“I consider it the duty of every Mexican composer to ennoble his country’s music by giving it artistic form, attiring it in the garb of polyphony, and lovingly conserving the popular music that is the expression of the country’s soul.” - Manuel Ponce
Written for the voice by Manuel Ponce in 1912, Estrellita (Little Star) is one of the most important cultural works for Mexico. The subtle influences of both French Impressionism and West European Neoclassicism found in Estrellita’s unique incorporation of traditional Mexican motifs and harmonic progressions catalyzed change for 20th-century Mexican classical music. As an intermediate into the Modernist Era, Estrellita, one of the very first of its kind, immediately became a global phenomenon upon creation.
The bittersweet piece is a longing confession to a twinkling Estrellita (little star). The singer, often a soprano, gazes up at the night sky and laments how she will die without the love she desired for her whole life. In a slurry of passionate high notes to a sudden, soft, return of the theme, the singer asks if the star could tell her if she will ever find love.
Legendary violinist quickly took notice of Estrellita, and eleven years later, Heifetz arranged his own version for violin and piano. Incorporating various violin techniques such as wider vibrato and connected bowing patterns, Heifetz was able to maintain the “longing” essence of Ponce’s original composition. While the arrangement lacks Estrellita’s lyrics, Heifetz’s inserts of his musical creativity come together to form their own interpretation of what the passionate, yet painful agony of unrequited love sounds like.
Estrellita remains one of Mexico’s greatest cultural pride. The simple, yet beautifully tragic melody connects with listeners regardless of any differences. And most importantly, it is a piece that captures something that every human will experience at least once in their lifetimes: love.