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His program at the Cultural Institute of Mexico under the auspices of the Embassy Series on Saturday featured transcriptions he commissioned of dance movements by Miguel Bernal-Jimenez and Silvestre Revueltas; the lovely "Cancion en el Puerto" by Joaquin Gutierrez Heras, dedicated to Prieto and to the evening's accompanist, Edison Quintana; and Piazzolla's "Le Grand Tango." He also played two movements of a Kodaly cello sonata, which, far from offering a contrast in idiom, served to point out how similar in intensity and in spirit Latino and Hungarian peasant dances can be.
Prieto was at his best in the more lyrical passages. He plays with a lovely, generous tone that gave the middle "Lentamente" movement of the Revueltas and the Heras "Cancion" an almost human singing quality that never sounded forced or premeditated. The music of much of the rest of the program was of the insistent, foot-stomping variety, long on rhythmic energy, double-stops and hard-edged bowing and short on opportunities for subtlety. It was here that Prieto's playing took on moments of scrubbiness and frantic activity that seemed occasioned more by technical challenges than by artistic decisions.
Prieto introduced each piece with a short, delightful and informative story of its origins and place in the repertoire, and pianist Quintana, a longtime collaborator, accompanied with a splendid sense of style and of ensemble.
-- Joan Reinthaler
Commemorating the 400th anniversary of Spain's most famous novel at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater on Saturday night, the Post-Classical Ensemble presented "Celebrating Don Quixote," a charming collection of music inspired by literature's quixotic hero. The 28-piece orchestra, led by music director Angel Gil-Ordonez, featured baritone Chris Pedro Trakas in Jacques Ibert's "Songs for Don Quichotte" and Ravel's "Don Quichotte Dulcinee."
Trakas's elegant and sweetly expressive voice conveyed Don Quixote's musings in song and narrated his adventures in excerpts from Miguel de Cervantes's text, read in English translation. During "Chanson Boire," of Ravel's cycle, Trakas displayed sardonic humor while gliding through challenging vocal passages.
Manuel de Falla's 30-minute opera "El Retablo de Maese Pedro" ("Master Peter's Puppet Show") is based on an episode from the book in which Don Quixote and his sidekick, Sancho, take in a puppet show, and calls for an all-puppet cast. In collaboration with Wesleyan University's theater department and New York's Puppetsweat Theater, the ensemble gave the opera a lively performance. As life-size and hand-held puppets acted out each scene, the singing came from a trio of humans. Soprano Awet Andemicael sang the role of Master Peter's apprentice with pointed clarity, not once stumbling over the torrent of words packed into each beat. Trakas reprised his role as Don Quixote, while tenor Peter Burroughs, as Master Peter, interjected drollery into his poignant arias.
-- Grace Jean