Music From The Inca Trail

It is very rare to hear the Chicago Symphony Orchestra perform an entire concert of Latin American inspired works.  A more typical concert from an orchestra as renowned as the CSO is usually comprised of traditional repertoire from Mozart, Beethoven or Brahms with perhaps a little something “different” or contemporary to mix things up a bit.

Last weekend I experienced a concert comprised of inspired works from Caminos del Inka or The Inca Trail, a project organized by Peruvian native Miguel Barth-Bedoya.  Bedoya also served as guest conductor for the evening, stepping away from conducting the Fort Worth Symphony for the weekend.  When I think of the Inca Empire the immediate reaction is to remember the images of Machu Picchu that I experienced a few years ago from a museum exhibit I attended at the Field Museum.  However, the Inca Empire stretched across a broad landscape, and the trails from Machu Picchu thread out from Peru touching Ecuador, Columbia, Bolivia, Chile and Northern Argentina.

The music performed over the weekend was a mix of both old and contemporary works that represented the regions where the Inca trails touch.  The concert included:

  • El cóndor pasa (The Condor Passes) by Daniel Alomía Robles (Peru, 1913)
  • Coleccíon de música virreinal (Collection of Vice-Royal Music) by Baltasar Martinez y Compañón, collector (Peru, ca. 1783)
  • Responsorio by Diego Luzuriaga (Ecuador, 2000)
  • Illapa, Tone Poem for Flute and Orchestra by Gabriela Lena Frank
  • Mariel for Cello and Orchestra by Osvaldo Golijov (Argentina, 2007)
  • Tres aires chilenos by Enrique Soro (Chile, 1942)
  • Fiesta! by Jimmy Lopéz

Overall, the concert was a great experience having walked out of Symphony Center having just heard a collection of pieces that I had never heard of prior to that evening.  I really enjoy going to a concert with pieces that are completely different or something I have never heard before.  I relish concerts like that.

The mood was immediately set as a mutlimedia presentation, which continued throughout the concert, began with images of Machu Picchu as the orchestra performed an arrangement of El cóndor pasa, a well-known Pervian song.  Ultimately, the works from Golijov, Luzuriago, and Lopéz were my favorites as they each were unique, rich with rhythm, inspired with folk melodies with phenomenal orchestration.  Other works represented the lighter spirit of Latin America.

The Spanish inspired Coleccíon de música virreinal were composed during the colonial period of Peru.  Unlike European traditions such as Baroque or Classical, I have long considered early music of the Americas as colonial. Yes, there are elements that are without a doubt European inspired, but the music from North, South and Central America include music inspired from the indigenous which is vastly different from Europe.  During the concert, Bedoya mentioned the Coleccíon was written during the same period as Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. As I listened to the set of dances, it was easy to hear compositional differences.

Illapa and Responsorio encapsulated the mysteriousness of the region evoking the spirit of the Andean jungle.  More heavily inspired by Latin rhythms, folk melodies and instrumentation combined with contemporary compositional practices, Illapa and Responsorio are truly amazing pieces and represent the Andean region nicely.  Responsrio combined rich folk melody driven by Ecuadorian rhythm.  However, Illapa evoked the a moment in the life from the powerful weather God from the ancient South American Andean culture.

On the other hand, Mariel and Fiesta! were latin inspired and combined with more modern sounds and styles.  Golijov describes the inspiration of Mariel as he captured the “short instant before grief, in which one learns of the sudden death of friend who was full of life.”  Fiesta! was one of those pieces that was filled with magic and a great end to a spectatcular concert with only one small complaint – I wished it was longer.

All in all, this was a great start of what I hope to be a promising CSO season for my wife and I.  I have 5 more concerts to go.  I truly hope that Botaya will consider recording all of the works that have been compiled for the Caminos del Inka.  After visiting the website, I learned there are many other pieces that are included in this collection.  If Caminos del Inka visits your area in the near future, I recommend you go and enjoy a concert filled with a splendid and rarely performed collection of Latin American works.

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