sun 25/02/2024

Mexico Philharmonic Orchestra, Cadogan Hall | reviews, news & interviews

Mexico Philharmonic Orchestra, Cadogan Hall

Mexico Philharmonic Orchestra, Cadogan Hall

Lively mix of Latin American and British music

The Mexico Philharmonic: founded in 1936, it's the oldest symphony orchestra in MexicoBarry Dominguez

2015 is the "Year of Mexico in the United Kingdom" which is why we’ ve got an exhibition on the Mayas in Liverpool, masked wrestlers Luche Libre at the Albert Hall and the country’ s leading symphony orchestra on a debut UK tour. The Mexico Philharmonic was founded at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM) in 1936 and is the oldest symphony orchestra in the country.

It made waves with the excellent Mexican conductor Eduardo Mata in the Sixties and Seventies and the British-born Jan Latham-Koenig has been Music Director since 2011.

The concert opened with a Buxtehude organ Chaconne orchestrated by Carlos Chávez (1899-1978), the most prominent of Mexico’s first generation of classical composers. It pointed the underlying theme of the concert: classical repertoire with a Mexican or Latin twist. Although it clearly brought colour to Buxtehude’s counterpoint it was a rather workaday piece with the feel of a student exercise which didn’t herald the excitement to come.

There were two pieces by contemporary Mexican composer Arturo Márquez (b. 1950): the lilting, Cuban-flavoured, Danzon No. 2 and the more percussive Conga del fuego nuevo. Yes, they are light, colourful pieces, perfect for showcasing a Latin orchestra like this, but delivered with guts and panache. The brass players stood for their solos and both are pieces I’d love to hear again.

Tasmin LittleWe were then plunged into pastoral English music as Tasmin Little (pictured right; photo: Paul Miller) joined as violin soloist in Vaughan Williams's The Lark Ascending. It was a courageous gesture on the orchestra’s part to take on her signature piece like this and while the string sound didn’t have the warm bloom it can, Little brought out intimate dialogues with the cor anglais and other soloists in the orchestra. She also played the little known Song of the Night by Gustav Holst. I suspect this and the Vaughan Williams are destined for performance in the mirror "Year of the UK in Mexico".

The orchestra boasts a really gutsy brass section and fine woodwind players who came to the fore in pieces from Falla’s The Three Cornered Hat. Although there were occasional moments of raggedness, it was the rhythmic precision in the Falla, Astor Piazzolla ’s bitter-sweet Adiós Nonino and the Mexican repertoire that stood out. Latham-Koenig directs the orchestra with precision, but has a dad dancing manner compared to the charismatic Gustavo Dudamel who conducts Venezuela’s Simon Bolivar symphony Orchestra. But unlike the SBO, whose primary focus is on mainstream Western classical repertoire, the Orquesta Filarmonica de Mexico should be congratulated for their promotion of their regional music.

Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue was played by pianist Jorge Federico Osorio, who looked disturbingly like Ian Duncan Smith. A piece as familiar as this needs to feel like it’s semi-improvised and riding on the edge of its seat. This just felt adept and accomplished. The finale was Mexico’s greatest orchestral showpiece, Hupango, written in 1941 by Moncayo (1912-1958). A sort of Mexican Rite of Spring, it celebrates the folk music of Veracruz and sends you home humming the tunes, still firmly implanted after the Lehár-like encore, an orchestral interlude by Ricardo Castro from his opera Atzimba. A welcome opportunity to hear rare and colourful music performed with panache. It would be great to have this orchestra back with some more experimental repertoire.

A sort of Mexican 'Rite of Spring', Moncayo's 'Hupango' celebrates the folk music of Veracruz and sends you home humming the tunes


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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