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REVIEW: Phil maestro launches Spanish invasion for the new year
"Disney in Concert," conducted by Thomas Wilson with vocalists Candice Nicole, Whitney Claire Kaufman, Andrew Johnson, Aaron Phillips
When: 8 p.m. Jan.12
Where: Pikes Peak Center, 190 S. Cascade Ave.
Tickets: $19-$59; 520-7469, pikespeakcenter.com
Something Else: Caballé-Domenech and his musical cohorts return to the Iberian peninsula on April 13-14 with "Gardens of Spain"
Led by the incisive baton of Colorado Springs Philharmonic music director Josep Caballé-Domenech, Spain has once again launched a mission to conquer the New World. And judging from the results of Monday night's concert, the usual suspects (George Gershwin and his cronies) have forever lost their control of the last night of the year.
Caballé-Domenech has already proved his value to us through his relentless and effective efforts to improve our most valued cultural asset. Now he shares his musical soul with us. The New Year's Eve concert, "En Fuego" (on fire), came to us in two parts and all in Spanish. Poised at the starting gate, the orchestra burst out with an effervescent reading of Emmanuel Chabrier's "España." This was joyous music and the conductor's quick tempo slighted none of the Frenchman's elegant celebration of the Spanish musical landscape. The tone was set for the evening.
Next, mezzo soprano Karin Mushegain, who was dressed in a gorgeous, blazing red Mediterranean-inspired gown, launched into what must have been the Springs premiere of Xavier Montsalvatge's "Cinco canciones negras (Five black songs)." It was magic. The composer's score was pure musical passion and the players sounded as if they, too, had grown up within this musical tradition.
Mushegain was the most pleasant surprise of the evening. The American captured all of the sensuality and bite of Spanish sensibility with rich voice and infectious theatricality. We can only hope that we might see her here again on the symphonic, recital or operatic stage.
The only issue with this and her other vocal offerings of the evening was the choice to use microphone amplification for what seemed to my ears to be a voice more than capable of filling the hall. This led to some distracting reverberations and in the program's second half some actual distortion. After all, the biggest treat of going to the symphony is hearing music in its most essential form: a pure and natural acoustic.
The rest of part one came from the pen of Spain's 20th century master: Manuel de Falla. Added to this always riveting music was dancer Julia Chacon, who demanded attention as she created flamenco-inspired choreography and attitude for orchestral excerpts from the composer's "La vida breve" and "The Three-Cornered Hat." I left for intermission hoping that our Spanish maestro would, in future seasons, bring us complete ballets from Falla. The orchestra showed a real affinity for this expression.
The second half of the concert featured composers I doubt many were familiar with. We were transported to the world of Zarzuela -- or Spanish operetta. Gone was the depth and orchestral complexity of the pre-intermission composers. In its place was unabashed fun and relentless energy, which was sometimes stylistically repetitive.
For the orchestra, it was a test of physical endurance and artistic concentration: This was all new music for them. Vocalist Mushegain beautifully sashayed her way through a myriad of characters and vocal challenges. Dancer Chacon worked hard at finding ways to fit into a context not always favorable to her art form. Caballé-Domenech proudly overwhelmed us with the musical traditions of his homeland.
For the audience, it was just fun that was capped by thousands of balloons raining down upon us during an evening-ending performance of "Auld Lang Syne."