In just a few days I get the great opportunity to conduct the world premiere of Paul Desenne's Symphony #5, Opus. 81. Finished earlier this year, and handed to me not too long ago, this work is literally fresh out of the oven. It's definitely not the first time I've given a first performance of a work in my career, but it's amazing how each time this happens I notice a new set of challenges, yet a similar sense of exhilaration. In this particular case, though, there's a special circumstance worth reflecting on.
On one hand, there's my personal history with Paul, whom I've admired as an integral musician - cellist, pedagogue, commentator, and composer (all facets at a remarkably high level). I have known Paul-the-musician since my childhood, and Paul-the-composer since my early college years, and by now I've had the honor of performing many of his works, both as instrumentalist and conductor. Over the course of these many years we've become great friends, and it's perhaps this friendship, along with our shared Venezuelan experience and background, which helps me get a real sense of his sound world.
Another fact worth mentioning is that by now the Alabama Symphony Orchestra and I have delved very deeply into his repertoire during our 2015-16 Season, therefore I believe that we've reached a clear collective perspective when it comes to understanding his style, his voice. They now have a real sense of certain things that can be expected from this composer they've come to know better than any other orchestra in North America, perhaps the world.
Written in three movements (The Real Caracas, Blu [Blue], and Ondas), Desenne's Symphony #5 is a virtuous display of urban cacophonous sounds cleverly intertwined with Caribbean rhythms, mellow riffs from the American Deep South, and a whole lot of fun. It's also my first official commission as Music Director of the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, so I can't wait to share it with the audience!
Photo: Paul Desenne / Manuel Sardá