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29 June 2015

International Forum of New Music, Mexico

Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City (detail) Image: Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City (detail)  
© Xavier Quetzalcoatl Contreras Castillo CC BY-SA 3.0

Andrián Pertout reports from Mexico where his work Symphonie de guerre was recently performed by the National Symphony Orchestra of Mexico as part of the International Forum of New Music 'Manuel Enríquez'. The work has featured in concert programs by orchestras far and wide, from Australia to Vietnam, Israel, USA, Puerto Rico, Brazil and Pertout's country of birth, Chile.

The XXXVII Foro Internacional de Música Nueva 'Manuel Enríquez' 2015 represents the thirty-seventh edition of a festival named in honour of Mexican composer, violinist and pedagogue Manuel Enríquez Salazar (1926-1994). It is an annual international event organised by the National Coordination of Music and Opera that forms part of Mexico's National Institute of Fine Arts, and regarded as 'embracing all compositional tendencies, and of being a representative forum of the current panorama of music composition in Mexico and the rest of the world'.

This year, the festival was held from 22 May to 7 June in Mexico City and Morelia (Michoacán), and featured four principal Mexican symphony orchestras - Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de México, Orquesta Sinfónica del Estado de Michoacán, Orquesta Filarmónica 5 de Mayo and Orquesta Sinfónica de San Luis Potosí - as well as prominent local conductors José Luis Castillo, Miguel Salmon del Real, David Hernández Bretón, José Miramontes Zapata and José Areán, not to mention flautist and multidisciplinary artist Alejandro Escuer (founder of acclaimed Mexican ensemble Onix Ensamble) as well as many other performers. International guests included Scottish composer James Dillon, Graham MacKenzie (artistic director and chief executive of the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival) and David Dzubay (Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, Bloomington, Indiana). Music programmed in the festival also incorporated works by John Cage, Elliott Carter, Paul Hindemith, György Ligeti, Alvin Lucier, Toru Takemitsu and Christian Wolff.

The inaugural concert on Friday, 22 May featured the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de México (National Symphony Orchestra of Mexico) conducted by José Luis Castillo. It was held at the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts), which is an absolutely extraordinary building dreamed up in 1904 but not completed until 1934, due mainly to issues surrounding the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920). This building is today the most important cultural centre in the country and is situated in the beautiful historic centre of Mexico City. It features a neoclassical and art nouveau exterior, and an art deco interior adorned with murals by Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros, among others.

The first concert opened with Federico Ibarra Groth's (Mexico) Obertura para un Nuevo milenio (1993) and was followed by the Argentinian composer Ariel Hagman's Elegía, Fantasía (2011-2012) - an emotive work featuring the juxtaposition of piano soloist, narrator and orchestra, with the Romance poetry of Argentine poet Juan Gelman (1956-2016). During the interval Ariel Hagman and I conducted an interview with Dulce Huet Covarrubias for Radio UNAM (Radio Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México). Mexican composer Armando Luna's Elegía (1991) for orchestra and my work Symphonie de guerre (1. L'assaut sur la raison, 2. Bénédiction d'un conquérant, 2003-2004) for symphony orchestra concluded the concert. Something that continues to positively amuse me in Latin America is that at least forty-five minutes was then spent dealing with the queues of people requesting autographs and photographs at the end of the night - certainly an unknown phenomenon in Australia!

Incidentally, this latest performance of my Symphonie de guerre means that the work has now been performed in part or in whole by the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de México (Mexico City, Mexico), Vietnam National Symphony Orchestra (Hanoi, Vietnam), Orquesta Sinfónica de Chile (Santiago, Chile), Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra (Jerusalem, Israel), Orquesta Sinfónica de Puerto Rico (San Juan, Puerto Rico), Orquestra Petrobras Sinfônica (Rio de Janeiro, Brasil), Louisville Orchestra (Terre Haute, IN, USA), Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, and Canberra Youth Orchestra.

In the days that followed I attended many concerts, including some at the Salón de Recepciones, Museo Nacional de Arte (Reception Hall at the National Museum of Art). The Salón is incredibly stunning, and modelled on the splendour and grandness of the European salon of the 17th and 18th centuries, decorated with precious metal and crystal ornaments, and featuring murals inspired by themes relating to science, the arts, liberty, history, work and progress. It is a common practice throughout Latin America that chamber music concerts presented within a music festival program are generally all free (unlike the orchestral concerts in the concert halls). The International Forum of New Music was no exception, and to think that these 'new music' concerts were attended to full capacity is simply amazing. On every occasion it was simply not possible to obtain a 'free' ticket to any one of these concerts fifteen minutes prior to the event.

As well as attending festival events, I also utilised my time in Mexico City to present a lecture on my music at the Centro de Investigación y Estudios de la Música (CIEM), or Centre of Music Research and Studies at the invitation of Mexican composer José Julio Díaz Infante.

One must not overlook culinary culture, and two highlights of my trip included lunch at the Restaurante Azul y Oro in Coyoacan at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México where I enjoyed an incredible 'mole negro', the Mexican national dish. A mole is essentially a sauce, usually poured over poultry and made from 'chillies, dried or fresh, spices, herbs, vegetables or fruit, and thickened with seeds, nuts or corn masa'. According to the The Enciclopedia Gastronómica de México there are 37 varieties of moles from 21 states! Another gastronomic delight was Limosneros in Mexico City where, together with Mexican flautist Alejandro Escuer, Costa Rican composer Alejandro Cardona and a collection of Mexican composers, I enjoyed an entrée of Cocopaches - poblano beetles.

Further links

Andrián Pertout - AMC profile
Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de México (OSN) (www.osn.bellasartes.gob.mx)
XXXVII Foro Internacional de Música Nueva 'Manuel Enríquez' 2015 (www.forodemusicanueva.bellasartes.gob.mx)
Coordinación Nacional de Música y Ópera (Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes) (www.musicayopera.bellasartes.gob.mx)

Andrián Pertout is a freelance composer. His music has been performed in over forty countries around the world, and he is currently Honorary Fellow at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music (University of Melbourne), Lecturer in Composition at the Faculty of the VCA (University of Melbourne), and Australian Delegate of the Asian Composers’ League. He was also President of the Melbourne Composers’ League  in 2009-2013.


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