Toward the end of the stunning virtuosic finale of Arturo Marquez’s “Autumn Concerto,” Venezuela-born trumpeter Pacho Flores took a breath to blurt out “Gracias Arturo!”
Moments later he turned toward Tucson Symphony Orchestra Concertmaster Lauren Roth and blew a couple quick bursts that sounded like a kiss. We’re not positive, but it looked like Roth blushed.
As the audience of nearly 1,700 stood on its feet applauding and showering Flores with shouts of “Bravo,” TSO Music Director José Luis Gomez slipped backstage and returned with Marquez.
It's not often that an audience gets to meet the man behind the music, but Marquez made the trip from Mexico last weekend as part of the festivities surrounding the American premiere of his concerto.
Tucson is one of four orchestras around the world that co-commissioned Marquez to write the work for Flores, the internationally celebrated trumpet player. The premiere was the focal point of last weekend's “Fresh Music, Copland and More" concerts that included a moving multimedia tribute to the orchestra on its 90th anniversary to a soundtrack of Copland's "Our Town" suite and an invigorating performance of Bernstein's beastly Overture to "Candide."
"Autumn Concerto" represents Mexican classical music in all its wonderful colors and textures, from the opening percussion and trumpet mariachi rumble to the soulful nods to Mexican folk tunes and American jazz.
Flores brought along four trumpets for the work, switching with each movement, and his articulation on each was so crisp that he stood out as a distinctive voice even when the strings soared and the percussion rumbled. In the blistering finale where Marquez puts the biggest spotlight on the soloist, Flores made the virtuosic acrobatics look like a casual stroll on a sunny afternoon. His fingers danced along the valves as he blew out warm, muscular notes all without taking a breath for several minutes. Heck, we were winded just watching him.
The "Autumn Concerto" was one of two that Flores performed with the orchestra, which in itself is a rarity. Usually a soloist joins the orchestra for one piece and then performs a short encore. Flores started his night with Neruda's Trumpet Concerto for strings and trumpet, another first for the TSO which had never before programmed the piece.
Call the Neruda a tantalizing appetizer for Flores's main course, the Marquez. We got a glimpse of Flores's virtuosity and his musicality especially in the lush solo finale.
For an encore, Flores performed “Invierno Portenia” from Astor Piazzolla’s “Estanciones Portenas.”
Gomez and the orchestra started the concert with a spirited performance of Mozart’s plain-out fun and flirty Overture to “The Abduction from the Seraglio." Also on the program: Copland's popular Four Dance Episodes from "Rodeo."