerto Rican pirate, Cofresi, to whom Abuela was purportedly related.

The coqui is the small frog, native to Puerto Rico, known for its characteristic mating call that pervades the nocturnal landscape throughout the Island. The coqui (pronounced, Co-KEE, an onomatopoeia for the chirping sound it makes), produces its song in sequences of two rising notes (usually the interval of a sixth, seventh, or octave), separated by a pause: co-KEE . . . co-KEE . . . co-KEE. In the short scherzo movement, “El Coqui,” I chose the ascending octave to represent the call of the frog.
The movement begins with a lone coqui, soon joined by a rival—both courting the same ‘lady’ coqui. At the El Yunque tropical rain forest, our guide related a story of two such competing coquis who had taken refuge in her kitchen, one of whom (the smaller of the two), won the heart of a third, female coqui, in the end. “El Coqui” tells the story of a similar miniature drama which plays out daily in bushes and trees across Puerto Rico. The collective chirping of numerous coquis provided an atmospheric backdrop to our tropical sleep most nights.

“La Danza de Allegra”—the finale—is a raucous Latin-inspired dance recalling Allegra’s time at Ballet Concierto, and the color and pageantry of Puerto Rican culture in general. The celebratory mood evokes the joy of our collective experiences on the Island, and reflects Allegra’s world of dance from the perspective of her Latin heritage.

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