ADDA Simfonica’s second concert of the season something of a rarity, in that it featured just two works, neither of which would have been familiar even to the music devotees in attendance. The fact that this now superb orchestra visited this unfamiliar territory so easily and with such quality of communication is testament to the fact that the band is now an established, mature musical force. And all of this was accomplished under a guest conductor, Manuel Hernandez-Silva, who was directing the orchestra for the first time.
The first half featured the viola of Isabel Villanueva in the Cantos do Ordesa by Anton García Abril. The composer’s music may well not be widely known inside Spain, let alone outside and this particular work, essentially an episodic viola concerto, illustrated the composer’s highly individual style.
Composed in 2012, Cantos de Ordesa is a perfect example of García Abril’s style. The expected elements of twentieth century Spanish music are all present, but Garcia Abril often seems to cut phrases short, leaving them unfinished to merge into different impressions, the whole apparently a compressed, almost impressionistic succession of experiences, stitched together like a jump cut film. Thus, while the material may often suggest a familiarity, the way episodes are juxtaposed evokes a dream-like experience of a familiar reality. The overall effect seems to be similar to a collage made from familiar images that have been cut together in a wholly unexpected way. At least this is how the orchestral writing this piece comes across.
The solo part, admirably played by Isabell Villanueva, is another matter, however, in that it is a truly demanding virtuoso amplification and exploration of the orchestral material. The solo part inhabits the same landscapes as the orchestra, but in a far more complex and exploratory way, rendering the overall effect both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time, but sometimes also suggesting that the soloist is competing with the orchestral forces. Throughout, the sense of music for film is never far from the composer’s conception, which is no surprise since García Abril did compose much music in the genre. Antonio Garcia Abril died in March 2021. Isabella Villanueva offered one short encore, Nana from Manuel de Falla’s Popular Songs.
The other work on the program was Kallinikov’s first symphony. First performed in 1897, this is a large work in very much the style of Borodin. The composer uses folk melodies alongside sophisticated orchestration and occasional rhythmic invention, though there is always the sensation that the composer preferred the music of his past rather than that of his contemporaries. There is no overt modernism here, at least none of the type that Richard Strauss or Gustav Mahler might have used at around the same time.
The overall effect of the symphony, however, is thoroughly satisfying musical experience. This is not at work which will shock, nor will it lift an audience to a frenzy of excitement. But it will lead its listeners along a path that is the musical equivalent of a novel with a linear plot, where the focus lies in what happens to the characters rather than a psychological analysis of their motives, more Turgenev than Dostoyevsky.
The concert presented what was probably the first experience of the music of either composer for the majority of the audience. Its success was testament to the vastness and quality of the repertoire and it ought to suggest to other artistic directors that risks are there to be taken, and taken successfully.