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Mexico's National Symphony dazzles under a sure baton

October 25, 2002|Daniel Cariaga | Times Staff Writer

Outrageously active on the podium, Enrique Arturo Diemecke turns his body into a living description of musical motion. He bends his knees, swivels his hips, swings from side to side, crouches lion-like, then pounces. He is a picture of concentrated conductorial energy, proud and precise, never frenzied.

His orchestra responds with its full resources. It plays splendidly -- for all the excitement emanating from the podium and occupying the stage, one is aware at all times of abundant control and discipline. In size, Diemecke may be a bantamweight, but in substance, he is a heavyweight.

His orchestra this week, and through a U.S. tour ending Nov. 9, is the National Symphony Orchestra of Mexico, which Diemecke has headed since 1990 (his other orchestral post, since 2001, has been as music director of the Long Beach Symphony). At the Orange County Performing Arts Center's Segerstrom Hall on Wednesday night, it was enthusiastically received.

A showy program had something to do with that reception, but high musical accomplishment also explains it. This is a well-endowed and balanced ensemble, strong in all choirs and solo voices -- the horn section is particularly dazzling -- and tight in its musical responses to Diemecke's detailed leadership.

The climax came in Silvestre Revueltas' "La Noche de los Mayas," the suite compiled from the composer's film score of 1939 by Jose Limantour. The colorful work allowed these players to display the full panoply of their instrumental resources, from furious note-gathering to extended whispering melodic arches. Among other distinctive elements, one had to admire the controlled efforts of the 10-member percussion section in the heart-stopping final movement.

The entire evening was like that, from its opening in Astor Piazzolla's haunting and vibrant "Tangazo" through the familiar complexities of Leonard Bernstein's Symphonic Dances from "West Side Story."

At the end, the audience demanded, and got, three encores.

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