The Northeast Texas Symphony Orchestra of East Texas recently delivered a wonderful evening of music for the Sulphur Springs and Commerce area. Under the baton of conductor/music director Jeremy Swerling, the NETSO has developed into a fluid, creative entity, and has become an invaluable asset to it's community. Last week's program upholds this tradition. Designed specifically to spotlight Spanish music, the program included two of the pre-eminent Spanish composer's of the twentieth century, Manuel de Falla and Joaquin Rodrigo. Coupled with these Spanish masters, the NETSO also featured two wonderful musicians from the Texas area, Mrs. Jean Wilkinson and Mr. Beau Benson.
The de Falla pieces include two of his most passionate and striking vocal works, Siete Canciones Populares Espaņolas and El Amor Brujo. The Siete Canciones are infused with the intermingling characteristics from the deep Spanish folk tradition, including aspects of flamenco, Moorish, and Jewish culture. Added to this are the highly literate and refined compositional and orchestral arrangements of de Falla. In front of this wonderful canvas sang the impeccable alto, Mrs. Jean Wilkinson. Mrs. Wilkinson, a resident of Denton, TX, delivered a well-seasoned and vital performance of the songs. A veteran of the symphonic and orchestral stage from Europe through America, Mrs. Wilkinson's presence was immediately felt and demanded the listener's attention. From this cloth she began to weave a tapestry of sound with the orchestra. Her expressiveness easily filled the room, wrapping the listener on a quilt of sorrow, longing, and compassion. Ranging from the lilting sighs of a resigned woman to the wailing of a soul scorned, her voice drew the audience into the warmth, and left it to anguish and rejoice with the meandering emotions.
The other featured work on the program was the Concierto de Aranjuez by Joaquin Rodrigo. Owing to its intensely rich melody, harmony, and orchestration, the Aranjuez has become one of the greatest and most performed guitar concerti to date. Outside of its beauty, the Aranjuez stands as a mark of virtuosity, hardly ever surpassed in the repertoire of guitar. Facing this task was the guitarist, Mr. Beau Benson. Mr. Benson, currently pursuing his degree in Classical Guitar from Southern Methodist University, made his orchestral debut with the NETSO. Undaunted by such a formidable task, Mr. Benson expressed a clear and emotional understanding of the Aranjuez, well beyond the expectations of a newcomer playing such a formidable piece. The technical and mental fortitude that Mr. Benson possesses at such an early age place him at the vanguard of up and coming artists. The Aranjuez embodies a spectrum of virtuosity and simplicity. Mr. Benson conjured both the physical and mental abilities to tame both. Attacking the astonishing and difficult scale and rasgueo passages, Mr. Benson was still able to cradle the sections of delicate intimacy and lay them bare to the audience.
The high point of the Aranjuez performance came during the Adagio movement. During this movement the orchestra and guitar coalesced. They formed a symphonic wall on which were cast pastoral images of the Spanish land and heart. After hearing Mr. Benson play, it will truly be a pleasure to see how and to where his artistic abilities and insights will lead this young and gifted musician.