Gustavo Dudamel


It's hard to believe it's been 40 years since Venezuela's El Sistema drew its first breath, but it has. A new compact disc from DG celebrates this 40th anniversary with a collection of 12 tracks drawn from the extensive discography of the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela. The disc is titled “El Sistema 40 – A Celebration.”

The Salón Los Angeles is the oldest dance hall in Mexico City. The classic 1930s ballroom is located in a working-class neighborhood near downtown, and every week, it sees dozens of well-dressed couples of all ages moving to an orchestra of saxophones, trumpets, trombones, clarinets and percussion instruments.

A film opened in the U.S. this weekend about the life of Simón Bolivar, the military leader who helped free much of Latin America from the Spanish Empire. Libertador, or The Liberator, tells that story with the help of rousing music by a first-time film-score composer: Gustavo Dudamel.

As is so often the case, discoveries are made by the back way. I was browsing today the upcoming 2014 programming of the Orquesta Filarmonica de Buenos Aires, conducted by my old acquaintance Enrique Arturo Diemecke. I saw many familiar composers, but a sprinkling of unknown, mostly Latin American composers as well. Esteban Benzecry, an Argentine musician, was among them. It was a new name to me, and new music--they're playing his Violin Concerto in Buenos Aires.

Mention Frida Kahlo and we immediately think of the painter and the wide range of self portraits she produced during her troubled -- and at times anguished -- life. A recent recording by the Dublin Drag Orchestra with vocalist Clara Sanabras brings to light another side of Kahlo: occasional poet and writer. "La Vida Callada," ("The Unspoken Life") is included on the recently issued "¡Viva Frida!" from the Heresy record label. This track stands out for its balance of contrast and similarity to what the Dublin Drag Orchestra (DDO) has come to champion - early music.