Concerto Gaucho was composed for Oregon native and trumpet virtuoso Tim Morrison. The work's central building blocks stem from the African-influenced music of Uruguay, which is the birthplace of Oregon Symphony Music Director Carlos Kalmar, to whom the work is dedicated.
The gaucho was traditionally known as a horseman who freely traversed and lived off of the unclaimed lands of Uruguay's Rio de la Plata region. The gaucho symbolized freedom and mobility during the first half of the Nineteenth Century and came to represent a national heroic archetype in Uruguay and throughout the southern cone of South America.
Typically equipped with a guitar, the gaucho was a wandering minstrel of sorts, performing music that described the vagabond's life. The trumpet soloist is the protagonist of Concerto Gaucho, which features two distinctive musical identities indigenous to the Rio de la Plata region - the milonga and the candombe. The slow, lyrical second movement of the concerto is based on the milonga, a song form that was a hallmark of the payadores (folk singers of improvised verse) who, by the end of the Nineteenth Century, played a vital part in preserving the vanishing image of the world of the gaucho. The lyrics of the milonga often featured political, historical, and patriotic themes that helped chronicle real historical events and pay tribute to local heroes, especially the gauchos. Concerto Gaucho's milonga is newly composed but features musical traits characteristic of the payadores' song, including its distinctive rhythm. The rigid formal scheme is structured on the payada - a singing duel between two payadores (or in the case of the concerto, interplay between the trumpet soloist and the orchestra). The payada form of the milonga utilizes decimas, ten-line stanzas with specific rhyme patterns. The wordless milonga of Concerto Gaucho utilizes the same decima structure but replaces the rhyme scheme with corresponding phrase structures.