Moncayo studied harmony with Huízar, the piano with Hernández Moncada and composition with Chávez at the Mexico City Conservatory. By Chavez in a concert at new York City’s Museum of Modern Art, and again like Galindo, Moncayo went on to study with Aaron Copland at the Berkshire Music Center (1942). He began his musical career in 1931 as a percussionist in the Mexican Symphony Orchestra, which he conducted from 1949 to 1954. In 1934, along with Galindo, Contreras and Ayalas, he formed the Group of Four whose aim was to rekindle the nationalist spirit in Mexican music. Some of Moncayo’s works – in particular his famous Huapango – incorporate popular melodies, in this case the folkdances el siquisirií, el balajú and el gavilán. Regrettably, the popularity of this piece has obscured the rest of Moncayo’s small, original output: for example Amatzinac and Bosques, which display Impressionist traits and a predominantly modal harmonic idiom, and the Muros verdes for piano, whose sequence of motifs describe a spiral form. His opera La mulata de Córdoba – based on the work of the same name by Xavier Villarrutía – tells the story of an enchantress condemned to death during the Inquisition who disappears, on the point of being executed, in a boat cloud of fire. Moncayo’s modernist style admirably combines with the poetry of the text to create one of the finest 20th-century Mexican operas. Such was his significance that his death in 1958 is considered to mark the end of the nationalist school in Mexico.
Ricardo Miranda Pérez