Evencio Castellanos
Born May 3, 1915, in Cúa, Venezuela
Died March 16, 1984, in Caracas, Venezuela
3 flutes, 3 oboes, 3 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion, harp, keyboard, strings
Performance time
17 minutes
Composed in 1954
Last Performed by the TSO
TSO Premiere: January 21, 2024

Evencio Castellanos, a prominent figure among Venezuela’s 20th-century composers, crafted a vibrant musical tapestry in his acclaimed work, Santa Cruz de Pacairigua. Composed in 1954, the piece, which garnered Castellanos the prestigious National Prize in Music, commemorates the construction of a small church near Caracas. Rooted in the rich tapestry of Venezuelan nationalism, the composition is a symphonic suite presented in three seamlessly connected parts.

A celebratory atmosphere permeates the composition from its inception, as a solo trumpet initiates a lively dialogue, soon joined by a rhythmic ostinato in the strings and percussion. Castellanos masterfully weaves in folk melodies, popular dance rhythms, and even a nod to medieval carols, creating a musical landscape that reflects his diverse influences. The middle section introduces a lyrical interlude, offering moments of religious solemnity and reflection. Yet, dance motifs persist, creating a dynamic tension between the sacred and the secular. This juxtaposition sets the stage for a climactic finale where celebratory themes and sounds resurge, culminating in a jubilant expression of joy. Castellanos’ ability to seamlessly blend traditional Venezuelan elements with Western classical forms is emblematic of his generation’s efforts to establish a distinctive nationalistic style. Drawing inspiration from popular dance rhythms and a Venezuelan medieval carol, Santa Cruz de Pacairigua serves as a testament to Castellanos’ dedication to celebrating his country’s cultural heritage.

Benjamin P. Skoronski