This weekend Miguel Harth-Bedoya is guest conducting the Colorado Symphony Orchestra through some great Classical pieces of music by Mozart and Beethoven and adding a touch of modern music to the mix with a piece he personally commissioned, Fiesta! Amid his busy schedule he took time to sit down and chat with me for a few moments about the upcoming performance, the music and how it all ties together.
Prior to the interview I had heard of Miguel Harth-Bedoya’s charming personality from several members of the Colorado Symphony. He is not only enjoyable to work with as a conductor, but engaging and friendly. In my review of his performance at Vail Music Festival I commented "Harth-Bedoya danced his way through the Habanera third movement"; meeting him in person the sparkling personality seems to suggests he dances through life as well.
The concert pairs Beethoven’s ‘Eroica’ Symphony and Mozart’s 5th Violin Concerto with a modern piece by Jimmy Lopez, Fiesta!. When I asked about how he approached a concert with such different styles of music he explained, “The music of Fiesta! is pop music, the dances which are very popular in Latin America. Composing in this way is like before Classical music, in the Baroque era, like what Bach used to do. The Saraband was a dance of the time, but you cannot dance to it, not the way Bach wrote it. Still, everyone knew it was dance music of the day. Jimmy is doing the same thing, writing popular music of the day in a classical style.”
Feista! is rich in the use of Latin rhythms. The overall piece is 10 mins but broken down into four small “dances.” While dance rhythms may have been the basis of the music, there is a complexity that will challenge the best orchestras. Miguel Harth-Bedoya is glad he has a week to prepare for this concert with the Colorado Symphony.
In Vail there is only one day for rehearsal because the orchestras are performing three and four times a week, so there just isn’t time for more. “It’s always tricky to do those concerts in Vail with only one rehearsal,” he begins to explain. “They play three or four programs a week. With only one rehearsal you can’t come back to anything.” (He says this and yet still managed to give an excellent performance!) This week he is enjoying the time to really work over the various spots in the music to make sure the orchestra and conductor are together through it all.
Harth-Bedoya also spoke of the importance of the bond between the conductor, orchestra and composer. “There needs to be a bond between the three performers. If any one is not connected the performance is less than it should be.” He went on to explain, “I need to feel a connection with the music, with the composer.” When I mentioned the intense rhythm of the Lopez piece he said, “I enjoy rhythm. There needs to be a clear sense of rhythm for me to really connect with a piece.” And then he went on to discuss his first conducting experience at the age of 19. He had grown up with Latin rhythms and his conducting teacher started him off with the slow movement of Brahms 1st Symphony. He persevered to learn how to approach all forms of music with a sense of interest, to find the beauty. Now, whether the piece is fast or slow Miguel Harth-Bedoya understands how to get the most out of each performance.
In a review of Harth-Bedoya's performance at the Hollywood Bowl earlier this month, Richard S. Ginell says, "Ravel actually made a recording of his biggest hit on 78s in 1930, enforcing what might seem like a doggedly slow tempo to us. Well, Harth-Bedoya managed to hit Ravel’s tempo on the button (by my stopwatch, matching Ravel’s 16 minute, 7 second recording to the second!), and as a result, the piece gains a menacing, obstinate momentum." It is this sort of musical understanding that keeps the reviewers raving about his performances.
In terms of musical understanding and taste we also discussed tonality verses atonality. “All music has elements that can be enjoyed. The key is to find those elements, those things that make it beautiful.” When he commissioned Jimmy Lopez for Fiesta! there was no criteria other than it had to be 10 minutes. Miguel Harth-Bedoya was confident Señor Lopez would write something beautiful (and he has). The conductor then needs to find his own personal connection to it to bring it to life. Having heard the recording of Fiesta! by the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra (see my review), I am certain Miguel Harth-Bedoya found it. It will be thrilling to see how he translates this connection to the Colorado Symphony this weekend.
However, it is not just the modern pieces, or Latin American music that gets such special attention from Miguel Harth-Bedoya. His broad appreciation for all music keeps bringing new life to music we’ve heard hundreds of times already. He strives to find the beauty in all things; he has a lust for life and this passion comes out when he is speaking to you in person or when he is standing on the podium.
Colorado Symphony Orchestra
Miguel Harth-Bedoya, conductor
Augustin Hadelich, violin
JIMMY LÓPEZ - Fiesta!
MOZART - Violin Concerto No. 5
BEETHOVEN - Symphony No. 3, “Eroica”
October 2nd, 7:30pm
Boettcher Concert Hall
October 3rd, 7:30pm
Boettcher Concert Hall
October 4, 2:30pm
Boettcher Concert Hall