Saturday, June 20, 2009

Latino musical festival draws famous Mexican conductor

Classical music review: Mexican conductor succeeds in Dallas Symphony Orchestra's Latino Festival Concert
By SCOTT CANTRELL / The Dallas Morning News, June 14, 2009

The Dallas Symphony Orchestra's Latino Festival Concert on Saturday evening defined "Latino" pretty loosely. There were pieces by the Brazilians Camargo Guarnieri and Egberto Gismonti and the Argentine Astor Piazzolla, but also by the Spaniard Manuel de Falla and the Italian Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. Beethoven got in by way of one of the four overtures he composed for his Seville-set opera Fidelio.

Given the origins of most of North Texas' huge and growing Latino population, the absence of a Mexican composer was an unfortunate oversight. At least we had a Mexican conductor, and quite a promising one.

Still in her 20s, trained at the Manhattan School of Music, Alondra de la Parra made quite a positive impression two years ago at the Meyerson Symphony Center, conducting an orchestra she had assembled mainly with New York conservatory students. Once again she supplied clear and meaningful stick technique, and, apart from overegging the brass, a very musical feeling for energy, shape and proportion.

The most interesting piece on the program was Piazzolla's Tangazo , mixing contrapuntal mystery, dreamy passages (David Heyde and Haley Hoops contributing beautiful horn solos) and toe-tapping dances. The Suite No. 2 from Falla's Three-Cornered Hat got a performance alternately seductive and dazzling.

Guarnieri's Dansa brasileira was a cheerfully chugging overture, and Gismonti's two-guitars-and-orchestra Sete Aneis, performed with the Brasil Guitar Duo (João Luiz and Douglas Lora), suggested some influence from minimalism. Neither of these impressed as deathless art, but each was pleasant enough.

Castelnuovo-Tedesco's Concerto for Two Guitars was pretty inane, with dippy themes elaborated with all the imagination of an undergraduate composition student. Luiz and Lora played well, but the amplification lent an unpleasant metallic resonance to their sound. Beethoven's Leonore Overture No. 3 got stirring offstage fanfares and a razzle-dazzle close, but earlier stretches dragged.

These festival programs attract lots of people who don't ordinarily attend symphony concerts. But the absence of at least brief program notes, even movement markings on the program page, suggests the DSO considers these second-class concerts. That's tacky.

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