A fiesta of rhythms, from classical to Latin pop, for Hispanic Heritage Month

Clockwise from top left: composer Enrique Granados (Spain), composer Consuelo Velázquez (Mexico), composer Alberto Ginastera (Argentina), composer Astor Piazzolla (Argentina), ranchera icon Vicente Fernandez (Mexico) and salsa great Celia Cruz (Cuba/U.S.).

Hola, CSO Latino Alliance members! Are you ready to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month?

Here’s my curated Spotify list of classical Hispanic musical compositions and some classics that our parents probably grew up with and we still listen today in new versions. Play them and share them. They will transport you to the heart of our vibrant Hispanic rhythms, songs and melodies — they span various genres and periods.

For this list, I included 10 compositions that showcase the diversity and richness of classical Hispanic music (with a couple performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra), incorporating influences from Spain and various Latin American cultures.

1. The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires by Astor Piazzolla: A tango-infused composition offering a modern take on Vivaldi’s concept.

2. El Amor Brujo  by Manuel de Falla: A ballet with Spanish folk elements and passionate melodies, performed here by Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

3. Bachianas Brasileiras  by Heitor Villa-Lobos: A series of pieces blending Brazilian folk music with Baroque forms.

4. Concierto de Aranjuez by Joaquín Rodrigo: A renowned guitar concerto evoking the beauty of the gardens of Aranjuez.

5. El sombrero de tres picos by Manuel de Falla: An orchestral work incorporating indigenous Mexican themes, performed here by Carlos Miguel Prieto and the Orchestra of the Americas.

6. Estancia by Alberto Ginastera: Ballet music that captures the essence of Argentine rural life and traditions.

7. Goyescas by Enrique Granados: A piano suite inspired by the paintings of Francisco Goya.

8. Sensemayá  by Silvestre Revueltas: An evocative orchestral piece influenced by Afro-Cuban rhythms. (Don’t miss the Latino Alliance's pre-concert reception highlighting Silvestre Revueltas on Oct. 24, 2023.)

9. Suite Española by Isaac Albéniz: A collection of piano pieces representing various regions of Spain.

10. Concierto del Sur by Manuel Ponce: A concerto showcasing Mexican and Spanish musical elements.

The next 20 in the list are Latin American popular classics (you might have heard some, if not all, while growing up).

11. “Por Una Cabeza” from the “Scent of a Woman” soundtrack: Written by tango legend Carlos Gardel, this song is known for its romantic and nostalgic feel.

12. “Oye Como Va” by Tito Puente: An iconic salsa track that blends Afro-Cuban rhythms with jazz.

13. “La Vida Es Un Carnaval” by Celia Cruz: A vibrant salsa song, written by Victor Daniel, celebrating joy and resilience.

14. “El Rey” by Vicente Fernández: A classic ranchera ballad, composed by the legendary José Alfredo Jiménez, sung by the Mexican icon.

15. “The Girl from Ipanema” by the Oscar Peterson Trio: The bossa-nova standard by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinícius de Moraes became an international hit.

16. “La Bikina” by Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán: A bolero-pop fusion, written by Rubén Fuentes, the longtime music director of Mariachi Vargas, showcases the versatility of Mexican music.

17. “Bésame Mucho” by Los Panchos: A timeless bolero by Mexican composer Consuelo Velázquez that has been covered by many artists worldwide.

18. “Pedro Navaja” by Wynton Marsalis, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and Rubén Blades: This salsa narrative song, written by Rubén Blades, tells a gritty urban story.

19. “¡Ay, pena, penita, pena!” by Marlongo and La Santa Cecilia: The flamenco classic, composed by Manuel López-Quiroga, Rafael de León and Antonio Quintero (and popularized by flamenco icon Lola Flores),  captures the raw emotion of the genre.

20. “Querida” by Juan Gabriel: A heartfelt ballad that has become an anthem in Latin American music.

21. “La Bamba” by Ritchie Valens: The ’50s rocker shot to stardom with his version of this traditional Mexican folk song.

22. “El Cóndor Pasa” by Los Incas: A Peruvian folk song by Daniel Alomía Robles.

23. “Cielito Lindo” by Vicente Fernandez: Written by Quirino Mendoza y Cortés, it’s considered the unofficial Mexican anthem.

24. “Quizás, Quizás, Quizás” by Gaby Moreno: A Cuban bolero composed by Osvaldo Farrés.

25. “Aquellos Ojos Verdes” by Nat King Cole: A Cuban bolero written by Adolfo Utrera and Nilo Menéndez.

26. “El Manisero” by Bebo Valdés: A Cuban son by Moisés Simón.

27. “Garganta con Arena” by Roberto Goyeneche and Adriana Varela: A tango standard written by Cacho Castaña and updated for modern listeners.

28. “Me siento mucho mejor” by Charly Garcia: The Argentinian rocker in a classic of teenage-era parties.

29. “El muelle de San Blas” by Maná: The Mexican rock band in another classic of teenage-era parties.

30. “Burbujas de amor” by Juan Luis Guerra: A memorable love song by the Dominican pop-bachata master.

All these tunes showcase the rich musical heritage of Hispanic America and have left a lasting impact on the global music scene.

Enjoy and share!