Saturday, June 9, 2007

Conductor Alondra de la Parra

Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas
June 12, 2007

Rose Theater, Jazz at Lincoln Center
33 West 60th Street

Alondra de la Parra
At age 26, Alondra de la Parra has already achieved what more established conductors only dream of: she leads an orchestra–the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas (POA)–which gives young instrumentalists an opportunity to play music by composers from this hemisphere. De la Parra founded POA three years ago; now, to wrap up POA’s 2007 season, a June 12 gala concert will be presented at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater that includes the world premiere of a work by 25-year-old Mexican composer Martin Capella–winner of the first annual POA Young Composers Competition–and guest artist Paquito d’Rivera, the renowned Cuban saxophonist/clarinetist who performs two of his own works.

The busy young conductor sat down for a recent interview to discuss the upcoming concert and her vision for POA.

KF: In three short years, you’ve gone from dreaming about your own orchestra to leading a gala concert at Lincoln Center. Can you tell us how it happened?
AD: We’ve all been working really hard at developing the orchestra, and everything is moving really fast. Basically, just last year we had our New York debut in Town Hall, then we had a couple of small concerts, and ended our season at Alice Tully Hall. Our Rose Theater gala is our last concert this year (following three earlier concerts). We’ve been able to structure our orchestra slowly, and now we have a Board of Directors and a real office, and of course we need to keep fund-raising like every other orchestra does, so we are having this gala.

KF: Can you elaborate on the upcoming gala?

AD: I love that we’re playing at the Rose Theater–it’s new, it’s great, and it’s fun. It fits in very well with our profile, which is young and energetic. Our concerts always feature masterpieces from the continent, and in this case it’s Alberto Ginastera’s “Estancia Suite” and Silvestre Revueltas’ “Sensemaya” which are the major, established pieces The theme of the concert is Cuba and Mexico, and music that’s written about previous cultures like the Mayas. The new piece by Martin Capella, “Ixbalanque,” is based on a Mayan story. Paquito d’Rivera is Cuban, and we’re doing his pieces, “Fantasias Messiaenicas” and “Memories-Danzon.” Gershwin’s “Cuban Overture” fits perfectly because it’s Cuban music from New York. It’s a fun program: we’ll have the experimental, the new, the old and a little bit of everything in between.

KF: How did you hook up with the legendary Paquito d’Rivera?

AD: I’ve always looked up to him as a musician–he’s a great figure in Latin music, in concert music and in jazz. It was always my dream to one day perform with him, and a long time ago I met him at a concert at the Blue Note and asked him to teach me clarinet. And he said that his son would teach me, which he did–and his son has become a good friend and was my clarinet teacher for a while. Paquito was very nice when we approached him for this concert. We talked about the orchestra and about this project, and he immediately wanted to contribute.

KF: You are premiering a work by Martin Capella who was the winner of your first composition competition. How did that come about?
AD: When I started this orchestra, our mission was to give opportunities to young composers to have their works performed. I started getting demos and scores from many composers, some of which we’ve programmed, and some we haven’t gotten to yet. I decided to be fair and create a competition so that the quality of the programming is always exciting and good. We want to reach out to composers who are from this continent. For our first competition, we had 26 entries from 11 different countries, so it was a truly fair way of reaching out to composers. Our panel of distinguished judges chose Capella’s work unanimously. He’s 25 years old, is from Mexico City, and studies composition there. For a composer, there’s nothing like hearing your composition being performed–he’s coming for the concert and will be available for rehearsals, which will help us too. Another part of the prize–which is a surprise for him–is that he will be commissioned to write a chamber piece that will be part of our upcoming performance competition, so even more of his music will be played.

KF: Has creating your own orchestra been more work than you expected?

AD: It’s been three years since I first started thinking about this orchestra. Personally, my conducting career apart from POA has gone very well–I was part of the Gustav Mahler competition in Germany, which was an amazing experience, and I’m conducting the Simon Bolivar Orchestra in Venezuela, and I’m also conducting a concert in Mexico. And none of these concerts are related to Latin music, so it’s not as if I am doing only one thing. So I really can’t complain about anything.

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