By Dennis D. Rooney
The sixth and final concert of this season’s Lynn Philharmonia programs April 22 ended with rollicking Latin-American rhythms and gaudy colors after opening with the gentler tones and tints of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony (No. 6 in F, Op. 68).
Conductor Guillermo Figueroa achieved a solid exposition of the score and high-quality playing from the student orchestra, many of whom may never have played it before. In that context, it is worth remembering that the learning experience counts for more than the polished rendition of a professional body of players.
Greater sense of pulse in the “Scene by the Brook” (Andante molto mosso) would have been welcome, as well as more expansive string phrasing, and “Cheerful and thankful feelings after the storm” (Allegretto) could have been a lot less solemn. I missed more fundamental sonority from the contrabasses, which needed another pair of players in Lynn’s Wold Auditorium.
After intermission came the world premiere of the Concerto for Flute and Orchestra by Mariano Morales, commissioned by Figueroa and the Lynn Conservatory. A native puertorriqueño, Morales has successfully worked in a variety of musical styles and genres. The concerto is in one movement, having three sections (fast-slow-fast). It is written in an approachable style, completely tonal, and with deft use of the winds and brass, while the solo flute embraces more the world of jazz that any avant-garde gestures (multiphonics, etc.). At many points, the flute is matched by such supporting sonorities as marimba and tremolando strings.
The work’s most interesting part came at the end of the slow middle movement, when the composer completely collapses the tonality to prepare, as it were, for the lively finale. The effect sounded uncannily like turning off the power to a phonograph and hearing the disc slow down to a stop. The Puerto Rican dance rhythm of bomba sicà is the foundation of the finale.
The well-known Latin jazz flutist Nestor Torres, also from Puerto Rico, played a virtuosic but always beautiful account of the solo, ranging from a whisper to the strongly emphatic, and always with a variegated and cultivated tone. The composer was in attendance to receive the enthusiastic applause for his new work.
Music by the Mexican composer Arturo Márquez (b. 1950) concluded the program. His Danzón No. 2 is considered by some to be “a second national anthem” and became well known because of its inclusion in the 2007 tour of the U.S. and Europe by the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra and Gustavo Dudamel. A stylized version of a couples’ dance set to the rhythms of a charanga band, the Danzón No. 2 goes on longer than it should.
In fact, it seemed about as long as Aaron Copland’s El Salón México, except that Copland, Jewish gringo though he was, found more variety and excitement in his evocation of Mexican dance.