The Cuban rumba takes the lead in Michigan State University composer Ricardo Lorenz’s symphonic work, “Rumba Sinfónica,” written in collaboration with Jorge Gomez, musical director of the hit Cuban music group Tiempo Libre. The piece, which debuted with the Minnesota Orchestra in November, will be performed by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Tiempo Libre at 3 p.m. Sunday, May 11, at the Max M. Fisher Music Center in Detroit.
Rumba Sinfónica is a 30-minute sound travelogue exploring the full possibilities of a Cuban band and orchestra playing together and fusing the urban rhythms of past and present Cuban music with the sophisticated sounds of the classical symphony orchestra.
“It’s a coming together of two worlds that rarely come together,” said Lorenz, associate professor of music. “The styles are very rich on their own, and they’re much richer together. And in the interspace of music, racial, social and cultural barriers don’t exist anymore. Music dissolves differences.”
Lorenz has wanted to do a project like this for many years. He experimented with mixing classical symphonic music with Latin sounds when he was composer in residence in the Armonia Musicians Residency Program with the Chicago Symphony from 1998 to 2003. But it wasn’t until he met Gomez at Indiana University, where Gomez was offering a workshop, that “Rumba Sinfónica” became a reality.
“One of Tiempo Libre’s great dreams has been to collaborate on a project,” Gomez said, “that draws upon our twin musical inspirations -- the classical music that we studied in the great Russian-style conservatories of Havana and the celebratory Cuban sound which we enjoyed outside our study halls.
“We are glad to be part of this new work combining the elegance of the symphony orchestra with the irresistible, dance-inducing rhythms of Cuban music.”
“Rumba Sinfónica” also has been performed at the Festival of the Arts BOCA in Boca Raton, Fla., and by the Minnesota Orchestra; the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa; the San Antonio Symphony; and the Portland Symphony in Portland, Ore.
Following the Detroit concert, the work will be performed May 31 at the Ravinia Festival outside Chicago and June 7 by the Dallas Symphony. The MSU Symphony Orchestra will perform the work Jan. 22, 2009, at the Wharton Center for the Performing Arts. Tempo Libre will perform jointly with the orchestras at all appearances.
Lorenz said audiences and performers have reacted warmly to the composition, though the idea of bringing Latin music into a symphonic piece seems confusing at first.
“Every new idea will confuse people,” said Lorenz, who began teaching at MSU in 2005. “If it doesn’t, it’s not new.”
Recently, Lorenz was given the American Bandmasters Association/University of Florida Commission Award. The award, funded by a grant from the University of Florida band program, includes a commission honorarium to create a major artistic work for wind band to be premiered in Texas at the ABA Convention in March 2009.
To order tickets for the DSO performance, visit the Web at www.detroitsymphony.com.
Listen to a podcast interview with Lorenz at spartanpodcast.com.