OXNARD — Departing, with purpose, from tradition Saturday night at the Oxnard Civic Auditorium, the Ventura County Symphony stepped boldly into the generally neglected world of concert music from Mexico. Music director Boris Brott loaned his podium to noted Mexican conductor Fernando Lozano, a public acknowledgment of a substantial musical tradition from within our own time zone.
Lozano began, aptly, with music by Carlos Chavez, the mighty catalyst who evangelized to the music world about Mexican music in the '20s and '30s. Chavez's organ-to-orchestra arrangement of Buxtehude's "Chacona" opened with its sturdy web of variations. But it was his "Sinfonia India," written in 1935, that best showed the composer's intent to marry a Western orchestral language with things indigenously Mexican--folk melodies intricately woven and extra-orchestra percussion beds.
Though he, like many, was touched by Chavez's tutelage and energy, composer Silvestre Revueltas was of a more adventurous, Modernist stripe, as heard in the Stravinsky-esque harmonic and structural tensions of "Redes," a film score from 1935. Its mercurial moods and folk-music Cubism emerged with concert-stage integrity intact, performed potently here.
Opening the second half was a world premiere of the impressive, impressionistic "El Amanecer en el Desierto de Altar," by Los Angeles composer, radio personality Enrique Gonzalez Medina. Brooding, shimmering passages pass, cloud-like, like emotions observed in a half-waking state.
Jose Pablo Moncayo's "Tierra de Temporal" and the festive closer, "Huapango"--performed with the gifted Oxnard-based folkloric group, Conjunto Hueyapan--brought the concert to a jubilant conclusion.
One could quibble that, apart from Medina's piece, the focus of this Mexican overview favored palatable works now decades old. In the face of such a generous and spirited, equal-time occasion, though, quibbling was the last thing on our minds.