UM festival to offer a world premiere made in and for Miami

By David Fleshler

Carlos Rafael Rivera

One unappreciated aspect of a contemporary composer’s art involves cold calling.

It was about two years ago that the composer Carlos Rafael Rivera telephoned Eduardo Marturet, music director of the Miami Symphony Orchestra, to persuade him to program one of his works. That phone call started Rivera on a path that led to the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, where the trumpet virtuoso Arturo Sandoval will perform the world premiere of his Concierto de Miami Sunday night. (Also on this Festival Miami program is Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 and Ravel’s Bolero.)

Rivera, a guitar player best known for works for that instrument, had been pitching an orchestral work that had proved popular with other ensembles. Marturet didn’t think the piece quite right for the Miami Symphony but asked what else he was working on.

“I took a shot in the dark and suggested a piece for the city itself with Arturo Sandoval on trumpet,” Rivera said. “He immediately agreed, which I did not expect him at all to do.”

Eduardo Marturet

Marturet said he had been impressed with Rivera’s work. “You can imagine I receive lots of music from composers,” he said. “The reason I commissioned a piece from Carlos Rivera is that I felt his music to be very authentic, very sincere, from the heart. Here is a guy who writes to connect with the public.”

This left one problem: Informing Sandoval of the honor. The great jazz trumpeter, whose work extends into Latin and classical music, defected from Cuba to the United States 20 years ago. His vast range of musical collaborators has included Dizzy Gillespie, Céline Dion and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. He now lives in Los Angeles.

Rivera contacted Sandoval through a high school friend who had worked with him, and eventually the famous trumpeter agreed.

“It took nearly 2 years for all the pieces to come together,” Rivera said. “I began composing the piece in early May, after we got the date for the Arsht Center set, and Arturo confirmed. Up until then it was all in the air.”

He met with Sandoval five times while composing the piece. “So far Arturo’s been really cool,” Rivera said. “Working with him has been a dream come true for me.”

Sandoval was contacted several times via email and phone for this article but did not respond to interview requests.

Like the city of Miami itself, Rivera, 40, has a mixed background. Of Cuban-Guatemalan descent, he grew up in Washington, DC, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama, Miami, and Los Angeles. He lived in the Miami area as a teenager and young man, graduating from Belen Jesuit Preparatory School.

He holds a doctorate in composition from the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music. His music has been performed by Chanticleer, the American Composers Orchestra, the New England Philharmonic, the Miami Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, and recorded on several labels, including Sony, Naxos, and Cedille.

The composer just moved from Los Angeles to the Miami area, where he joins the faculty of the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music and becomes composer-in-residence with the Miami Symphony.

The 14-minute trumpet concerto, composed mainly on his laptop at his Doral home and a nearby Starbucks, is a tribute to the city to which he has returned.

“I started thinking about what the city meant for me growing up, and the function of an organization like the Miami Symphony, what it’s supposed to do,” he said. “The Miami Symphony has been growing from year to year, and I thought I would write a piece that going to celebrate the city of Miami.”

He feels some pressure from the very grandiosity of the enterprise. “The title, it’s pretentious almost,” he said. “I’m aware of the position I’ve been put in. More than anything else I want the musicians to enjoy the experience, and the audience too.”

At the suggestion of Marturet, who wanted to make the work as attractive as possible to other ensembles, the work requires only a medium-sized, 60-piece orchestra. The only unusual instrument is the cajón, a Peruvian percussion instrument.

“It’s like a fusion of different styles,” Marturet said. “Miami musically is a mix of many things. You have jazz, salsa, pop. You have also the art deco side – romantic, lush, like Gershwin.”

The Miami Symphony Orchestra and Arturo Sandoval will perform Carlos Rafael Rivera’s Concierto de Miami 8 p.m. Sunday at the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. Call 305-284-4940 or go to

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One Response to “UM festival to offer a world premiere made in and for Miami”

  1. Posted Nov 06, 2010 at 7:43 pm by Zahara Mossman

    Congratulations to everyone involved, especially my youngest brother Carlos Rafael Rivera who composed the amazing piece that was performed amazingly by Arturo Sandoval along with the Miami Symphony and directed by Eduardo Marturet! What an opening night for the season!!

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Thu Oct 21, 2010
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