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NMSO concert review: Ramirez, ``Missa Criolla,'' May 19, 2005

The review below appeared in the Albuquerque Journal of May 22, 2005.

Cultural center ends season on high note

by Floyd E. Vásquez

The National Hispanic Cultural Center's inaugural season in the Roy E. Disney Performing Arts Center has been auspicious, wonderful, exciting, and informative. The Fiesta de las America Series, brainchild of NHCC musical director Javier Lorenzo, has been nothing short of astounding.

The highlight remains the world-class production of ``María de Buenos Aires.''

The musical offerings have ranged from full and chamber orchestra concerts, concertos, lively dance and folk rhythms from Spain, Africa, the Caribbean, the familiar ``south of the border'' fare (extending thousands of miles southward almost to the South Pole). The variety of new instruments and sounds has been a revelation. This is reminiscent, for many of us lucky enough to have lived it, of the beginnings of the now-famous Santa Fe Opera. Fifty years later it is even as fresh and marvelous.

One can only hope that this similarly promising NHCC series will continue to enrich the New Mexico and national arts scene.

The season finale concluded on Thursday night with Maestro Lorenzo's continuing journey through diverse idioms of Latin music. We have listened to, among many others, Spanish boleros, flamenco, beloved Mexican favorites, cumbias, tangos, all manner of rhythms, folk and favorite songs and ballads, and dances. All of the music shares the same basic purpose: to communicate to us peoples, places, colors, customs, and lives far beyond our usual musical experiences.

The original and still the finest of the folk Masses, Missa Criolla by Ariel Ramírez, comes straight from church liturgy. It is a setting of the Ordinary of the Roman Catholic Mass, sung in Spanish. This setting differs from the settings of Palestrina, Bach, Mozart, et al. The principal differences are that this Mass features Argentine, Creole and Bolivian folk dance rhythms, accompanied by authentic instruments. The similarities are that this Mass has the same deeply moving religious prayers and jubilant praises.

What a coup to mix this folk music idiom with the beautiful New Mexico Symphony Chorus, expertly prepared by Roger Melone (who unfortunately was not called on to the stage to receive well-deserved applause). The choir adjusted from its normal sophisticated symphonic sound to worshipful and serene religious moods. Yet the choir rocked fearlessly with participation in the complex dance rhythms. The choir was ably accompanied by Maribeth Gunning, NMSO pianist.

A talented group of imported Argentine professional folk musicians whose music is also central to the Mass were featured soloists throughout. This excellent group performed the first half of the concert. Francisco (Pancho) Navarro, charango and voice; Enrique Sánchez, guitar and voice; Sylvia Sánchez, voice and percussion; and Hugo Lopez, percussionist, opened the concert with delightful traditional songs and folk dances from Mexico, Colombia, Peru, bolivia and Argentina. The response from the grateful audience was enthusiastic and spontaneous.

Next: NMSO concert review: Wagner/Liszt, Apr. 8, 2005
See also: New Mexico Symphony Orchestra Chorus: schedule and reviews, 1995–2011
Previous: NMSO concert review: Stravinsky and del Aguila, October 28, 2005
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John W. Shipman,
Last updated: 2005/06/01 23:58:45