This year’s season has a distinctly French twist for the Colombian National Symphonic Orchestra, as María Laura Ordoñez finds out when she attends the launch of El Beso Francés.
El Beso Francés, is more than fitting name for this year’s orchestral season, not just because of the much vaunted Franco-Colombia year, but also because the orchestra has been lead by French conductor Olivier Grangean since he took charge in January of 2016.
As Grangean told the press who had gathered in the illustrious Teatro Colòn for the launch, “‘El Beso Francés’ is a cultural, diplomatic and political event, and is a result of the desire to develop a musical project as a symbol of fraternity between our countries.” His enthusiasm was palpable as he told the gathered journalists that he would do his best to describe the exceptional events that the musicians have in store for us.
The season will see a host of first-rate contemporary French soloists visiting the city, bringing what Grangean calls, “a small French season inside the big season.”
Two well-known orchestra conductors (Léo Warynski and Geoffroy Jourdain) will shape the French essence of this event, having already played a part in selecting the top notch soloists from each of their specialties.
The exquisite pianist Francois Dumont kicked off the venture on January 26, performing Ravel and Stravinsky at the Teatro Colòn. Clarinetist Romain Guyot will be coaxing velvet sounds from his instrument in March, and the month of May will see a flurry of individual performances from harpist Agnès Clément, trombonist Michel Becquet and flautist Juliette Hurel. The final act of the kiss will be renowned violinist Virginie Robilliard, who will play in June.
Latin American orchestral power
The season is not all about France-Colombia though. Olivier Grangean is effusive about the possibilities for combining Latin American flavours and orchestral music.
“We have several local artists who have accomplished a fusion between the heart of Latin American culture and the composition of a symphonic orchestra […] I think it’s important for the audience to appreciate another image of orchestras, rather than the stereotype of them only playing Mozart or Beethoven.”
Paseo Latino, coming up on February 23 at the Auditorio Fabio Lozano, is the first of three events celebrating this exciting mix. Lead by Colombian conductor Eduardo Carrizosa (former artistic director of the orchestra), the ensemble will perform pieces from all corners of the continent. The instrumental trio Palos y Cuerdas, who have been awarded two recording productions by the national Ministry of Culture, will be adding another dimension to the performance by layering music from diverse sources such as jazz and traditional Colombian sounds.
Then, on August 18 Eduardo Carrizosa takes us to the llanos, with Llanuras, a special performance by harpist Edmar Castañeda at the Teatro Cafam de bellas Artes. The bogotano has a reputation for successfully mixing modern jazz with the harmony, colours and vibrations of the Colombian harp – especially in the style of the magnificent Colombian plains.
Lastly on October 12, Grangean will once again take the helm as he conducts Babel. The show is compromised of several pieces, one of which is by the Colombian composer Luis Antonio Escobar. Another is an opera inspired by a Scottish girl and the last is Kabbalah, written by the Brazilian composer Marlos Nobre.
The French director will share the stage with clarinet soloist Christopher Jepperson from the United States, everything as a result of a special set-up as a way to celebrate Columbus Day.
If all of this were not enough, on October 26, for the very first time, the National Symphonic Orchestra is going to perform a jazz repertoire. En Tempo de Jazz, will include pieces from the American composers Leonard Bernstein and Duke Ellington, along with others written by Russian Dmitri Shostakovich and Colombian Juan Carlos Valencia.
Claudia Franco, executive director of the orchestra, joined Grangean in presenting the details of the year ahead, and stressed that this would be the most thoroughly prepared season of the last couple of years.
She feels confident and grateful to Olivier for the style with which he interprets the music, and also the way that he understands the Colombian idiosyncrasies and preferences of local audiences.
As a former musician (ok, maybe I shouldn’t be comparing myself to these virtuosos after playing the cello for a couple of years), but I can guarantee that there’s a host of treats in store.
El Beso Francés will pave the way for orchestral music to permeate Colombian culture and this is a unique opportunity to be part of that evolution.
By María Laura Ordoñez