Caminos: trek through musical landscapes

  • Jun 27, 2011
[caption id="attachment_5685" align="aligncenter" width="480" caption="Miguel Harth-Bedoya conducts Piazzolas Fuga y Misterio against projected images of tango dancers"][/caption] From the Eugene Register-Guard Monday June 27 By Mark Samples Using the ancient Incan network of trails as a guide, the Caminos del Inka took its Oregon Bach Festival audience on a musical and educational journey through works by South American composers of Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Colombia and Argentina. Playing to a full house on Friday, the chamber orchestra offered selections of mostly 20th- and 21st-century cutting-edge compositions, many of which incorporate or are inspired by traditional repertoires, instruments or performance styles. Throughout the evening, the music was accompanied by pictorial slide shows of South American scenery, arts and crafts, dancers and musicians. Taking turns introducing each piece were conductors Andrés Franco and Miguel Harth-Bedoya, former conductor of the Eugene Symphony and an audience favorite. Before three of the pieces, we were treated to introductory remarks from the composers themselves, through prerecorded video. These brief educational insights were greatly appreciated, since the large majority of these selections probably were unfamiliar to many in the audience. For me, the artistic high points of the program were two outstanding pieces by Argentinian composers. Osvaldo Golijov’s “Tenebrae,” for string quartet, opened the program’s second half. Golijov, whose “Azul” gloriously concluded the previous night’s season opener, extended his reputation at the festival for eliciting transcendent musical experiences. Careful listeners in the audience for both concerts may have recognized the evocative rising melody in the second movement as the very same played by Yo-Yo Ma in “Azul.” (Golijov incorporated the “Tenebrae” melody into the later “Azul.”) It was a hair-prickling moment of connection, reinforcing for me Golijov’s view that music can profoundly unite human experience. “Fuga y Misterio,” by Argentinian tango legend Ástor Piazzolla, began with a brilliant fugue that had the orchestra playing at full tilt. They seemed unstoppable — not even missing a beat when, in an especially vigorous section, cellist Jesús Castro-Balbi snapped a string. The concert began with buoyant performances of “El Condor Pasa,” a traditional Peruvian tune made familiar to U.S. audiences by folk-rockers Simon and Garfunkel in the 1960s, and three traditional instrumental pieces transcribed in the 18th century by Baltasar Martínez Compañón. We remained in Peru for “Huayno,” a duet by Armando Guevara Ochoa. The duet was for violin and flute, played by Michael Shih and Marisela Sager, respectively. They struck up a lively syncopated dialogue whose spirited conclusion drew “oohs” from the audience. Next we traveled north to Ecuador for “Responsorio.” The music was based on Ecuadorian polyrhythms and traditional melodies, weaved together into a complex sonic texture invoking the ancient Andean practice of tapestry making. The ensemble’s trio of percussionists shone here and throughout the evening. Our journey continued to Columbia for Adolfo Mejías’s charming “Canción, Torbellino y Marcha.” Peruvian Jimmy Lopez’s energetic “Fiesta!” incorporated pop elements, including a double-time techno beat in the final movement. The performance was not without some hiccups, both in the performances and the timing of the multimedia presentation. But overall the performance and format were a delight, and the audience was supportive and appreciative. Mark Samples is a musicologist and adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon.