(Y)our Man in (San Juan)
For the past week I’ve been in residence at the 2010 2010 Interamerican Festival for the Arts This is doubly significant for me: for one thing, and most obviously, it’s an excellent professional opportunity providing a very fine orchestral performance (and a second performance of an orchestral work at that!). For another, I was born and raised in Puerto Rico. Although I have been active in the U.S. and have lived most of my life there since the age of 16, Puerto Rico is still my home in a very real way and being performed by my hometown band is a source of great pride.
I don’t want to toot my own horn here, however. PRSO Music Director Maximiano Valdes , beginning his second full season in this post, is determined to turn this festival into a major contemporary music festival for the Caribbean and Latin America, and, thus, the programming this past week has consisted primarily of new music with tonight’s performance by the PRSO consisting entirely of music by living composers, all of whom will be in attendance. Besides my own 2007 work, “Colorfields,” we are hearing premieres of works by Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble founder David Stock and University of Puerto Rico professor and festival co-director Carlos Vazquez, who presents a guitar concerto that pays tribute to the folk music of Panama, for whose principal symphony orchestra the work was written. The most impressive composer by far on this program, however, is the Argentinian/Spanish composer Fabian Panisello . Panisello, who was trained in Argentina and throughout Europe, is the director of the Plural Ensemble in Madrid and has racked up an impressive list of accomplishments in Europe but remains largely unknown in the U.S. (although upcoming residencies at UC Davis and Stanford should hopefully begin to change this). His music, at times spectral, at times straightforwardly tonal, is always impressive, always evocative and often horrifying in its power and transcendent in its beauty. More than having the chance to build a relationship with my hometown band and to hear a large piece of mine again, it has been encountering Panisello’s music that has made the biggest impact on me this week.
So, two things to watch out for: Fabian Panisello and his music and the Interamerican Festival for the Arts, which, if Maestro Valdez is succesful in his endeavors (and his panache, ambition and musicianship suggest to me that he will be) will become the major venue for contemporary music in the Caribbean and Latin America, and a bridge between composers and interpreters throughout the Americas.