Cuban composer’s work has U.S. premier in Delaware

    Tomorrow night and again on Sunday afternoon the DSO will join with the Brasil Guitar Duo of Joao Luiz and Douglas Lora to perform and record three double guitar concerti. (photo courtesy of www.delawaresymphony.org)

    Tomorrow night and again on Sunday afternoon the DSO will join with the Brasil Guitar Duo of Joao Luiz and Douglas Lora to perform and record three double guitar concerti. (photo courtesy of www.delawaresymphony.org)

    History and music come togther this weekend during the Delaware Symphony Orchestra’s Classics Series at Sanford School in Hockessin.

    The Delaware Symphony Orchestra (DSO) will make history as well as music this weekend when it presents “Fantastic Guitars,” the third concert in its Classics Series at Sanford School’s Geipel Center in Hockessin.

    Tomorrow night and again on Sunday afternoon the DSO will join with the Brasil Guitar Duo of Joao Luiz and Douglas Lora to perform and record three double guitar concerti, including the U.S. premier of “The Book of Signs” by Cuban composer and cultural icon Leo Brouwer. The recording will be produced and distributed by Naxos, the world’s premier classical music label.

    The event marks the second time in a decade that the DSO will record works for guitars and orchestra for a commercial CD. The last effort, with the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, earned the DSO a 2010 Grammy nomination for best contemporary Latin American recording.

    Brouwer’s permission for the U.S. performance and recording of his “The Book of Signs” is a professional and cultural coup for the DSO, coming as it does at this historical period of improving relations between the U.S. and Cuba.

    “I think it’s going to send a message nationally and internationally and certainly regionally that the Delaware Symphony Orchestra is back and alive and well and doing great and exciting things,” said DSO Executive Director Alan Jordan. “And the timing is great. The president has been working on warming relations for a year and is going to Cuba next month, so we couldn’t be more on the cusp.”

    DSO Music Director David Amado sees the project as a rare opportunity to perform an important repertoire with two exceptional and celebrated musicians. “It’s a huge score for us,” he said. “These guys– Joao and Douglas– are fantastic. I mean what a joy to be able to do something like this with them.”

    All three works demonstrate the stylistic diversity of Latin music as well as the genre-crossing capability of the guitar, which is the national instrument of Brazil.

    Brouwer’s “The Book of Signs” scored for two guitars and string orchestra draws on the classical theme-and-variations form, lush Romantic melody and traditional Cuban song. Brouwer, who also composes music for film, even tosses in elements evocative of a movie soundtrack.

    “The concerto is quite long and requires a lot from the players,” said Luiz, who has been performing with partner Douglas Lora for more than 15 years. “It is very intense, not only in terms of notes but in terms of emotions.”

    The program will also feature works by Brazilian composers Paulo Bellinati and Egberto Gismonti.

    “The Bellinati takes its inspiration from the countryman of Brazil, the simplicity, the way the countryman expresses himself, like a lament, a serenade,” Luiz said.

    Gismonti’s one-movement “Seven Rings” is definitely urban. “It is very Brazilian, even more authentic Brazilian than the bossa nova,” Luiz explained. “It’s like Brazilian jazz. There’s an improvisational section that we use as a cadenza. It’s a great, lively piece.”

    The second half of the concert will return to this year’s theme of “The Season of the Bells,” featuring the sounds of The Bells of Remembrance, the collection of large, refurbished church bells that have toured the country in tribute to the victims of 9/11 yet make their home here in Delaware.

    Amado admits it was somewhat difficult finding a work that would at the same time be sufficiently different from the guitar concerti yet have some sort of connection – it would need to include a passage scored for bells.

    He settled on the “Symphonie fantastique,” that opium-fueled melodrama of love, obsession, betrayal and murder, by Hector Berlioz, himself a guitar player.

    “‘Symphonie fantastique’ takes what was once an abstract form (the symphony) that wasn’t supposed to tell a story at all but was meant to be listened to by sophisticated people with sophisticated ears and brains and is now basically telling a soap opera,” Amado explained. “It was beginning to blur the lines the way the guitar blurs the lines in terms of its ability to be equally at home in different genres.”

    Concert informationWhen: Friday, Feb. 26 at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday Feb. 28 at 2:00 p.m.Where: Geipel Center at Sanford School, 6900 Lancaster Pike, HockessinFor more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.delawaresymphony.org

    “The Book of Signs” Recording

    The total cost of the recording project is $71,000, $15,000 of which is being raised through a Kickstarter campaign. Those wishing to donate have until midnight, Sunday, March 6. The link can be found on the DSO’s Facebook page or visit www.kickstarter.com and enter “Delaware Symphony Orchestra” into the search box.

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