The Music Festival of Panama is a project created by the Fundación Sinfonía Concertante de Panamá, for the purpose of bringing together national and International musicians in a great cultural and artistic exchange, through diverse activities that enrich their musical passion and expertise.

The intention of the Alfredo Saint-Malo Music Festival of Panama is to prepare Panamanian artists in the world of classical music by promoting the art of music education, improving the tactics of teaching and creating musicians at the highest level.

VIII Alfredo De Saint Malo International Music Festival 2014

The VIII Alfredo De Saint Malo International Music Festival 2014 will be held in Panama City from May 29 to June 8, and it is dedicated to Panamanian composer Fermín Castañeda Del Cid (1930-2013).

The faculty of the ASM Festival includes musicians from the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and faculty members from the Youth Orchestra of the Americas and the schools of music of Louisiana State University, the University of Northern Colorado, and the University of Minnesota.

The student body of the festival includes young musicians from Panama, Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States.

In addition to the participation of renowned international soloists such as pianist Michael Gurt , flutist James Hall, bassist Yung- Chiao Wei, percussionist Fernando Meza, and violinist Lin He, the festival features laureated Venezuelan conductor Carlos Riazuelo, child virtuoso on the piano William Chen, and national artists such as Jorge Ledezma Bradley, Ingrith Saavedra, the National Symphony Orchestra of Panama, and the Camerata Panama.

This is an overview of the various artists that will be performing in various concert halls in the capital of Panama during the 11 days of celebration of the Alfredo De Saint Malo Festival 2014.

To view information about all the concerts that will take place in the ASM Festival 2014, visit our section of Concerts.

About Fermín Castañeda Del Cid (1930-2013)

Fermin Castañeda was born in Panama City in 1930. He began his music studies under private instruction, and at the age of 12, he enrolled at the National Conservatory of Music and Declamation of Panama (currently known as the National Institute of Music of Panama), where he studied bass, piano, and percussion. Castañeda graduated from the National Conservatory in 1964 with a diploma in Music Education. It was at this institution where he began studying composition with Dr. Roque Cordero. After 1964 he was awarded several scholarships to study two of the disciplines that attracted him the most, composition and conducting. In the field of composition he studied with Spanish composer Rodolfo Halffter, and additionally attended a seminar in Cologne, Germany, where he studied with other notorious composers. In the field of conducting, he participated in orchestral conducting seminars dictated by Spanish conductor Enrique Garcia Asencio, and he also studied with Austrian conductor Hans Swarowski. In 2000 he earned a Master in Music from the School of Fine Arts of the University of Panama.

For nearly thirty years he was a member of the percussion section of the National Symphony Orchestra of Panama, and from 1983 to 1992 he served as the Assistant Conductor of this orchestra. In 1967 Castañeda founded the Banda de la Guardia de Colón [the National Guard Band of the province of Colón] and remained its music director for about thirteen years, until 1980. Then from 1981 to 1992 he became music director of the Banda de la Guardia Nacional de la Ciudad de Panamá [the National Guard Band of the City of Panama]. He was also a professor at the School of Fine Arts of the University of Panama where he taught music theory, harmony, and conducting seminars.

Castañeda wrote about fifty works, a catalogue that included symphonic music, chamber music, ballet music, solo with orchestra, and other combinations. Castaneda’s first works were conventional, but when he began studying composition with Roque Cordero in Panama and Rodolfo Halffter later in Spain, he began to head towards serialism and aleatoric music. He likes to use in his compositions metric changes, symmetrical and asymmetrical rhythmic elements, and play with texture and density of sound. He also incurred in Manuel de Falla’s technique of “natural resonance.”

Fermin Castañeda did not think that his style of composition could be divided into several periods. On the contrary, he believed that his music was simply based on a single modern and very personal style. Although Castañeda was significantly influenced by his teachers, he avoided copying their styles of composition. He said:

“My themes are mainly based on rhythm. As you know, I’m a drummer, and therefore my pieces have a well-marked and clear concept of the rhythmic concept.”

Castañeda did not use Panamanian folk music in his compositions, but otherwise he did use a mixture of rhythmic patterns product of his experience as a percussionist and his affinity for Afro-Cuban music .

There aren’t many recordings of the music of Castañeda, but several of his compositions have been performed in Panama, the United States, Spain, Costa Rica, and Argentina.

Inspiration in the work of Fermín Castañeda

Castaneda’s work Finisterre Symphony is dedicated to the port of Finisterre. This city is located in Galicia, Spain, and it is one of the few works inspired by Castañeda on a physical place. Overall Castañeda doesn’t use places or people as a source of inspiration. He hardly composed descriptive or program music. He simiply created the composition before the name was conceived. When he planned to write a symphony or a concerto for violin, all he did was to think about the piece by itself without seeking external elements of inspiration. We can mention, however, two exceptions of compositions by Castañeda inspired by a close relative, the work for two double-basses entitled “Yaely and Mussetta” dedicated to his daughters Yaely and Mussetta, and a work for violin and piano entitled “Música Musicalmente Musical” [Music Musically Musical] dedicated to his daughters Natasha, Jovanka, and Ayescha .

Castañeda for posterity

Due to the economical difficulties of devoting oneself strictly to classical music in Panama, Castañeda also worked on popular music. However, he never replaced in his compositions classical music with popular music. He believed that popular music made a person famous for a while, but after some time, that person was forgotten. Symphonic music, on the other hand, lasts longer, and it remains in history. Castañeda, who was involved with popular and symphonic music, once remarked jokingly: “One popularizes me and the other one eternalizes me.”