Reviews & Quotes

Review: Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra by Elmer Bernstein

May 9, 2002
Rosario Symphony Orchestra
Juan Rodríguez, Conductor
Sergio Puccini, Guitar

Last Thursday the El Circulo Theatre shined, as in its better days, with a full house. It was not the habitual concert crowd. Without a doubt, how comforting it was to listen to the untimed applause in an overflowing theatre.

The program introduced Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra by Elmer Bernstein accompanied by the Orquesta Sinfonica Provincial de Rosario with Sergio Puccini as guitar soloist.

It is very interesting to confront a new repertory for the guitar, since it always falls in the extremely passable works of Sor, Tarrrega, Villa Lobos and, naturally, the proliferation of versions of the Concert of Aranjuez. For that reason, a new concerto for guitar introduced in our city is a very good omen.

That this is an Elmer Bernstein Concerto is also a very interesting fact, because we are talking about the composer of sound track for mythical movies such as “The Ten Commandments” (1956) and “The Magnificent Seven” (1960), not to mention more than 200 scores for the same medium.

The composer tries to obtain specific colors and textures, to create visual and evocative music that emphasizes scenes and situations on the screen. In this sense, Elmer Bernstein is a paradigm, the last link that takes us directly to the golden era of Hollywood, when the musicians of Central Europe, running from Nazism, invented, in the California Gold Coast, the music for the cinema and which language, with small modifications, is still in force.

Many of the characteristics above noted apply to the Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra that we heard last Thursday night. It is a visual Concerto with melodies, which to the eyes of the listeners, are instantly translated into paintings. It is a work fittingly organized in its formal course and complimented with a great sense of expression with moments of intense beauty.

The composer plays with climates that go from the lyric to rapid rhythmic games. The second movement was the most interesting. It started with subterraneous sounds from the muted brass, and then the guitar broke the grav e tone with timid brush strokes, the cords singing a beautiful and intimate melody, interrupted only by the disturbing and harsh sound of the bassoon. From the strings in pizzicato flowed the rhythm of the guitar, which is the most pleasant moment for the soloist in the whole concert.

The final culminating moment was embellished by a frenetic rhythm of Latin dance, which took us immediately to the Salon Mexico, work of Aaron Copland, mentor of the young Elmer Bernstein, when he started his career.

Sergio Puccini, an interpreter of great trajectory, owner of a great sound and good technical control, clear diction and precise fingering, ably accomplished his role.

One should also note the good work of the strings of the Orquesta Sinfonica Provincial de Rosario. In general, the orchestra sounded acceptable, although we should point out that the orchestra is suffering the consequences of a prolonged absence of a titled director, and in this case the orchestra suffers. Rodriguez, the conductor, finds himself with a great responsibility: to bring the sound and the quality that it enjoyed in the past.

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