YAKIMA, Wash. -- The centerpiece of the Yakima Symphony Orchestra’s Saturday program, “South of the Border,” is a nod to the global reach of musical influences highlighted by this year’s season theme, “A Musical Voyage Around the World.”
Astor Piazzolla was born in Argentina, grew up in New York City, studied music formally in Argentina and Europe and ultimately became famous through his incorporation of jazz and classical elements into what he called the “New Tango” — uniquely Argentinian yet highly personal in style. His “Four Seasons of Buenos Aires” began as four independent pieces for his tango ensemble, with certain structural and melodic elements that make reference to Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.”
This weekend’s program features an arrangement adapted to Vivaldi’s instrumentation — string orchestra with violin soloist — performed by one of the premier violinists in the country, Philadelphia Orchestra Concertmaster David Kim.
Surrounding this masterwork are a variety of gems celebrating the many colors and influences of Latin American music within the traditional orchestral repertoire, including a suite of four dances by another Argentinian, Alberto Ginastera. These orchestral dances were written around the same time that Aaron Copland was creating a similarly iconic symphonic picture of the American West, and they incorporate folkloric elements to evoke Argentine country life on the ranch.
Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos, like Piazzolla with Vivaldi, paid a uniquely Latin American tribute to a European Baroque composer in his series of works titled “Bachianas Brasileiras,” using techniques and customs from Bach’s time to shape musical ideas from distinctly Brazilian sources. YSO will perform a string orchestra version of the “Aria” from the fifth in this series. Demonstrating the growing influence of Latin American musical ideas on the rest of the world is American composer George Gershwin’s “Cuban Overture,” composed after a brief visit to Havana in the early 1930s and incorporating Cuban rhythms and percussion.
With a nod back to YSO’s season-opening celebration of Mexico in September, and to the participation of the Yakima-Morelia Sister City Association in our current “Voyage of the Monarch” collaboration, this weekend’s program also includes Mexican classics “Huapango” and “Sones de Mariachi.”
• David Rogers is executive director of the Yakima Symphony Orchestra. Email him at email@example.com or call 509-248-1414.