Peru negro

Although the Philly O had to engage in a bit of crisis management earlier in the year due to its lack of programming of women composers on any season concert, the recent showcase of "South American Sounds" was a welcome addition to the season line-up as a nod to the need for including global perspectives on classical music in the 21st century. The program was flawlessly curated to feature works across the geographic region and from a span of just under a hundred years. It opened with Gershwin, a staple of any American orchestra, but his "Cuban Overture" was indeed the perfect overture to what was to follow. Each subsequent work explored different approaches to representing South American sounds in orchestral music. The Harp Concerto by Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera is a work that was commissioned by the first female member of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Edna Philips, and was in these concerts expertly performed by the orchestra's current harpist, Elizabeth Hainen. The second half of the program featured new works for the orchestra, "Tangazo" by Ginastera's compatriot Astor Piazolla and "Peru negro" by Jimmy Lopez. (The program listed these works specifically as "First Philadelphia Orchestra performances" but not as Philadelphia premieres, so perhaps they have been performed in the region before.) Piazolla's music is of course well known to any fans of tango, but hearing this large orchestral work by the composer placed his music in a different context and perhaps introduced his music to a different audience. The program concluded with a recent work written for the conductor of the concert, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, which he also premiered with the Ft. Worth Symphony in 2013. As the title indicates, "Peru negro" by Jimmy Lopez seeks to feature but also seamlessly blend the music of Peru's African traditions within the orchestral idiom. From my listening the composer absolutely succeeded at this task with a particularly skilled use of the percussion section. The introduction of different percussion instruments gradually throughout the work clearly incorporated traditional rhythms from Afro-Peruvian music and yet never overshadowed other layers of the orchestration as the work developed in intensity and excitement. The overall effect warrants comparisons to the craft and orchestration of Stravinsky in his ballets, and in my view the work deserves to be widely performed and adopted as a major addition to the repertoire.

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