Hartford Symphony Orchestra Celebrates Valentine’s Day with "Latin Lovers"


Arturo Marquez, Mexican Composer of orchestral music
Arturo Marquez, Mexican Composer of orchestral music

Hartford Symphony Orchestra (HSO) will be presenting a special program for the people who love both classical music and classical music by Latino composers. This concert celebrates a very romantic weekend with the title of “Latin Lovers” and, it is scheduled from February 15 to 17, as part of the Masterworks series of this concert season.
I confess that I was surprised when I first saw the title of this concert. I thought it was probably something based on common “stereotypes of Latinos.” I remember Hollywood movies selling the image of passionate lovers, like the Italian born Valentino, in the twenties, or the Mexican Ramon Novarro, Fernando Lamas, Ricardo Montalban and others, not always Latinos but who fit the image and stereotype. However, much to my surprise, when I read the information distributed by the press office of HSO, I immediately realized how wrong I was.
What HSO wanted was to highlight music inspired by Latin America or Latin composers. Something we, as an audience in Connecticut, do not have the opportunity to hear very often. To achieve their objective, HSO selected pieces such as “El Salon México” by Aaron Copland (USA), and “Libertango” “Aconcagua: Concerto for Bandoneón”, by the extraordinary Astor Piazzolla (Argentina) who happens to be one of my favorite composers. In addition, the program will feature pieces written by Gabriela Lena Frank (USA-Peru) “Three Latin American Dances”  and the “Danzón No. 2” by Arturo Márquez . The conductor for this special concert is Adam Boyles and the featured artist is Julien Labro in bandoneon.
As I mentioned before, Astor Piazzolla’s music is one I listen to frequently. Particularly his composition “Adios Nonino” My love for his music was instantaneous, and explosion of sounds racing through my body. This happened one afternoon when I was driving home from work listening to NPR on the radio. Suddenly, the sounds of a very intense and beautiful music I had never heard before were coming out of the speakers. That melody, whatever it was,  affected me in such a way that when I got home I sat in my car until the piece was finished and then I wrote down the name of the composer. Since that afternoon —- a long time ago — I started listening to and buying  CDs featuring his music. Piazolla, is known for his skill in redefining the traditional tango. He died in 1992, when he was preparing a tour in the USA with Jazz player Gerry Mulligan, a great saxophonist, with whom he recorded several albums, being “20 Years ago/20Years Ago” the best known. I’m looking forward to attending a concert to listen to his compositions played by an orchestra, and not just enjoying them in YouTube as I usually do, or in recordings. I’m sure that attending the concert will be something that I will not forget, as I never forgot that first moment in which I heard his music.
While Piazolla is the best known of the Latinos featured by HSO, it will be thrilling to hear works by contemporary music composer Gabriela Lena Frank whose Three Latin American Dances  are somewhat reminiscent of the music of that great North American composer Leonard Bernstein, (West Side Story) Gabriela Lena Frank, born in California, is a pianist and composer. who is inspired by her Peruvian heritage and combines sounds from North and South. She has been nominated for the Latin Grammy as a composer and a pianist, and is considered one of the most important composers in the USA. Frank has received commissions to create works for Yo Yo Ma, the Kronos Quartet and for the Philadelphia orchestras and the New York Metropolitan Opera. Currently, Frank serves as the resident composer of the Philadelphia Orchestra. In the 2019-20 season, the Fort Worth Opera, Texas, will premiere its first opera “The Last Dream of Frida” created with a libretto by playwright Nilo Cruz (Anna and the Tropics). Frank’s work that will be performed by the HSO, was premiered in 2004.
The third Latino composer to be featured is Arturo Marquez. Born in Mexico in 1950, he grew up in a family of musicians. His father was a member of a Mariachi band, and his grandfather was very interested in folkloric music. Maybe it was that background that inspired Marquez to attend the Musical Conservatory in Mexico when he was only 16 years old. After obtaining a Fulbright scholarship, he graduated with a Masters degree in composition. In 1990, conductor Gustavo Dudamel included “Danzon No.2” during a tour in Europe. Marquez’s danzones are being set to Ballet. From 1981, when he wrote a composition for flute, until 2018, he has written more than 50 pieces, among them are “Danzones No. l to No. 8” He has also created “poemas tonales”  in which he includes segments from Mexican history. He has also created music for harp, flute and clarinet. He gives credit to Cuban danzones for his interest in this genre. He considers it a music full of sensuality, nostalgia and joy. It is still a popular in many dance halls in Veracruz, Mexico.
After watching Marquez conduct “Danzon No. 2” (thanks to YouTube) I’m looking forward to HSO’s interpretation of this composition.
While three of the four composers are Latinos, the one which could be considered an honorary Latino for this concert is Aaron Copland, one of the most renowned American composers, and who was considered by his contemporaries as “The Dean of American Composers.” He was a teacher, writer and even conducted his own music, which is considered evocative of the landscape of this country as well as Copland’s  adventurous spirit. He is best known for the music he wrote in the 30s and 40s, and his work in general, includes chamber music, opera and film themes. His musical style changed with time, and during the time of the “Great economic depression” in the USA, he traveled to Europe and Mexico, where he developed a strong friendship with the composer Carlos Chavez. His composition “Salon Mexico” included in this concert, was inspired by his visit to that country.
Julien Labro,  is an artist who is known internationally, for his mastery in playing the bandoneon and the accordion. His repertoire includes not only classical music but also jazz. Labro is considered a “star” because of the brilliant technique in which he plays, and the way he manages to make arrangements to feature the compositions. Born in France, Labro began studying the accordion at the age of 9 and pursued studies at the Marcella Conservatory. He had just graduated when he won Coupe Mondiale in 1996. Now a resident of the USA, Labro works with numerous orchestras throughout the country. In addition to his participation as a soloist, Labro in numerous concerts, he has also been invited by the Oberlin Conservatory of Music;  Princeton University; Hope College; the Cleveland Institute of Music, and many other important educational centers to present Master’s classes for the students of those schools.
The “Latin Lovers” program is presented at the Belding Theater of the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, on Capitol Avenue in Hartford, from Friday, February 15 to Saturday 16 at 8:00 pm and on Sunday the 17, at 3:00 pm. Tickets for students with ID are $ 10.00, and starting at $38, for the For more information please call 860-987-5900 or visit www.hartfordsymphony.org