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MUSIC REVIEW

Symphony Plays Up Latin Rhythms and Dance

November 23, 1998|JOSEF WOODARD

JoAnn Falletta, the ever-engaging conductor of the Long Beach Symphony, was more kinetic than usual on the podium Saturday at the Terrace Theater in Long Beach. It could have been the inherently more dance-fitted rhythms of the Latin program, or a sympathetic response to the dancers who lent their visual panache to half the concert--but whatever the reason, gyrations seemed in order, as well as an abiding intelligence.

It was one of those programs that, on the surface, aims to please a broader audience than usual, with the frenetically festive opener of Jose Pablo Moncayo's "Huapango" and perennial favorite Ravel's "Bolero," featuring gifted dancers of Concierto Flamenco. "Bolero" is still one of music's best-loved slow-mo crescendo studies, and a potential sexual anthem, thanks to Blake Edwards and Bo Derek.

But there were deeper musical lessons imparted here, as well, with Latin American music too rarely heard on this side of the border. Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera's Estancia: Ballet Suite, Opus 8 was the evening's other dance feature, for the conspicuously talented Mario and Lorenza Marine and Julia and Ricardo Berardi. But, really, the music is the thing, rugged and tender by turns, played with the right balance of gusto and delicacy.

The late Argentine nuevo tango pioneer Astor Piazzolla was paid lip service, with an arrangement by Jorge Calandrelli of "Oblivion," its bittersweet melody taken on soprano saxophone by Douglas Masek. In this case, the orchestra serves as little more than window dressing.

The best came last, with Silvestre Revueltas' "La Noche de los Mayas," a film score easily adapted to the concert stage. The late Mexican Revueltas (1899-1940) remains one of this extended region's composers deserving wider recognition. As with much of his music, this piece bridges ideas from Europe and Mexico--both high and vernacular culture--and with pre-Columbian echoes. Played with an obvious zeal and precision, it was something to dance about, in one's head.

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