Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra Latin Fusion Show

April 13, 2010 1 comment Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

April 9th, The Latin Fusion Concert of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra was a rare performance. Not only did the evening feature the work of Peter Soave on the Bandoneon, but also a delightful original arrangement by Fabio Mechetti. MetroJacksonville reviewer, Beth Slater was there for the evening and its more magical moments.

Latin Fusion at Symphony spices up the Urban Core

Jacksonville was home to a night of deep, emotional musical genius April 9, and those aware enough to have been in the audience were rewarded richly. The Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra played host to its final Friday Fusion concert, Latin Fusion, featuring the music of Copland, Falla, Lecuona and Piazzolla and bandoneónist Peter Soave.

Paul Witkowski, public relations director for the Symphony, said the Fusion series was created in response to patron requests for a more rounded evening experience. “Preconcert appetizers, some light jazz and a relaxed atmosphere allows folks to get there early, not be in a rush, have a little something to eat and drink and have a chance to wind down. The informal style of the concert allows for a more thought provoking, engaging way of listening.”  

The evening began at 6:30 with appetizers in the Atrium facing the river. The sun was still high in the sky and the view was breathtaking. We sat at a table with an amazingly quirky cultured couple, Kevin and Jeri Ruane, who filled the space with delightful observations about film.  Symphony subscribers, and they shared their thoughts on the series. Jeri was glad there were large tables available for sitting, as she said the first Fusion had none and patrons were relegated to a corner of the room.  We also sat with a fairly urbane corporate office of Crowley, Bruce Love and his wife with tremendous insight into the local port issues.

Appetizers, served on small cocktail plates, were some sort of avocado, paella, sweet plantains, and flan. The avocado and paella were delectable, though the plantains were a little tough and unflavorful. Neither of us tried the flan.   In fact, we couldn't, as the Dollar fee only covered a 5 inch styrofoam saucer on which you were only entitle to one serving as you passed through the line and everything had to be on the same plate.  The idea of Flan creating its own arbitrary melange with the seafood Paella was simply too adventurous for either of us.

We were joined at the table by a few more folks and had a lovely time discussing Jacksonville history and development. Couples of varying ages filtered through the atrium to enjoy the preshow food and social time, two things not available inside the concert hall.  

At 7:15, we made our way to Jacoby Hall. The seating was general admission but surprisingly the hall was not full.  

Fabio: Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra Conductor and Music Director Fabio Mechetti discusses the Friday Fusion series and featured pieces April 9 at Jacoby Hall.

The concert began with Aaron Copland’s Three Latin American Sketches. The first piece, Estribillo, was intermittently sloppy and not the Symphony’s best work; the strings were never quite together. That changed for the second piece, Paisaje Mexicano. It was graceful and sweet and the trumpet was perfect. Danza de Jalisco closed out the Copland series in beautiful fashion. The Symphony had a chance to show off its mastery of the plucking technique known as pizzicato.  

Manuel de Falla’s ballet The Three-Cornered Hat was a fun piece that provided imagery of each of the characters in the story. Ernesto Lecuona’s Andalucia had a distinctly Afro Cuban sound, while Gitanerias was quiet and languid with a slow crescendo to the closing. La Comparsa, or Carnival Procession, was lively and reminiscent of a parade. The final piece from the Andalucia suite was Malaguena.  

Bandoneonist Peter Soave performs a solo in Astor Piazzolla’s Concerto for Bandoneon, String Orchestra and Percussion with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra on April 9.

After intermission, guest performer Peter Soave took the stage. Soave, a self-taught bandoneónist and classically trained accordionist, has studied Astor Piazzolla’s work for 30 years. Piazzolla was known for reinventing the tango and elevating the bandoneón, a member of the concertina family that gives tango music its essential sound.

“Tango is the language of Buenos Aires. It has emotion and vibration. The music will be played that way also,” Soave said in an interview prior to the concert.

“It’s not a sophisticated instrument; it’s simplistic,” Soave said of the bandoneón. “It’s a poor man’s instrument. Piazzolla made it into a concert instrument.”  

“The artist has to dress it up, bring the sound outside of it. The artist has to have a message,” Soave said.

Conductor and Music Director Fabio Mechetti, who is from Brazil, said “I’ve always had a soft spot for tango, and particularly Astor Piazzolla. He had a popular background, a tradition of tango. He made himself a sophisticated composer.” Mechetti called the bandoneón “an expressive, rich instrument,” but because of its humble roots as a folk instrument, “it has not made Carnegie Hall.”

The Symphony and Soave performed Piazzolla’s Concerto for Bandoneón, String Orchestra and Percussion, “Aconcagua.” The Allegro Marcato movement included a bass line that was reminiscent of a heart beat, so appropriate for tango dancing which requires such proximity that the dancers’ hearts could beat together.  

The second movement, the Moderato, captured the essence of Buenos Aires and the La Boca neighborhood, the barrio in which the tango dance and music developed. The Presto movement, however, seemed not to have been as well rehearsed as the other movements. The strings and Soave had moments out of synchronization that were not as meticulously played as the previous movements.  

What was impressive, though, was Soave’s performance without any sheet music.  Earlier in the week, Soave gave an Art Walk performance at The Carling as part of an outreach by OPUS, the Symphony’s young professionals group. There he performed three other Piazzolla pieces without sheet music – Chiquilín de Bachín, Decarissimo and Libertango – along with his wife, Mady, who also plays accordion.

The Symphony ended the evening with three shorter pieces by Piazzolla, all arranged by Mechetti. Spring in Buenos Aires was a perfect selection for the Jacksonville spring evening, because it evoked strongly the imagery of flowers blossoming and insects and birds shaking off the cold of winter.  

Of the composer, Soave said, “Piazzolla’s music is like a virus. Once it enters your being, your body, your soul, it’s hard to expel.” And of his instrument, “it touches the emotions of all people who allow themselves to hear it.”

Art Walk 17: Peter Soave concludes a piece on the bandoneon during the April Art Walk at the Carling apartment building.

Mechetti invited patrons to gather in the atrium after the performance, to speak with musicians and the guest artist. That is another facet of the Fusion series, to bring the evening to a gentle close.

“Afterwards the feeling among many is they want to linger around a bit and not have to rush out, just to wait in line to get out of the garage. These are simple ways to enhance the evening, and people are responding well to it,” Witkowski said. “The musicians like the opportunity to meet and chat with audience members, as they’re able to relax when the performance is over. It’s really becoming the norm for any culturally oriented event, to build an atmosphere that is pleasant, accessible, relaxed and fun.”

The evening was a gem. Perhaps the only unfortunate thing is that so few people were able to witness the magic of the Symphony and the Latin music.

Art Walk: Peter Soave plays the bandoneon at Art Walk on April 7 while his wife, Mady, plays the accordion

By Beth Slater (and Stephen Dare)