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Darwin Aquino
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Dominican Music.

Much of the 20th century in the Dominican Republic bears the imprint of General Rafael Trujillo Molina, who, over the course of 31 years, directed practically every aspect of the nation’s life. The link between 19th century Romanticism and the beginning of a national school is represented by a group of four composers: José de Jesús Ravelo (1876-1951), Manuel de Jesús Lovelace (1871-), Gabriel del Orbe (1888-1976) and Augusto Vega (1885-). Of the four, Ravelo is the best known. His catalog of 200 works, mostly liturgical, is simple, clear and direct. Esteban Peñal Morell (1897-1938) and Juan Francisco García (1892-1974) were pioneers of the modern nationlistic school of composition in the Republic. Both incorporated local dance forms, such as the merengue, carabiné and mangulina, along with material from national legends, into their music. Luis E. Meña (1895-1964), who began his musical studies as a piccolo player, left an extensive catalog of compositions that includes works for orchestra, band and chorus.
By far the Republic’s most important 20th century composer is Manuel Simó (1916-88). His earliest musical studies were begun with Rafael Pimentel and Oguis Negrette, but he was the most strongly influenced by Enrique Casal Chapí, who same to the Dominican Republic during the Spanish Civil War. As professor of composition, and later as director of the National Conservatory
, Simó influenced several generations of younger composers, of whom Margarita Luna (1921-), Manuel Rueda (1921-) and Manuel Marino Miniño (1930-96) are the most prominent. On a visit to the United States in 1963 Simó encountered Persichetti’s “Twentieth Century Harmony.” Since that time, avant garde techniques have been used by the latest generations of composers, of whom Miguel Pichardo Vicioso, Fausto Vizcaíno, Leila Pérez and Aura Marina del Rosario are the most important. Luna is credited, however, with the first dodecaphonic composition, her “Cambiantes,” written in 1969.

For more information about the music of this country, including links to conservatories, university music departments and other institutes and organizations, please see our country resource page for the Dominican Republic.