Review: San Diego Symphony premiere of “Brazos de niebla,” with issue of immigration at center

Posted on: November 15, 2018

“The world premiere of Mexican composer Javier Álvarez’s ‘Brazos de niebla’ (‘Arms of Mist’)—commissioned by and dedicated to the San Diego Symphony—addresses a current sociopolitical dilemma: immigration,” writes Marcus Overton in Sunday’s (11/4) San Diego Union Tribune. The orchestra performed the work on November 2, led by guest conductor David Danzmayr. “But this is no political screed: its thrumming orchestral texture (augmented by four small Mexican guitars called vihuelas) chugs ahead like a train, with underlying dance rhythms (even a haunting snatch of mariachi) alerting us to the embedded culture that migrants carry in their hearts on the journey toward a new life. And it is searing emotional memory to which boy soprano Gonzalo Ochoa gave voice in the work’s central section, with a desolate, loss-filled lament based on text by Fresno-based writer and 51st United States Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, the son of migrant farmworkers who [grew] up in San Diego. If appropriately balanced amplification was necessary to buttress Ochoa’s pure tone against a full orchestra, it did not diminish the impact of his fierce concentration … This is a commission that has yielded important music that audiences deserve to hear again, even often, in years to come.”

Posted November 15, 2018