Last updateFri, 05 Feb 2016 2pm

Acclaimed flutist-director, orchestra, painter put on ‘gutsy’ performance

The Jalisco Philharmonic Orchestra (JPO) got off to a novel start on its 2016 winter/spring season last weekend as world renowned French flutist-turned-director Patrick Gallois headed up a program that was innovative in many ways, most obviously in bringing on stage his wife, Finnish artist Tiina Osara, to create a large-format action painting as the musicians played the evening’s centerpiece, the wintry and esoteric Symphony No. 7 in C major, Op. 105, by Jean Sibelius.

On that chilly evening, the event drew a respectable crowd to the Teatro Degollado, seemingly game for the gamut of innovations. Things started on a Latino note: Arturo Rodriguez’s delightful Mosaico mexicano (Mexican mosaic) with its touches of mariachi and indigenous music, before turning more innovative, as the energetic Gallois both directed the orchestra and played beautifully as “soloist” in a flute duet with the JPO’s Antonio Dubatovka in Franz Doppler’s Concerto for two flutes in D minor, a feat that Gallois pulled off with spirit.

With this, the orchestra vacated the stage and a smaller chamber group took its place, with Gallois as flute soloist, to play Bach’s Suite No. 2 in B minor, BWV 1067, embellished gracefully by Gleb Dubroshkin on harpsichord. 

Although painter Osara was glimpsed at the start of the evening and her blank canvas was visible on a platform just above the orchestra during the entire program, she did not begin to paint until the beginning of the centerpiece performance, the Sibelius symphony. 

Although tonal, this work cannot be called a toe-tapper due to its constantly changing tempo, which may give listeners a sense of observing weather — some say cold weather — or other natural phenomena. In fact, it was almost the last work composed by Sibelius before a 33-year silence and it has not been often played or liked, although many of his other pieces are popular, especially in Finland.

Thus, the choice of the symphony seems to have been a risk taken by the JPO’s artistic director, and the athletic Osara and her colorful painting as accompaniments may have been conceived as a means to make the esoteric music more acceptable to the Guadalajara audience, which is sometimes said to strongly prefer the standard classics. Indeed, one’s attention wandered back and forth from music to painting and sometimes the line of the music was lost as one followed the progress of the painting.

The end seemed almost to surprise the audience, perhaps because the symphony has only one movement, a sharp departure from genre conventions. Thus, applause was tepid at first, although it later warmed, as positive comments lauding the “gutsy” choice of a difficult piece could be heard.

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