Alondra de la Parra: The (Im)possible Symphony

With Stuttgart State Orchestra (Stuttgart State Orchestra), Alondra de la Parra will present on April 23 and 24 the German premiere of the Impossible Symphony of the Mexican composer Arturo Marquez. This piece commissioned by Maestra De la Parra was premiered during the first edition of the Festival PAAX GNP in 2022. The conductor, recognized for promoting Latin American music since the beginning of her career, is delighted to present this symphony to the public of her beloved Germany, where she currently resides.

In April, the impossible will happen in Stuttgart: the Impossible Symphony by Mexico’s most renowned contemporary composer, Arturo Márquez, will be heard for the first time on German soil. It is a piece that has at least two readings: a form of artistic expression and a social statement. In eight movements that, according to De la Parra, can and should also be understood as variations on a theme, Márquez explores climate change, resilience, gender equality, empathy, migration, controversy and utopia.

An (Im)possible Symphony

“The Impossible Symphony “Shows once again how limitless Arturo Márquez’s musical imagination is,” says Alondra de la Parra. “The way he addresses the big questions of our time here is absolutely stunning in its scope and quality. Taking the fifth movement, ‘Magicicada’, as an example, Márquez is inspired by the empathy shown by two species of cicadas that tune into each other’s life cycles to allow both species to thrive. He represents these two cicadas in the score with flute and double bass as they cohabit around each other until their lines meet on D, the only note they have in common. Gender equality is the inspiration of the third movement, reminding us of the additional struggles that society imposes on women in their daily lives. This is represented by two cellos, male and female, playing in canon, but the conditions are more difficult for the woman, since her part is octaved. The division of the strings in this movement is also special: the division It is sorted by genre, not by tuning. Therefore, the work can only be performed if the strings are divided equally. In the sixth movement, ‘Controversy’, two stubborn violin virtuosos seem at odds, although in reality they are saying the same thing. In the seventh movement, ‘Major Utopia’, the trombones play only major chords, wondering what the meaning of happiness is. This piece not only reflects on the difficulty of finding happiness, but it was also the most difficult movement for him to compose due to his experience as a trombonist. “The symphony constitutes a technical challenge for musicians and invites the public to reflect on the current struggles facing humanity.”

A deep friendship

The Impossible Symphony was not the first time that Alondra de la Parra and Arturo Márquez collaborated together. Rather, they have been important musical companions. “His extraordinary music is part of my basic repertoire. I don’t think I have performed any work as often as the Danzón No. 2 by Arturo Márquez,” comments Alondra de la Parra.

She adds that their paths have crossed again and again, including when de la Parra founded the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas in 2004, but their friendship became especially close during the pandemic. The first piece performed by The Impossible Orchestra was also the Danzón No. 2. It was recorded to raise funds for Mexican women and children affected by violence, and Arturo generously advised and supported the project.

The (Im)possible Orchestra

At the height of the pandemic, many things seemed impossible, especially orchestral music: the danger posed by such a large gathering of people was too high. However, The Impossible Orchestra by Alondra de la Parra showed that music, as a basic human need, always finds a way. For the founding of the orchestra in 2020, the director contacted some of the best soloists in the world of classical music: Guy Braunstein, Felix Klieser, Sarah Willis, Rolando Villazón and many other musicians who under other circumstances would never have met. heard in the same orchestra. The members of this seemingly “impossible” ensemble recorded their parts under strict sanitary conditions in studios in six different cities around the world and presented their version of the Danzón No. 2 in a digital format. The Impossible Orchestra had been born and this first project was a great success. But it didn’t stop there: For the Festival PAAX GNP in Mexico in 2022, Alondra de la Parra called for the first time The Impossible Orchestra as an orchestra in residence—and commissioned the Impossible Symphony for this occasion from Arturo Márquez, who composed it with some of the soloists of this orchestra in mind. The work has also been performed in Spain with the OSG and will now premiere in Germany.

The program at the Liederhalle in Stuttgart on April 23 and 24 is completed with pieces by Sergei Prokofiev, Edward Elgar and Ralph Vaughan Williams, with Albrecht Mayer as solo oboe, who was also part of The Impossible Orchestra. “I am incredibly happy to be working with Albrecht again. “I can’t think of a better oboist for this program.”

Commissioning, performing and releasing new music is an important part of her work as an artist, says Alondra de la Parra, who has already facilitated numerous new pieces by contemporary composers. The Festival PAAX GNP, which will open its doors for the second edition this summer 2023, is a dream space for new works to emerge.