Wolpe-Dvorak, a nice heterogeneous concert
Michael Wolpe: Concerto for flutes and orchestra
Antonin Dvorak: Symphony No. 6, Op. 60
The OFUNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico’s Philharmonic Orchestra) and its main guest conductor, the Polish Gabriel Chmura, performed a nice heterogeneous concert. The first part of the program was dominated by a couple of young brilliant musicians: The composer Michael Wolpe (1960) and the Mexican virtuoso flute player Horacio Franco. Franco performed Wolpe’s Concerto for flutes and orchestra, an interesting piece, dedicated to the performer, with mainly nineteen century resources and a sort of late romantic regionalist style. The performance had, as an added charm, the presence of Wolpe in the hall (seated in one of the front rows) and a silence eyes-dialogue between composer and dedicatee. Franco and Wolpe met for the first time in 1992 during a concert in Louisville, Kentucky, where a close friendship began. In June 24th 1995, the Wolpe’s Concerto for flutes and orchestra was premiered by Franco in Tel Aviv with the accompaniment of the Kibbutzim Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Mordecai Rechtman. The regionalist style in Wolpe’s concerto could be easily explained as almost all regionalisms in music: by the close contact of the author with the people and the folk. Wolpe who is also an agriculture expert, lived in a Kibbutz located in the Negev desert in Israel. A profound rich Jewish language is clear in the first movement, where the author used a romantic, expressive, adagio maestoso-andante cantabile. Also Jewish are the third and the last movements. The second movement, andante religioso-allegro con brio, in apparent opposition with the others, is completely Arabian. In order to leave no doubts about this, Wolpe used as a main element the continuous beat of a darbuka, the traditional Arab drum. The powerful rhythm of this instrument could let the dreamer-listener imagine the strong paws of dromedaries and wild horses beating speedily over the fine desert yellow sands (a film lover must remember Lawrence of Arabia!). The performance ended with a long clapping and a strong embrace between author and performer. As a gift, certainly for both the audience and the author, Franco played with a single bass accompaniment a traditional danzón, one of the most sensual rhythms of the popular Latin America’s dancing music.
In the second part of the concert, the OFUNAM played a classic between the regionalisms: the Dvorak’s Symphony No. 6, Op. 60. This great work, with clear roots in the fields of Brahms (Symphony No. 2, Op. 73), has been characterized as a pastoral composition. The softness of the beautiful musical net constructed by Dvorak (1841-1904), seemed to be a description of the rural life of the late XIX century in Bohemia, the beloved land of the author, as happened in many other of his works. We could not deny that Dvorak could be considered one of the greatest regionalist composers of all the times. The Symphony No. 6 was composed in 1880 (almost three years after Brahms Op. 73) and was premiered the next year in Prague, the 25th of March. It is interesting that some musicologists also find in this work an influence of the Beethoven (1770-1827) pastoral style, showed in his own Symphony No. 6 (Op. 68).
The performance by Mr. Chmura and the OFUNAM of the Dvorak’s Sixth was of a great quality. The Brass section, the Achilles heel of the orchestra, played this time with elegant fluidity, essential for a work of its kind. A good understanding between the orchestra and this senior conductor is fortunately becoming more evident.
Salvador de la Torre