The DuPage Symphony Orchestra’s final concert will highlight two countries typically underrepresented in classical music. With its performance of “Up Close and Personal: Mexico and Spain” on November 19 at the Wentz Concert Hall in Naperville, the western suburban orchestra will present compositions that may be less familiar to people.
“The pieces in this program not only capture the sounds of Mexican and Spanish music, but they all incorporate strong dance rhythms,” said Teresa Muir, secretary of the orchestra’s board of directors.
The show begins with the “Spanish Symphony,” an 1874 piece by composer Édouard Lalo.
“Although Édouard Lalo is French, the surname ‘Lalo’ is itself Spanish and the family dispersed to northern France in the 16th century,” Muir said. “The Spanish Symphony was written with the Spanish violinist Pablo de Sarasate in mind.”
Unlike most 19th-century concertos, this one has five movements with typically Spanish rhythms and melodies. “Listen in the second movement to the strings and the harp mimicking a guitar,” Muir said. “Of all his concertos, this has by far received the most performances.”
29-year-old violinist William Hagen, who has played with orchestras around the world, will join the symphony in this performance. He will play a 1732 Stradivarius violin, nicknamed “Arkwright Lady Rebecca Sylvan”, on loan from the Rachel Barton Pine Foundation.
The next show will be a 1949 piece by Mexican composer José Pablo Moncayo – “Tierra de Temporal”, roughly translated as “Land of Seasonal Rain”.
“It combines orchestral colors with Mexican rhythms and themes,” Muir said. “Many consider it his masterpiece.”
The next piece, “Sinfonia India”, is by Carlos Chavez, composer and founder of the Mexican Symphony Orchestra. He also mentored Moncayo, and both are considered important figures in Mexican musical nationalism and the development of the Mexican sound, Muir said.
“As an ethnomusicologist, Chavez has researched the harmonies, rhythms, melodies and instruments of the indigenous peoples of Mexico,” she said. “Sinfonia India”, from 1936, includes an extensive and unusual list of percussion instruments.
“In addition to timpani, bass and snare drum, the score makes use of Latin percussion – guiro, maracas and claves – and a rarely heard grijutian, metal rattle, rasping stick and water gourd”, Muir said. “The work is in one movement, sectioned by frequent changes of tempo.”
Multi-instrumentalist, composer and educator Christopher Garcia will join the orchestra for this performance, which will play some of the native Mexican percussion instruments used in the piece. The week before the concert, he will present masterclasses in four area high schools on native instruments. He will also give a pre-concert lecture at 6:45 p.m. for those who wish to learn more about the instruments.
The last piece of the show will be “Danzón No. 2” by Mexican composer Arturo Márquez.
“The Danzóns are works based on a Cuban dance that migrated to Veracruz, Mexico,” Muir said. “Danzón No. 2” by Marquez is one of the most popular and performed Latin American works written after 1950. The idea for the piece came to him in 1993 during a trip to Malinalco with the artist Andres Fonseca and dancer Irene Martinez. He captured the wild rhythms of dance in a way that paid homage to this popular style of music.
Also with the concert, the symphony orchestra will organize a “petting zoo” of musical instruments in the lobby of the Wentz concert hall. Young clients who might be interested in learning an instrument can try them out with an experienced musician to guide them.
“Up Close and Personal: Mexico and Spain”
When: 7:30 p.m. November 19
Where: Wentz Concert Hall, 171 E. Chicago Ave., Naperville
Information: 630-778-1003; dupagessymphony.org
Jeff Banowetz is a freelance writer for the Naperville Sun.