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Latin music: Salsa, merengue, and samba rhythms come to the concert hall

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"The incorporation of Latin-based music into the classical world is long overdue. It represents one of the freshest and most promising trends on the music scene today," writes Carol Reynolds, music history professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, in an e-mail.

"Orchestras are tapping new audiences that are thirsty for the vibrant blending of Latin themes with traditional classical-based forms," she says, adding that classical music thrived when it told the ongoing story of Western culture, but if it ignores a new rising cultural narrative, it becomes a museum piece. "Arts organizations who recognize and incorporate Hispanic culture are both at the cutting edge and ensuring their own future," she says.

Perhaps nowhere is this aggressive push to usher the sounds of the entire hemisphere into the recital space more evident than in Los Angeles. This season's arrival of Venezuela's superstar conductor, Gustavo Dudamel, has ignited a love affair with tonalities from south of the US border. This desire to broaden the symphonic palette expresses what the young maestro calls "one American music," from Hudson Bay to Tierra del Fuego. "In our modern history we separate the music of North and South America," says Mr. Dudamel, but he adds, it's not true. "It is very important to have an America with no division, no South America, no North America but one America, one music, one life," he said at a press conference.

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