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MUSIC REVIEW

A rousing fifth of May

May 05, 2003|Chris Pasles | Times Staff Writer

Conductor Enrique Arturo Diemecke and the Long Beach Symphony offered a scintillating Cinco de Mayo concert Saturday at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach.

The program consisted of several unfamiliar treasures, a cherishable performance of Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez" and the premiere of Diemecke's "Libertad Bajo Palabra," commemorating the conflict that took place on May 5, 1862, when greatly outnumbered Mexican forces defeated French invaders.

Like Copland's "Lincoln Portrait," Diemecke's "Libertad" is scored for a narrator and orchestra, and also like Copland's work, Diemecke's 20-minute evocation of the Battle of Puebla and its historical significance has immediate popular and sophisticated appeal. It deserves repeated hearings. Museum director Gregorio Luke was the sympathetic narrator.

Luke also provided the spiffy narration (in Spanish) for Revueltas' jaunty and pithy "Reacuajo Paseador." Pepe Romero was the entrancing soloist in the Rodrigo concerto, best heard in small venues like this -- the auditorium seats 325 -- which allow details to emerge. Joan Elardo was the lovely English horn soloist in the second movement.

Many orchestra players had the chance to solo in Ginastera's ravishing "Variaciones Concertantes," a 25-minute work in which hatchet rhythm dances interrupt hauntingly lyrical sections. The program opened with Chavez's evocation of the Aztec god of love, music and harmony, "Xochipilli."

By contrast, in their usual much larger home at the Terrace Theater on April 26, Diemecke led the orchestra in solid but nonilluminating readings of Liszt's Les Preludes and Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

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