MIGUEL BERNAL JIMENEZ, THE THEMATIC NATIONALIST
Rocha, Jose 1974-
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Miguel Bernal Jiménez established a personal and contemporary musical language by combining Mexican folk elements with Gregorian chant, Baroque, and eighteenth-century musical traits. Although Bernal’s musical training took place in Italy and was strongly influenced by the Catholic religion, his small town upbringing cultivated a strong connection with the folkloric roots and customs of the people of México. I intend to examine the life and work of Miguel Bernal Jiménez, (1910-1956) with special emphasis on his Cuarteto Virreinal for string quartet (1937), a composition that depicts a distinct national character through the use of folk elements in the music. The Cuarteto Virreinal, one of Jiménez's best-known compositions and one of the better-known Mexican works for string quartet, was dedicated to his good friend and renowned Mexican composer Manuel M. Ponce and his distinguished wife Clemita. This composition is based upon the four traditional children’s folk songs A la víbora de la mar, Naranja dulce, limon partido, Pica,pica,pica, perico, and Pase la elegida, la niña dichosa. Bernal Jiménez masterfully shaped these songs into an intimate chamber music work for string quartet, entwining Baroque and Classical forms with traditional Mexican elements using a technique he called "elaboration." In addition to his achievements as a composer, Jiménez also had far-reaching influence as a teacher. He was director of two very important musical institutions in México: the School for Sacred Music in Morelia (1936-1954), and the Conservatorio de las Rosas (1945-1954). Moreover, in 1954, Jiménez was named Dean of the College of Music at Loyola University, in New Orleans. Despite his many accomplishments, relatively little in Spanish and virtually nothing in English has been published about him. For this project, I will consult Bernal’s diaries, which provide an invaluable insight to his innermost thoughts and feelings, and other primary sources such as the author’s manuscript scores and personal letters. These primary sources are not available in English and have not yet been published in Spanish. Some relevant passages will be included in the study with a translation by the author. Through communication with Mexican scholars and with the assistance of Dr. Howard Pollack, I was able to acquire access to all the documents currently stored at the Conservatorio de las Rosas in Morelia, México. In addition to these primary sources, I will seek additional information through interviews with the composer’s relatives, distinguished students, and scholars in the field of Mexican music.