Recent weeks have provided lots of music that were either premieres or rarely heard. As readers know, I welcome renovation, and I don´t mean avantgarde but an intelligent look at diverse periods of the history of music to find there worthwhile stuff that remains forgotten or almost.
I wrote some time ago abouth youth orchestras. The Indiana University Jacobs School of Music Virtuosi isn´t an orchestra but a flexible instrumental ensemble directed by Mimi Zweig and made up of young talented people. All are string players, and they are accompanied by a pianist of an older generation, Ilya Friedberg. They gave a successful concert for the Midday Concerts of the Mozarteum at the Gran Rex. The chosen music was light but pleasant, sometimes in arrangements.
The "Prelude and Allegro" is a substantial score by Fritz Kreisler in the Baroque style; someone did a strange thing: between both pieces two cellos played an unidentified fragment. The group sounded full and pure. Frankly I prefer the original version for piano of Prokofiev´s motoric "Toccata", but the version for string sextet by Atar Atad was very well played. A 17-year-old gifted cellist, Braden McConnell, gave us David Popper´s Concerto polonaise, Op.14. Then, a brilliant performance by the youngest member of the Virtuosi, 13-year-old violinist Nathan Meltzer, of Sarasate´s terribly difficult "Fantasy on themes from Bizet´s ´Carmen´".
Followed arrangements of Brahms´ Hungarian Dances Nos. 1 and 6 and the exciting "Hoe-Down" from Copland´s "Rodeo". A fun selection of bossa novas, tangos (and square dances?) in an arrangement by Francisco Cortéz Álvarez allowed us to hear the Indiana players in a joyous, communicative vein. The encore was a strong interpretation of an especially grim and rhythmical Piazzolla, "Escualo".
Germán Gutiérrez recently was here conducting the Texas Christian University Youth Orchestra . Now the very professional Mexican conductor was back conducting the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional in an interesting programme. Though the occasion was made possible by an institution called Ibermúsica, that fact wasn´t in the hand programme; but at least we had one with fine notes by Carlos Singer (previous weeks left the audience uninformed).
So after a Spanish composer ("Interlude and Dance" from de Falla´s "La vida breve") we had music of the Americas, with the very important presence after so many years (he was here in 1963 at the Colón) of composer Marlos Nobre, considered by many as the greatest Brazilian figure nowadays. Two scores of his were premiered: "Kabbalah" (2004, 10 minutes), for big orchestra with abundant percussion, has two sections: "Light" (contrasts of timbre and dynamics) and "Energy", dominated by rhythm.
The much earlier Divertimento for piano and orchestra dates from 1963 though premiered two years later in Brazil. Written in a polytonal style, in its three movements it quotes some "Brazilian tangos" by Nazareth. The pianist was the author, an imposing gentleman with a white mane, who played his score admirably. He gave two encores: a fantasy on popular Brazilian themes, and a "frevo", a fast rhythm of the Northern region of his country.
By now a standard, the Second Part began with Bernstein´s exhilarating Overture to "Candide", that splendid musical comedy based on Voltaire. All the rest were Latin American local premieres, very welcome indeed for we have great ignorance about the production of our brother countries: Latinamericanism is often preached but rarely acted upon. The quite pleasant "Mosaico Mexicano" put the audience in touch with Arturo Rodríguez, a young composer born 1976. Says the author: "it is a picture of the Mexico my grandfather described when I was a boy, a hyper-romanticized compound of the music of my country".
Then, an almost centenary creation, from the Chilean Enrique Soro, who was for his country what Alberto Williams was in Argentina, the first fully professional composer: the "Fantastic Dance" from 1916, based on an older piece from 1905. This is exuberant, melodic music of sure attraction.
Finally, a new name for me, the Peruvian Jimmy López, born 1978 and currently well-known in the USA (the Chicago Opera has commissioned an opera from him). His uninhibited "Fiesta!" combines the academic style with Latin-American, Afro-Peruvian and pop music. The four dances have rather abstract titles: "Trance I", "A contratiempo", "Trance II" and "Tecno". Syncopated, impetuous music of great effect, it closed a concert that was very well conducted and played.
The Quinteto Filarmónico de Buenos Aires showed again its excellence in a matinal free Sunday concert at the Colón. The players: Claudio Barile (flute), Néstor Garrote (oboe); Matías Tchicourel (clarinet); Fernando Chiappero (horn); Gabriel La Rocca (bassoon), splendid individually and perfect in ensemble. One flaw: two out of three scores were arrangements; granted, the wind quintet repertoire isn´t huge, but still there´s enough of it to build many nice programmes.