This work is a ‘combined’ concerto, made up of movements from two different works by Ernesto Cordero, Concertino Tropical (1998) and Ínsula, Suite Concertante (2007). At the suggestion of violinist Guillermo Figueroa, to whom the original Ínsula is dedicated, the composer approved the assemblage of the new Ínsula Tropical, which combines the first and last movements of Concertino with the two middle movements of Ínsula, Suite Concertante, as well as a mixture of the two names. The combined Ínsula Tropical was premiered by Guillermo Figueroa at the Music from Angel Fire summer festival, also in 2009.
The first movement, Yerba bruja, is dominated by a rhythmic cell or pattern 3-2-2, a syncopated rhythm very common in traditional Afro-Caribbean music. This rhythmic cell has a great influence in the melodic and harmonic structure which is very modal. The movement ends with a quite emotional and virtuosic cadenza followed by a classical recapitulation.
The second movement is called Jájome, after a mountainous ridge located at the center of the Island. The relaxing peace and serenity permeating this zone, turns it into an ideal meditation site. Upon this lovely spot in the town of Cayey, sprinkled as it is with impressionist and extemporizing elements, rises the contemplative character that distinguishes this movement. I love to imagine an afternoon right in this place, where Guillermo and myself where listening to Erik Satie playing his “Gymnopedies” at the piano, and frankly admit that this wonderful thought did influence this movement.
The third movement, Fantasi Salsera, is based in the Afro-Caribbean aspect of our insular musical culture. Because of this, the syncopated, rhythms and harmonic sequences that characterize the Caribbean music denominated by the inclusive term of “Salsa” are emphasized. At the middle part of this composition, there is a change of atmosphere and rhythm identified as “lento Giocoso”. The creative element in this section is born from the violin’s open strings (sol, re, la, mi). The work ends with a recapitulation which retakes the Afro-Caribbean element.
The fourth movement, El colibri dorado (The Golden Humming-Bird), is a moto perpetuo. Barely lasting a minute and half, it is the shortest and most virtuosic part of the work. The soloist runs, with great velocity and without interruption, through all the registers of the instrument, while the string orchestra maintains the harmonic support.
One of the most versatile and respected musical artists of his generation—renowned as conductor, violinist, violist, and concertmaster—Guillermo Figueroa is the Principal Conductor of The Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra & Chorus. He also serves as the Music Director of the Music in the Mountains Festival in Colorado, Music Director of the Lynn Philharmonia in Florida, and is the founder of the highly acclaimed Figueroa Music and Arts Project in Albuquerque. Additionally, he was the Music Director of both the New Mexico Symphony and the Puerto Rico Symphony. With this last orchestra, he performed to critical acclaim at Carnegie Hall in 2003, the Kennedy Center in 2004, and Spain in 2005.
International appearances include the Toronto Symphony, Iceland Symphony, the Baltic Philharmonic in Poland, Orquesta del Teatro Argentino in La Plata, Xalapa (Mexico), the Orquesta de Cordoba in Spain, and the Orquesta Sinfonica de Chile. In the US he has appeared with the symphony orchestras of Detroit, New Jersey, Memphis, Phoenix, Colorado, Tucson, Fairfax, San Jose, Juilliard Orchestra, and the New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center.
Guillermo Figueroa has collaborated with many of the leading artists of our time, including Itzhak Perlman, YoYo Ma, Hilary Hahn, Placido Domingo, Joshua Bell, Olga Kern, Janos Starker, James Galway, Midori, Horacio Gutierrez, the Emerson and Fine Arts String Quartets, Ben Hepner, Rachel Barton Pine, Pepe and Angel Romero, Elmar Oliveira, Vadim Gluzman, and Philippe Quint.
He has conducted the premieres of works by important composers, such as Roberto Sierra, Ernesto Cordero and Miguel del Águila. And as an advocate for new music, Figueroa and the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra won an Award for Adventurous Programming from the League of American Orchestras in 2007.
A renowned violinist as well, Figueroa’s recording of Ernesto Cordero’s violin concertos for the Naxos label received a Latin Grammy nomination in 2012. He was Concertmaster of the New York City Ballet, and a Founding Member and Concertmaster of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, making over fifty recordings for Deutsche Grammophon, a German classical record label, and the oldest surviving established record company. Also accomplished on the viola, Guillermo Figueroa performs frequently as guest of the Fine Arts, American, Amernet, and Orion string quartets.
Figueroa has given the world premieres of four violin concertos written for him: in 1995 the Concertino by Mario Davidovsky; at Carnegie Hall in 2007 the Double Concerto by Harold Farberman, with the American Symphony at Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center; in 2008 the Violin Concerto by Miguel del Aguila, commissioned by Figueroa and the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra; and in 2009 ĺnsula, Suite Concertante, by Ernesto Cordero with the Solisti di Zagreb in Zagreb.
He has appeared at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Music in the Vineyards in California, Festival Groba in Spain, and Music from Angel Fire. Figueroa has recorded the Three Violin Sonatas by Bartók for the Eroica Classical label, with pianist Robert Koenig, and an album of virtuoso violin music by for the NMSO label, with pianist Ivonne Figueroa.
Guillermo Figueroa studied with his father and uncle at the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico. At the Juilliard School his teachers were Oscar Shumsky and Felix Galimir. His conducting studies were with Harold Farberman in New York.