by Steven Pisano
El Dia de los Muertos (“The Day of the Dead”) is a Latin American holiday when the dead are remembered a time to celebrate the lives of loved ones past. So it was appropriate that the Celebrate Mexico Now! Festival asked Mexican conductor Alondra de la Parra to bring her Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas (POA) to perform at Town Hall on November 1.
Although this concert was a one-off - the POA was indefinitely suspended in 2011 - Ms. de la Parra was clearly overjoyed to be standing on the podium in front of the orchestra she created a decade ago to champion the music of Latin American composers, despite years of guest conducting orchestras around the world. And the musicians in the orchestra clearly loved being back together with her. How could you tell? Most orchestras do not smile this much! They played their instruments with great physicality, the violinists almost rising en masse out of their seats as they bowed their strings, like a flock of crows flying out of a wheat field. Weighing in at almost half the size of the New York Philharmonic, the POA packed a pound-for-pound sonic punch that filled Town Hall with a full, rich, and thrilling sound.
The orchestra performed music mostly by Mexican composers, such as Arturo Marquez (“Danzon No. 2”) and Jose Pablo Moncayo (“Huapango”). The one exception was a stirring and eerily menacing piece about Buenos Aires, “Tangazo,” by famed Argentinian tango composer Astor Piazzolla. The orchestra's performance was strong enough that one openly wondered if it might soon perform again on a regular basis. Ms. de la Parra is currently under consideration to lead the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, so if she is successful, that may need to wait.