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Giancarlo Guerrero marks his debut with The Cleveland Orchestra

Giancarlo Guerrero
El Nuevo Herald

By Daniel Fernandez

The audience applauded enthusiastically as Giancarlo Guerrero directed his first concert as principal guest conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra in its Miami residency.
As was to be expected, the public packed the Arsht Center Knight Concert Hall on Saturday in spite of the fact that part of the program had already been presented the previous night in the concert Boléro with a Twist. Without a doubt, word had spread around town that Giancarlo Guerrero was the new principal guest conductor for the orchestra’s Miami residency and that this fact would undoubtedly bestow a Latin flavor on the orchestra. It is no secret that interpretations by the official conductor, Franz Welter-Most, had resulted too sober and constrained for the preferences of Miami music lovers: intensity, passion and bravura.
No one walked away disappointed, not only because it was a spectacular night, but also because one could sense the pleasure the musicians and Maestro Guerrero himself derived from the thunderous reception by an audience that appreciated the substantial change in style, intention and flavor. Guerrero has stated on more than one occasion that he believes in the importance of combining programs to attract the public, offering popular works mixed with others that are less well-known, and Saturday was a complete success.
The first one, the Overture to Colas Breugnon by the multifaceted Kabalevsky, so popular during the middle of the past century and now only in recordings, turned out to be a surprise that was very well-received and which served to fine-tune the audience’s auditory palate.
Then a change of pace, country, style: the famous “Enigma Variations” by Elgar, an ideal piece for virtuosi orchestras. Here Guerrero displayed another angle of his personality. The force and vibrations of the previous piece segued softly and seamlessly into an exquisite tapestry of delicate sound textures, harmonious insinuations and wile full of subtleties, save for a final more ardent and lively touch. Although this piece is played often in concert halls in this city, the Maestro knew how to present it as a first-time affair, fresh and as if just emerging from the staff. An elderly gentleman later commented during the intermission that it was the best one he had heard.
The second half of the evening was even more impressive and well-received. First, Mendelssohn’s Concert for violin and orchestra, Opus 64. Many of the concert-goers were able to compare style, spirit, bravura, since it had been played recently in the same concert hall by another orchestra and another interpreter. This second version, with the brilliant Augustin Hadelich and his Stradivarius in a solo, and Guerrero at the podium, seemed to be more to the public’s taste judging by the very lengthy ovation. Finally, Otto offered as an encore an impeccable and sparkling “Capriccio No. 24” by Paganini.
But the final offer was even more spectacular and well-received. Ravel’s “Bolero” has lost none of its power of seduction in spite of its fame and excessive exposure. It is one of those pieces that we enjoy over and over again in all its splendor and perfection, provided it is well executed, of course. On this occasion, the execution was impeccable: precise drumroll and a tempo that seemed engraved in marble, an immaculate brass section, chords that played in unison and flawless interpretations by soloists at the flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon—sound blocks that pieced together formed this musical jewel that ascends almost infinitely and climaxes in a burst that opens like a flower with a splendor that has never been equaled.
There was total jubilation, with the audience clamoring on its feet. So much so that, to the surprise of many and in spite of the fact that this piece by Ravel renders needless a coda, the Maestro returned to the podium to offer a stirring “Farandole” from Bizet’s “L’Arlésienne.” Full of mischief and charm, at full volume, the piece sparked new ovations and brought a smile of satisfaction to the audience. Without a doubt, acquiring Guerrero has been a very smart decision. The maestro, who gives himself to the music to the point of almost dancing to it at the podium, was what The Cleveland Orchestra needed to finally conquer the music lovers of Miami.