Cordero, Roque Jacinto (1917–2008) By Labonville, Marie Elizabeth
Roque Cordero was a Panamanian composer, conductor, and educator, and the only twentieth-century Panamanian composer to gain international recognition. During the 1940s he studied composition and conducting in the United States, returning in 1950 to Panama. In 1966, difficult professional circumstances motivated his return to the United States where he completed his career and died at the age of ninety-one. His lifelong devotion to Panamanian culture is reflected in the music he composed. Most of his works are based on the twelve-tone technique, which he frequently modified for artistic reasons or to impart a subtle Panamanian musical flavor. His prizewinning Symphony No. 2 (1956) provoked controversy at its Caracas premiere because its advanced musical language offended those who believed that Latin American composers should avoid European avant-garde techniques and conform to a more obvious nationalist style. Cordero’s mature output includes pieces for piano, orchestra, string orchestra, soloist with orchestra, chamber ensemble, chorus, ballet, and film, as well as three pedagogical works and at least sixty articles and lectures. His creativity brought him numerous national and international commissions and honors. Although his output has not been studied in a comprehensive fashion, selected compositions have been analyzed in postgraduate theses and dissertations.