Every so often, San Diegans decide there just might be an up side to being a border town with Mexico. Thursday (June 6) the Mainly Mozart Festival 2013 inaugurated its newest series, “Evolution: Celebrating Innovation,” with a program that promised “Mexico’s next wave of classics and jazz.”
It is, of course, patently unfair to hold any arts organization to the hyperbole of its glossy mailers, but Evolution’s impresario Stephen Prutsman did put together a remarkable concert comprised of Baroque and early-20th century chamber works, as well as Mexican folkloric music and Latin smooth jazz. Most of this music was last wave rather than next wave, but offering sizzling interpretations of serious chamber music by Manuel Ponce and Silvestre Revueltas was more than adequate consolation.
Violinist Cuauhtémoc Rivera and pianist Prutsman attacked Ponce’s three-movement Violin Sonata and and Revueltas’ “Three Pieces for Violin and Piano” with daemonic determination, emotional abandon, and a high level of technical brilliance. Prutsman pulled a deep, luxurious sonority from the piano, even in his softest passages, and Rivera’s rich, vibrant lines shimmered passionately.
In the last century, Ponce and Revueltas accomplished for Mexico’s classical culture what Aaron Copland and Henry Cowell did for music in the U.S., and it is sad that American orchestras ignore these Mexican compatriots, save for the occasional dutiful banging out of Revueltas’ mildly exotic “Sensemayá.”
Virtuoso recorder player Horacio Franco effectively juxtaposed movements from J. S. Bach’s Flute Partita in A Minor, BWV 1003, with his own florid arrangements of songs and dances from indigenous Mexican traditions. For the Bach, he used a tenor recorder and for the Mexican music a smaller, high-pitched flageolet. Although Bach intended his demanding partita for the more agile transverse flute, Franco gave an amazingly nuanced and supple account, and his velocity on the recorder is nothing short of breathtaking.
For his encore, a two-voiced canción by the late Mexican composer Daniel Catán, Franco simultaneously played two recorders—one out of each side of his mouth—with soulful intensity. If this sounds like a party stunt, let me assure you it was anything but.
Harpist Celso Duarte played fleet, voluptuous renditions of songs from Vera Cruz, Mexico, and dances from Paraguay on a[php snippet=1] traditional South American harp, and vocalist Magos Herrera offered a set of “smooth jazz” songs in Spanish, English and Portuguese, including her own “Voz antigua” and Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Inútil Paisagern.”
Herrera’s light, breathy voice lacked the emotional scope of the other performers, and Prutsman’s effulgent piano accompaniments only emphasized this disparity. However, when all her fellow performers joined her on stage for a hearty encore, their rich ensemble gave a promising hint of how a more collaborative programming approach could enrich this new series.
tickets: www.mainlymozart.org; 619.466.8742