Text and Photos by Bartley D’Alfonso
It was an outdoor concert of classical music depicting the battle sounds of war, commemorating a historic battle between the forces of Gran Colombia, which included Ecuador, and Perú, 189 years ago on February 27, 1829. The concert was performed at the site of the battle, Portete de Tarqui, 15 miles south of Cuenca.
On Friday morning, the Symphony Orchestra of Cuenca treated an audience of adults, school children, government officials and military personnel to triumphal military music. It was held midway between Tarqui and Girón at the Temple of Tarqui, now a monument honoring the battle known as “The Heroic Deed of Tarqui”.
Under the skillful baton of Master Michael Meissner, the approximate 45 symphonic musicians performed four notable works. Opening the concert was the “Wellington’s Victory”, Opus 91 score by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827). His fifteen minute score symbolizes two opposing armies marching forward into combat at the Battle of Vitoria in 1813, wherein the British drove the French out of Spain. Contained are two well-known stanzas: “Rule Britannia” and also “God Save the King”, composed by Beethoven during an anti-Napoleonic wave sweeping across Europe back then.
The second score was “Auroral”, composed by Salvador Bustamante Celi (1876 – 1935) in 1922, honoring the Battle of Pichincha. Here you could imagine hearing the song of birds interrupted by the clashing sounds of war, including the gunfire of black-powder muskets matching the thunder of artillery cannons.
The third score performed was “Tarqui”, composed by Jorge Oviedo Jaramillo in 1974, in tribute to the fallen soldiers of Ecuador who fought to preserve Ecuador as an independent sovereignty from the Gran Colombia federation. This dramatic work interweaves the fury of war with the tragedy of death, against the glory of victory.
The final piece was the classic “1812 Overture” by Peter Tchaikovsky (1840 – 1893), composed by the famous Russian in 1880. It commemorates the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte’s “Grand Army” at the gates of Moscow, during the brutal winter of 1812. This timeless work is ever popular due to the increasing build-up of the triumphal ending, containing a stirring blending of drums, church bells and artillery cannons.
Soldiers from the III Division of the Tarqui Army were dressed in Napoleonic-era military uniforms, and silently stood at attention, holding spears made of bamboo staffs and metallic tips. They also represented the military Museum of the Treaties in Girón. Four authentic artillery cannons were also on display.