Negrón’s tenure as Dallas Symphony resident composer is ending on an upbeat

Fri May 05, 2023 at 4:56 pm
By J. Robin Coffelt
Singer Lido Pimienta and Dallas Symphony Orchestra conductor Fabio Luisi performing “Arquitecta” by DSO conductor in residence Angélica Negrón. Photo/DSO

Angélica Negrón is currently completing her final season as composer-in-residence with the Dallas Symphony, and this weekend’s concerts have her leaving us with verve. Her “Arquitecta” would likely have been an absolute mystery to Beethoven and Brahms, the other two composers on the weekend’s program, but it’s absolutely what contemporary music needs to keep it exciting and appealing: energy and inspiration from non-European cultural traditions. 

Music Director Fabio Luisi is making good on his promise to add more diversity to the DSO’s offerings, too: When he conducts, the “diversity” might only amount to ten minutes out of eighty or ninety, as is the case this weekend, but it’s there. 

Negrón is a Puerto Rican composer whose offbeat, purple-haired persona prepares us for the quirkiness and unexpected delights of her music. “Arquitecta,” a world premiere by the DSO, was composed specifically to be performed by singer Lido Pimienta. Pimienta’s flamboyant stage presence on Thursday night at Meyerson Symphony Center — a fluffy pink confection of a dress, baby blue platform boots, and a penchant for interpretive dance when not singing — presaged some of the surprises to come. Her amplified voice is distinctive, more pop star than opera diva. 

“Arquitecta” features a percussion-heavy orchestration; in addition to a variety of more conventional instruments, the DSO’s percussion section, led by George Nickson, used pots and pans to emphasize the domestic focus of the piece. A voiceover recording, introduced in about the last third of the ten-minute work, features the voices of women and children. Balance wasn’t quite right for the voiceover on Thursday night, though — it was loud enough to be startling, initially. It also would have been great to have supertitles, as well as the Spanish to English translation in the program book. This kind of music is polarizing for audiences, but give listeners something interesting to see and something compelling to hear, as Negrón is doing, and all but the most diehard traditionalists will eventually come around. 

Speaking of compelling to hear: pianist Francesco Piemontesi brought subtlety and great beauty to almost all of his performance of Beethoven’s Concerto No. 3 in C minor. There was magic until the last few bars of the last movement, when everyone, orchestra and soloist alike, got a little excited and considerably too loud. 

Piemontesi’s approach is certainly not classical performance practice, but it’s restrained, precise, and nuanced. Parts of the first movement cadenza were positively tender. Luisi and the orchestra responded in kind, with more precision than has often been the case with the relatively new stage arrangement (first and second violins facing each other and basses at the back left), which has heretofore had unfortunate effects on ensemble. Tasteful, appealing, and exciting playing is just what is needed with a relative warhorse such as Beethoven 3. This is a pianist worth hearing, should you get a chance.

The DSO and Luisi are completing their cycle of Brahms symphony recordings this weekend with the Symphony No. 4 in E minor. This, like the other three Brahms symphonies, will be released on the orchestra’s own DSO Live label. Luisi, conducting without score or baton, has clear and thought-out ideas about this work. Some phrasing, in the second movement especially, tipped over from being thoughtful into being hyper-fastidious and plodding. The rollicking, jolly third movement more than made up for any deficiencies earlier, though. The horns are sounding better than they have in a while, and woodwind solos were uniformly excellent. The performance may have been more competent than thrilling, but competence is nothing to sneeze at. 

The program repeats Friday and Saturday and 7:30 p.m.; Sunday at 3:00 p.m..

One Response to “Negrón’s tenure as Dallas Symphony resident composer is ending on an upbeat”

  1. Posted May 06, 2023 at 8:23 am by Dr. Ángel Olivares

    Angélica Negrón is an extraordinary artist and composer. The best of the neoclassical world of music.

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