Mexican Journeys Music Festival, 2002

Washington Post - Joe McLellan, June 3, 2002

The Pan American Symphony Orchestra, a community orchestra that plays at a professional level, has made for itself a small but solid place in Washington's musical life, specializing in music of Latin America. This is a growth field, not only because the local Hispanic population is expanding but also because the musical life of our southern neighbors has a depth and richness that we have hardly begun to grasp.

Saturday evening at the Lisner Auditorium, the PASO and conductor Sergio Alessandro Buslje launched the musical portion of a festival titled "Mexican Journeys 2002" with a program of orchestral works by Mexican composers, plus the "Concierto Andaluz" of Spanish composer Joaquin Rodrigo. Two of the composers on the program, Jose Elizondo and Arturo Marquez, were present to accept the warm applause for the world premieres of works commissioned by the PASO. The orchestra not only played with impressive skill but clearly enjoyed itself at a level seldom seen in professional orchestras.

Marquez played the piano in the premiere of his bright, folk-flavored Danzon No. 7 and in his Danzon No.2, which was heard as an encore. Mexican folklore is also a primary element in Elizondo's music. "La Leyenda del Quetzal y la Serpiente," which had its premiere, was inspired by an Aztec myth.

Rodrigo's Concierto, for four guitars and orchestra, using Andalusian folk motifs, was the centerpiece of the program and its most substantial work. The Aurora Guitar Quartet, a young and very proficient ensemble, made its first appearance with an orchestra in this work. Its four members, hailing from Japan, Cuba and Columbia, Maryland, play together with an intuitive coordination. Buslje effectively handled the tricky challenge of balancing four guitars with a large orchestra.