Toward the end of the stunning virtuosic finale of Arturo Marquez’s Autumn Concerto, Venezuela-born trumpeter Pacho Flores took a breath to blurt out “Gracias Arturo!”. Moments later he turned toward Tucson Symphony Orchestra Concertmaster Lauren Roth and blew a couple quick bursts that sounded like a kiss. We’re not positive, but it looked like Roth blushed.
As the audience of nearly 1,700 stood on its feet applauding and showering Flores with shouts of “Bravo”, TSO Music Director José Luis Gomez slipped backstage and returned with Marquez. It’s not often that an audience gets to meet the man behind the music, but Marquez made the trip from Mexico last weekend as part of the festivities surrounding the American premiere of his concerto.
Tucson is one of four orchestras around the world that co-commissioned Marquez to write the work for Flores, the internationally celebrated trumpet player. The premiere was the focal point of last weekend’s “Fresh Music, Copland and More” concerts that included a moving multimedia tribute to the orchestra on its 90th anniversary to a soundtrack of Copland’s “Our Town” suite and an invigorating performance of Bernstein’s beastly Overture to “Candide.”
Autumn Concerto represents Mexican classical music in all its wonderful colors and textures, from the opening percussion and trumpet mariachi rumble to the soulful nods to Mexican folk tunes and American jazz. Flores brought along four trumpets for the work, switching with each movement, and his articulation on each was so crisp that he stood out as a distinctive voice even when the strings soared and the percussion rumbled. In the blistering finale where Marquez puts the biggest spotlight on the soloist, Flores made the virtuosic acrobatics look like a casual stroll on a sunny afternoon. His fingers danced along the valves as he blew out warm, muscular notes all without taking a breath for several minutes. Heck, we were winded just watching him.
The Autumn Concerto was one of two that Flores performed with the orchestra, which in itself is a rarity. Usually a soloist joins the orchestra for one piece and then performs a short encore. Flores started his night with Neruda’s Trumpet Concerto for strings and trumpet, another first for the TSO which had never before programmed the piece. Call the Neruda a tantalizing appetizer for Flores’s main course, the Marquez. We got a glimpse of Flores’s virtuosity and his musicality especially in the lush solo finale. For an encore, Flores performed Invierno Porteño from Astor Piazzolla’s Estaciones Porteñas.
Gomez and the orchestra started the concert with a spirited performance of Mozart’s plain-out fun and flirty Overture to “The Abduction from the Seraglio.” Also on the program: Copland’s popular Four Dance Episodes from “Rodeo.”
ONE: this is a brilliant program. Two brass concerti, featuring Venezuelan super-virtuoso Pacho Flores, and two popular Aaron Copland works, were bookended by sublime overtures by Mozart and Bernstein. ONE-A: a surprising common musical thread weaves its way through Mozart’s Overture to ‘The Abduction from the Seraglio’, the ‘Concerto for Corno da Caccia’, by J.B.G. Neruda (a contemporary of Bach and Mozart), and the first movement of the new Arturo Márquez ‘Concerto for Trumpet‘ – a sustained, repeated melodic syncopation. The TSO Music Director, José Luis Gomez, is a sly one!
Copyright: Steven Gendel
TWO: this performance by Pacho Flores was a soulful and energetic gift to this audience. His tone, articulations, and musicality are masterly, while his virtuosity is both easy and mesmerizing. TWO-A: the Marquéz Concerto, written specifically for Pacho, covers a vast array of styles, and utilizes a different type of “corno” instrument for each movement. The finale, a virtuosic masterpiece, was given a BLISTERING, ear-opening performance by Pacho Flores – worth the price of admission alone. Even the (infamously sleepy) Tucson classical concert crowd was wowed to ovation. TWO-B: Señor Flores has a decidedly humorous side to his stage presence. To whit: solo brass performances always contain the necessary act of emptying the spit valves on the instrument. In the Neruda concerto, Pacho, large in physical stature, went through this routine with his miniature horn, emptying one valve, then holding the instrument above head level, to blow the saliva out of the second valve. Every player must engage in this chore, yet repeatedly executed, directly in front of the audience under spotlight, almost became a comic relief act during the beautifully and generously performed concerto. When, at the the end of the Márquez concerto, and again after the accompanied encore, Pacho tooted a spoiler note towards his comrade in arms, José Luis, the complete picture of his honest, open, and lovable joviality was complete. Great musicianship and fun showmanship all around! As composer Marquéz, who was here for this premier, came to the stage, a heart-warming, congratulatory celebration ensued between these three latin musical stars. What a treat for both the audience the orchestra!
The second half opened — accompanied by the orchestra playing Copeland’s familiar ‘Our Town’ — with a splendid photographic presentation, projected above the Music Hall stage,of the history of the TSO, now in its 90th year, and other events and places in this city’s storied cultural history. A very moving experience for everyone in attendance. The second half feature, the ever-popular ‘Four Selections From Rodeo’ by Copeland, and especially Bernstein’s virtuoso circus for orchestra, A.K.A. ‘The Overture to Candide’, were given, on this night, top notch execution and interpretation. These closing pieces, again, as we have come to expect, showed off the beautiful marriage of this orchestra and its Music Director. This is a fine, fun, and talented ensemble, whose love for its conductor is expressed in how well they respond to his exuberant, expressive direction. It is obvious, watching and listening, that this immense positive energy overflows in both directions. This longish program, was yet satisfying every joyful step of the way. Bravi, tutti!
Friday night, 25 January 2019, Tucson Symphony Orchestra’s ‘Fresh Music, Copland and More’ Classic concert:
Pacho Flores makes his debut with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra under the baton of its Chief Conductor José Luis Gómez for the US premiere of Arturo Márquez’s Concierto de Otoño on January 25 and 27. This is the second premiere following that of last September by the National Orchestra of Mexico and itsChief Conductor, Carlos Miguel Prieto, and pending in Asia are premieres by the Orchestra of the Center of Performing Arts of Hyogo with Michiyoshi Inoue next May, and the European premiere, which will close the cycle next August with the Oviedo Filarmonía under its newChief Conductor Lucas Macías. This is what Maestro Márquez explains on his Concerto (video).
While this second premiere is still pending, other orchestras around the world have already scheduled the Concierto de Otoño to be performed twice during the 2019/20 in the USA, Colombia, where it will be premiered in South America, and three times in Spain before being premiered in France, the UK, Germany and Canada, meaning that in just two seasons, in addition to the four premieres resulting from the commission, it will have been the subject of more than two dozen performances, always, of course, by Pacho Flores.
This commission is part of an ambitious project of shared commissions launched by Pacho Flores himself in order to expand the repertoire of trumpet and orchestra and is the first of six commissions to composers Roberto Sierra, Paquito D’Rivera, Efraín Oscher, Christian Lindberg and Daniel Freiberg, in which ten other orchestras from around the world are already involved for their premieres over the coming seasons. All the concerts resulting from this project will increase the discography of Pacho Flores on his exclusive label Deutsche Grammophon.
In parallel with this project Pacho Flores continues to receive dedications of new concerts and perform absolute premieres. Over the last year Pacho has premiered his own work, Cantos y revueltas (January 2018, Real Filharmonía de Galicia, Manuel Hernández-Silva); the concert Stunning Trumpet by Giancarlo Castro (February 2018, Ulster Orchestra, Rafael Payare); Preach pour trompette et orchestre by Alain Trudel (March 2018, Orchestre Symphonique de Laval, Alain Trudel); Double concerto for clarinet and trumpet (August 2018, Norddeutsche Philharmonie Rostock, Markus Bosch, with Matthias Schorn) and Latin American Chronicles by Daniel Freiberg (January 2019, Het Gelders Orkest, Christian Vasquez); and the new Double Concierto for Trumpet and Trombone by Christian Lindberg (March 2019, Orchestra of the Spanish Radio and Television, Christian Lindberg, with Ximo Vicedo) and the Concierto for trumpet no. 1 by Arturo Sandoval (July 2019, Buenos Aires Philharmonic Orchestra, Enrique Diemecke). (Translation: John Eastham)