Moncayo, Oscher, Piazzolla, Chávez, Revueltas

When I got the ticket for tonight’s concert in Salzburg’s Great Festival House with the National Symphony Orchestra of Mexico, I obviously had not expected this might be the last time they can travel before getting walled in by President Trump.  But there we go.

The program tonight provided a selection of Latin American classical music – mostly little-known curiosities.  At the centerpiece stood Pacho Flores, the talented young Venzuelan trumpeter, who joined the orchestra for Mestizo, a trumpet concerto written six years ago by the Uruguayan Efrain Oscher stringing together typical Latin American rhythms, and a somewhat more moody setting for trumpet and orchestra of “Winter” from Four Seasons in Buenos Aires and Oblivion by the Argentinian Astor Piazzolla (plus an unidentified solo encore).  Flores had two trumpets and a flugelhorn on stage with him – and though he only played one instrument at a time, he sometimes sounded like he was covering for multiple instruments, producing a round bold tone that was also warm and sweet.

Mexican music made up the rest of the concert.  The evening had opened with the short Huapango dance piece by José Pablo Moncayo.  After Flores and the intermission came the Sinfonía India by this orchestra’s founder, Carlos Chávez – really a Coplandesque symphony in miniature that moved from theme to theme nicely for ten minutes but easily could (and should) have been longer.

This Chávez piece, and the following one – and the longest work of the evening – a suite of music by Silvestre Revueltas from the 1930s film La Noche de los Mayas, showcased indigenous Mexican instruments predating the Spanish conquest.  Apparently the pre-Spanish society was heavily into percussion, and the augmented percussion session had a range of fanciful additions, including hollowed gourds floating in water (the final movement of the Revueltas also included conch shell horns).  This Revueltas music lost something in the plot when detatched from its film, but still showed the vitality and raw pulse of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.  Another unidentified (but presumably Mexican from a violinist’s shout of ¡Viva Méjico!) work jumped out as an encore.

The orchestra, under its principal conductor Carlos Miguel Prieto performed passionately and with a happy tone.  They clearly relish being ambassadors for their country.  The audience cheered back at them enthusiastically.

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