Tangy Tangos & Delightful de Falla

Washington Post - Arthur R. Smith, April 25, 1997

Tangos, classic and otherwise, along with a big helping of de Falla, made up Wednesday night's enjoyable concert by the Pan American Symphony Orchestra at the Organization of American States. The group, led by Sergio Buslje, is an energetic community orchestra with a particular mission to bring Latin American music to Washington audiences. It has succeeded well at this task over the past few seasons, and its concerts, if not always the most polished, continue to offer a lot of charm and interesting programming.

Buslje and the orchestra were joined by virtuoso bandoneon player Raul Jaurena for the first half, with a selection of tangos by Emilio Balcarce, Astor Piazzolla and others. The bandoneon, a type of Argentine accordion, is a wonderfully expressive instrument in Jaurena's hands, and the program contrasted Piazzolla's imaginative take on the tango with other more conservative styles in an illuminating way.

The second half of the program was given over to Manuel de Falla's "El amor brujo," for orchestra and mezzo-soprano. The group, joined by soloist Ana Castrello, worked at a higher level in this piece: The rhythms were tighter, and the orchestra sounded much clearer. There were still too many balance problems -- occasionally it seemed as if the treble and bass sections were on completely different wavelengths -- but the musicmaking was energetic and Castrello succeeded in providing a sultry Gypsy feel to the wonderful vocal lines in the rich piece.