The CUNY Dominican Studies Institute (CUNY DSI) announces the launch of the The Petitón Trilogy, a three-part celebration of the life and work of Maestro Rafael Petitón Guzmán (1894-1983). A prodigious composer, arranger, lyricist, bandleader, pianist, and trombonist, Rafael Petitón Guzmán was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to New York City in 1939. The project took eight years to complete and an army of people that included students, professors, and seasoned career experts. The Trilogy consists of 1) a recording recreating Maestro Petitón’s music; 2) a gala, limited-edition illustrated book documenting Maestro Petitón’s life and work; and 3) a scholarly article demonstrating Maestro Petitón’s overall impact on the world of music.
The Petitón Trilogy’s release will commence July 2, 2021 with the launch of the album, Rafael Petitón Guzmán: A Dominican Musical Treasure on the World Stage. Reconstructed from Maestro Petitón’s original musical manuscripts by CUNY DSI Research Associate John Bimbiras with the use of the Sibelius music-writing software, the professionally recorded and mixed production presents new interpretations of Petitón’s original compositions, including well-known genres such as the merengue and bolero as well as less prominent musical types such as the criolla and paso-doble. It features an orchestra, directed by Mr. Bimbiras and Ray “Chino” Díaz, which is comprised of New York’s finest Latin musicians, ensembled especially for this project. The album also features four brilliant Dominican singers: Pavel Nuñez, Manny Cruz, Luis Armando Rivera, and Luis López, who came together to bring Maestro Petitón’s lyrics to life. The meticulous process of reconstructing and recording this music has forged a product worthy of Maestro Petitón’s creative excellence, and is sure to enchant listeners, almost a half of a century after Maestro Petitón’s glorious years.
Versed in both European art music as well as Latin American dance genres, his brilliant musicality was richly diverse. Petitón resided in Puerto Rico and toured throughout Latin America for many years. He was among the pioneer musicians who brought Dominican music to the United States. He holds the distinction of directing Orquesta Lira Dominicana, the first known orchestra to perform merengue in the United States and, for this reason, Petitón was called the “introducer of merengue” on the international stage. This musical ambassador’s artistry was characterized by contagious Afro-Caribbean rhythms, techniques borrowed from Western classical music, and singularly poetic lyrics. Despite his world-class musicality, Petitón has often been overlooked in discussions about Latin music in the U.S. and remains unrecognized in the Dominican Republic. The fruit of an eight-year research project based in one-of-a-kind archival materials including musical manuscripts, handwritten lyrics, photographs, and personal letters, all housed at the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute Archives, the Trilogy revives and celebrates Maestro Rafael Petitón Guzmán’s historic - and uniquely Dominican - contribution to international Latin dance music.
The archival materials supporting the Petitón Trilogy were donated to the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute Archives by James, John, and Angelina Petitón. Inspired by the vision of CUNY DSI Director, Dr. Ramona Hernández, the Trilogy was recorded by Pavel de Jesús and Antonio González, and produced by Research Associate John Bimbiras, Distinguished Visiting Research Professor, Dr. Paul Austerlitz, and Producer Porfirio Piña.
Last Updated: 06/17/2021 22:31