Nuevo Latino Festival concludes in high note

Adios, Nuevo Latino
By: Christine Werthman

On Saturday night, the Brooklyn Philharmonic said "Adios" to its Nuevo Latino Festival with a third and final night of music influenced by Latin America. The program, held in BAM's Howard Gilman Opera House, was split into three parts, each taking a varying turn on creating common instrumental sounds of Latin American music with an orchestral twist. Opener Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout brought out a standing, all-male quintet to sing and play indigenous Andean instruments alongside the orchestra. The men were dressed in white pants and ponchos, making the black-clad seated string players seem a little stiff by comparison. Leyendas ended with the quintet leaving the stage and taking a lap down the aisles through the audience before returning to the stage with composer Gabriela Lena Frank. Frank, who was seated in the audience, jumped on the single file train and boogied her way into the spotlight, causing alarm in some patrons who had no idea that she was the composer.

The Two Seasons by Paul Desenne came on next and featured intense and rapid solo work from violin virtuoso Virginie Robilliard. Robilliard's playing served as the primary vehicle in Desenne's more discordant and frantic program, which took cues from Vivaldi's classic The Four Seasons. The night ended with Enrico Chapela's Noctámbulos, which brought on a rock band to beef up the rhythm section of the orchestra. Chapela was the most actively involved in his piece, taking on the double duty of composer and player, as he stood onstage at the helm of an electric guitar.

Though the crowd appeared to be equally enthusiastic about all portions of the night, Chapela's seemed the least focused of the three. The rock band added a little epic arena-rock vibe to the piece, but the sound didn't seem to build or lead anywhere, making the ending feel unnatural, like someone just chose to halt the music at random. The sound clashing and strange squeaking sounds that came from the violins in Desenne's program made his the most challenging piece for listeners, albeit the most interesting. But the best of the night was the opening piece by Frank. Hers was the only piece that literally put the disparate styles of the small ensemble and the orchestra side by side, and the only one where the orchestra truly seemed to capture the sounds of Latin American music. Plus, with the quintet's singing, swaying and dance line in the aisles, it was the most fun and fitting for a Saturday night.

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