The current pandemic has without doubt stirred the creativity of many arts organisations and artists, and Mexican conductor Alondra de la Parra has provided yet another example of what can be achieved, seemingly against all odds.
So touched was she by the plight of the women and children of her homeland who are particularly vulnerable to the social, health and economic consequences of the coronavirus, that she has gathered – remotely – 28 illustrious stars of classical music, from 14 different countries, to create an ensemble which takes the name of The Impossible Orchestra.
The line-up of artists is breathtaking, and includes names such as Albrecht Mayer, Emmanuel Pahud, Maxim Vengerov, Rolando Villazón and Alisa Weilerstein, with Elisa Carrillo Cabrera – Mexican principle dancer of the Staatsballet Berlin – and Christopher Wheeldon – one the finest choreographers of today. Each has willingly given of their time and considerable talent to record a video performance of de la Parra’s arrangement of Arturo Márquez’s Danzón No 2, to raise funds for the benefit of these women and children, via the charities Fondo Semillas and Save the Children Mexico.
An official Cultural Ambassador of Mexico, Alondra de la Parra is a former Music Director of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra and frequently works with some of the most prestigious orchestras in the world, including the Orchestre de Paris, London Philharmonic Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, São Paulo Symphony Orchestra, Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra and Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. She has also led some of the major orchestras in Latin America – such as the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra, the Buenos Aires Philharmonic and the Simón Bolivar Youth Orchestra – and in 2004 founded the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas to showcase young performers and composers from the Americas.
The music of Mexican composer Arturo Márquez was largely unknown outside his homeland until the early 1990s, when he was introduced to the world of Latin ballroom dancing. Captured by the movement and rhythms, he composed a series of Danzónes – a fusion of dance music from Cuba and the Veracruz region of Mexico. The most popular of these, his Danzón No 2, was commissioned by the National Autonomous University of Mexico, and its popularity has often led it to be referred to as the second national anthem of Mexico.
This video performance of the Danzón No 2 is an absolute joy to watch. Not only is the Márquez work a justifiably popular choice, with its infectious, jazzy rhythms, but the performance has been stylishly filmed and edited, and the artists featured are obviously enjoying themselves hugely – some playing instruments with which they’re not usually associated. Ms de la Parra herself is at the piano and not on the podium. It’s fun, too, to see how many stars you can recognize during the performance, before looking at the list of those appearing on the website.
A gala fundraising event for The Impossible Orchestra will shortly be announced, and the soundtrack to the video will soon be available from Alpha Records.