01 Oct 2020

PONCE (arr. Gould): Estrellita

by Michael Clive

Tender, romantic, and so elementally lovely that it seems we have carried this melody inside us all our lives — that’s Estrellita, the “little star” that is surely one of the most popular songs in the world. Estrellita was composed by Manuel Ponce, a 20th-century Mexican composer, who grew up in a musical family and received his musical training from his parents. It is the single work for which he is best known.

According to widely accepted tradition, the ineffably lovely melody of Estrellita came to Ponce in a burst of romantic inspiration in a quiet moment as he beheld his wife. If that’s not true, we don’t want to know.

Estrellita has been covered by every performing musician who has ever been in love, and has certainly bridged the gap between cultures all over the world. When the Russian-Jewish-American violinist Jascha Heifetz played it in the 1939 Hollywood feature They Shall Have Music, he introduced it not only to millions of American viewers, but to succeeding generations of violinists, who cherish it as if it were a Fritz Kreisler confection.