Review: Latin Fiesta – Marquez, Montero & de Falla with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra brought some dazzling sunshine to Portsmouth Guildhall with their Latin Fiesta concert. Conductor Carlos Prieto shimmied on his podium as he coaxed smiles and foot-tapping from a delighted audience. The BSO, who can be pretty serious at times, cast aside their grey garb and played as if wearing shorts, shades and sombreros. There were new, younger players who were obviously loving the occasion. Marquez’s Danzon is a challenge to keep together because the rhythmic basis is constantly changing but Prieto’s incisive beat was unwavering. Some of the brass and woodwind solos were too restrained, needing a little more cojones.

A BSO masterstroke was to appoint Gabriela Montero as Artist in Residence. Here is one of the most outstanding musicians of her generation: a fine pianist, an exceptional composer and a great improviser. As a composer, she combines the exciting, urgent rhythms of her native Latin America with a western classical tradition – a bit like a meal of chilli and chips – but with much more class. After playing her fiendishly difficult concerto, we were served a rare treat – an improvisation which encompassed blues, ragtime, harmonies from Debussy and opera. The lady in front of me said “worth the ticket price just for that”. She was right.

And then there was more sunshine from de Falla (whose famous ballet score is also known as the Tricorn). The commitment from the orchestra was outstanding, loving every minute of it and playing their hearts out. A truly wonderful, enjoyable evening.

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