Sunday, May 6, 2012

Central European Classical Tradition in Latin America

From the Fall of 1981 until the Summer of '87, I worked as a full time orchestral musician in Mexico, starting with the Orquesta Filarmonica de la Ciudad de Mexico (OFCM), moving to the Orquesta Sinfonica del Estado de Mexico (OSEM), and finishing out that part of my professional career in the Orquesta Sinfonica de Xalapa (OSX).. I also spent 3 summers from 1988-1990 playing with the Mineria Festival Orchestra in Mexico City. These were wonderful years of rich music making and discovery. I loved the experience. It's my pleasure to bring some of that knowledge and enthusiasm to the weekly program, Itinerarios, every Sunday evening on KPAC and KTXI. Yes, I did have the opportunity while in Mexico to discover and play some of the songs of the Mexican popular songbook, and I even played several all-Mariachi programs with the famous Mariachi Vargas.

Convento y Parroquia de San Bernardino in Xochimilco
But much to the surprise of the curious, who still ask from time to time what the Mexican symphony orchestras play, the week to week business of the orchestras, whether the Mexico City Philharmonic, or the Bellas Artes Chamber Orchestra, is Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Bach, Brahms and Schumann. And, emphatically NO, it isn't elitism for Mexican orchestras to focus on this repertory. All of the orchestras play so-called runouts to various locales outside their principal concert halls. These concerts, often free, attract a cross-section of the Mexican population. It's the power of the music, speaking readily to the heart and soul, which makes classical music so popular. This explains why a public of students, housekeepers and shopkeepers will stand in line for hours to listen to Beethoven's 9th Symphony in the San Bernardino Church in Xochimilco. I saw it myself. I was there, and flabbergasted, though I soon discovered this to be normal, and not an anomaly.

For this reason, the fundamental nature of the core repertory of classical music, this week's edition of Itinerarios will feature a strictly European program of Brahms, Mozart, Schubert, Schumann, Haydn, Beethoven and Dvorak. It will be the performances which will provide the requisite Latin American roots, with the playing of the Orquesta Filarmonica de la UNAM, pianist Jorge Federico Osorio, Martha Argerich, Gabriela Montero, and the Orquesta Filarmonica de la Ciudad de Mexico.

Listen to Itinerarios Sunday evening at 7 o'clock on KPAC-San Antonio (88.3 FM) or online at Click "Listen Now", then "KPAC" to enjoy all the programming, in real time.

-James Baker-

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