The composer Carlos Chavez, who died in 1978, was an icon of Mexican music. He and Aaron Copland embarked on a joint venture in the 1930s to forge a stylistic interchange between their two cultures. At Chavez's invitation, Copland toured Mexico in 1932, and compositions such as "El Salon Mexico" were the result.
The Mexico-Philadelphia Ensemble, a chamber group of instrumentalist graduate students from the Curtis Institute of Music, gave a generous sampling Thursday of 20th-century Mexican works and another Latin-influenced piece of Copland's. Though Chavez's music was absent, his shadow loomed conspicuously over the Corcoran Gallery of Art concert, with two works by Chavez students Jose Pablo Moncayo and Blas Galindo Dimas. These members of the Group of Four once launched a campaign to acquaint audiences with contemporary Mexican music that incorporates indigenous instruments and melodies.
Under conductor Juan Carlos Lomonaco, the group performed Silvestre Revueltas's "8 x Radio," Moncayo's "Amatzinac" (with solo flutist Mimi Stillman) and "Homenaje a Cervantes," Rodolfo Halffter's Divertimento from his ballet "Don Lindo de Almeria," Dimas's "Poema de Neruda" and Copland's "Latin-American Sketches." The Revueltas and Halffter works tend to amble through a disparate landscape of semi-connected episodes brightened by the colorful melodies and visceral, asymmetric rhythms of Mexican folk culture. The ensemble found it difficult to overcome the piecemeal effect of this music, though solo passages demonstrated the admirable skills of individual players. The group played as a single instrument in the Copland. Stillman, a 17-year-old, starred in her ravishing account of the neo-romantic "Amatzinac."