International ensembles of the calibre of the Vienna Chamber Orchestra, the Kölner Akademie, Staatskapelle Halle and Camerata Salzburg grace the “Bogotá is Mozart” festival. Yet there is plenty of home-grown talent on offer, epitomised by this wonderful concert which found me back at the picturesque Teatro Cólon. The Filarmónica Joven de Colombia is one of two youth orchestras performing here (the other is the Orquestra Filarmónica de Bogotá). Under the expert direction of Adrián Chamorro, it demonstrated the kind of Mozartian credentials which would easily grace the aforementioned ensembles from Austria and Germany.

Adrián Chamorro © Orquesta Filarmónica Joven de Colombia
Adrián Chamorro
© Orquesta Filarmónica Joven de Colombia

The three movement overture to Lucio Silla immediately established this young orchestra’s credentials, namely accomplished string playing. Chamorro is evidently an excellent orchestral trainer and he has developed a big string sound with plenty of weight from three dark-as-chocolate double basses. Minimal vibrato and aggressive attack on accents showed more than a nod towards historically informed practices. They play with a maturity and sense of style beyond their years.

Home-grown talent extended to the soloist in Mozart’s Flute Concerto no. 2 in D major. Colombian flautist Gabriel Ahumada presented a pleasant tone, which was not overly bright, but explored a range of subtle colours. His musical personality is far from forceful, marked by great stillness; here is a flautist who doesn’t need to dance around the stage. Ahumada’s cadenzas were delightful and inventive: the first movement was light and coquettish; the second movement cadenza added string quartet accompaniment, flautist and leader exchanging trills beautifully. The third movement Rondo had a light, graceful quality, with Chamorro shaping the orchestral accompaniment sensitively. Ahumada gave Mozart’s Andante in C K315 as an encore, simple, understated elegance matched by the precise pizzicato from the strings.

This generous programme was completed with not one, but two symphonies. Heavy accents in the agitated opening bars of Symphony no. 25 in G minor (the “little” G minor) put the emphasis squarely back on the string section. What wonderful unanimity of attack and tremendous dark violin tone in the Allegro con brio’s closing bars! The Andante was light and unhurried. Chamorro, conducting with sharp wrist flicks, kept tight control, with every crescendo and decrescendo within phrases perfectly gradated.

Teatro Colón © Invest in Bogota
Teatro Colón
© Invest in Bogota

Mozart’s writing for horns is treacherous in this symphony. Writing for four horns rather than the usual two, the demands are considerable. Unfortunately, the bravery in attack of these young Colombians didn’t quite come off here, as it reportedly had two days earlier when a colleague (a former horn player with the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal) told me that they had “nailed it” wonderfully. Some you win, some you lose, but their intention was admirable.

Symphony no. 29 in A major followed and again the energy of the string playing impressed. I often watch the back desks of orchestras as a sign of commitment; here, from front desk to back, each was giving his or her all. Chamorro paced the music with fine Mozartian style, with only the slowing down for the third movement’s Trio sounding out of place. Superb articulation and accenting brought the concert to a close in high spirits.

It’s clear that with these musicians and under such skilled leadership, the future of Colombian classical music-making is in fine hands.