Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Marin Alsop in Sao Paulo: Match Made in Heaven?

Marin Alsop

It's early, yet, to pass judgement on the marriage of conductor Marin Alsop and her new band in Sao Paulo, Brazil, the Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra (OSESP). After all, the orchestra's previous relationship, with John Neschling, ended in a bruising power struggle. This after Neschling helped raise the orchestra's international profile to not only best orchestra in Latin America, but one of the best in the world. The many recordings made during the Neschling tenure confirm an orchestra of the first rank. Neschling was followed by a very brief fling with Yan Pascal Tortelier. This yielded only one recording I know of, a disc of compositions by Florent Schmitt, which has gotten rave reviews. (It's on its way to my mailbox as I am writing this.)

Many predict that the Alsop-OSESP tandem will be a great one, and I can certainly see their logic. After all, as James Jolly remarks in the August, 2012, issue of Gramophone magazine, "Alsop's flare for colour and rhythm makes this repertoire a perfect fit." The reference, of course, is to Latin-American music in general, and specifically to the music of Villa-Lobos and the other prominent musical voices of Brazil. But as all who know the reputation of the OSESP will attest, this is an orchestra which is as fluent in European repertoire as it is in the symphonies of Guarnieri. This makes Alsop's first recording project with the orchestra oh-so-intriguing - the complete symphonies of Prokofiev (for Alsop's label, Naxos). I can't wait to share these with the listeners to Itinerarios (Sunday evenings at 7pm on KPAC and KTXI).

We all get a wonderful opportunity for a sneak preview of Alsop and the Brazilians on Wednesday afternoon, August 15, at 1:30 pm CT. Listen online at http://performancetoday.publicradio.org/, as the orchestra takes center stage at the BBC Proms. The audio player should appear 30 minutes prior to the beginning of the broadcast. I hope all who are interested will join me in the virtual concert hall for what should be a wonderful experience.

Sala Sao Paulo
Wednesday's concert, part of the BBC Proms from Royal Albert Hall in London, was originally to have been Alsop and her "other" band, the Baltimore Symphony. Sadly, the Baltimore Symphony management felt it could not afford to send their orchestra abroad during these financially stressed times. Enter the Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra. Not only is the Brazilian economy one of the more vibrant in the world right now, but the Sao Paulo Orchestra is also enjoying immense popularity in its home hall, Sala Sao Paulo, a former train terminal transformed by architect Nelson Dupre into a world class acoustic. So popular are the orchestra's concerts that the orchestra's management has had to cap season ticket sales at 70% of the Sala Sao Paulo's capacity of 1498 seats. According to Marcelo Lopes, the orchestra's executive director, "that's really the highest we can go because we must have some tickets for single buyers. If we didn't do this we'd sell every ticket before the season even started!"

On Wednesday's program, from Royal Albert Hall, will be Dvorak's New World Symphony, music by Copland, Joan Tower, Ginastera, and Villa-Lobos' Momoprecóce.
-James Baker

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