The Tucson Symphony rocks the Music Hall with the premiere of “MeChicano”

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There was no EDM explosion from Linda Ronstadt Music Hall on Friday, Nov. 11, but Juan Pablo Contreras’ “MeChicano” surely matched the energy coming from the stages of the sixth annual Dusk Music Festival in nearby downtown. by Jacomé Plaza.

Under the direction of Music Director José Luis Gomez, the Tucson Symphony Orchestra brought to life Contreras’ cross-cultural sonic kaleidoscope that also borrowed from Mexican music styles – toe-tapping cumbia, mariachi lightning bolts, Mexican waltz and Tejano polka – and quintessentially American. – jazz and rock, including a drum kit worthy of a rock scene.

Contreras packed plenty of wonderfully lush, catchy melodies into 12 minutes and from the standing ovation the audience filling two-thirds of the Music Hall gave him when he took the stage on Friday night, the work could end up on the lineup. many orchestras. .

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“MeChicano” plays like a 1980s Saturday night dance party that newly minted Mexican-Americans organized to help them find their Chicano musical and cultural identity, Contreras explained in remarks to the audience ahead of Friday’s concert. The piece opened with a sterling trumpet line hanging in the background as strings and woodwinds joined in a lush, almost cinematic melody. From there, “MeChicano” turned into an all-out dance party, with a little cumbia melody and congo rock with bongos and the big burp of a tuba.

The mix of rock, complete with that drum kit not usually seen on a symphonic stage, and jazz mixed with waltz and Mexican pop that brought out the brilliant cross-cultural colors that Contreras was aiming for.

The TSO co-commissioned the work with six other orchestras as part of New Music USA’s Amplifying Voices project. Tucson was the third orchestra to premiere the work.

Friday’s concert, as part of the season of the orchestra “¡Celebración latina!” series, also introduced Tucson to Russian-American piano virtuoso Natahsa Paremsky, whose breathtaking rendition of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 anchored the first half of the concert.

Paremsky, wearing a striking red dress and sparkling high heels that shone against the stage lights, opened Rachmaninoff’s giant concerto with the poise of someone playing a deceptively simple little tune. Her hands caressed the keys gently, producing a quiet melody that grew more urgent and muscular as she repeated the phrase.

From there, her performance was nothing short of thrilling. She captured Rachmaninoff’s emotional arc, accentuated by soaring orchestral strings, with delicate pianissimo passages that Gomez was careful not to smother with the orchestra.

Friday’s concert, which repeats on Sunday, November 13, concluded with Symphony No. 4 “Inextinguishable” by Carl Nielsen, the first time the TSO has performed the work since 2005.

Gomez took us on a wild ride with “Inextinguishable,” a thrilling and dramatic four-movement symphony that plays non-stop. The maestro accentuated Nielsen’s powerful opening passages without letting them slip, invoking the Danish composer’s turbulence and dynamism without sacrificing the underlying lyrical soul that is his heartbeat. The strings brought out the wild mood swings of Nielsen’s score, which goes from restrained and somber to victorious and jubilant.

One of the play’s most dramatic moments came with the double timpani in the finale, which evoked the perfect balance of drama and terror that was likely drawn from Nielsen witnessing the devastation of World War I.

Sunday’s concert begins at 2 p.m. at the Music Hall, 260 S. Church Ave. For tickets, visit tucsonsymphony.org.

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at [email protected] On Twitter @Starburch

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