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October 22, 2000

Guitarists strum up success
Festival features Cuban composer, additional talents

The guitar world enjoyed a love fest Friday night when Cuba’s Leo Brouwer, the most revered living composer for the instrument, conducted his own “Toronto” Concerto and other works for the Southwest Guitar Festival. Travis Park United Methodist Church was nearly filled with about 1,000 listeners, including locals and registrants for the Guitar Foundation of America’s international convention, which ran concurrently with the festival.

Conducting a San Antonio Symphony chamber orchestra, Brouwer opened with music from Mexico – Silvestre Revueltas’ “Homenaje a F. García Lorca” and Manuel Ponce’s “Concierto del Sur,” with guitar soloist Gonzalo Salazar. Brazilian guitarist and composer Egberto Gismonti was represented by “Sert¢es e Veredas I” for strings.

The finale was Brouwer’s Concerto No. 4, composed for John Williams and first performed in Toronto. The soloist here was the remarkable Ricardo Cobo. Brouwer began his career as a nationalist, then followed the European avant-garde of the ’50s and ’60s, and finally, tiring of hermetic modernism, settled into an attractive, individual romanticism, the style of this concerto. Two traits unite all of Brouwer’s styles – a highly fluid form of rhythmic complexity, recalling the African influence on Cuban music, and generosity of spirit.

This is music by a man who has discovered wonderful sounds and rhythms and is eager to share them with his friends. Though craft and virtuosity and intellect undergird every bar, the music comes across as natural, joyous and humane.

The “Toronto” Concerto is notable for Brouwer’s wonderful way of combining the colors of the guitar and the instruments of the orchestra; Brouwer painted as a young man, and this is painterly music. Cobo’s performance, too, was characterized by generosity of spirit, to say nothing of knockout virtuosity. His playing was extrovert, lyrical, rhythmically alive. Every line knew where it was going. His tone had a deep gloss and brilliant highlights. Salazar’s patrician style and elegant technique were well suited to Ponce’s concerto. The Revueltas piece desperately needed more rehearsal, but Gismonti’s, a sort of Brazilian hoedown, came off well.
Memo: MUSIC. Section: Metro / South Texas
Edition: Metro Page: 3B Record Number: 515213
Copyright 2000 San Antonio Express-News

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