Anne Akiko Meyers in a stunning performance of Fandango at the Grant Park Music Festival

United StatesUnited States Grant Park Music Festival 2024 [2] – Various: Anne Akiko Meyers (violin), Grant Park Music Festival Orchestra / Ludovic Morlot (conductor). Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, Chicago, 5.7.2024. (JLZ)

Anne Akiko Meyers and the Grant Park Music Festival Orchestra © Grittani Creative LTD

Angélica Negrón – Color Shape Transmission
Arturo MárquezFandango
Tchaikovsky – Symphony No.6 in B Minor, ‘Pathétique’

The highlight of the Grant Park Music Festival’s recent weekend concert was Arturo Márquez’s Fandango. Violinist Anne Akiko Meyers combined technical virtuosity and superb musicianship in the three-movement concerto which she had premiered in 2021 with Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Taking the Spanish fandango as a point of inspiration, Márquez created a vivid concerto in three distinct movements: Folia Tropical, Plegaria (Prayer) (Chaconne) and Fandanguito. In the substantial first section, Márquez explores with soaring melodic ideas and varying rhythmic motives. The movement presents opportunities to play out ideas that alternate among the soloist, full orchestra and smaller groupings, and Morlot adeptly guided all of them through the subtle scorings. The powerful percussion in several sections contrasted with the lush melodic content of others, and the ideas developed into increasingly longer sections. Meyers brought an intensity to the performance that held one’s attention, and it was no surprise to hear spontaneous applause at the end of the first movement.

The contrasting Plegaria was equally compelling, and Meyers’s sonorous, sustained sound brought out the movement’s meditative qualities. In the final Fandanguito, Márquez introduces elements of mariachi and Mexican-style idioms that expand the idea of the fandango. The GPMF orchestra gave full voice to the lush scorings and supported Meyers’s meticulous playing as she brought the piece to its conclusion. This is a major work that deserves to be heard more widely, especially in the hands of such a fine conductor and virtuosic soloist.

Morlot led a fine interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.6. His attention to style emerged from the start as he brought out the implicit dramatic contrast between the initial sections of the first movement. He gave full measure to the richly scored sonorities while balancing the strings, winds and brass in this outdoor venue. The second movement began with an easy elegance and the five/four meter sounded natural and even, but the middle section was muddied with some false entrances and ensemble issues. That was not the case for the triumphant march which built steadily to the conclusion. The brass was prominent but never overstated, and brisk tempos were key to the drive that took the piece to the bravado ending. That masterful climax set up the Finale, which Morlot executed with appropriate style and deft control of the orchestra.

As for the first piece on the program, it was good to hear a new voice in Angélica Negrón’s Color Shape Transmission, but the nuances of the score were not served in the open-air setting. The penultimate gesture which is very loud connoted an ending to the audience, and the applause that occurred interrupted the piece as it continued.

The program was memorable for the Chicago premiere of Márquez’s Fandango, and Meyers is a welcome voice whose musicianship was as soaring as the music she played.

It would be imprudent not to mention the challenges involved with entering Millennium Park for concerts at the Pritzker Pavilion. Lines were long due to intense searches of people with bags. Perhaps security can return to the effective level it was several weeks ago for the indoor concert at the Harris Theater, or the Festival could be moved to a location that does not require high levels of security for people waiting to hear the fine performances of the Grant Park Music Festival.

James L. Zychowicz

Featured Image: Conductor Ludovic Morlot and the Grant Park Music Festival Orchestra © Norman Timonera.

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