Andrés Orozco-Estrada, the Colombian conducting sensation who has imbued the Houston Symphony with new flair, started off 2017 with joyful, high-caliber performances. The distinctive interpretation of Gershwin’s An American in Paris was so vibrant and energetic, it earned an immediate standing ovation as did the performance of Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story.
The performance of the former was preceded by Onstage Insights with Andrés, a short music commentary in which the conductor shared his view that the diverse symphony mirrors society and is able to collaborate to achieve success. Audience members affirmed the idea with grateful applause. I wholeheartedly agree and appreciated the unifying message. It was perfectly appropriate for An American in Paris, a piece that celebrates the joy of discovering a city just as international as Houston.
The following weekend, the symphony nodded to music influenced by traditions from Latin America. The most recognizable of the pieces was Leonard Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story. While the symphony’s nuanced, sophisticated interpretation of most of the dances was laudable and moving, it did not seem completely able to embrace the flair in the Mambo to the degree that groups from other parts of the Americas have. Nevertheless, the audience was so pleased, the symphony was forced to perform an encore. It, too, was so excellent much of the audience didn’t want to leave. Visibly fatigued, the maestro smiled during the final ovation and with the last swish of his baton seemed to say “Stop clapping, please, go, you lovely people. We’ll be here next weekend.”
This audience member is quite happy to attend future performances, and I recommend the symphony experience even to non-classical music lovers.
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