Long Beach Symphony at the Terrace Theater, Long Beach Performing Arts Center
DAVID J BROWN
Relatively brief though it was, and scored for far smaller forces than any of the subsequent pieces, in some ways I was more impressed by the first item in the LBSO's “Spanish Night with Pepe Romero” program than anything that followed. This was the dance suite in three movements, Ritmo Jondo (“Flamenco rhythm”) by Carlos Surinach, Barcelona-born but a naturalized US citizen for the latter half of his long life (1915-1997).
Scored in this version (there are two others with different instrumentation) for just trumpet, clarinet, timpani, side drum without snares, xylophone, and (crucially) three hand-clappers, the arrestingly gaunt timbres of Ritmo Jondo and its fascinating overlapping rhythms projected an effect of something alien and strangely bleak, even dangerous – an effect enhanced by the vibrant flamenco dancing of Arleen Hurtado, clad in black, not to mention the atmospheric deep red lighting effects with which the Terrace Theater stage was bathed. As a novice in the areas of Spanish and Catalan music, I have no idea how authentic the whole package really was, but I was hooked.
I have to say that with the Surinach still fresh in my ears, it made for the wrong kind of jolt to move to the comfortable sounds of Chabrier’s familiar rhapsody España, which despite the French composer’s well-attested first-hand research into many aspects of Spanish music on a long tour of the country, projects an urbanely Parisian tourist’s-ear-view of it (which isn’t to say that España is not thoroughly enjoyable and indelibly memorable on its own terms). I’m sorry to say Rimsky-Korsakov’s equally familiar Capriccio espagnol Op.34, which opened the second half, again had me wishing I was listening instead to something authentically Spanish (ideally, perhaps, by the country’s greatest composer, Manuel de Falla).
The LBSO, though down to Classical orchestra size with reduced strings and a handful of wind, brass, and percussion, produced a big sound for the dramatic, rhapsodic opening to the first movement (with orchestration by Romero’s colleague Federico Torroba), and the introduction to the second movement was similarly striking, featuring a plangent English horn that to these Brit ears immediately recalled, of all composers, Frederick Delius. Once these preludes were done, however, the solo role dominated, Señor Romero’s guitar articulating with dazzling clarity the full spectrum of flamenco style.
Long Beach Symphony Orchestra, Terrace Theater, Saturday, February 3, 2017, 8 p.m.
Photos: Carlos Surinach: F. Plaut; Eckart Preu: Courtesy LBSO; Pepe Romero: Courtesy LBSO; Celedonio Romero: Discogs; Bizet: Prabook; Arleen Hurtado: Flamenco LA.