Venezuelan Trumpet Virtuoso Pacho Flores Brings Latin Flair to the San Diego Symphony

Venezuelan trumpet virtuoso Pacho Flores, like most successful professional musicians from that South American country, is a product of El Sistema. This extensive national music training program, founded in 1975 by the noted composer José Antonio Abreu, was little known in North America until the 26-year-old Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel was announced as the next Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2007.

Rafael Payare conducts San Diego Symphony wind players at Copley Symphony Hall [photo courtesy of the San Diego Symphony]

Flores will make his debut appearance with the San Diego Symphony Saturday, February 26, playing works by Johann Neruda and Paquito d’Rivera under the baton of Music Director Rafael Payare. Although Flores will be a new face to members of the local orchestra, he and Rafael Payare share a long history.

“I have played under him many times with his orchestra in Belfast, but our relationship goes back to our teen years when we both played in the Simón Bolívar Brass Quintet—Rafael was our horn player,” Flores said.

Flores took up the trumpet because it was his father’s instrument. “He was also a band conductor, and I think I was 7 or 8 when I actually started studying trumpet.” Although Flores won several music competitions along the way, winning First Prize in the 2006 “Maurice André” International Contest in Paris proved the biggest boost to his solo career.

“The ‘Maurice André’ competition changed my career, because after that win, I was swamped with invitations from orchestras to be a guest soloist.”

Flores was eager to discuss the two works he will be performing with the San Diego Symphony on February 26, Cuban-American composer Paquito d’Rivera’s Concerto venezolano for Trumpet and Orchestra, a U. S. Premiere, and Johann Neruda’s Trumpet Concerto in E-flat Major.

“I suggested Paquito d’Rivera to the San Diego Symphony as the composer for this piece they wanted to commission because he plays both classical and popular music from Latin America, and he knows how to combine these styles. In his Concerto venezolano, the piece starts out sounding a bit like Shostakovich, but soon it slides into a Venezuelan merengue in 5/8 meter and finally ends in a Cuban danzón in triple meter.”

Even the most serious aficionados of symphonic music are not likely to recognize Johann Neruda, the 18th-century Czech composer whose music comes from that transitional period of European music between the high Baroque style of Bach and Handel and the classical style of Joseph Haydn.

“But I would say Neruda’s Trumpet Concerto is more classical than Baroque,” Flores observed. “To perform this concerto, I will use a corno da caccia, a brass instrument that is shaped like a French Horn, but is smaller and plays in the higher trumpet range. I use this instrument because of its sonority, which has much more finesse—a kind of sensual, dolce quality—than the modern trumpet.”

Pacho Flores will perform with the San Diego Symphony under Music Director Rafael Payare Saturday, February 26, in San Diego Civic Theatre in a program that includes works by Andrew Norman, Paquito D’Rivera, Johann Neruda, as well as Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4. On Tuesday, March 1, Flores will be joined by NEA Jazz Master Paquito D’Rivera and San Diego musicians in a program of jazz and classical chamber music at the Conrad Prebys Preforming Arts Center, La Jolla.

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