TAMPA — The Florida Orchestra didn't waste any time getting to a highlight of its Latin-themed concert that opened the 2009-10 masterworks season Friday night at Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. Music director Stefan Sanderling plunged the orchestra right into Mexican composer Arturo Marquez's Danzon No. 2, which combines inventive rhythms with glorious massed strings. It felt like Morsani Hall had been turned into a glamorous supper club with a great band playing for dancing.
As I listened to Danzon No. 2, from a series of pieces by Marquez based on music from Cuba and the Veracruz region of Mexico, I was thinking what an excellent introduction to orchestra music it was for young people: fast, rhythmically interesting and fun. Not incidentally, it has become a trademark of Venezuela's fabled Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra under conductor Gustavo Dudamel, the wunderkind making his debut this week as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
In de Falla's Spanish ballet El Amor de Brujo (Love Bewitched), contralto Jennifer Hines was the bewitcher, an opera singer with the slinky style of a chanteuse. The four songs scattered among the 10 movements are pitched low, and at times Hines was a little hard to hear over the busy orchestra. Still, her flamenco flair made a striking impression.
Guitarist Manuel Barrueco and bandoneon player Daniel Binelli were magnificent soloists in Astor Piazzolla's Double Concerto for Guitar and Bandoneon, a large and beautiful button accordion central to the melancholy sound of the Argentine tango (Piazzolla was a master of the instrument). The concerto, with a small orchestra of about 30 players, was an enchanting mix of classical precision and free-form jazz. As an encore, Barrueco and Binelli played a marvelous tribute to tango's roots in the whorehouse, Piazzolla's Bordel 1900.
The orchestra left the least compelling music for last, winding up the evening with Revueltas' La Noche de los Mayas (The Night of the Mayas), a suite drawn from his score to a 1939 Mexican movie. The four movements do include an impressive barrage of percussion, as well as a lovely little duet for flute and violin, but the patchwork effect of the work was typical of a movie score: You really do need the pictures that inspired the music.
John Fleming can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8716. He blogs on Critics Circle at blogs.tampabay.com/arts.