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Review: Sound the Trumpet at Philharmonic Hall ****1/2

Cast your mind back, if you can, to a time before Covid.

It was January 2020, and the Phil was trying out another new face with an eye to the soon-to-be vacant chief conductor spot.

Domingo Hindoyan was on the podium and the soloist for the evening was irrepressible fellow El Sistema graduate, and friend since those teenage years, trumpet virtuoso Pacho Flores.

Their warm and friendly double act had them immediately being dubbed another ‘dream team’.

Nineteen months and one pandemic later, the ‘dream team’ has been brought back together for a pair of concerts bursting with more new works and Latin rhythms.

And it turns out last January wasn’t an outlier and indeed there ain’t no party like a Flores-Hindoyan party. Flores, Hindoyan and this time around a Leo Rondón party too, with the Venezuelan cuatro player in the midst of the action.

The stage was set with Venezuelan composer Evencio Castellanos’s Santa Cruz de Pacairigua, Suite Sinfónica, a veritable riot of musical colour, styles and tricksy timings that felt as though carnival had come to 1920s Manhattan.

Announced with a trumpet fanfare, it moved through a limpid nocturnal theme and into a lopsided dance which resolved itself with a punchy crescendo. A plaintive and dreamy melody for solo violin and harp was taken up by the cellos – and later, following matin chimes and some habanera strings, there was an unexpected and rather lovely viola solo too.

Hindoyan, practically levitating on the podium, drew percussion, brass and pizzicato violins towards a hell for leather finale.

Last year, Flores arrived with a double-or-drop armful of instruments; this time he brought five, assisted by Hindoyan and Rondón and arranging them carefully across two piano stools.

D’Rivera wrote his new concerto for trumpet and orchestra as part of a worldwide project to commission more pieces for the instrument and with Flores in mind.

And it’s a stunning vehicle for the Venezuelan virtuoso – packed with drama and with a super cool Sixties spy series swagger to it. Picture The Man from U.N.C.L.E, open top sports cars and big sunglasses.

Flores, sinuously swapping from one instrument to the next, produced a performance of brilliant clarity, warmth and energy, shadowed in one section by tuba while percussion and strings picked up the hip vibe.

A delightful duet between Thelma Handy on violin and Rondón’s cuatro became a sunny trio with the arrival of Flores, while his bell-like tone also soared over a charming theme for flute, piccolo and harp.

It all morphed into an atmospheric and then frenetic late-night salsa party, the orchestra and soloists delivering a thunderous and utterly irresistible Technicolor finale.

How to follow that? A dash of early hours smoky jazz club Piazzolla and a fast and furious ‘el diablo’ encore jam between Flores and a beaming Rondón.

The second half of the evening brought a distinct change of tone with Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra, the Hungarian composer’s dynamic showcase for orchestral sections. It was handsomely delivered by the Phil and with Hindoyan drawing out all the intensity of its musical textures and colours.

Flores meanwhile returns on Sunday, this time with a premiere for his own composition, Cantos y Revueltas.


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