Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
The eighth Inter-American Music Festival started with a bang Monday night at the Kennedy Center - with numerous bangs, in fact, as well as great, swooping cascades of string sound, pungent commentaries from the brass, the eerie, disembodied noise of a xylophone played with a violin bow and recorded contributions from a chorus of whales.
The music was all modern and composed in this hemisphere, and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra under Sergiu Commissiona played it brilliantly, with a superb contribution by Brazilian pianist Caio Pagana in the "Momoprecoce" of Heitor Villa-Lobos.
In terms of the freshness of the music and the sheer, dynamic vitality of the performance, this free concert was one of the most exciting I have heard in the Kennedy Center all this season.
The exuberant genius of Villa Lobos presides over this installment of the festival, with at least one of his works featured in each of its programs and a symposium on his music at noon today in the American Film Institute Theater.
Last night's program at the Kennedy Center, with Paula Seibel, soprano, and Mario Tavares conducting the Festival Orchestra, was devoted entirely to Villa-Lobos, including his best-known work, "Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5," and the first performance outside Brazil of his symphonic poem, "Genesis."
Tonight at the Kennedy Center, Jorge Mester will conduct the Louisville Orchestra, with guitarist Carlos Barbosa-Lima as soloist in the world premiere of a concerto by Francisco Mignone, and Thursday night the spotlight will shift to the Library of Congress for a concert by the New Music Ensemble. Premieres - world, national and Washington - will be abundant and, if the opening program is a fair sample, the music will be brilliant and excellently presented.
It would be hard to imagine a better beginning for such a festival than Monday night's performance. It opened with the premiere of Elie Siegmeister's Symphony No. 5 ("Visions of Time"), meditative music in which the composer's usual lyricism takes on a new cutting edge.
The Villa-Lobos "Momoprecoce" is something like a Brazilian answer to "Rhapsody in Blue": it demands a virtuoso orchestra and soloist, and it had both last night.
The highlight of the evening was "Nuances II" by Robert Hall Lewis, which opens with a fairly traditional dialogue between winds and strings but explores some very advanced experimental techniques in later movements, including the recorded sounds of whales integrated into the music's texture.
The program demanded brilliant playing throughout and received it in generous measure.During his years in Baltimore, Comissiona has brought his orchestra to a very impressive technical level, and the Concert Hall's acoustics showed it to fine advantage Monday night.