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Orquesta Sinfonica National de Mexico

from: Rob LaGrone

Orquesta Sinfonica National de Mexico

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It's already on many of the radio stations, you might say. Well, not like this.

The National Symphony Orchestra of Mexico (Orquesta Sinfonica Nacional de Mexico) has been playing classical music from that country and many others since 1928, and Las Vegas was fortunate enough to have a visit from them on their latest U.S. tour. My date and I walked in without checking to see what they would be playing this night. We opened our programs and found...


My favorite. 'El Salon Mexico' was written by a young Aaron Copland after a visit to that country in 1932 and named after a famous Mexico City dance hall. This terrific overture-length piece reflects the spirit Copland felt there: it sways romantically, stomps playfully, and even seems to prance grandly about (though the men there might never admit to prancing). I was surprised at the sedate pace at which some parts of it were played. It was as if the revelers were tired and needed a rest between dances.

Speaking of needing a rest, Enrique Arturo Diemecke has been conductor and music director of this orchestra and that of Flint, Michigan since 1990 and of the Long Beach Symphony since 2001. (And you thought your commute was rough.) The program describes him as "a popular guest conductor." No kidding! Take every classical music organization that ever existed, add three, and that's how many groups for whom Maestro Diemecke has guest-conducted, it would seem from his bio. Doesn't the word "siesta" come from Mexico?

Diemecke was nominated in 2002 for a Latin Grammy for "Best Classical Album," and his version of 'La Coronela', by Silvestre Revueltas, is considered one of the best ever recorded. However, this orchestra, like most, plays a broad range of music. 'La Coronela' would be played tonight, but next on the program was the Symphonic Dances from "Westside Story," by Leonard Bernstein. Because I have never seen this musical, I speak from the wonderful purity of total ignorance. What a fun piece! The 'Prologue', 'Meeting Scene', and 'Cool, Fugue' movements had a swinging, jazzy sound and an air of both mystery and mischief that reminded me of the Pink Panther cartoon character in a zoot suit.

Then there was the playful plucking of violin strings in the 'Scherzo', the zesty chaos of 'Mambo', the intense action of 'Rumble', and the surprisingly calm sweetness of 'Cha-cha'. The piece was further spiced by the use of a whistle, snapping fingers, and well-timed shouts by the musicians. I could picture the strutting, fighting, dancing, and smooching in the streets. It ended with a very graceful high note by the violins set off by a brooding growl from the low strings, which told me the musical must have had a sad and rather unsettled ending. Somebody tell me if I'm right.

I saw two things for the first time tonight. First, I've seen plenty of trumpet mutes, but a mute in a tuba? It reminded my date of a huge earplug sticking out of the instrument's flared bell, and it looked to me like a silver beer keg. (I always go out with dames that are classier than I am.) Second, Maestro Diemecke conducted without a baton. Instead, he made very good use of his hands, posture, and facial expressions to get exactly what he wanted from his performers. It was great fun to watch.

The final music on the program was the signature piece I mentioned earlier, Revueltas' 'La Coronela' ('The Woman Colonel'). I have never heard a musical work more at odds with its program description. The first movement, 'Society Ladies', started out nervous and finished like an intense battle scene from the old "Victory at Sea" films! What was in that champagne I drank at intermission? Next, the 'Dance of the Disinherited' should bring to mind poverty and despair, but the music started off serene and gradually became as light and fluffy as a scherzo; it seemed to involve dancing "rurales" and no small amount of cerveza. Third, 'Don Ferruco's Nightmare', sounded peaceful, but at least it grew in intensity as it came to the part about The Woman Colonel herself. (Maybe 'Coronela' actually means "battle-axe.") I couldn't even tell where we were in the piece until the music suddenly hit a big crescendo and told me that we had reached the fourth movement, 'Last Judgement'. It started

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Rob LaGrone, Jetsetters Magazine Correspondent Read Jetsetters Magazine at To book travel visit at and for Beach Resorts visit Beach Booker at

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Rob LaGrone, Jetsetters Magazine Correspondent. Join the Travel Writers Network in the logo at Leave Your email next to the logo for FREE e travel newsletter.


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