Friday, 8 April 2016

Article published in Manchester Evening News 8 April 2016

IT will soon be five years since the BBC Philharmonic’s chief conductor, Juanjo Mena, took up his post. He’s conducting their latest series concert at the Bridgewater Hall on 16 April, and it’s very much focussed on the theme of the whole season – Leonard Bernstein, his music, his enthusiasms and his mentors.

It opens with Bernstein’s own music for West Side Story and includes his Chichester Psalms alongside Stravinsky’s Symphony Of Psalms. The CBSO Youth Chorus and Hallé Youth Choir are taking part.

There’s also the harp concerto by Ginastera, the Argentinian composer whose centenary Juanjo Mena is celebrating in big way this year, with several concert appearances and a series of recordings with the Phil – the first CD of his orchestral works is out already.

Soloist for the Ginastera is Marie-Pierre Langlamet, harpist of the Berlin Philharmonic – which is a happy circumstance, as maestro Mena is making his debut with the Philharmoniker next month, and the Ginastera harp concerto is in the programmes.

Juanjo Mena says: ‘Ginastera is the Argentine equivalent of Copland, himself a supporter of Ginastera’s music while he was in exile from Argentina. While Copland painted the open prairies, Ginastera focused on the pampas.’

He chose the concerto for Berlin, alongside music by Falla and Debussy’s Iberia, the Spanish-flavoured music he is known for. ‘I’m trying to put Ginastera in the place he deserves,’ he says. ‘In the UK people often think Spanish and Latin music is easy and it goes fast – but there’s a flamenco term ‘cante jondo’, which means something very deep, as if you are crying inside. I tried to show this in rehearsal by demonstrating our way of dancing: it’s not Fred Astaire, it’s something that comes from the centre of the body.’

He’s proud to be taking the Phil to Spain (again) this year: they are opening the Granada Festival, at the Alhambra Palace, in June. ‘It’s good for the Philharmonic to be there and to be close to the country,’ he says  – ‘I love Spain.’

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