South American Sounds to take over SPAC stage, August 9th

Ready to dance? Friday, August 9th is going to be a night out on the town at a tango club highlighted by some of the highest quality South American music ever written. Led by Miguel Harth-Bedoya, a Peruvian conductor making his first SPAC appearance, the program opens with Márquez’s Danzón No. 2, a sensual and intimate piece that opens with percussion and clarinet before swelling to include the whole orchestra. It’s the perfect seductive opening to a fiery night. It’s going to be hard not to dance in your seat once the basses finally enter with their percussive and hypnotic bass line.

Miguel Harth-Bedoya, conductor

The next piece brings us from Mexico to Argentina with Alberto Ginastera’s Harp Concerto. This piece is a Philadelphian classic, having been premiered by the orchestra in 1965 under Eugene Ormandy. The piece is considered “Neo-Expressionism,” which if we’re being frank means it’s a little weird. But it’s also gorgeous and nationalistic. Think the lush melodic lines of Ravel mixed with the dissonance and texture of early Stravinsky along with distinctive mid-century flair. It’s a different listening experience, however still gorgeous when you allow yourself to lean into the moments of dissonance and confusion. Solo harpist Elizabeth Hainen is considered one of classical music’s greatest harp ambassadors. Hainen’s tone is “unusual” and “silky” and she has performed around the world with programs showcasing the diversity and virtuoisity of her modern day instrument. The opportunity to hear a true harp concerto, much less with one of the world’s premiere orchestras, is rare and definitely not to be missed!

If you like tango, you know Piazzolla. This legendary composer brought Argentine dance and music to the popular ear throughout the 20th century, with his pieces characterized by their rich lyrical lines and often cheeky chromatic ornamentations. Tangazo opens with a creeping bass line before the upper strings join in. The melody begins with melancholic chromatic harmonies resolving into almost traditional romantic moments before diving into the tango style so recognizable by listeners today. Pretty much everything by Piazzolla is easy to fall in love with, and this piece is no exception. Expect it to mystify and take your breath away.

Finally, the Philadelphia will end with Jimmy López: Perú Negro (SPAC premiere) released in 2015. This orchestral album opens in Bernstein-esque style with its intensity, noise, tonal and modal melodies based off of Afro-Peruvian music. Much like Peru, the piece is wild, intense, and artistic. Moments of extreme darkness and exquisite beauty are placed next to and often on top of one another creating a rich tapestry telling a complex story that is unafraid of the extremes. Although not as strictly danceable as the other pieces, it is a gorgeous piece of artwork by a fairly young but successful composer.

Fittingly, the night at SPAC will end at the Freihoffer’s Jazz bar featuring Alta Havana, a Cuban band created by Grammy-nominated Jorge Gómez. Gómez is a Cuban native who left Cuba, eventually making it the United States where he started Tiempo Libre, the first authentic all-Cuban timba band in the country. The Jazz Bar is a great way to see these world-class musicians in an intimate setting, both for the quality of their work and the joy of it. There’s always dancing, drinks in the historic refurbished bar, and great company. Following the South American themed concert, it seems especially appropriate to end your night with some jazz (and perhaps tequila).

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