The Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas has come a long way from its beginnings as a student project at the Manhattan School of Music. Now an internationally recognized ensemble of young professionals, POA makes its recording debut with “Mi Alma Mexicana (My Mexican Soul),” a two-CD set featuring 125 years of Mexican classical music. It’s this week’s Full Rotation.
Alondra de la Parra is the 29-year-old Mexican-born founder and music director of the POA. For this collection, she spent nearly two years researching little-known scores by Mexican composers to perform for the Mexican bicentennial, which arrives next month. Most of the pieces feature a hybrid style that blends folkloric melodies and rhythms with 20th-century orchestrations (Copland and Gershwin borrowed from this nationalistic sound in works like El Salon Mexico and the Cuban Overture, respectively).
Among the highlights is José Moncayo's Huapango, which is virtually a national anthem in Mexico, and given an exhilarating performance here. Arturo Marquez's Danzon 2 starts slowly and gathers energy, finally blossoming into a kaleidoscopic, highly syncopated dance, a bit like a Mexican version of Ravel’s La Valse. Manuel Ponce's Concierto del Sur, written for the guitarist Andres Segovia, is beautifully played by Pablo Sainz Villegas. Other highlights include Silvestre Revueltas' dissonant shocker, Sensemaya, and Federico Ibarra's brief yet compelling Las antesalas del sueno.
Not every selection is a potboiler. The earliest piece on the program, Gustavo Campa's 1890 Melodie No. 1 for Violin and Orchestra, brings to mind the simplicity of a Schubert song, and violinist Daniel Andai delivers an expressive performance. No less enjoyable is the delicate Intermezzo from Atzimba, an opera by the 19th-century composer Ricardo Castro.
Full Rotation can be heard throughout this week on WQXR.